On Ferguson: A Modest Proposal
You are following the news from Missouri.
It makes you feel horrified, angry, sad, exasperated, upset, resigned, resolute, bewildered, frustrated, defeated, indignant, or some combination of two or more such emotions and perhaps others that I have not listed here.
The one thing you are not is indifferent. Not when, for example, this kind of thing is happening. (Take your pick: (1) the officer is threatening to shoot a journalist if he does not stop documenting the events of last night or (2) the officer is telling this journalist that by having that light on, he could get shot accidentally if and when the police fire at the protestors):
So, what’s your impulse? Maybe write a letter to the editor. Post something on social media. Fret privately over the state of the country. Rant. Call your congressional representative. Express to friends your outrage at the killing itself. Or at what you see as the vilification of the police. Or at what you see as nothing more than “rioting.” Or at heavy-handed police tactics bordering on brutality. Or at the deplorable state of race relations in the United States, for which you blame (choose one) white people, black people, the liberal media, conservative shock jocks, cynical politicians, authoritarian government, our country’s long and intractable history of racism, grievance-peddling by rabble-rousing black leaders, rednecks or their 2014 equivalent, and so on ad infinitum.
In any case, images like these are stirring you up and moving you in one direction or another:
So let me share with you a modest proposal. Here’s my own resolution. I know that somewhere in my city of Atlanta there lives a person who posted this comment on a blog post by Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman. He (let’s assume the author is male) was responding to an earlier comment that blacks have been “deprived of health, wealth, freedom, opportunity, education.”
I could have SWORN a comprehensive civil rights bill was passed in the 1960’s. I could have SWORN that affirmative action has been in place for many years now. I could have SWORN that segregation was outlawed many years ago. Looks like many in the Black community just can’t get their mindset out of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
This is not a person who burns crosses. I doubt seriously that he has a swastika tattooed on his forearm. If I were to cross paths with him somewhere, he’d probably seem completely unremarkable. Just another guy. And for that reason, it’s understandable I suppose that in the past, I have not spoken up and expressed my objection to the very subtly racist joke I’ve overheard him telling his buddy in the grocery store. I haven’t said that I find his bumper sticker or T-shirt offensive. I haven’t explained why I think his comments in the neighborhood meeting are insufficiently charitable. Bottom line, I haven’t been forthright in the many situations where I had the opportunity to be.
Yes, we live in a “free” country and each us is “entitled” to his or her opinion. I am certainly not proposing that the Thought Police administer Soma to everyone or that we build a gulag in every town.
No, what I am asserting is that for social norms to change, and they do need to change, we have to change them. That starts with us as individuals, and it starts with courage, and it starts with tolerance, and it starts with civil discourse, and it starts with the truth — the truth as every intellectually honest, well-meaning citizen (note the word) sees it.