Often I wonder how much more news I am receiving because of my involvement online: I’m on twitter, regularly reading and sharing blogs, interacting with people in comments and tweets. Most of my friends don’t do this. Last night, I figured that out.
On my iPad, I scrolled through twitter, up and down over images that left me confused, panicked, and breathless. I couldn’t stop thinking: Isn’t this America?
Well, maybe it is.
Maybe I am just seeing this America for the first time, or maybe I’ve just forgotten about her dark, racist, violent streak. Cognitive Dissonance can be a powerful thing, blocking out things I do not want to see. But no matter: here she is. And I can’t stop seeing her.
This is America, and here, apparently, the line between police and paramilitary, between self defense and aggravated assault, is so blurred that peaceful suburban protests by black people are to be leveled over by the hand of the state. All the big tactics are to be employed: the rapid fire of rubber bullets and tear gas landing in the lawns of family homes, the shutting down of public schools, the arrests of journalists (WHAT?), all while tanks steamroll down boulevards of a suburb. YEP.
POLICE HAVE ARMY TANKS. NEWS TO ME.
I was seeing this all play out on citizen shot videos, but you know, I was looking up at the TV, switching from news channel to 24 hour news channel and it was as if nothing was happening at all. If a town turns into a violent invasion, will the news cover it? Depends on the town. Depends on the people. Depends on what the media heads deem worthy of news.
I went to a friends’ house and the first thing I said as I walked in the door was, have you guys been following the stuff in Ferguson?
They were watching a movie, both shrugged. What?
Ferguson! I said exasperated and then began blurting all the things I had been reading, watching, listening to- all the chaos occurring in America!
One friend said, to which I sighed in relief: Finally.
Didn’t someone burned down a gas station?
That was all he knew. In the small cloud of media coverage over the last few days, the looting that occurred was what thundered through loudest, gained the most coverage and overshadowed everything else. Including murder by police.
Mike Brown? Who? They had no idea. What happened? No idea.
They had no idea that the context of the situation began with an innocent 18-year-old kid being gunned down by a police officer. He was unarmed. He held his hands up and said Don’t shoot! His body was left on the hot pavement in the middle of the day for hours on end (4 hours to be exact). And I have yet to hear an official explanation for why. It feels… there are no words.
What they knew was that black people in a town in Missouri burned down a gas station. What they knew was that’s how it started. They had no idea why there was looting in the first place. Because, MEDIA.
This is where White Privilege comes in and I will be the first to say, I don’t understand all the dynamics of it. But I’m pretty sure it has something to do with blindness and deafness, with how a culture frames the picture for us (white people) to fit the narrative we’ve been told (blacks are innately criminal). It has to do with so much rage over a gas station burning down, but then suspicion and/or plain ignorance over an innocent black man murdered. It has to do with the images. If you haven’t checked out the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown (you probably haven’t heard about it) you should. It’s pictures of black people posting two images side by side, asking which one the media would use if police (or white people in general, a la George Zimmerman) killed them.
Below is Michael Brown (which picture do you think the Media used?)
I am learning to listen better and see more. I wish it hadn’t taken a whole town to be under siege before my very eyes to notice, but I am noticing now, the wide extent of my privilege and today I am sitting in it. I am feeling it. And I am trying to figure out how to be better.
Here’s one way you can start: INFORM YOURSELF.
We need to sit down, hat in hand, and listen to these voices. The truth they tell is uncomfortable, it is convicting, and you have choice here.
Will you embrace the discomfort of realizing your complicity?
Or will you wind the knob down into silence?
America is not for Black People by Greg Howard
Do Black Lives Matter In Our Community? by Nekima Levi Pounds
Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: the images that define Ferguson’s Protests by Lauren Williams
The Night Social Media Exploded Over Ferguson by Chris Taylor
To find more links: Visit Further Up & Further In
If you’re in the Twin Cities, their will be a vigil tonight around 5:30 PM, which you can find details for here