This Thanksgiving, Ferguson Makes Football Seem Small
On Monday night, three days before a colossal NFL game between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, a major news story began playing out making the game seem pretty small.
The situation in Ferguson involves all of us. We can’t hide from it and it can’t be swept behind a wall of conversation about a football game.
What I do on 97.5 FM The Fanatic is sports talk, but it’s really life talk — conversation among people of different races, creed and colors. And when an issue like this explodes in front of us, it is our duty to talk on it. Conversation fosters understanding; it’s the only thing that can foster understanding because it’s the only way we can hear and attempt to understand another’s viewpoint. So to the people who tweet me with nonsense like “I thought this was a sports station; let’s talk sports,” I have the following message: Open your mind, grow and progress, if just for the sake of your children and future generations who should live in a society that’s not always at odds.
The riot-like behavior Monday night following the announcement that white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not be prosecuted for a crime in the death of a black youngster named Michael Brown is an ugly example of the mistrust that continues to exist between the African-American culture and white authority and the American judicial system. To black folks, the results are tiring and worn threadbare: They don’t get a fair shake in law enforcement or the courts. They see Officer Darren Wilson as another white man who got away with murder, whether that’s the case or not.
White folks are thus put in a very awkward position, which usually results in backlash and zealous attempts to defend their own race. And with that, any chance for progress evaporates.
I wasn’t on the grand jury that didn’t indict Wilson. I’ve read accounts of the evidence, and it appears to support Wilson’s assertion that he was justified in using deadly force to protect his own life. I also know in a grand jury proceeding, evidence can be presented with inconsistency. Witnesses cannot be accompanied by an attorney, who may be better able to understand the legal issues. And there is no cross examination on a witness such as Wilson, who was allowed to tell a fascinatingly dramatic tale where he even invoked the name of wrestler Hulk Hogan.
In a situation so fragile, so destructive to a community that is predominately black, with a predominately white police force — a community that has been scarred by repeated accusations of racial profiling — fundamental fairness in the judicial process is a must. And it wasn’t given here.
The St. Louis county prosecutor, Bob McCullough, the man responsible for bringing down an indictment on this police officer, should have recused himself from this case, or have been removed by Gov. Jay Nixon. McCullough as a former police officer whose police officer dad was gunned down by a black man while on the job. Fundamental fairness. This grand jury, impaneled for months, even before the Wilson incident happened in August, should not have been used on this case. A new grand jury, more racially diverse than the three blacks and nine whites of the grand jury that would decide Wilson’s fate, should have been gathered. Fundamental fairness.
The looting and burning down of buildings Monday night in Ferguson was disgraceful and disintegrated what would have been a righteous protest against injustice. Knuckleheads gleefully running out of a liquor store with bottles under their arms give white people a chance to gloat and run away from their responsibility to make a difference.
To that end, I read a story today in the Washington Post written by Carol Anderson, an associate professor of African-American studies at Emory University. In the piece Anderson makes the case that right now Ferguson isn’t about black rage against the police, it’s about white rage against progress.
“Protests and looting naturally capture attention,” Anderson writes. “But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African-American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, thought they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.”
Just think about that for a minute. And put the football game on the backburner.