I've stayed away from the Ferguson debate for months.
I simply didn't feel like I had a good grasp of the facts.
After the grand jury decision last night, I can't ignore it anymore.
In the past, I've probably erred on the side of caution too much. Yes- I've probably been one of those people of color who assumed if someone got shot it's because they were doing something wrong.
Growing up in Iowa, I have never had a problem with the police. I've seen the police as protectors. I certainly respect the fact that many of them run toward danger regularly so we can live in a safer country. In my experience, if you do the right thing and treat the police with respect, they will respect you.
I don't think that any more.
Ferguson didn't do it alone. But Ferguson is the straw that broke the camel's back. Every single black man I know has been stopped by the police when there was absolutely no reason to stop him. And over the last year we've been inundated with tales of black boys and young men, who were UNARMED, being killed by cops for just looking threatening (which in our country too often means dark skinned) or for minor infractions that simply aren't worthy of death.
Michael Brown may have broken the law, but his death is tragic and unnecessary (for more details check out this Washington Post breakdown of the evidence). The lack of any indictment, even for an accidental death, makes black folks feel like our lives aren't worth much.
The truth is even for the best behaved of our black boys, they are seen as older and more culpable than similar white boys.
The simple thing that most people don't realize is that black people are scared and mad and don't know what to do. I feel crazy saying it, but it's starting to feel like vigilante cops are out to get us because of some misguided perception of our inherent lawlessness. But that isn't who we are! No matter what you've seen in the movies or music videos, most black folks just want to earn a good living, love their families, and enjoy their lives in peace.
Law abiding black folks who have never so much as gotten a speeding ticket feel the need to tell their black boys that they are not safe. With all the shootings of black boys, it seems like there isn't a right way for them to respond to the police or even a neighborhood watch volunteer. As one mother told her 12 year old, if you get scared and run, they will shoot you.
I have two nephews. I'm not scared for them because despite having a black grandfather they look completely white. But, I am terrified to bring a black son into the world. I simply wouldn't know how to keep him alive.