The media and social media are abuzz with stories, opinions, and arguments about the aftermath of the lack of indictment of the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. I have watched this “unfold” from afar and, although I am saddened by the events, I am more frustrated by the reactions of Joe Public. Everyone seems to have such a need to take a side and defend it wholeheartedly that one might think they are part of the police department or the community of Ferguson!
I wish people who are quick to say this isn’t about race could stop and consider, “What if?” What if racism is truly an issue that impedes our police department’s ability to do their job fairly? Stop and consider that it is only a little over 50 years since there were riots and protests around our country to allow black people to have equal rights. Our country has come far, but this is not something new! I believe it is naïve to think that racial equality abounds and deny that a police officer might have fear and racial stereotypes about the communities they serve.
“What if?” What if this officer was scared and reacted quickly and killed a young man unnecessarily? I believe it is a disservice to our police officers and racial minorities to not even give this consideration. Can we not learn from this and work to eliminate the ‘Us’ v. ‘Them’ mentality that is glaring at us through our televisions? The Us v. Them mentality is what we are all observing, joining in with and, as a result, we are seeing further polarization of the two “sides.” We are only making it worse by taking poorly thought out stances and missing an opportunity for true dialogue and growth!
“What if?” What if Michael Brown truly put the officer’s life in danger that day. Consider that this is a possibility and that the officer had to make a difficult split-second decision. I do not envy the job of a police officer, and I do not think we have the right to find him guilty despite what the investigation has shown. Walk a mile in his shoes. I am not implying that racial profiling is not a huge concern in our country but it could be that, in this situation, the grand jury made the correct decision. In fact, perhaps a bigger conversation about race relations should include a conversation about why some are so quick to condemn a young, white officer? Even if it was racially motivated, can we really blame him, the department, or perhaps we have to shift responsibility to much larger societal issues surrounding socioeconomics and opportunity and, yes, racism.
So, stop it. Stop thinking you know what really happened that day and stop thinking you have a right to take a side unless: 1. You are a police officer; 2. You are a black person/person of color and know what it is like to be racially profiled; or 3. You are part of the team of investigators who has the evidence. Otherwise, be impartial. Be kind to all sides. Model to our children that there are a lot of gray areas in any conflict – and excuse the pun – life isn’t so black and white. We can learn from this is we open our minds to it.