Sunday, November 30, 2014

Let's talk about Darren Wilson

....or not. Most people I know feel very strongly one way or the other.

I, on the other hand, have been biding my time. It seemed foolish to jump to one conclusion or another without knowing the facts, doing some extensive reading from both angles.

So, I did. I've read the transcripts. All of them. I've read as much as I could stomach, trying diligently to stay away from those who seemed very pro Wilson or very anti Wilson. I for a middle ground.

Our country is very clear on legalities. Yet, so many of the eyewitness accounts directly differ from each other. The coroner report is clear. No, Michael Brown was not shot in the back.

I've read many accounts where this young man was described as a gentle giant. But, I saw with my own eyes the video where he robbed a store and then very openly bullied the small Asian owner. This seems a strange juxtaposition, but I suspect that most people have two sides. Also, I agree with Pharrell Williams in his Ebony interview that we might want to question too why Michael Brown felt it was acceptable to treat the store owner this way. Maybe he was a gentle giant in other areas of his life, but he was not a gentle giant in this area.

And, I think about things that my wife has told me about her first hand glimpse of what the black experience is like, in real life. A few weeks ago, she took three of her students to a local furniture store (a major one in our've heard of the name) to buy some new computer equipment with grant money that they had won. This was during the school day. The students all had permission from their teachers and parents. All three students were honor students. Good kids. All three had black skin. After they got into the store, she left them in one aisle as she veered to an aisle over to check out something else. And then she heard it.

"What do you BOYS want?"  A clerk had approached her students.

One of the students tried to explain the part that they were looking for, even used the word sir when speaking to the clerk.

The clerk cut him off, waved his hand the next aisle over and put his finger up and pointed at their faces.

Keep in mind that I'm WATCHING you. Keep that in mind. You hear me?"

Bing had seen enough. She went over to the clerk (or as she called him, "this two bit pip squeak who was strutting like he thought he was hot shit"....) and asked him if there was a problem. That these were her students, that they were helping her look for a computer part and what right did he have to speak to them in that tone? The guy immediately backed off and began stammering that he was in charge of this section of the store and, and, and, and...

Bing interrupted him. Told him that she wanted to speak to his supervisor, please and his store would not be getting her business today. After the guy slunk off to get his supervisor, the three students all implored to her to just buy the part here. It was cheaper, they said, and it wasn't like there was going to be a difference in how they were treated anywhere else. As long as she was with them, all would be fine, but if she left them alone, well....all kinds of bad stuff could happen to them.

Long story short, Bing told the supervisor what happened, who apologized and offered them an even better discount on their equipment and assured her that his clerk would undergo a thorough "talking to." Bing declined the discount and noted that as they left, walking through the exit doors, the supervisor and the clerk were standing together laughing. Apparently, that was him being talked to.

They bought their equipment at Radio Shack and Bing made certain not to leave the students alone.

When she told me about it, she had tears in her eyes.

"These kids endure this EVERY FUCKING DAY," she said. "And I HATE it. But, what can I do? How can I make it better?"

The day after Thanksgiving, I had breakfast at my Sister's house. All of my other Sisters were there to eat before they left for their homes in Iowa and I wanted to see them since we had missed Thanksgiving dinner together.

The talk came around to what I had missed. I had missed my great nephew showing that at the young age of 4, he already knew how to flip a polygon. Pretty impressive. I had missed the best pecan pie on the planet that Celia had brought, but too bad for me, not one bite was left. I had missed one of Jessie's daughter's reading out loud a great short story she had written. I had missed Jessie's other daughter teaching the younger ones how to do an Irish jig, something that ALL of my Sisters and I know how to do, but that all of our children do not. We agreed that we need to keep that tradition going. ALL of us must know how to do an Irish jig. And even though my Sisters and I are 48, 56, 61 and 65, we got up, stood in a line, and showed that ALL of us still remember how to jig.

And then one of my Sisters said, "I was almost glad that you weren't there because you would've gone off like a rocket when Bill (Patrice's husband, otherwise known as that creep in everyone's family that everyone hates who is basically just a racist pig) said that he was thankful that Darren Wilson had "made the world a better place."

Uh huh. Right. Because now a whole town is in shambles, someone is dead, a good portion of people in the town have lost their livelihood because the town has been ransacked, children are unable to attend school, and there is hatred in so many eyes. So, the world is a better place. Gotcha. Man, someone give this dumb ass a kick in the balls.

Really glad I wasn't there.

I think Bil would've been surprised that he and I actually do agree on one thing: I don't believe that Darren Wilson should have been indicted either. But, this is after a careful reading of the facts. And a belief that we must allow the laws of our country to stand. My agreement with him has everything to do with logic and nothing to do with gut feeling.

