I really should just name my blog that. An unpopular voice. That is what I am on a variety of subjects. For the most part I tend to be non partisan enough most people don’t bother to get angry and comment, or they care too much about my personal relationship with them and keep comments private. I supposed that’s fine. Not everyone feels the need to broadcast their political and social opinions to the world or engage in debate. That’s cool too. What does any of this have to do with my post? Probably nothing; just a momentary lament for the quiet unread blog that will probably blow up soon.
The world has changed. There’s no denying it. Even if the Ferguson riots/protests quiet for the foreseeable future, the world has changed. An event happened, lines in the sand were drawn, and a battle forged across the line. The rules are now different for my kids because they’re bi-racial. How the world, their friends, and community see them is forever changed. This is deeper than anyone without someone marginalized in some way a big part of their life can possibly understand. A fundamental shift in how we interact has happened and most of us had no control over it. All because of two scared men.
I wasn’t in Ferguson. I wasn’t there to see Michael Brown’s last minutes. I have only what the media allows me to see. I flip flopped on this so many times because, depending on where you went and their own personal politics, you saw two completely different sides of the issue. My husband and I both researched and both got different information, and we were very critical of the sources we chose. Finally MotherJones.com posted the actual deposition the grand jury heard. Go read it for yourself. Form your own opinion. But read the whole thing, not just the little yellow blocked out snap shots the editor pulled out for easier reading. It might change your whole world, or it might not.
I was really frustrated when I got this. I wanted to share it with the world because this document is as close to the truth as any of us are ever going to see. I shared with a few friends, people I know to be level headed and educated. People who happily look for the truth most of the time. These same people continued arguing their side without even reading it. I found an uncomfortable truth and an unpopular opinion.
Unpopular Opinion #1:
No one wants the truth.
The situation in this country has gotten so bad, that aside from what is now a true minority—white, male, upper class—life has gotten increasingly hard. Working college professors worry if they’ll have enough food on the table. Everyone is tried and angry. Each group has their own whipping boy to blame for their situation. Michael Brown was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. No one wants to be challenged by how this happened or who was guilty of what. They want their feeling justified so they can continue to be angry and not look for ways to change the world in the right way.
Unpopular Opinion #2:
Mike Brown was NOT innocent…but neither was he guilty. Darren Wilson was NOT guilty….but neither was he innocent.
After reading the deposition I have my own theory about events. You have a predominately black town with a primarily white power structure. Even if completely on accident, this breeds racism. When the group with all the power is different from you and your community, all you see is the group in power keeping you down. When you’re in power being challenged by a group that is different from you, all you see are the challengers out to get you.
Both Mike Brown and Darren Wilson are products of this environment. Wilson, I believe, really was scared. He saw a black man bigger than him, though youngish, challenging him. Wilson, by virtue of being in this society, had been taught that a black man challenging him meant he could die. He was angry and scared and reacted on pure instinct. He was not thinking nor was he making good choices or allowing himself to hang back a little and see this critically. Cops are taught when the gun is pulled it is to hit the target. They are taught when someone takes their weapon they’re going to die by that weapon so do what you have to to get it back and end the threat. Had Wilson been the product of a different environment he might not have been as scared of Brown. He might just have seen a punk kid who was frustrated and a little afraid and tried talking instead of feeling the need to push his authority around.
Brown, I believe, was truly scared. He was from an environment were all he saw were white cops hassling and arresting the other black kids his own age from his own neighborhood. I lived for a short time in a very poor run down neighborhood. When you called the cops there, it was knowing, even as the victim, you might get arrested. Brown was 18 with all the messed up thought processes and need to prove himself that come with the age. He saw a cop hassling him. He made some bad choices we can all agree on. You never strike a cop even when they deserve it. He got scared. He knew he was going down for this and didn’t know what to do. He was scared of this older, armed, cop, an authority figure. He was not thinking clearly. He was not making good choices. He could not step away and look at it critically.
