Ferguson is Not an Isolated Injustice

Ferguson is Not an Isolated Injustice November 26, 2014

Monday night’s announcement of the Ferguson findings had me in tears on Tuesday. (Black teenager Michael Brown was shot on August 9 by white police office Darren Wilson. Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury.) I want to share some of the things I wrote yesterday.

So, this might seem a callous comparison, but bear with me. That same morning we had the dishwasher repairman out. The kind repairman said that our model was a durable one; that new dishwashers are pretty, but are only designed to last 5-7 years at most, then get tossed and completely replaced. So we use more resources to make expensive items that we can’t fix and thus have to purchase more of, using more resources and filling landfills, and putting skilled labor out of business.

Everything seems disposable. Our entire lives are disposable, if it’s convenient for some one else. Your skills are disposable, and so are mine. Your green forest and local streams, and mine. My female body and your sister/mother/daughter’s. Our black/Native/Latino friends’ and neighbors’ lives are disposable.

It’s all linked: how we live our lives, who we can love and how, what color our skin is, what happens to our air and earth and waters, how we make our money, how much money we have or don’t, and who lives and dies.

I’m sure some one is thinking “not all men/not all cops/not all courts/not all jobs/not all families/not all [insert group here]” Sure. But enough people are “that guy” or are part of “that court decision” or do “that job” and what we get is Ferguson. What we get are communities of color in every major city that might be Ferguson. What we get are choked streams and landfills “not in MY backyard” but in some one else’s. What we get is fear and a clinging to whatever tenuous attempts at the safety status quo seems to confer.

It’s ALL interrelated, my friends. Maybe if we started acting like black lives matter, got serious about our interrelated communities mattering, then piece by piece we could unstitch this quilt that comforts the 1% and leaves the rest of us cold.

Police in riot gear at Ferguson protests; By Jamelle Bouie [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Police in riot gear at Ferguson protests; By Jamelle Bouie [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I am angered and outraged, but my whiteness and geographical location keep me from being terrified in this case. But there is enough out there in this interrelated mess that does terrify me, and if not for my self, for my kids and your kids and all my friends of color and all my non-gender conforming friends and so on.

My white privilege is that I don’t have to teach my son to keep his head down, do as he’s told, and put his hands up. But some of you have to teach your kids that. It’s not ok. My son can play with his friends and not worry that a cop will misread his play and shoot him. But not all kids get that freedom.

Because my dishwasher was fixable, but I’m not so sure that Ferguson is.

This may be a depressing message leading up to Thanksgiving. This holiday too is built on violence and racism. Today and tomorrow, and every day, I give thanks for people everywhere who work for justice, for peace, for the full dignity of all human beings. Do not go gentle in the good night of privilege and status quo, my friends. Let us fight the good fight.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I don’t think the dishwasher comparison is callous. A little thing like a dishwasher and a gigantic thing like a human life are caught up in the same system–a system that, as you say, treats everything as disposable. This system has to end. It HAS to, whether we stop it or it exhausts itself. But I don’t know which ending will come first.

  • An Elder Apprentice

    About eight months ago I visited the Detroit inner city and while there I realized I was seeing the equivent of an abandoned strip mine. The city was built as housing for the laborers, the value of that labor having been extracted, the people, factories, and houses fully amortized and their value depleted, what remains is the disposable mine pit.

    Furgeson Fixable? At least I have a few less illusions. I can’t start from anyplace else.

  • kirtking

    The problem with the dishwasher analogy is that the dishwasher does not actively contribute to its own position in the world.

    • It’s true that my analogy is flawed, but it sounds like you are insinuating that people in Ferguson, Mike Brown, others affected by systemic racism are contributing to their own oppression. Sure, we all contribute to our societal ills in some way, but that is not the main problem nor the main point. If that is what you are saying, please review the dynamics of systemic racism. It sounds like you’re victim blaming, and I will have none of that in my “living room.”