For anyone who grew up between segregation in the 50's and the Civil Rights struggles of the 60's, the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri may seem all too familiar. To see crowds of black citizens once more taking to the streets in protest against what they believe was a racially motivated shooting of an unarmed black man by a white policeman, to have those protests infiltrated by thugs and hooligans taking advantage of the situation to engage in criminal behavior and other disruptive actions, and to witness confrontations between unarmed protesters and armed police, turns the clock on racial progress in America back 50 years.
Ironically, that's exactly how long it's been since Martin Luther King Jr and the other Civil Rights leaders stood alongside then President Lyndon Johnson as he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. Poor blacks may have got the right to vote, but middle class blacks got the higher paying jobs, better education, and moved into better neighborhoods.The times may have changed, but for many in the black community, the struggle for equality and justice has not ended---to wit Ferguson, Missouri.
Like the protesters, most fair-minded people in America, black and white, also want the truth to come out about what really happened to cause Michael Brown to loose his life. Everything we've heard so far has been speculation fueled by fear, anger and mistrust. The only eye witnesses that we know of are Michael Brown's companion and the policeman who shot Brown. Both will have an opportunity to testify in a court of law before a judge and jury. Until then, neither the media nor the protesters should attempt to try this case in the court of public opinion or to prejudge the guilt or innocence of any party to this tragedy.
Ferguson's black community needs to consider that continuing the open confrontation with the police will only make it more difficult to find a jury pool that hasn't been tainted by this case. Defense attorneys are famous for using "change of venue" motions in order to gain an advantage in high profile cases. The result being that the trial could be moved away from the community where the shooting occurred. Ferguson's black community can't let that happen if they want to see justice done. The jury in the Michael Brown case cannot look like the jury in the Trayvon Martin case, where no blacks were represented in the jury box.
The media that has descended upon Ferguson has been nothing short of provocateurs on a feeding frenzy. The feeding frenzy will continue, with some reporters biased toward the facts, as long as protesters provide the bait. For instance, the media continues to refer to the protesters as violent and the protests as violent protests. The picture being painted is that the protesters are rampaging and killing people. The police have arrested some persons for looting, destruction of property and other crimes unrelated to the protests; but nobody has been killed in Ferguson as a result of the protests.
A word of advice to Ferguson, learn the lesson from the Civil Rights movement, organize peaceful, non-violent protests, speak with one voice and get a spokesperson to put your truth out there. And to my young black brothers in Ferguson and elsewhere, pull your pants up and take some pride in yourself.
Ferguson has a lot to say to us. Like many predominantly black communities in this country, they've been neglected, left behind and left out of the American dream. Like much of urban America, Ferguson is a euphemism for years of decay, neglect and socio-economic stagnation. Michael Brown was a victim of his environment. Who knows what he might have become had he experienced life differently.
True Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Eric Holder made an appearance in Ferguson to show support, but if you notice, they didn't stick around long. President Obama commented on the Michael Brown shooting, but if you notice, he didn't say one word about what, if anything, he plans to do to address the real problems in the black communities that helped elect him. Truth be told black Americans continue to lag behind every other racial group in this country on many of the important socio-economic indices, including poverty, employment, education and health. The question should be asked of Ferguson's black community, "What took you so long to rise up and confront the injustices and inequalities that spawned the Michael Brown tragedy?"
Perhaps, after all is said and done, Michael Brown's legacy will not be that he died with his hands raised, but that he died so that Ferguson could rise up and work toward building a better community for all of its residents.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:24