Now we get into the heart of it. The real questions. Why did Brown turn around? The cop truly believed he was going to get charged and possibly harmed. Brown *might* have intended that, but I doubt it. He *might* have had a moment of clarity and wanted to salvage it somehow. We will never know.
Fear and Anger. Fear and anger killed Michael Brown. That’s all any of this is. There is enough fear and anger in this country that this one case out of the multitudes (literally thousands) of other examples became the deciding line.
Unpopular Opinion #3:
This case should never have been the deciding line.
This was a case of two scared people letting their fear take over their actions. Either one of them could have chosen different things if they weren’t so scared of each other.
Unpopular Opinion #4:
The case in Cleveland of a 12 yr old boy shot by police SHOULD be the deciding line.
At first I just shook my head. The initial media reports told a boy with an airsoft pellet gun. He had taken off the orange tab (or possibly it was off before he found it or it was given to him) and the gun looked real. I saw pictures. It looked real. The media said he was brandishing it around and pointing it at people. They said he threatened a cop. So sad.
Then the NY Times released a video of it and the 911 call that sent officers on the scene. Watch it. I dare you.
In the 911 call the caller makes it clear he thinks the gun is just a toy, but it’s scaring him so could someone go check this out. He’s asked to describe the “guy”. The caller starts in on clothing, and is interrupted several times by the dispatcher asking if he’s white or black. This question was repeated a few times before the caller finally said, “black.” No one asked if he was Asian or American Indian. The call ends almost abruptly after the caller admits the “guy” is black.
The video is worse. I gasped and literally stopped breathing for a minute. You see the boy, very clearly a boy, waving the gun around in an empty park. Then you see the cop car roll up on the scene inches from the boy and the cop in the passenger seat shoots in 2 seconds. The door isn’t even fully open.
This is the travesty. This is the case people should be protesting over but will likely ignore.
Unpopular Opinion #5:
Freedom of speech no longer exists.
Yes, you read that right. The Cleveland case is a disgusting abuse of power and race, but the media portrays a kid that did something stupid and should have known better. The media shows us the gun and we shake our heads thinking if we were that cop with that pointed at us we might have to shoot too.
During this most recent wave of Ferguson protests and riots I saw what the news showed. And I watched independent live stream from people just walking with the crowds and documenting. I watched things as they happened. They most assuredly didn’t match. There’s a picture circulating of cops helping a man up from a teargased street. That was staged. I watched an independent camera stream from UStream as cops set it up. The mainstream media denies the use of teargas, saying it was only smoke. Yet I watched on several streams as the fallen canisters were picked up clearly labeled. I saw cops use teargas to corral a hundred people into a business and then set off teargas inside the store forcing them all into the basement. When they had to leave to breathe fresh air they were threatened to go back inside or get arrested by the same cops that put the teargas in there.
The original Wilson/Brown case is so skewed we have no hope of knowing anything with 100% clarity. Credible sources on both sides of the fence showed entirely different stories. Each one choosing their own martyr. It was so skewed in fact I fully believe there would have been riots and protests no matter what the grand jury decided. All that decision did was decide which group would riot first.
Why? Fear and anger yet again. No one wants to be challenged. No one wants their side to be proven in error no matter how small. If that happens then everything they were fighting for loses strength. The wind is out of the sails, and the incredibly heady experience of being in the center of activity for an important purpose suddenly sours. So you fight so you can feel justified.
White people: The system is flawed and bred more racism and hate than I’ve known in my life time. Wilson is an ignorant, flawed, person who made some bad choices. It may not have been intentional but it colored his actions.
Black people: The system is flawed and bred more racism and hate than I’ve known in my life time. Michael Brown was an angry scared kid who made some bad choices. It may not have been intentional but the state of his world colored his actions.
