An uncomfortable conversation about Ferguson,MO

BLOGGER’S NOTE: Unlike most, I waited as long as I possibly could to write something on Ferguson. After all, I was willing to admit that I couldn’t write a blog/column about what happened without getting a grasp on things. I spoke with police officers, victims of police brutality along with people who grew up in the St. Louis area who now live in Chicago. I also visited businesses in Chicago that has had a history of animosity towards their customers.

Second day of protests take shape in St. Louis

(Photo credit:AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The very existence of black people in America is based solely on violence.

What has transpired in Ferguson, MO is a combination of a series of events.

When people start to believe that their backs are up against the wall, they have nowhere else to go but forward.

Damned if anyone or anything stands in their way.

Sometimes in life, we need to have uncomfortable conversations regarding things that people continue to be comfortable with.

A segment of the American population believes that our country has let them down.

Believe it or not, Most African-Americans swear fealty (cheap Game of Thrones reference) to our country.

However, the same devotion isn’t returned.

That is something that none of my friends on the blue wall want to discuss.

Due to the social circles I have traveled in during my lifetime, I have a pulse on what people are thinking.

Some of them have told me that I’ve got it wrong when it comes to what happened to Mike Brown and that I should leave race out of it.

They often say that the shooting was a clear cut case of a police officer who was justified in killing a kid who allegedly attacked that officer.

As events have unfolded, we’ve seen that Brown’s death was not as black and white (no pun intended) as most cops and conservative pundits with access to social media would have us believe.

However, I’ve seen ZERO dialogue when it comes to law enforcement’s role in police brutality and systemic issues.

As someone who is related to quite a few police officers, I understand the demands of the job. I would never demean the whole group for the actions of a loud minority.

However, it would be a huge step in the right direction if police officers would call out some of their fellow brothers/sisters in blue for their behavior.

Some say that the protesting/looting is unnecessary.

Some of it is, but there’s an outlier that few are willing to discuss.

Most people are unaware that some of those businesses in Ferguson have had a long history of antagonizing their customers.

When folks are tired of being disrespected, they will do everything in their power to stop it.

Pilsen resident Mbame Buckley grew up in North St. Louis, he says his old neighborhood is similar to Englewood.

He says that segregation dictates the relationship between the community and law enforcement.

“Chicago is segregated but St. Louis is at another level of segregation. There’s only white and black. No other diversity,” Buckley said. “You have an all-white police force policing an all-black town. There’s no community policing. It’s a tyrannical rule.”

He also believes that the police in the St. Louis area have skewed view of the people they are sworn to serve and protect.

“They see you as a threat. A possible drug dealer or gangbanger. Not a possible student or a citizen,” Buckley said. “When people get shot, you have the “I stand with Darren Wilson people,” they don’t understand our community.”

For my friends out there who continue to believe that interactions between African-Americans and law enforcement are overblown, I have a challenge for you.

Talk to any African-American male you know and ask them if they have ever had a negative encounter with a police officer.

I guarantee you will get your fill of significant dialogue.

First, I’ll give you a scouting report.

Chicago Bears DE David Bass grew up in St. Louis County, six miles away from where Mike Brown was killed.

In an article for SI’s Monday Morning Quarterback, Bass discuss the fractured relationship between African-Americans and the police in the St. Louis area.

“People don’t trust the police where I’m from. They’re hated,” Bass told MMQB. He went on to say that “It’s about the way they look at you, the way they talk to you. Like you don’t matter. Like you have nothing going for you in life.”

A colleague of mine wrote a story two years ago about the amount of money the city pays out toward police misconduct.

In a roundabout way, her story backs up Bass’ claims.

Angela Caputo, a staff reporter with the Chicago Reporter, spoke with CPD officer Richard Wooten for her story.

Wooten offered up a refreshing theory on why relations between the Black community and law enforcement is so bad:

“You have [officers] who have never seen a black person, never went to school with a black person, never lived around a black person, but then they’re assigned to a black neighborhood. And that black neighborhood is such a crime-infested area, it’s totally different from what they come from,” he said. “Sometimes they can misjudge a person’s character because they begin to look at everybody the same.”

From what I’ve seen in recent years, there is more than enough evidence (check out Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website to see why) to back up Wooten’s and Bass’ claims.

Getting back to what I said earlier about “uncomfortable” conversations, let’s talk about fear and racial profiling.

As a physically-imposing freelance journalist, I spend a lot of time in areas where African-Americans are few and far between.

In those areas, I often have to knock on doors in residential neighborhoods.

To avoid any foolishness, I often smile and say “Hi, I’m Evan. I am a reporter with XXXX. I’d like to ask you a few questions about XXXX.” While this is going on, I often stay at a comfortable distance while showing where my hands are.

The precautions I take may sound foolish to some.

I say to those people that I do not want to end up like Renisha McBride.

As an African-American male, being pulled over by the police is a scary experience.

When police officers pull someone over or answer a call, they often say they just want to do their jobs and go home to their families.

The men from my demographic have similar hopes.

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