Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2 Ferguson: The Product of Deferred Dreams

By: Marvin DeBose

Since last summer, I've begun to realize that American history often repeats itself.

In the past few days since the decision regarding Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson to not be indicted for the death of Mike Brown, I've realized that many of us live in different versions of the United States of America.

More importantly, the past few days have shown me that, its that there are still a lot of us who don't understand that the American experience is very different for different people. And history shows that a great deal of people's experiences in this country are dictated based on race, class and gender.

But depending on which America one lives in, that might not be seen as the truth. So if you've never experienced racism on an institutional level, you might be more inclined to look at a discussion of racism as being excessive or unnecessary.

Or if you've never had to deal with sexism on a structural level, discussions of it may confuse, or even anger you.

The point is, there's still a lot of experiences that Americans live/have lived that we don't learn about. There's a lot of history of which we are unaware. There is a lot of pain and suffering which people have endured, and unless we are willing to listen to the voices of those in pain, their pain will be recurring.

Yet, far too often, we become dismissive of those who seek to connect the present to dark history of the past to the events of the present. We write these people off as being "divisive"or "angry".

Society often paints a picture of them as disingenuous trouble makers without even realizing that they may have just silenced an important conversation which needs to happen more.

Without even realizing it, we've been taught to shun those who talk about harsh realities of this country. Those who speak of things such as racism, sexism, homophobia and classism are sometimes looked at with scorn and contempt. Surprisingly, this scorn and contempt, doesn't always come from hateful people, it often comes from people's discomfort with discussing such things, however, through discomfort there can be growth.

We'll attempt to shut these people up by saying things like, "We're all the human race, end of story." but the truth is, in America, certain members of that human race are still treated in a subhuman manner, and we have a moral obligation, not only as Americans, but as human beings to acknowledge it, address it, or at least be open to learning about it.

It isn't your fault that different forms inequality such as racism, classism and sexism exist in America, you didn't create it, none of us did, but we are all connected to it. It isn't a problem to acknowledge these problems, however, it is a problem to act oblivious to inequality and shut out those voices of pain as if silence will make it disappear.

America doesn't need silence, America needs healing, and I believe that the first step to healing is listening and learning. Many times, when we do decide to talk about these issues, we become too focused on making sure our personal opinions are heard, rather than the people who are dealing with the pain or the people who are upset. Our ego makes us go out of our way to tell others whose experience we have not lived on how they should feel about the pain they have experienced, or how they should react to situations in which they feel that there was an injustice.

We have to understand that situations like the upheaval in Ferguson don't come out of nowhere, they aren't isolated incidents of random anger, they aren't examples of misplaced aggression, they are rooted in a deep, dark history of structural inequality.

The Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes explained it best when he questioned the consequences of "a dream deferred" in his poem Harlem; that dream being equality in the nation which pledges to "liberty and justice of all":

"What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load...

...Or does it explode?"

What we're seeing in Ferguson is an explosion of historical frustration, an explosion of pain and second-class citizenship. It's an explosion from a flame that was lit centuries ago.

The question is, what role will you play in this time in history?

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