Seems to Me . . . Ferguson

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By Stan Welch

I, like millions of other Americans, have watched the events in Ferguson, MO play out over the last few months. In August, a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed an eighteen year old black man, once again sparking the flames, literally and figuratively, of racial tension.

And once again, amidst the destruction, the opportunity for a real and substantive opportunity to talk about race in America was squandered. It was squandered for many reasons, but the simple explanation is that real and substantive opportunities are difficult to pursue while screaming at each other.

I cannot, as I have been repeatedly reminded, possibly understand how a black man or woman feels about living in America. Why? Because I am not black.

So immediately, there is a divide placed between whites and blacks that we have to acknowledge at the same time that we try to overcome it. Not an easy task, wouldn’t you agree? Add to that the fact that the onus of understanding falls completely on white folks; because clearly, Al and Jesse already understand everything that we are about.

The first result of that divide is that whatever I, or any other white person, says is de facto ignorant of the black experience; and therefore, racist in tone and intent. Well, folks, I don’t know about you; but I can’t think of a better way to stop any real and substantive discussion of ANY subject, than to automatically assume that one side has only ignorance and bad intentions to offer.

But since I can’t possibly have any real understanding of the black experience, let me do the only thing I can do. Let me share my white perspective; let me tell you some of the things about the black experience that bewilder me most of all.

First of all, I am bewildered by black, and whites, who constantly belittle me as a Southerner for living in the past; for clinging to my Southern roots, for insisting on remembering that part of my heritage. Yet those same black people refuse to let go of the issue of slavery, which coincides almost precisely with the same slice of American history that I am accused of being trapped in.

Perhaps this is the essence of the divide between black America and white. Black America is in fact trapped in its own history. Much of black America seems to think that white America should still be ashamed for what happened a century and a half ago; while much of white America thinks that black America should be ashamed of what has happened in the last half century, since the doors were opened and the playing field was leveled.

Many times in the last half century of American history, as all Americans, black and white, struggled with civil rights, black Americans have turned to the torch to express their outrage. They have burned large sections of their own communities. Watts, Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, Chicago, the list goes on and on. And what has been accomplished?

What puzzles me most of all is that somehow, I, and other white people, are to blame for not reaching out to those who stand just a few feet from us, screaming for our downfall and even death. Well, the truth be told, most of us are getting pretty tired of turning the other cheek. In fact, I for one, am out of cheeks to turn.

So continue to follow your preachers of hate, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakan, and Jesse Jackson, and their ilk. Continue to curse the system, and then act outraged when it doesn’t work the way you want it to. Refuse to take part; refuse to vote, because by voting, you have to take responsibility for the system that you would rather curse than participate in.

Burn your own businesses and communities down, punish those among you who strive; then wonder why you have no place to belong. Insist on being abused and mistreated. Victimhood is much easier than citizenship, and in recent America, one could argue that it pays better too.

So don your bandannas as masks, and use fire bombs as ballots. It no longer matters to me. Because in the end, what I have been so often told is true. I cannot possibly understand the black experience in America; and frankly, my desire to wanes with every new riot and every new arson.