Monday, December 1, 2014

City on Fire

I'm sure everyone reading this knows about the Ferguson protests and riots stemming from the grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson. Facebook has been engulfed in all kinds of debates and arguments praising the grand jury's decision and condemning it.

Having grown up in that part of St. Louis, I have a very personal perspective on the whole mess. It was painful to see my hometown being destroyed, but the longer term ramifications are more profound to me. St. Louis is still dealing with racial issues, and my city has become a microcosm for a much larger social problem.

It's too bad people are actually taking "sides" on this, but this is a complicated matter. Is it about Mike Brown and Darren Wilson? Or is it about racism in this city and country? Or does it go even deeper, harking back to deep-seating issues stemming from America's past: from slavery, to segregation, to desegregation, to urban decay, to white flight...we can point to any number of things.

I've taken the time to understand many of the aspects around this matter, and I hope others do the same. I've learned about why prosecutors use grand juries instead of straight up indicting somebody. I learned why cops aren't trained - or even allowed - to intentionally wound somebody. I have not read all 1200 pages of the evidence that was released by the prosecutor, and I doubt any of us will. It's amazing to me, however, the level of unreliability eye witness accounts are.

The day after the first night of rioting after the grand jury decision was announced, I called a couple business owners I know in Ferguson. Both of their businesses were looted and damaged. One of them had to deal with tornado damage just last summer, and now they have to go through it all again. It's sad, since they both employed local people and provided the people of Ferguson with much needed medical services.

With the holiday season in full swing, I hope my city can find a way to learn from all of this and somehow bride that widening gap that has divided us. This issue isn't just a St. Louis thing as evidenced by all the other protests that have sprung up all over the country.

Many St. Louisans are hopeful, are there are signs of love and understanding within this entire hateful mess. It's not easy to ignore all the sensationalism, rash judgments and sweeping generalizations, and the divisive language spoken by a lot of people. I've seen a lot of UGLY here in St. Louis, but I can still hear the voices of those that hope for a better future.

It's that hope we all have left to hang onto.

22 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

Never sure what people get from rioting and looting, other than acting like mindless buffoons. Agree or not, you shouldn`t loot business and destroy things. But humans are feeble.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So insane. Those people destroyed businesses that employed their fellow man and destroyed their neighbor's property - that doesn't help a thing and only hurts them more.

Jay Noel said...

Patt: They got a bunch of free stuff, I guess. In the end, it just hurts themselves and the community

Alex: Exactly. Some people try to justify it by saying they're angry. And yeah, it's ok to be angry. Just not okay to loot and destroy.

Robin said...

I think many people see beyond color. I get that there are those who don't... but is this problem still as wide-spread as it once was? Haven't we gained ground on it? I thought so. Unfortunately, when a black person is killed (by a police officer or just a non-black person... even another person of color)... the black community has rallied (recently) and pronounced it a Hate Crime. Is it? Was it? I don't know. Don't even pretend to have the answers. But, if the decision made by a grand jury oo jury of our peers doesn't go in favor of the black person... everyone talks about potential rioting/looting. And there is rioting and looting. I can't say that I've ever seen a community riot or loot over the death of a white, hispanic, chinese, japanese or any other -ese person. Why does this happen? Why does a verdict that is disliked by many turn into rioting and looting? I don't get it. These folks are destroying their OWN town. They still have to live there tomorrow. Now, I know that many black folks shake their head at this behavior... just like I do. So, I don't want to lump every black into this category of standing outside the courthouse, waving signs, and threatening repercussions if it doesn't go their way. (Very untrue.) But, when the folks on the news wonder if the grand jury will pass a verdict to satisfy this threatening group of people (just to avoid fallout), what does this say about our system? The people in our country?

I'm disheartened by what's happened in Ferguson (and elsewhere). As you point out, there are many elements that contribute to this problem. I have no idea how to fix it. I wish I did.

Tony Laplume said...

I never understood rioting. I suppose the point is to demonstrate that you have more power than the situation that provoked it seemed to indicate, but it really boils down to mob mentality. When you allow someone else to do your thinking for you, in any context, you and everyone else will always lose. That's perhaps one of the key lessons to be learned here.

Jay Noel said...

Robin: I do think it's better, but I also believe there are some deep-seating things bubbling to the surface. I've seen downright racist statements come out of the mouths of people I never would have pegged as having such beliefs.
On the other side, there's a lot of black people going on pure emotion and ignoring the hard, cold facts. Forget forensic evidence and conflicting eye witness accounts that defy it. People just need to stop and think.

Jay Noel said...

Tony: Rioting and looting is purely based on anger and thrills. Pictures snapped of looters running out of stores with liquor, tennis shoes, TVs, etc....many of the looters looks unbelievably happy. It's mob mentality for sure.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I am so sorry about your friends' businesses.

What idiot thought that releasing the verdict at 9pm was a good idea? Such a poor decision. The media hasn't helped either. They've issued statements that have only fueled the anger.

Jay Noel said...

Diane: You bring up a good point. I don't mean to be Mr. Conspiracy, but it does seem that the powers-that-be did everything to create a volatile environment, ripe for a riot. Making the announcement at 9 pm, the National Guard was practically non-existent that first night, and then the governor ignored the calls from the mayor. Just strange.

Beth Ellyn Summer said...

I'm so sorry about your friends' businesses. I feel so bad for all the business owners. As someone who studied broadcast journalism I know how much the media decides to share what info they perceive as pertinent, so it's definitely up to us to do our own thorough research. The whole situation is just so sad!

Gwen Gardner said...

I've stayed away from commenting on any of the many sides of this issue. There is no one right side and a lot of valid points are made by both. But clearly, rioting and violence is not the answer. I hope your friends' businesses recover. Sorry about your town :(

cleemckenzie said...

Everyone suffers when this kind of thing happens. So sorry for Ferguson and all the people caught up in the riots.

Jay Noel said...

Beth: Journalists were nuts too,just walking among all the craziness. Of course they were getting hit with tear gas, and one was hit with a brick. All for ratings.

Gwen: It was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, really.

Lee: Yes, everyone suffers.

Christine Rains said...

It makes my heart heavy to see these things. I'm sorry to hear about your friends' businesses.

Jay Noel said...

Christine: Me too. I appreciate it!

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

Every single bit of this event is devastating and heartbreaking.

Al Diaz said...

I so much understand you. There have been too many riots in Mexico City and discrimination and injustice are way too common. People takes sides and moods are effervescent to say the least. I fail to understand why there has to be violence as first choice to express you're not agree with something. Even worse, why to hurt and destroy property that belongs to people who did nothing wrong to you. On the contrary. Yet, as you say well, hope is the strongest and last thing we can hold on to. That and prayers. I do pray for people to understand violence won't solve anything, regardless the issue, regardless the country. Dragon Hugs!

Morgan said...

It's so scary---all of this. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I'm sorry but I truly believe most of these looters are just out to loot. Like they lie in wait for looting season. So sad what is happening and all the businesses and people who are suffering.

Emily R. King said...

Wow. I love that the Brown family has asked for people to protest as peacefully as possible. Says a lot about them!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The entire affair has so many 'sides' and so much sadness. I feel so much for the business people who have been dealt such harsh blows by the violence. The ramifications will surely last for years for things like property values. That's only the economic side of the issue. The human factors are deeper and more complicated.

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