Ferguson: How can we move forward?

I wrote and submitted this column to the Terrell Tribune last month, a little after the riots in Ferguson, MO. It was published on November 30, 2014.

Maybe you believe shooting Mike Brown was warranted. Or perhaps you don’t believe that Officer Darren Wilson’s lethal force against an unarmed teen was necessary. Either stance is for you to take but that is not what I’m writing about today. What I care most about is how are we to move forward in our own communities? That is what I feel led to address and I question if rioting was/is the best route to be heard.

There are certainly black-owned businesses that were affected such as the case of Natalie Dubose – the owner of Natalie's Cakes & More.  A single mother of two, Dubose built her bakery from the ground up. What are we accomplishing in our anger when there is such collateral damage? Luckily the public has responded and she has become inundated with orders as a result. Our anger should be pointed in the direction of all the missed opportunities as a society to impart peace and make change so that we can no longer have an “us” against “them” mentality. And we should be outraged that many of our disenfranchised youth are not being pointed in the direction of those opportunities! If I were living in Ferguson with my anger of knowing Brown’s potential will never come to fruition, I would still not fall into mob mentality to fan the flames, so to speak, of our division.

Solutions like these continue our cycle: Angry black man must die because he will kill or ruin “us” first. Then the “them” creates a riot in response. Then the previous misconception of a human being is reinforced through actions. Peaceful protests are possible, and do happen, but clearly not everyone agrees with that perspective being effective. Progress has been made both with violence and without. It’s difficult to really decide which is the better tactic when you are filled with so much passion, resentment and fury. And you have the history to back it up.

Remember the American Indian Movement? The organization is still around but during the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973, there was certainly tragedy and controversy. But what came out of it? The Native community was inspired to make change, colleges were built and a renewed pride achieved among the population. New opportunities became a reality. Even today I work for a reservation-based, however national Native American brand, that has successes at every corner and benefits the community it serves. Would that have happened without AIM or Wounded Knee? Debatable I’m sure and can depend on whom you ask. But through media, America finally got a glimpse into injustices happening on Native land.

And let us not forget the Freedom Riders (of several racial and cultural backgrounds) of the 1960s? They risked their lives and arrests to end racial injustice — peacefully and unarmed. What about the countless sit-ins? Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolent approach to civil rights certainly imparted change but also to his own detriment. Because of these fearless people, we are no longer sitting in separate “white” and “black” sections. But the choice is yours on where you keep your seat. How are we working together?

I mourn for Mike Brown but it’s because of what he now represents — another youth lost to his environment.  Did you know he was just two days away from his first class at Vatterott College? He once stated that he didn’t want to end up on the streets, but he ultimately died there. That is the heart of the issue. What are we doing to support our children so they can avoid these scenarios entirely? Why is it so common to have the crab-in-the-bucket mentality (as one rises up, another pulls it down) in more challenged areas of America? We should be outraged that our youth are in these areas of strife. What will we do about that?