No Indictment…or How to Take the Soul Out of a Person

Grand Jury decision regarding Officer Darren Wilson regarding the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO: no indictment. I just posted this on a professional listserv, which will remain nameless. I’m probably going to get fired:

I’ve been staring at this new discussion thread for a while now while a blank email reply box stares back at me. My heart aches, my mind struck dumb, my breath taken. I have watched for 2 hours now the coverage of Ferguson. And I shut it all off, then (mistakenly) opened my email, and have read this thread.

I hate posting on this forum so I don’t. Here’s what I’m expecting: a loud, raucous “debate” about the grand jury’s decision, followed by a highly polarizing discussion fueled by not really hidden right v. left wing politics ending in pretty immature name calling coupled with a flurry of people publicly unsubscribing from the listserv. Argue with me about the process I’ve just described, I don’t care. I’ve called it out, and you all know it happens. And I sit there and delete emails while it goes on, just waiting for the thread to die out…And this time I think if I do that, if I stay silent, I will allow an old and tiresome debate (debacle is a better word) rage on, and it will only make the pain of what has occurred greater for myself as well as those of us who really feel what is happening in Ferguson. I’m just not interested in this pain being for nothing, so I’m going to take a stab at this, and apologize upfront for not choosing “pretty” words.

Here’s my backstory: I’m a biracial woman from St. Louis. I grew up there. I know Ferguson, I know the history, I lived it. Racial segregation is alive and well there, we just don’t have signs on the restrooms anymore. But people carry those signs in their hearts. Everyone knows the “white” part of town v. the “black” part. And everyone knows that “white” equals safe, educated, well-off, and protected, whereas “black” means criminal, poor, and don’t be found outside after dark. St. Louis poured racism on me and also taught me how to do it. I’ve spent most of my life undoing it, and I’m not there yet, but I will always fight it. It is no longer a choice for me.

I’m not going to debate the grand jury decision. This really isn’t about that anymore because the decision has been made. I’m not going to look into whether or not “justice” in a legal sense was done because that is also irrelevant. Law and lived experience are often not congruent. So all I’m going to do is share the effect this has on me, someone who now doesn’t live in St. Louis and is watching this from afar, yet living it as though I’m right there in the middle of the smoke bombs. (That is one of the first effects, by the way, that while I sit here safely watching the news, I feel as though I’ve abandoned so many by not being there.)

What’s the biggest effect? This shit hurts. It hurts a lot. I feel a long history of hurt, a history that goes well before I was born and is carried on the backs of so many. A history that also included hopes and dreams of a time when something like this would no longer happen, and because it has happened it makes it hurt even more. It feels helpless, it feels angry, it feels betrayed. What is this hurt? It is the hurt that comes with knowing that whether the decision is “fair” or not is irrelevant. What will happen is many people, most of whom are white, most of whom benefit, knowingly or unknowingly, from the current systems of power existing as they are, will use Ferguson to say, “see, there is no racism. The law is blind,” as well as give more fuel to their arguments that people of color are just complainers, criminals, ungrateful, and whatever other stereotype you want to put in there. And many of these people will also walk away feeling completely unmoved, comfortable in yet again NOT having to confront their own inherited biases because, “hey, we aren’t to blame, you people of color do this to yourselves.” And so the next effect, is that people of color, and in this case the Black community especially, will yet again have their voices silenced, discounted, ignored, removed. And we’ll have to pick ourselves up again and not have a good idea of how to do that, because sometimes we get good examples and most of the time we get bad ones thanks to the limited portrayals we get of ourselves in the media and pretty much everywhere else.

And maybe you’re reading this and not agreeing with my descriptions of privilege or whatever…but what you can’t deny is that I am watching my home get ripped apart. Now try to tell me that the “fairness” of the court decision will make me feel better about that.

I don’t share any of this to try to tell anyone who may still be reading this what to do. I’m just a lone voice trying to yell across all the media bullshit I just witnessed on my television. It’s just my story, that’s all.

Yep. Probably not going to sleep well tonight…