The current cover of the New Yorker (Dec 8. 2014) features the St. Louis Arch against that wonderful city’s skyline. But there’s a symbolic gap at the top of the arch. And the two divided sides of the arch and the city are… One White. One Black. Separated.
Everyone immediately knows what this refers to. But is this cover actually connected with what’s been happening in St. Louis? I don’t think so. Its as sensationalist as FOX, MSNBC, CNN, etc. are in their effort to keep their audience watching 24/7. The cover is Nancy Grace in a seemingly sophisticated form.
Can anyone from any ideological perspective say with a straight-face that St. Louis and its surrounding areas – much less the U.S. as a whole – are so starkly divided among its black and white citizens? Is that really the cancer of St. Louis? If you think so, go back and study Birmingham and Montgomery in the early 1960s for what real racial segregation looks like. It’s vile and its not what we’re seeing in St. Louis. Not at all.
Ferguson is about two key and very serious questions:
1) Was a policeman justified or did he act criminally in fatally shooting a young man in the middle of the street in that Ferguson neighborhood?
2) Was race a motivating factor in the shooting?
We all have opinions about what the answers are. Very few of us truly know for sure what actually happened in the struggle in that policeman’s car and on the street on that Saturday afternoon. There are a few actual witnesses of the event. And there is nothing wrong with each of us having differing and very passionate opinions about what we think happened. And yes, the officer was White and the deceased was Black. Did that have something, nothing or everything to do with what went down? Unfortunately, this question can only really be answered by the officer because only he knows his motivations.
That is the heart of the matter of what Ferguson is. The rioting itself is about a misplaced and irresponsible sense of injustice; vandalism masquerading as a fight for social and racial justice among a very few. How many of the non-rioting citizens in that community believe vandalism was required, justified or even understandable? The peaceful protests themselves in Ferguson and around the nation are clearly about a sense of ongoing injustice in such incidents. And of course, such deeply felt beliefs should be peacefully demonstrated in public ways.
But Ferguson is not about a city or nation torn through its soul by racial division. And for the New Yorker and others to hype it this way is to disrespect the serious and real questions in Ferguson – and other places – that demand honest answers in the revealing light of day.
Do we have racial tensions among us? Of course and it is to all of us to heal and make them go away. Everyday. However, this can only be helped by serious attention to what the real issues are rather than fanning the flames of sensationalism.