By Pastor Rasheed Z Baaith
“One sinner destroyeth much good.” (Ecclesiastes 9:18)
In this last week Ferguson, Mo. has become a symbol for a number of things. Commencing with the shooting of Michael Brown.
But it certainly does not stop there. Michael Brown is symbolic of the belief by many police departments that if they are confronted by a young, large Black male who refuses to comply with an officer’s instructions, the answer is to shoot that person. While some may not want to accept that fact, the scenario has played out so often it seems like official police policy. So part of what we are seeing in Ferguson is a community saying they have reached their breaking point. They are refusing to be these kinds of victims anymore.
Brown is also symbolic of civic engagement always having unexpected facts intrude on the engagement’s passion. Very few people knew of Brown’s apparent involvement in a strong arm robbery.
While the robbery does not in any way justify his shooting, it certainly added an unwanted dimension to the protests. While the accusation does impugn Michael Brown’s character, it does not in any way devalue the protests born of his death.
Yet, here is what needs to be understood: what caused Brown to be shot at least six times was not the fact of that robbery but the fact that for much of recent history in this country, Black people have bought into the nonsense that we live in a post racial America. That because of the election of Barak Obama as President, racism and the wounds it brings no longer exists.
We point to his election, to the fact there are now Black billionaires, to the fact some of us vacation at Martha’s Vineyard and to Blacks in high profile positions as if those things mean our struggles with discrimination and bigotry are over. These things may be good for some of us but most of us get little or no benefit from them.
We act as if every white person in America voted for Barak Obama or as if because some of us have big money, we all have big money. If its one thing Donald Sterling demonstrated to us and to Magic Johnson is public profile and high income doesn’t mean automatic entry. No matter who you are.
The question becomes what is the life of the average Black person like, what are the struggles of young Black youth on a daily basis, and are they at a point of being so fed up with these inequities in all the arenas of their life, they’ve become nihilistic. Ferguson is symbolic of the fact that some of our young men may well have reached that point.
This is not to condone the violence and the looting, there are no justifications for that but it is to say what we are seeing has been coming for a long time. Our children are full of anger. They feed on it through their lives, their music and their observation of the world. And we can no longer ignore the fact that anger is the reason Ferguson has had a week of violence and death.
I hope the protests continue but I hope they will be peaceful and I hope we have protests all over the country about Michael Brown’s inexcusable death. Even more I hope our communities learn from this.