A young girl muses over the memorial to Michael Brown in the Canfield neighborhood of St. Louis.
Jermell speaks deliberately when he talks about his hometown. At six-two, well over 200 pounds, Jermell is an imposing figure. If he were to get angry, it would not be irrational to become afraid. He is also black, which carries with it stereotypes and biases that could, unfortunately, intensify that fear, even among the most open-minded people.
It’s a reality in America that is rarely if ever confronted or discussed. It’s fallen into an abyss of taboo — a place where conservatives and liberals alike claim colorblindness while still harboring subconscious biases against African Americans. The ongoing crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, has laid this problem out succinctly. Many are scrambling to understand this reality, its context, and its complicated and obscured history.
Jermell knows this all too well. Like many black Americans, he has his story. He has many stories. The shooting death of Micheal Brown was just the boiling point.
He complains that some protesters have belittled the rioters for calling negative attention to what’s happening in Ferguson. He then juxtaposes that complaint against the arrival of famous figureheads and the attention of national media soon after the looting. For him, it was a means to an end.
“If you try to talk, nobody listens, so we had to do what we had to do,” the 27-year-old said.
Of course not all protesters agree with that assessment. But his point is hard to ignore – if the riots never happened, would media from around the world have gathered in Ferguson to report this story? Or would it simply have remained the story of the week, and fallen off the mainstream radar as soon as another story broke? Had looting not occurred, would it have been just another story about an unarmed black teenager being shot and killed by a police officer? Just another story? Just another story…
Read “Healing St. Louis Part 2: Criminal justice” tomorrow.