My eyes have been fixed on Ferguson and I haven’t even turned on the television once. No, twitter has been my eyes and ears, a social media outlet that I didn’t even belong to a year ago. I tossed it aside, skeptical that people would want to read updates about what kind of cheese I would be putting on my sandwich. Little did I know journalists en route to Ferguson’s jail for simply filming would use their one and only phone call to tweet the truth.
I’ve been reading and writing my way through the past few days — message board posts, articles, tweets, evernotes, retweets, deleted tweets, incomplete articles and a rededication to finish a project that I should have finished long ago.
Mostly, what I see is a very human reaction: People want to believe the world is just but are afraid it might not be. People want to believe their country is good but are afraid it might not be equally good all of its people. Some simply close their eyes and wait for the dust to settle. You probably won’t hear a peep out of them on Facebook and maybe not even in the flesh but some of them care — they’re just afraid. I hope that’s the reason at least.
I get into a lot of online debates, fewer than I used to, but still some. I’ve actually been getting into it with a lot of fellow black Americans, people who’ve talked about the looting before they talked about the shooting, talked about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps without addressing the whip/lynch mob/high-tech laser around the corner.
They too are afraid. One man was telling me that the minority of looters and violent protesters are threatening to derail the legitimate gripes coming from the community. I shook my head and wrote back: “only for those who still don’t believe we’re human.”
Strip away respectability politics, police brutality, black on black crime and the problem is actually rather simple. Are all Americans going to treat each other like blood or not? Do we all believe we’re all human or not? Are we going to allow cops police a community that believes its citizens are “animals?” Homeboy stealing a pair of Nikes shouldn’t detract from the humanity of an unarmed black kid being volleyed with 10 bullets and the community’s reaction to it. In 2014, I refuse to believe our humanity is still that tenuous. In 2014, I refuse to believe our humanity is still that contractual.
I’m still watching Ferguson. The response — in the form of images and words has been incredible. People are talking. People are realizing things, perhaps things they should’ve realized long ago — but now we can start to do the work that needs to be done.
I’ve been reading and perhaps nothing has stood out to me more than this random Twitter exchange:
“I love Tupac… if he was still alive, promise you, things would’ve been different in our society.”
“I tried to tell somebody this and they thought I was a fool..PAC woulda had more power than Obama”
I’m including this in my article not because I necessarily agree with it. But after that incredible November night back when I was a senior in college, I think we all believed that things would be different. Black progressives often get on white progressives for declaring the battle won, for the unfortunate term “post-racial.” But the truth is many of us had expectations, too.
Let there be no more illusions. Obama’s election meant nothing.
We don’t get to declare the battle won when Ferguson could be any town or city in this country. We don’t get to declare the battle won when the police force tasked to protect its citizens goes rogue on them. We don’t get to declare the battle won when there’s racial bias in how discipline is doled out at Mike’s Brown school, which could be pretty much Anyschool, USA. And we don’t get to declare victory when the ghosts of the region, sundown towns, race riots of old, are still haunting the entire nation. So we can either wait for Obama, 2Pac or anyone else from the past present or future to save us, or we can “straighten our backs and work for freedom.” For all of us.