15 Miles from Ferguson
I am writing tonight 15 miles away from Ferguson, safely ensconced in another St. Louis suburb, a different suburb, one where there is not tear gas or pepper spray or National Guard troops. The security I have in my neighborhood is not something I earned or even deserve, but something that has been made easier by the fact that I am a straight white male. I am not proud of this; it is simply a fact.
St. Louis is one of the most segregated cities in America, and Ferguson has become yet another example of systematic racism which sadly, maddeningly, remains pervasive throughout this country. There have been too many Michael Browns. There are too many black parents who have lost their sons. There are too many black families that live in fear--good, decent, hardworking Americans who must teach their children, and especially their boys, how to behave around police as a matter of life or death. Minorities of all kinds in this country carry this burden, the burden of terror, of having to make accommodations for the white power structure lest they imperil life and limb. It is the bitterest kind of injustice. It betrays the ideals of America, and has for hundreds of years. The struggle is long. Too long.
I write a comic strip online that consists solely of two electrical outlets talking to each other. It's absurdist humor, mostly. The plugs always get their eyes and mouths stopped up by an electric cord, and why? Why, indeed? Such is life. The absurdity appeals to me. But today, the day after the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, instead of them cracking jokes or arguing with each other, I had them fall silent: four empty panels. Respect must be paid. Even those who embody the power structure know enough to acknowledge that Michael Brown's death is a horrible loss. And yet they continue to defend the blatant injustice of the innocents being slaughtered with impunity.
I stated above that I have benefited from being straight, white, and male. I do not have to worry that tear gas will seep into my house tonight. I do not have to worry that my teenage son could provoke a cop to shoot him. And you know what? Nobody else in this country should have to worry either.
My favorite quote is from T.S. Eliot: "The only wisdom we can hope to acquire/Is the wisdom of humility. Humility is endless."
We as whites have a responsibility to humble ourselves before the promise of justice. It is a promise unkept. It is a promise that we, as whites, have a responsibility to help keep for all Americans.
At long last.