Over the last 36 hours, Ferguson, MO has burned after the Grand Jury decided not to indict Ofc Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. News and social media have also been on fire of sorts with coverage and commentary.
Posts and comments on my newsfeed have been mostly respectful. However, it is apparent that many blacks, whites and police officers feel misunderstood and persecuted in the aftermath of the incident.
Police are obviously not all bad. I’m not even sure that Officer Wilson was wrong in his actions. He was trying to apprehend a robbery suspect who had already gotten his gun once. Six bullets does seem a little much, but, considering it was the first time he had discharged his weapon, perhaps that can be chalked up to nervousness.
I have had both good and bad experiences with police. When I was in college in the days before cell phones and broke down on the side of the road going home, a police officer came to my assistance. When my purse was stolen, the police helped retrieve it from the thief, after my dad and I cornered him in a parking lot. When I was arrested for marijuana possession in college after my roommate and I decided to smoke a joint in our dorm room (stupid, I know), the police officers that booked me in for my overnight jail stay were respectful, if amused. I was grateful.
However, when an officer questioned me about my son’s empty ADHD prescription pill bottle in my car as he ticketed me for a rolling stop at a stop sign, I was annoyed. When I got speeding tickets for going a few miles over the speed limit in speed traps on my way to or from work, I got angry. When three police cars swarmed mine with lights and sirens blaring outside my grandmother’s house as I was trying to drop off her dinner because they thought I was someone else, I was scared shitless. Every time I hear a story of a dog being shot to death by police on its own property, I am incensed.
Likewise, black people are not all criminals, despite how they are sometimes portrayed. If I, as a white woman, have had such varied experiences with police, I can only imagine what many black men have experienced. In that framework, I can almost understand the built-up anger and rage that have made what’s happening in Ferguson possible. I say almost because I still find people destroying and looting businesses, many of which are minority-owned, senseless and deplorable.
One positive outcome I have seen from this incident is that more people, white, black, conservative and liberal, seem to be openly discussing their issues and viewpoints with each other. If we continue that, rather than returning to our own little groups and boxes, maybe some good will come out of so much waste.