Now both groups and many friends can be angry with me. I couldn’t sit on this anymore and watch the fighting go on. It’s nice to be neutral. Sweden is a nice country. No one gets angry with you and you avoid a lot of drama. You don’t feed into the problem…but neither do you feed into the solution. Racism in this country is massive. That’s uncomfortable. It’s unpopular. Pretty much all my white friends are going to take exception to that. And they can because I don’t hang around with bigots of any kind. Ask around, it’s the quickest way to get on my bad side and I don’t care what color or gender or orientation the bigot is.
We NEED to address this. We need to talk about it. We need to understand that ALL colors are capable of being racist. We need to understand that even with a bi-racial president our government is corrupt and it wasn’t necessarily his fault. If you still blame the president for anything you don’t understand the problem yet.
However scary it is, this country needs an overhaul. What is going on now needs to happen.
I must really like the political hotbed. I keep stepping in it. I don’t think it’s a huge surprise that Thanksgiving isn’t a happy time for everyone. Nor do I think it’s a surprise that history has been rewritten. We sort of accept this as par for the course in our nation’s history, but too often we shy away from it because it’s ugly and we don’t want to be reminded of that.
Let’s face it, as a nation we suck at dealing with unpleasant truths. It’s a societal problem. No one enjoys having angry memes that tell them harsh truths thrown at them. We go to great lengths to refute articles based on title without giving the information time to trickle in. I’m just as guilty as the rest. I’m feeding into a racist society? No! Not me! I couldn’t be! But I am, just as much as everyone else majority and minority alike. Until we start acknowledging the truth and our own personal parts in it we will never evolve past this point.
For Thanksgiving specifically, the truth has nothing to do with pleasant pilgrims and happy Indians sharing a meal after a good harvest. I really want that to be true. I want my kids to hear this version and think of all the ways we can get along regardless of beliefs.
The first Thanksgiving was a party thrown by the mayor of a small town in 1671 after the slaughter of over 700 American Indian men, women, children, and elderly. A white man had been murdered and the nearby tribe was blamed. The town went crazy as mobs tend to do and slaughtered hundreds of innocent. For a century after that the Thanksgiving feast was celebrated as thanks for that “victory”.
There is a really ugly truth. I don’t like it. I have reason to believe I have Monacan blood, but I also have puritan blood. Like most American’s whose families have been in the country since the 1900’s or before, I have a lot of mixing in me. I doubt I’m pure anything. I don’t think there is such a thing as purebred in America. It’s simply not possible.
I don’t wish to take away a holiday from people. I love any reason to party and spread joy. I don’t think it serves anyone to abolish the holiday. I do believe there are parts of it that have morphed into true giving of thanks, and I have a lot to be thankful for. However I don’t think the holiday means nearly as much if we don’t accept the ugly truth. Having studied Ojibwa and other grassland tribes in my youth I fully believe our ancestors would want us to find a way to honor them and have joy.
I will eat turkey, and green bean casserole, and stuffing (gluten free), and cranberry sauce and make my famous pumpkin fluff and probably steal a few pieces of gluten riddled pie. Why? Because I like it. I don’t care a whole lot what they really would have eaten in the era of the first Thanksgiving. I enjoy the traditions my family and friends have created over the years.
But I will also pray for the slain American Indians from all battles during the “settling” of the United States. I will remember them. I will attempt to continue their memory and live by their teachings which have had a huge influence on my spirituality as long as I can remember. I will not feed into this false truth of gentle pilgrims and generous Indians. I will openly and honestly attempt a dialogue that does not shame those left with this legacy so as to teach them. And at noon on Thanksgiving Day, the time when the National Day Of Mourning observance begins at Cole's Hill Plymouth, I will bow my head in silence and feel the beat of drums in my heart.
All this week I will be filing my twitter with images of American Indians. My purpose is not shame or anger, but remembrance and honor. We serve nothing by blaming the living for an act that happened almost 400 years ago. We have everything to gain by accepting the truth and making something beautiful out of it in their memory.
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.