I spent a good bit of last week trying to pull together a column on the riots in Ferguson, Mo.
I understand the anger and distrust felt by the black community, but I don’t understand how burning businesses and torching cars will help. Yes, it does focus attention on the plight of young black males in today’s society, but is there no other way?
I’m white. I live in a rural area where I have little to fear from gangs or the police. I sympathize with Michael Brown’s family. But what can I possibly know of their pain?
I sympathize with Darren Wilson’s family as well. The last few months have been a nightmare for them, too.
The most recent round of riots took place because the Missouri grand jury didn’t indict Wilson. Angry men and women wanted their pound of flesh. They wanted someone charged with the murder of another young back man. They didn’t get it.
There was a time when no jury found a white man guilty of murder if the dead man was black. Thank God that has changed, but Wilson wasn’t on trial. The case was heard before the Missouri grand jury. It was the jurors’ job to look at the evidence and decide if there should even be a trail. The jury said no.
The evidence was conflicting, people stories didn’t add up, not because they were lying but because it is not uncommon for witnesses to report seeing things that didn’t actually happen.
A grand jury doesn’t usually make its inquiries public. This case was different. The testimonies and other evidence have been published in the New York Times and are available online, but will emotionally driven people actually read and understand them? Unlikely. Their minds were made up long ago.
When I started writing this column, I thought I know what I wanted to say. Now I’m not sure. Everyone has an opinion but most opinions are based on the judgment of others.
I offer myself as an example. When it comes to current events, my knowledge is limited to what I read in the media or hear from various vested sources: Environmental groups, public policy organizations like Common Cause and the Union of Concerned Scientists. In other words, I have very little information that isn’t biased one way or another. This is probably true for most Americans.
I trust the groups mentioned above because I’ve worked with them. I know their people. I’ve been in their offices in Atlanta and in D.C. But they are biased. I am biased.
This doesn’t mean I accept anyone’s judgment before I’ve looked at the facts, but like most people, I lean in a certain direction. However, I work hard to take my own biases into consideration.
A mob doesn’t look at facts. It reacts to events. It’s the media’s job to report facts, but due to the immediate nature of their job, they tend to react to events first. Sometimes they get it wrong, and when they report another police officer shot another unarmed black man, all hell is apt to break out before all the evidence is in.
The shooting in Ferguson occurred in early August and was followed almost immediately by riots. Missouri’s grand jury made its decision in the closing days of November after members heard hours of testimony and interviewed dozens of witnesses including medical professionals. Once again there were riots. Why?
Emotion overcame reason while the basic problem lingered on. Black families and black communities are afraid for their children, and justifiably so. A young back male out at night with his bodies is suspect from the start.
But if young black males are suspect, so are the police, especially white police in black communities.
If this makes you angry — good! It should, but look for a solution, not a scapegoat.
Read the grand jury’s testimony. Question your own bias.
Joan King lives in Sautee.