What to do About Ferguson

The shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has set off a firestorm of riots and protests. And the situation in Ferguson has only escalated since. Police have responded with draconian militarized force, and protestors have responded with increasing violence and disruption—for example, looting and burning down a local Quik Trip.

And what are we to do about this situation? I have problems with every actor in this tragedy. I can’t root for the police. I know exactly how most police act, and the majority of police officers are not “just trying to do their jobs.” They have become aggressors—actively preying on citizens.

And black people do get it worse. There is no question that a black person is more likely to be harassed for “suspicious activity” than a white person. Anyone who questions that is frankly an idiot.

But why do black people get it worse? Because black neighborhoods have signigicantly higher crime rates, that’s why. If black people actually want to change this situation, they should be actively fighting against those elements of the black community that make all black people look bad. So, for instance, maybe you shouldn’t loot and burn down a Quik Trip when police shoot a black teenager. That’s not helpful.

Police: “You’re all criminals. That’s why we’re treating you like this.”

Black People in Ferguson: “How dare you say that, you racists! We’ll show you we’re not criminals by looting and burning down this local store.” Yeah, no.

And looting? A once just cause starts to look very suspect when personal perks start piling up. “I stole this six pack of beer for the cause of black justice.” Yeah, no.

Don’t you see this all just confirms the dubious reasoning which the police use to justify treating you this way? When a white man gets shot unjustly by the police, there aren’t riots. There are appeals. Lawsuits are filed. But there is an attempt to operate within the law. Maybe black people don’t feel like they have the same access to the machinery of the law. We all need to work to change that if it is the case.

Here is the bottom line. The police have too much power, and they are encouraged to consider themselves “outsiders” in the community:

The factors that have changed how police interact with citizens include political insulation of police by both Democrats and Republicans, the militarized melding of the war on drugs with the war on terror, “thin blue line” solidarity, and a hard-eyed focus on officer safety, law enforcement experts say. They have had counterproductive societal impacts: The “stop snitching” movement, for instance, can be tied to the “large swaths of Americans who are more afraid of police than criminals,” writes Radley Balko in 2013’s “Rise of the Warrior Cop.”

“The ‘us and everybody else’ sentiment is strong today” among police,” says former Maryland cop Neill Franklin in Mr. Balko’s book.

That has to change.  But the black community needs to do their part too. They need to cut out the “us versus everybody else” narrative as well. They have to stop seeing themselves as the victims in this scenario. They have to learn to allow law enforcement to integrate within their communities. They can’t let bitterness against some white people way back in the day affect how they respond to genuine and friendly white people today.

All of this will pass. I know it. My children’s generation doesn’t care about these old wounds. If we can fight to make the wrong things right in the time we have, perhaps the human race will have forgotten about racism in a few generations.