News & Politics

Ferguson, Missouri

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PHOTO VIA MOTHER JONES

I grew up in Kansas and spent most weekends in southern Missouri. When I was young, I didn’t realize how white my world was, didn’t notice that my parents had only white friends, didn’t think anything of the fact that I had only white friends. I could leave it at that and let you believe that we were simply segregated but it was more than that. There were pointed comments about people of color – subtle bigotry disguised as jokes and overt threats of violence.

My father ran a private club in Kansas City, Kansas and someone once told me that he made it a private club so he could keep out who he wanted to keep out. I didn’t understand what that meant when I was little and later, when I was old enough to reflect and to question, I didn’t want to believe what that implied but I will say that I never saw a black person in my dad’s club.

In 1982, I started at Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences, a magnet school for academically gifted students, which had been an all black high school (Sumner High School) until 1978 when the court ordered it be integrated. 1978 – let that sink in for a moment. I was 14 years old when I became friends with someone who wasn’t white. 14 – let that sink in too. An all black high school became a primarily white magnet school and though I knew that fact at the time, I never thought much about it. Sure, I was just a teenager but I was also a privileged teenager, at least in terms of race.

I think of myself as lucky because I got out and went to college and my world became so much bigger and richer. But, I remember going to visit my mother in southern Missouri where she had retired and feeling anxious the entire time. Partially because I’d come out and partially because my politics and my understanding of the world had changed. I remember standing in her kitchen when a family member stopped by for a visit and casually mentioned that a group of neonazis had gathered nearby and he said, “They want to get rid of the n****** and faggots. Hell, I’ll pay them to do it.” I was horrified, terrified, and never said a word.

Why am I writing this?

Because I have never talked about it. Because I am ashamed of those parts of my past.

Why am I writing this today?

Because my experience gives cultural context to what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Because liberal white guilt doesn’t do anything for anyone. Because silence is part of the problem.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post on ways to be a good ally to the LGBT community and every single one of those ten tips apply to communities of color but especially these: Check your privilege. Read and educate yourself. Amplify the voices of others. 

In that spirit, our contributors have come up with the following list of links to share with you today and feel free to add additional links in the comments:

 

On Michael Brown and Ferguson

Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police (Mia McKenzie)

In Defense of Black Rage: Michael Brown, Police and the American Dream (Brittney Cooper)

Black Kids Don’t Have to Be College-bound for Their Deaths to Be Tragic (Jasmine Banks)

The Death of Michael Brown and the Search for Justice in Black America (Mychal Denzel Smith)

America Is Not for Black People (Greg Howard)

 

Twitter Feeds to Watch (#Ferguson)

Antonio French

Wesley Lowery

 

Writers on Race

John Crawford: Killed Holding a “Gun” in an Open Carry State (Mikki Kendall)

How Racism Invented Race in America (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

America’s Not Here for Us (A’Driane Nieves)

Calling out My Sisters (Kelly Wickham)

 

Tonight is the National Moment of Silence for Victims of Police Brutality.Visit the Facebook page to locate events taking place in your city.

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4 Comments

  1. “The killing of Michael Brown has tapped into something bigger than Michael Brown.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/opinion/charles-blow-michael-brown-and-black-men.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

  2. Check your privilege. Read and educate yourself. Amplify the voices of others.

    Thank you, Vikki

  3. Ditto, ditto and ditto Vikki. This can’t be emphasized enough. We already know where most Black folks stand on this…it’s the allies that count now.
    Here’s one more link to add to the ones you provided.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-skolnik/unarmed-white-why-i-wont-_b_5696099.html
    Michael Skolnik is a right-thinking man.
    Robert

  4. Pingback: Amplify | Up Popped A Fox

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