I believe that black people in this country are still not treated equally with their white counterparts. I believe that we are aching for a symbol of that. I don't believe Michael Brown is that symbol. And most importantly, I don't believe that looting and ransacking a town is a way to solve a problem. Hate is never the answer. Ever. Rage breeds pain. Always.

I understand a few things. Being married to a woman, I understand what it feels like to have someone hate me who doesn't even know me. Being a woman, I understand what it feels like to always earn less than my male counterpart. I fully understand how frustrating that is.

But, I will never understand what it is like to have black skin.

I'm saddened by what I am seeing. I am not proud of my countrymen and women. I wish that I knew the answers to these terrible problems of racial inequality, of homosexuals not being allowed their civil rights, of women always earning less than men, of what to do to turn all of this hate into acceptance and love and goodwill.

But, honestly? I don't have a clue. Do you?


lily cedar said...

Sadly I have no answers.

lily cedar said...

Sadly I have no answers.

Joanne Noragon said...

I cannot make coherent thoughts; how can things be better when so many are bent on making them worse.

Teacher Cynthia said...

I think there are a number of answers... one of them is understanding how privilege works. It depends on someone else's lack of privilege. What can motivate someone to "release" their hold on privilege? That's an important part of the puzzle. There are cultures - across time and space - which were/are more egalitarian. Why? How did that work? Why did people think it was more beneficial for them as individuals to have a more egalitarian culture? Thinking about that could help us now. I think more answers are to be found it acknowledging emotional truths. In creating room for emotional truth. Not needing to have emotional truths always stay underground, hidden, repressed, etc. I think there are more answers to be found in where and how "racial issues" intersect or arise out of patriarchy and capitalism. And I think there are more to be found in how we educate people... what we teach them... it's often not the truth. History is - in general - written by the winners... and the history we generally teach our children teaches them how to be in denial of many things, including oppression, genocide, etc. Those are some answers. I know there are more. And whatever helps each of us to grow and evolve in this area provides more answers. We all hold some.

Anonymous said...

It is all so very sad. People do not show respect, while others abuse their power. Nothing is ever black or white - that if for sure.

Glad Sven made it back for a great thanksgiving and that Amelia found a job.

I know basketball season goes on forever - but I miss it :)

8thday said...

I am pulled in so many directions on this one. I had a very poor chapter in my life and lived in public housing. That gave me a one perspective. I had an inter-racial relationship. That gave me a different perspective. My current partner was a police officer. That gave me yet a different perspective.

These things I can say for sure.

1. I am tired of social and news media skewing the facts and manipulating emotions.

2. I am tired of labeling and stereotyping and the damage it causes - on both sides of the equation.

3. There are no easy, or one size fits all answers to very complex problems.

4. The best, and possibly only effective thing I can do is to set a positive example in how I live my life.

English Rider said...

Your post is well reasoned and based on facts. Unfortunately, the people who would most benefit from reading and comprehending your unbiased words, would as soon tear them up as look at them.
Bing did the right thing in the store with the kids. I wonder if the supervisor would have been more respectful were she a he?
I blame much on the unequal funding of schools. Based on property taxes (as I understand this)poorer areas with massive class sizes will always get the least funding. Across the board National funding equality of dollars per student will be a huge step towards leveling the future playing field.
Until then, keep speaking up if another human is treated badly, no matter color or creed.

Karen M. Peterson said...

I agree with you on this 100%.

Jocelyn said...

Really good musings here, M. What the law directs is one thing; what our hearts say is another thing.

Have you seen this piece? I found it powerful:

Eric said...

I wish I knew how to fix this, but I don't have a clue. It seems that we go forward, then get knocked back. I know that we're making progress, but it just seems like it's so much more difficult than it needs to be, that we should have been so much further by now.

Teacher Cynthia said...


More info in this article by a U of Kansas journalism grad student:

It's okay with me if you don't publish this post. But I wanted you to see the info.

Also... it troubles me... and again, maybe don't publish the post... that most of the commenters (including myself) are/seem white... and have this, "I don't know what to do attitude/subtext: so i'll go back to what I was doing." those with privilege can always afford to do that... whether they are straight, American, of color, male, or whatever other privilege is operative. both parties - the oppressed and the oppressing - have to see the benefit in change for things to begin to really move. of course, there are things we can do. we can AWLAYS do something.... even if it's only holding a vision of how things can be better, praying/meditating on it, asking in a serious and spiritual/heartfelt way what small act one can do.

okay, that's my share for the day!

:-) Namaste, ZC

Earth Muffin said...

Beautifully written, Maria. And that Bing is good people!

Erin said...

I've completely quit reading articles and blogs about this Darren Wilson or anything related to this case, but I read yours, as I knew you would be logical and rational. I was not disappointed. Thank you for your thoughts.