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Solving all racial issues
(one riot at a time)

Janet Kuypers

    I saw the unrest in Ferguson after the shooting of a black man by a while police officer (and sorry, I’m not going to say “African American” because I’m not going to say “Caucasian”, get over it). And more importantly, I saw — and wanted to look into — the reaction from the country when the police officer was not charged with any crime. Then I watched the drive-by media talk about the injustices — on both sides.
    Let me do a little background, to refresh you on both sides...
    On August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis), Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, 28, a white Ferguson police officer. Now, Brown robbed a nearby convenience store (stealing cigarillos), and Wilson was in pursuit. An altercation between the officer and Brown led to a chase, which eventually led to Wilson firing his gun at Brown several times (all while Brown was facing him).
    Brown died, and eye-witness testimony varied greatly on whether Brown was approaching Wilson, or if Brown’s arms were raised (which is why St. Louis football payers before a game once all raised their hands to commiserate with Brown and his supporters).
    Because of the longstanding racial tensions between the majority-black population and the majority-white city government and police, the shooting sparked a lot of unrest in Ferguson (partially fueled, I am certain, by the divergent eyewitness accounts). Protests, both peaceful and violent, along with vandalism and looting, continued for more than a week, resulting in night curfews in Ferguson. This unrest and questioning of the legality of what Wilson did, were precursors that led to a grand jury four months later to determine whether there was probable cause to indict Wilson for his actions.
    On November 24, the grand jury reached a decision, and elected not to indict Wilson.
    Which caused more unrest.
    President Barrack Obama made a few speeches referring to the racial inequalities and potential injustices that were witnessed in this case, and Attorney General Eric Holder vowed a civil case would soon follow.
    (I’m not quite sure why the Attorney General would mention that, other than guessing that the Attorney General was a black man, and since a black man was killed, some form of rage at a potential injustice may have led to an emotional reaction, but I am not one to judge.)
    While researching this, I heard a news reporter for 24-hour news show interviewing some eye-witnesses, and after one witness described Brown holding his hands up before he was shot, the reporter asked them if they actually witnessed Brown holding his hands up. The witness said no, but someone else told them he did.
    Which leads to the fervor of people protesting cases like this... I have seen accounts on how witnesses can be swayed by not only their own memory, but also from hearing other witnesses giving false information. A white man know also explained to me that in the same 4 month period, there were more shootings of while men by black police officers that the other way around.
    (That sounds like a Fox News thing to say. ... But wait a minute, I shouldn’t be one to judge, stats are stats. So let that one ride. Time of be objective.)
    This white guy I know then explained to me that white police officers usually have to double-check themselves to make sure that their actions would not be perceived as racially motivated.
    (Okay, I have no way to check that fact out, but if you look anywhere for info on this case, it’s mostly eye-witness “testimony” and hearsay, so what the hey, I can throw that little nugget in there.)
    But you know, someone explaining that opposing point to me (with no hard evidence to support the argument), and my sharing it with you, is probably perfect evidence of that fact that all people hear things, and try to come to our own conclusions, Based on a whole lot more (or sometimes a whole lot less) than hard facts.
    Which is a terrible fault of us humans, that we have an intelligent and rational side of us, but we’re also plagued with an emotional side? (This makes me think of episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation, where Geordi La Forge is explaining to the android Data, who for some reason ascribed to be more human-like because he can never feel emotions, where Geordi would explain to Data that to be human in making decisions, it’s always a combination of facts, and intuition, or having a gut feeling, which has nothing to do with facts, but all about human emotions). Call it left brain and right brain thinking, thinking creatively or thinking logically. Whatever it’s called, that describes us humans to a T.

    In the following months I heard of reports of inciting attacks on police officers in New York City, which led to the death of a New York police officer a month after the “no probable cause” verdict was delivered. Two additional NYPD officers in Brooklyn were shot “execution style” in the same week.

    I am not sure what killing police officers proves, and I am not sure it leads protesters to achieving any of their desired effects. All I do know is that what some people perceived as violence (police officer Wilson shooting robber Brown) to an act of violence based on race, lead to violence, throughout multiple communities.
    Which solves nothing, other than burying more bodies.


    I can continue to talk about this issue, because I intended to write about the racial issues, or the class issues, that lead to the deaths in both races, when no one can give a real concrete reason why these problems exist. And this was the basis of what I wanted to start to cover (other than making the point that when it comes to Republicans versus Democrats, of the left versus the right, or Fox News versus MSNBC, there are two opposing sides that will venomously attack the other side, even if they on many levels believe the same basic ideas). When I talk about topics like this, my goal is usually to discuss the differences between the ways the two political sides view the same topic.
    But that’s when I read the lunchtime poll topic from CEE. You see, I told him that I was planning to cover discussing the racial issues or the class issues after this shooting, or even the potential political issues that mirror these issues, and then I read the writing about the basic human nature being more one-sided of that combination of rationality and emotion.
    And I think that’s the one problem I have when I write these commentaries, I get a little too Vulcan and Spock-like (or android and Data-like, to continue my Star Trek:?TNG references), and I want to believe that people, when given all of the factual information available to them, that people will make a rational decision based on facts.
    Maybe that’s my problem, assuming people will inherently be rational and logical.
    But when you’re given all of the information, I personally wonder why people don’t make their choices based on the facts...
    I suppose that’s what I get for being too Vulcan-line, or too much like a computer at times.
    Just don’t catch me when I’m on an emotional tirade, because whatever you say, you’ll have to agree with me then — trust me, when I get on an emotional rant, silence my rantings and just agree with me...

    As for dealing with racial tensions during any crimes, I can't give you the answer — but over the centuries, no one has been able to come up with the right answers. So what do I know? Well, it seems that oftentimes protesters at functions like this are often not just locals coming out to speak their mind. Potential protesters are also people (A) who heard it on the news and wanted to be a part of a “call to arms” or sorts, and they are sometimes (B) actually paid to join in, so protests gain a larger volume of people (which leads the drive-by media wanting to cover it more, which riles people up more). And think about it: the 24-hour media have a lot of time to fill, and when there is one story everyone is talking about, they will do everything in their power to cover any and every aspect of the story (whether all of their information is verifiable or not).
    When it comes to race, I think we all want to talk about it, we all want to get through it, and we all want to get beyond it. But when everything becomes more and more slanted during major events where race is discussed (like in this Ferguson case, for example), it makes it harder and harder to go one step further when it feels like all we’re doing is going two steps back.

Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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