Thinking About #Ferguson


I thought about the Ferguson happenings all day yesterday. Debated whether to say anything at all about it on the public media. Tried to figure out what to say. Generally, was so pissed off I was afraid to say one word lest my words do more harm than good. But fuck it. I have to say something. Here are the two best things I’ve read about Ferguson so far. They are better than anything I have seen on big media and better than anything I could write about it. I consider myself fortunate to count these two bloggers among my friends.

And none could say they were suprised: on #Ferguson (Infinite Free Time).

Are you pissed? #Ferguson (Drifting Through My Open Mind).

I’m with Luther and Gretchen on this, and that is all I plan to say in public about the details of the Ferguson case. I will talk about what it means for the larger society now. In bullet points. Warning: Strong Opinions Ahead.

  •  The problems that set the stage for the Ferguson situation are the same old shit people were fighting against during the Civil Rights Era. We have made TON of progress on racial equality since the sixties and I am grateful for that. But how much progress have we made since the nineties? Ask yourself that question.
  • We also have a rule of law problem. If you aren’t up on the political terms, this one is easy. ‘Rule of law’ means everyone is equal before the law. You shoot an unarmed person down in the street, you get tried, no matter who you are. A grand jury not indicting a policeman for shooting an unarmed person down in the street under ambiguous circumstances is a problem. Because the state gave that policeman his gun and the state also empaneled that grand jury.mlk_justice
  • Riots. When your society is stricken by riots, that is a sign something is badly wrong with your society.
  • Whether we like it or not, we still have a problem with racism in this country. We need to fix our shit.

I am so tired. This is not a post I wanted to write. It is a post I had to write. I am weary of living in a culture this awash in violence.

How do we fix our shit?

22 thoughts on “Thinking About #Ferguson

  1. Bravo, well said. I won’t comment on the details or how I feel about the events in Ferguson either. I just don’t believe I have enough information on it yet to form a well informed opinion that’s a viable contribution to any discussion on it. However, I take your main point as being that we, as a Nation, need to focus on all of the underlying causes of events like these and make that a priority. My personal belief is that a prime opportunity for that kind of action came with the Rodney king incident and the L.A. riots all those years ago. Obviously, it didn’t happen then. Maybe now, it will.


  2. Well said and a much needed voice. I guess all anyone can do in these situations is make their opinion known and voice heard… when more and more do the same, you end up with a movement and then maybe just maybe some much needed progress. Sad times.


    • Thanks for saying so. I’m always a little nervous about wading off into the social issues on a blog, but sometimes I just feel compelled.

      I say this all the time. Every movement that ever existed started with a few people talking. That’s why I support hashtag campaigns and why I disagree with people who dismiss talking about these things on social media as “armchair activism.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree hashtag campaigns have been hugely successful recently in raising awareness of issues. I know what you mean about delving into social issues, I had also said to myself that I would never get political on my blog, but sometimes you just have to voice your concerns.
        Anyway when it comes to something like this… don’t hesitate. If anything it starts a conversation and who knows where that may lead.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I still can’t write about this. At least, not coherently, so I am letting the blogs above speak for me (including yours, of course).


  4. Here’s a 4-Step Fix:
    1. Fix ourselves. Racist programming is an unavoidable part of growing up American. You have to acknowledge and be aware of it in yourself before you can treat the infection.
    2. Pass on improved messages to our children. Things get better permanently one new generation at a time.
    3. Wait for those too obstinate to change to die. One is never too old to learn, but some folks don’t want to. Can’t teach ’em. Can’t kill ’em. Treat with love, but isolate to contain contagion.
    4. Humor is a survival tool! Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce changed more minds than any five presidents you can name. Look for the joke in every ugly situation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I should qualify that last comment. These steps are good for the racism, but I wouldn’t mind figuring out ways to accelerate the process. Call me an idealist 😉

      There’s also a problem here with the administration of justice, and with the general level of violence in the culture. I’m afraid those require a more prescriptive remedy, but I am at a loss as to what would be an appropriate way to rein that stuff in.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I think that would be a good start.

          I also think, hypothetically, in cases where multiple investigators and/or prosecutors fail to collect appropriate evidence and aggressively seek the truth in court — not talking about occasional mistakes, talking about cases where a reasonable person would be skeptical that it’s coincidences — in those cases, the Justice Department should open an immediate conspiracy investigation.

          When public money goes missing, the people responsible for accounting for it are swarmed by auditors. I see no reason the the same shouldn’t apply to evidence in a killing.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. I am so glad you wrote this. YES to all of it, especially the first two. I think Diana’s point about body cams is exactly right. There is too much autonomy in law enforcement. I’m going to add two links here, things I read this morning that I have refrained from posting on FB because I need to back off a little with the Ferguson stuff for a minute before I start sounding like a broken record. But both are really good break downs of Wilson’s account (in the same vein as Luther’s post) and then the conflicting account by Michael Brown’s friend (which just rings true to me. I saw him interviewed multiple times after the shooting and he never wavered in his re-telling)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for those links. I’ll take a look at ’em.

      I agree about the too much autonomy in law enforcement. We’ve militarized law enforcement over the past 30 years. It’s easy to see. Unless we are going to de-militarize it, we need a doctrine of command responsibility. Command responsibility:

      If we’re going to foster a police culture that views significant sections of the population as hostiles, we need to treat abuse of police power the way we treat war crimes.

      I totally get what you mean about scaling back. I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to saturate my social media with any one thing for too long, no matter how passionate I am about it.


    • You’re welcome, and thanks for stopping by.

      I totally get what you are saying. The first version of this emphasized the killing more strongly, but it had problems with tone and there were tons of stuff in there that could be picked apart, so I cut it this morning before I posted it.

      I don’t really think I’m over intellectualizing here, though. Causes and such need to be untangled, and there is a structural/institutional component to this problem. Figuring out that part of it requires one to think like an engineer.

      One of the reasons I linked to my friend Gretchen at Drifting Through My Open Mind in the post is that of all the blogs about this I have read so far, she does the best job of putting the fact that a human being was killed at the center of her reaction.


      • Between you and Gretchen’s blogs, I’m really moved by your insight into how you feel about the events at Ferguson, Darren Wilson and the injustice that has evolved since Michael Brown’s murder. Just looking at one aspect gets me pissed all over again: It has to do with how Wilson’s defenders have made him into the current media darling of the Right Wing noise machine. He raised enough money for his own defense that it is now obvious that he’s been coached to a fairthewell to say all the right things about the incident that make him appear to be the victim while avoiding statements that would betray that image. If you happened to catch any of his interview with George Stephanopolis, you immediately see what I mean. But it’s time for us to get beyond all this frustration, and figure out – to use your words – “How we fix this shit”.


        • That last part is exactly right. I am weary of these culture wars. Solutions are what I am interested in.

          I’m very happy that you read Gretchen’s, and thanks for commenting here.


  6. I can’t answer your final question as to how we fix our shit, but you are right, there is some shit that is broken in our society that needs fixing. In some areas I think the U.S. has made some progress, but in others I would agree that somethings haven’t moved or changed for the better in years. Fergerson is a sad situation all around and I hope all of the people there find some peace in their hearts for Thanksgiving.


Talk to Me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s