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Connie Schultz
13 Aug 2014
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Canfield Drive in Ferguson

Comment

Earlier this week, I arrived for a scheduled visit with a medical professional and left reeling over just how divided we remain in this country about race.

I had just settled into the examining chair when he walked into the room and said, "This country, I'm telling you, we are in real trouble here."

I nodded and said, "Ferguson?"

"Yeah" he said, shaking his head. He rattled off his concerns in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who visited Ferguson days after the shooting, is a "troublemaker who's just making everything worse." The police officer who killed Brown "had to have a good reason. You know he did."

I interrupted to point out that the teenager was unarmed when he was shot six times. He shrugged his shoulders.

"He was 6 feet 4 and weighed 300 pounds," he said. "Think about that. Now we have rioting in the streets."

I was stunned.

"We really don't know yet what happened between him and that police officer," I said.

"We can imagine," he said.

My turn to rattle off what we did know: Brown's body lay in the street for hours. Ferguson is overwhelmingly black with an overwhelmingly white police force and city government. Most of the protesters have been peaceful. Police wore military gear as if residents were a foreign enemy. Journalists were being arrested for just trying to do their job.

He held up his hands. "OK, OK," he said, smiling. "Maybe we should just stop talking about it."

What struck me about this exchange, beyond the inappropriateness of the venue, was his assumption that our mutual whiteness meant I would agree with him. I left feeling as if I'd just time traveled back to 1972 for an argument with my dad about race.

I've had a little time to reflect on my encounter with that doctor, and I think what bothers me most is that I know he represents a significant segment of white America — so certain in his assumptions, so blind to the privilege of race that fuels them.

A Pew Research Center poll released earlier this week revealed a deep racial division over what is happening in Ferguson.

From the study: "By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion.

By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves."

Lack of empathy, codified.

I am embarrassed and discouraged.

I address this to white parents: Imagine for just a moment that instead of Michael Brown, your child lay dead on the hot pavement in Ferguson. An awful thing to ask you to do, I know, but for us, it's just a fiction.

Your child, who was unarmed, has been shot six times, twice in the head. The police officer who shot him didn't call it in right away, didn't try to revive your son. No EMT crew rushed him to the hospital. Instead, police let him lie in the street. For hours.

Now think of the stupidest thing your teenager has ever done. We all have stories of our kids doing something in complete contradiction of how they've been raised. We shake our heads at the memory of it. They survived. They turned out OK.

Now go back to that dead teenager on Canfield Drive in Ferguson. Imagine that's your kid who did something stupid. Your kid, but this time he didn't get to learn from his mistake. He's dead, and more than a week later, no one agrees on why.

I'm tired of admonishments from other whites to wait until all the evidence is in before we talk about what is happening in Ferguson.

Let it be, they say. Let justice run its course.

As if we can't have an opinion about an unarmed black teenager shot dead in the street.

As if we aren't entitled to demand a full accounting of the shooting.

As if we have forgotten what happens when good people choose to shut up and walk away.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

5 Comments | Post Comment
Connie,
I am as outraged as you are, as are all right-thinking people, by the killings of Michael Brown and the many other unarmed victims of violence rooted in and stemming from blatant racism. As a people we have a long way to travel on our journey to meet our Creator. Knowing that there will be retribution in another realm is no consolation to the families who suffer the loss of their loved ones at the hands of the "authorities" charged with the duty "to protect and serve". Neither is it any consolation for me. God help us all.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Joe Zingales
Wed Aug 20, 2014 6:03 PM
If you are discouraged imagine how hopeless it must be for those being disrespected in Ferguson. We must learn how to speak up as you have done, one person at a time. We should not get angry but push back with what we know to be true as fellow humans. Just when we start thinking that race is not the issue it used to be we get blindsided. Wishing does not make it so, unfortunately. We cannot change others - but we may influence how they think. Think of your encounter as an opportunity to influence... With unknown results. You just may have gotten someone to think about it. What better person to do that than you!
Comment: #2
Posted by: nstella25
Wed Aug 20, 2014 6:25 PM
Connie, I guess I'm one of those terrible white folks that you are talking about. How can you be so certain about what you say without knowing ANY of the facts about this shooting except that the young man was killed. What happened just before the shooting? Did he attack the officer, was there a fight, was the officer hurt? We don't know any of those things. You say it was race. How do you know that. Did the officer confront him just because he was black? Did he shoot him just because he was black? You don't know the answer to that an neither do I.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Rich Siktberg
Wed Aug 20, 2014 6:42 PM
Another one of those terrible white folks here. Just want to wait for the facts. Connie, I am embarrassed by white people like you who think it is perfectly okay discrimate and stereotypes white people who are involved in altercations with black people. Wherec is there any evidence of racial prejudice in this case? Please share if you have access to some inside knowledge about this officer or the case. Abuse of power , perhaps. But til we have all the facts lets not prejudge white people?
And what do mean u are tired of waiting for the evidence? How does that differ from you wanting a full accounting? Sounds like you believe in trial by mob rule or tabloid TV. To hell with democracy huh?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Zzzzzzz
Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:50 PM
Another mean, uncaring racist white person here who wants to hear more without jumping to conclusions based on emotion and preconceived ideas.
It is non verified guesswork by media like this who actually make it worse for everyone.
But you and everyone else who has already convicted the police man based on your emotions will never,ever, listen to the evidence objectively. Of course you will imagine a cover up. Because you have already decided the ending.
So sad.
You know, just like Mr. Brown, Mr, Wilson has family who love him, too.
Comment: #5
Posted by: ptedc
Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:34 PM
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