Chaos in Ferguson is disservice to victim, family, community

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I was a college student in Memphis the night Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. And as you would imagine, the events of that fateful day remain vivid in my memory after all of these years.

The entire community of Memphis was both shocked and saddened by the tragic event. But the sadness quickly turned to anger which turned to chaos and eventually self-destructive actions.

The comparison with Ferguson is perhaps appropriate though obviously the factual circumstances are different.

At this point, there are no words or observations that can or should be added to the Ferguson narrative.

What needs to occur is for the proper authorities to do their job and determine the actual circumstances that led to the tragic death of Michael Brown.

Yet, the focus of the story has shifted from the event that sparked the chaos to the chaos itself.

That is a disservice to the event, the family, the community and the greater social dialogue that circulates in the coffee shops and elsewhere.

To simply say we have an issue with race relations is to understate and diminish the foundational issues involved.

It seems to me that the core problem is the massive level of mistrust that exists but is rarely openly discussed.

And that distrust cuts both ways.

Many black Americans believe there is a different set of standards that authorities apply to them. And in many cases, they have history on their side to clearly indicate a double standard.

But many white Americans who may well believe and see this double standard don't understand the violent and self-destructive reactions that we see unfolding in Ferguson.

I am both frustrated and somewhat amused by the righteous indignation that media types spew in reactions to the events in Missouri.

None, of course, condone the riots and looting but they are all careful to add that they "understand" the reaction.

What "understanding" compels you to accept thievery and violence regardless of the circumstances - the details of which remain unknown to this very day?

If a Ferguson police officer made a fatal mistake to spark this chaos, that mistake is just one of many made in Ferguson.

The political left - from President Obama to Attorney General Eric Holder to our very own Gov. Jay Nixon - were quick to condemn the actions of law enforcement long before the whole story has yet to be revealed.

But through social media, the political right has also waded into muddy water with the false release of Brown's criminal record (since disproved) and a medical report on the massive injuries to the police officer - also false.

There are indeed battle lines drawn in Ferguson. But those lines are more about the question of racism and the lack of respect for authority than a singular episode with a tragic ending.

The federal solution will be to pour more money into communities like Ferguson to expand opportunities for those in need.

That may help solve the immediate issue. But it falls way short of addressing much less solving the problem.

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