Today, as I watch scenes from Michael Brown’s Going Home Celebration, I am really at a loss. It has been a very tense, emotionally draining and mentally taxing two weeks.
So much has been said and done since we witnessed this brutal, unfortunate incident. And I realize and respect that today is not the day to stand on a soapbox and discuss race relations, humanitarian issues and senseless violence. Today, all I see is the pain in a mother and father’s eyes; friends that can’t make sense of their loss; members of a community that feel a void they have no idea how to fill. I realize this is one less young man that will begin college, play football, sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, become a husband, father. I obviously do not know Michael Brown. No clue what kind of young man he was or would have become. I have no definitive idea EXACTLY what occurred that fateful day he clashed with Police Officer Darren Wilson. And unlike too many of us I am not going to speculate, defend or offend based on conflicting reports, unsubstantiated “first hand” accounts and knee jerk reactions to an incendiary situation that few can understand much less put into perspective.
Once Michael Brown –an 18 year old young man who lost his life way too soon—is laid to rest, I do think we need to stop and think about what we are doing as a society, a community and a culture when it comes to SUBSTANTIVE conversations about these types of incidents (incidents which are becoming far too familiar). I see a lot of posts about doing away with law enforcement, taking up arms, establishing a “new order” (first of all, anyone with something to lose would not want to live in a society where people are free to run loose without any form of civil control). Let’s seriously think about the things we say before we say them. Meantime, I’ve seen little in the way of posts, videos, “challenges” about men and women talking to their kids about how to be productive, intelligent, conscious young men and women. Because if we all made sure our children were raised to contribute, there would fewer adults who believed it was ok to just take. We have lost sight of accountability. We are a society quick to judgment.
Before we ask where the leaders are… we should look in a mirror and ask the person we see “Why are you not leading”? When I mentor, when I write about overcoming adversity, when I raise a child who goes out into the world and respects his elders and works hard and strives to be better each day so he/she is not part of a problem but part of solutions I am confident I am doing my part. When I am counseling young employees about their conduct and informing them of their rights and what is expected of them so they can keep their jobs, I am doing my part. It begins with all of us. It begins at home. I hear a whole lot of folks detracting from the efforts of storied CIVIL RIGHTS ICONS such as the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson for speaking out against this injustice; men who were on the frontlines of the movement; fighting so that we could have the freedom, the right to speak out. How ironic, that the same people asking where are our “black leaders” choose to disparage the few we have who actually taking action! Whatever you may think about either man personally, the fact remains they have (and continue) to give a voice where far too many remain silent and ineffective. These men have earned respect. These men and many, many other men and women who are in Ferguson, today in a show of support and leadership have credits to their name, while far too many naysayers have nothing but debts to theirs. It begins at home.
What is happening in Ferguson (St. Louis) is not a new condition. The city has a painful history of this kind of violence. There is a documented legacy of racial injustice and civil unrest in St. Louis’ segregated suburbs—but more broadly, this history has been seen throughout America on the whole. Ferguson is not an anomaly. Some of us can drive a mile in any direction and tell similar stories of young men and women (and not so young unfortunately) who are caught in the throes of disorder at the hands of people that look exactly like them. Yes. What saddens me the most, and a point we do not seem to address enough, most of that violence has occurred within the black community. We are killing each other! We are stealing from each other! We are hurting each other! If we do not respect ourselves, if we do not take pride in our communities and our culture and ourselves, how can we expect anyone else (Black, white or otherwise) to respect us? It begins at home.
So when the violence has stopped, the camera crews have packed up and moved on to the next story, the memes, the videos, the Facebook posts, the tweets have taken up a new “cause”, however temporary, think about how quickly we forget how angry and outraged and saddened we are. Case in point: Haven’t seen too many Trayvon Martin posts these days. I sincerely hope we will all take this round of righteous indignation to the polls, when we elect our Mayors, Governors, Assemblymen/State representatives, civic leaders, Aldermans, advocates, etc. Because until we become the change we seek, the change we seek will never come.