Thursday, August 14, 2014

My hands are raised.


There are so many critical points of decision for any thinking person nearly every day.  For each decision made, one would hope that there is a risk managed.  But it's not always so.  In the last week or so, the Ebola virus and the  Ferguson, Missouri chain of events take a great deal of thought, but without any clear path forward, no matter how much our hearts and minds might ache for those involved.  Is containment possible in either case?

I am saddened by the Africans' fear of American doctors, by the belief that the doctors brought and are spreading the virus.  At such a level of fear, education is very much hit and miss -- why should they believe medical personnel who tell them not to touch the bodies of their dead ones, or let them be burned by those wearing protective suits, who look like space aliens?  Why especially believe in the seriousness of the problem when your government leaders downplayed the risk for so long, when travel continues even now?  And then there's us:  we are told not to worry here, that there's very little risk.  Please expect that information to change once several more non-Africans are infected and cross borders.


Then we have Ferguson, Missouri.  Investigators have not yet even agreed on what happened last weekend.  Was an unarmed black youth's hands in the air, and was he yelling "Don't shoot?"  Or was he trying to take a police officer's gun away?  Who was the officer who shot him multiple times?  It won't be until outside investigators are on the case, this many days later, that we will begin to have answers or eyewitnesses are interviewed.  The fact of the matter is that the suburb of Ferguson has become a place not unlike Jackson Mississippi in the 60s, except that so far dogs and fire hoses have not been used. Riot gear and weapons are the modern replacements, but the police mindset is exactly what it was 50 years ago.  They are facing off against members of the media and a few troublemakers in what has each night been a peaceful crowd of citizens, exercising their right to peaceably assemble, as guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Unfortunately,  shooting young black men is an altogether too familiar news story for us here in America.  Congressman John Lewis asked today who knows what those young men could have become:  "How many more young men of color will be killed before we realize that we have a problem in America? We are permitting the incarceration and shooting of thousands of black and brown boys in their formative years who might have become great artists, leaders, scientists, or lawyers if we had offered them our support instead of our suspicion.

Yesterday, this photo appeared from students at Howard University.




I stand with the Howard University students, and with the Ferguson citizens who have come out each night to ask for an accounting of what happened last weekend, whose hands are also raised.  I hope you will consider standing with them too.   Not just this week, but into the future as we demand better accountability and less stereotyping and profiling from our police officers, no matter what city we are in.


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