Last week a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri did not hand down an indictment in the Michael Brown shooting case from August of this year. Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department shot and killed Brown during an altercation on August 9. What has followed the grand jury decision is saddening and the nationwide fury over Ferguson is disheartening.
This is a topic I have wanted to write about since August, but I declined to make any unsubstantiated assumptions until all the facts were presented. First, I offer my deepest condolences to Michael Brown’s family, friends, and supporters. Regardless of your feelings on the matter, a life was lost and every life is a precious gift.
What I witnessed last Monday served as an indisputable reminder of the strains in race relations in the United States. The response to the grand jury’s decision has the potential to set race relations back decades. We have watched the city of Ferguson go up in flames at the hands of angry “protesters.” Businesses in Ferguson have been destroyed by criminals who are exploiting Brown’s death and using the event as a means to justify criminal behavior. Consequently, several small business owners who had nothing to do with the grand jury’s decision are facing thousands of dollars in property damage.
This does nothing to remedy the race relations problem we have in America. In fact, it has only made the problem worse
There have also been more peaceful protests against the decision across the country. Peaceful protest is one of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and I cannot begrudge these individuals for exercising their rights in a peaceful manner.
One protest sign I recall seeing on the news from New York read “Black Lives Matter.” Yes, they do. And so do white, Asian, Indian, Pacific Islander, and a host of other races and nationalities. I can sympathize with the fact that blacks have been mistreated and abused over the course of American history. I like to think that I would have witnessed alongside other abolitionists, or walked beside Dr. King. My being white does not make me any better than my friend being black. A person is a person.
History will always reflect the wrongs black individuals have experienced. I cannot change history. No one can. Our government has gone to great lengths to level the playing field across races because everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed. The only way that we can impact history is by making changes now that will be reflected in the years to come.
It is time that we stop living in the past and perpetuating this animosity toward one another that exists explicitly because of race. “Civil Rights” talking heads like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson accomplish nothing but the furtherance of this outdated dialogue. We cannot right history by living in it. We can, however, change things by getting over it and moving on.
I cannot make this change alone. Black people cannot make this change by themselves nor can white people. The history books high school students read twenty years from now ought to mark a stark change where Americans quit making excuses for their situations and did something about them. As long as race is a disputed matter within our borders, we stand stagnant in our tainted past. The future may be bright, but we must choose to accept it with an open mind.