Standing with the Young People

November 24, 2014 3 Comments

We have just heard that the Grand Jury did not indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.  The brilliant and courageous young people of Ferguson know that justice has not been served. The relentless profiling, criminalization, harassment and killing of young people of color is a an old an ongoing crisis in this country. It must stop.

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I have friends and family who have lived with the privilege of being white and being “protected and served” by law enforcement and believe that the judicial process produces the right outcomes. I’ve lived with that same privilege, but I do not believe that.  I believe we must listen to those most impacted – people of color in this country – about the reality of police brutality and the justice system. This doesn’t mean that I think individual first responders are “bad people” – but the system has produced very bad outcomes – and needs to change.

I’m very, very, very concerned for the safety of the young people of Ferguson, who are by and large peacefully protesting, and the young men and women of color across this country. Not just now – but every day. In this moment, with the intense militarization of the police in St. Louis County, the young people who will protest the Grand Jury’s non-indictment and the relentless ongoing injustice of police overuse of force, racial profiling and deep indignity – the young people are again putting their lives on the line. That is true in St. Louis County – and it’s true across the country.

And I’m concerned that things haven’t changed.  That we’ve been doing civil rights work and racial justice work for a very long time and the situation on the ground hasn’t changed enough.  I’m aware that all the work that’s been done on awareness and skill building around white privilege has not made much of a dent – that the structures and systems continue to destroy the lives of young people of color.  We need a new approach.  We need it as soon as possible. And, as always, it will most likely come from listening to those most affected – to the young people of Ferguson, Missouri – and the Fergusons in all of our neighborhoods.

I pray we will all do everything we can, in every moment we can, to support the young people of Ferguson (and all Fergusons) and keep them safe. I will. #BlackLivesMatter!

3 Comments

  • Just now, on my facebook feed, a white fellow I grew up with made an equivalency between the murder of Mike Brown and the murder of a young white man by a Black cop. It seems like the systemic nature of racism is really hard to understand unless you are a person of color or a white person immersed in this work. We have found ways to get more and more clear about how structural racism works, but we have failed miserably at communicating the nature of this beast to the people who unconsciously benefit from white supremacy. This seems to be our biggest challenge. At a time of economic insecurity, climate change, and huge demographic shifts, people are scared and fear is a terrible place to think and act from. How do we cut through the fear in those people, many of whom are working class white people, to compassionately and effectively communicate the insanity of a system that we must all rebel against?

    • Linda Guinee says:

      Absolutely, Gibran! And the mainstream narrative obfuscates incredibly well. I have been so deeply challenged by this – and have yet to find a way to make much of a difference. That’s our work – those of us who are white – and we’re failing miserably.

  • Curtis Ogden says:

    Thank you, Linda. I share the frustration about contending with an ever-present and overwhelming media that cuts against any kind of meaningful and substantive conversation and work around systemic issues and solutions. I can only think that this is all the more reason to make this part of our underlying education in this country. But how to get that into the curriculum is another challenge.

    I keep thinking of the line in the William Stafford poem, “It is important for awake people to be awake.” That’s a daily and unending practice for me to keep my (white privileged) self awake, honest, and doing the work I feel like I need to do. And inviting as many other white people into the practice as I can.

    Curtis

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