So, what a week. The police militarization in Ferguson, MO is a reminder that our civil rights progress is pathetic. Just when us white folks begin to look around and think, “nothing awful has happened to an innocent American of color in a few weeks, maybe we can start thinking about how great and equal America is again…”
… something awful happens to an innocent American citizen who also happens to be a person of color.
Truth hits: this is a country that was constructed to foster the narrow interests of a very few—and no one else.
Everything going on in Ferguson, I keep thinking of the only time I got close to that part of the world. In 2001, four weeks before 9/11, I went to a wedding in Columbia, Missouri. On that Friday, myself and two others flew from Denver to Kansas City, then drove to Columbia on Saturday morning.
The couple-hour drive to Columbia, the rural shops along the way—wow.
Not being from ’round them parts, we took the scenic route to stop off and walk through these shops. It all felt foreign to us city folk, and comical. But today, with the Ferguson situation, I think back to that drive.
Those shops sold Confederate flags, lots of Confederate flags, in many shapes and sizes, different materials. They also sold t-shirts featuring Confederate flags. And bumperstickers featuring not just Confederate flags, but sayings about the greatness of the Confederate flag and sayings about how if you don’t think the flag is great, you have problems. (Different types of phrases were used for both thoughts, ranging in levels of aggressiveness.) Besides Confederate flag imagery, there were t-shirts about being a PROUD REBEL and a REB 4 LIFE. There were knick-knacks and coffee cups with illustrations of Civil War soldiers.
(Soldiers in grey uniforms. Didn’t see illustrations of any Union soldiers wearing blue.)
There was so much Confederate imagery, you almost missed the Judeo-Christianity items that were also for sale.
I think back to this drive, in light of Ferguson today.
How many members of the militarized Ferguson Police Department—an overwhelmingly white police department—grew up in rural Missouri in the towns like the ones that we saw driving to that wedding?
Not being from there, this is my closest memory to that region and what is going on right now.
I think of those little shops. Maybe, as little kids, those future cops accompanied their moms as they went and gossiped with the cashier working behind the counter. The little kids, playing with Stars and Bars flags and Robert E. Lee. statues, asking their Moms what words like “Confederacy” mean.
Peaceful energy to the folks of Ferguson, MO.