During the Ferguson protests, I remember thinking, “This is what happens when people feel like they don’t have a voice.”
The outraged community gathered together to speak. And, as can happen with outrage — particularly when there are scared, young people involved — the rage overtook some, and the protests turned destructive.
It’s a terrible thing to have a concern but have no way to communicate it to the powers that be. It’s a particular type of powerlessness and frustration.
I read, heard and seen plenty of criticism of the Ferguson protests. The protest was too uncontrolled, too messy. The message of a young life ended was lost, and instead, fingers were pointed.
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The whole thing felt a wee bit like racism, to be honest. There was an “us” vs. “them” feel to it. Distaste for a community that didn’t exercise self-control. A “Well, what do you expect?” attitude.
Do you know what I didn’t hear discussed from any of the people criticizing the means? Discussion of the death of Michael Brown. If, perhaps, justice had not been served. The message had been lost (to many) in a sea of finger-pointing.
Michael Brown’s death was, oh-so-sadly, not an isolated incident, and the Black Lives Matter movement grew to raise awareness, and look for justice.
Statistics should make anyone do a double-take. Over and over again, completely innocent people going about their business being shot and killed, and the officers are often acquitted.
Or we see the likes of Brock Turner get off fee for crimes they clearly committed. And the patterns certainly hint at skin color being a determining factor in many of these cases.
“Black Lives Matter.” Now, that’s a message that’s clear and easy to understand. There’s a feeling that black lives are considered second-rate, and that’s not OK.
The obvious, and appropriate response should be, “Yes! Yes they do! You have a problem. What help do you need? What can I do?”
But instead, the fingers came back out, pointing out flaws. Calling the movement racist. Labeling it a hate group. And as bad, I’d argue, responding with “All lives matter.”
The underlying message to that is, “I do not, and will not, listen to the point you are trying to make.”
And then, Lordy, Lordy, came the NFL protests. Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, with a clearly stated message that his goal was to bring attention to the racial injustices going on in this country. Oh, the finger wagging got wild, did it not?
As a friend, expressing his patriotism and outrage, explained, “I love this country and will not tolerate disrespect toward our flag. I don’t even know what they’re protesting…”
He doesn’t even know? He’s making a case without finding out what all the hubbub is about? That is his argument?
The patterns are clear. A community expresses hurt, pain, fear and a need, and a select group deflects, discredits, and suppresses their message with mounds of rhetoric and little, if any, actual listening to the message.
It’s almost as if some people don’t want to hear the message.
Reach Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @emilyjparnell