Healing in Ferguson

Upon further reflection a few additional things need to be said about the distrust that permeates Ferguson Missouri. First, Michael Brown’s parents have suffered a horrible loss – a loss most of us cannot even imagine. It is only natural for their sense of loss to overwhelm everything else in their lives. Michael’s family and friends hoped justice would be a salve for their wound, not sandpaper. Critics should keep this in mind when they analyze the words and deeds of those who were closest to Michael Brown.

Second, society must cast aside ideologically driven interpretations of American history. Filtering history through an ideological lens stokes societal tensions by presenting a simplistic and inaccurate vision of the past. History cannot be boiled down to racism, the proletariat’s struggle against capitalists, or any other single idea or movement. History is a tangled web of interrelated events, ideas, institutions, actions, personalities, and motivations. When complex events like Michael Brown’s death are oversimplified, the healing process stalls, and change becomes harder to achieve.

Third, the proper perspective is essential. America’s racial landscape is a thousand times better than it was in the late 19th century, and markedly better than it was 60 years ago. Nevertheless it is incorrect and unhelpful to contend the legal system is problem free. Black men are still regularly stereotyped by police officers, and unfortunately police officers get stereotyped too, often by young black men. Rather than assigning blame, all stakeholders must take responsibility for their role in our imperfect system. Change can  only come if deeply informed citizens seek humble, honest, and open-minded conversations with their friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

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