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Connie Schultz
13 Aug 2014
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Ten years after Ohio voters passed one of the worst anti-gay laws in the country, a downtown arena in … Read More.

30 Jul 2014
Race-Baiting for Life, Redux

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23 Jul 2014
Preserve a Lie or Save Lives -- You Pick

Days before two federal courts issued dueling interpretations of the Affordable Care Act, I came across a … Read More.

Canfield Drive in Ferguson


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 ( and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



11 Comments | Post Comment
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
Re: ptedc
Unlike Mr. Brown, if Mr. Wilson was ever shot, on the job or not, it is likely that all efforts would be made to call an ambulance and rush to assist him. Yes, it is important to investigate this thoroughly. But in the larger context of the number of unarmed young people of color who have been shot and killed by police, something needs to change in the larger picture of training and policies.
/s/ A suburban mother of a white teenaged boy.
Comment: #6
Posted by: TriciaJD
Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:16 AM
I see multiple issues here.
First and foremost, an unarmed young man was shot, at least six times, by a police officer for what seems to be no apparent reason. This is a fact. The young man was Black; the police officer, White. Those are facts. The officer's duty record shows nothing that would, of itself, condemn him as racist. So, doesn't that merely establish a question of whether or not the police officer used excessive force on a young, unarmed, young man?
The question of whether the officer feared for his life more because the young man was Black has yet to be determined. If that is the case, then there would seem to be a culture with this officer and within this police department of interpreting the actions of young Blacks differently than young Whites. And while this individual police officer may well wind up being charged with a serious felony, the question should also be asked ... "What would have happened if the situation were the same but there was a different White police officer?" If the answer is that the same result would have likely occurred, this officer's crime is, for him, a matter of circumstance. For the police officers of Ferguson and St. Louis County, this is a problem of deep-seeded hatred, contempt, misunderstanding, and fear that is organizational in nature, and in need of serious attention.
For now, it is important to continue to focus on why this happened, how this happened, and who is at fault. No one, and I really mean no one, should be placing blame on an unarmed individual, regardless of color, merely because his size made him an opposing "threat." There were far too many alternative options for that police officer than merely emptying his service weapon at the victim and inflicting a kill shot.
And the military-style response is abhorrent. There was no looting before the streets of Ferguson became a siege. Peaceful demonstration in a neighborhood that has lost one of its own is natural. That it took this terrible event to motivate people to become involved is unfortunate. Hopefully, though, this activism will carry through to ongoing participation in the process ... whether: elections; education; community gatherings; etc. Regardless, there was, and still is, no reason for such an armed police presence: armored vehicles; automatic weapons; sound cannons that cause permanent hearing loss; tear gas that causes permanent breathing problems; etc. And it should have never been allowed to escalate from peaceful demonstrations to armed assaults.
However, saying all that, there are other issues at play. Why is it a community, 70% African American, generates less than 15% voter turn-out ... to re-elect an African American President? That Ferguson's government and police department are predominantly White, while so few Blacks choose to exercise their right to vote is wrong. And if that imbalance has led to any subconscious feelings among Whites, then the Black population of Ferguson must look inward and find a way to become involved themselves. Why are community leaders, only now, focusing on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts? Why has it taken this tragedy for the community to mobilize?
I've heard community leaders from Ferguson bemoaning the number of speeding tickets issued to young Blacks; they say it creates a pattern of contempt for law enforcement. Do White police officers target young Blacks or are they merely the overwhelming violators of traffic laws. If the former, I renew my comment about the need for better community involvement. If the latter, I suggest all Ferguson residents learn to obey the speed limits.
Now, as to outside trouble-makers, I agree. Reverend Al Sharpton is a lightening rod of political opportunism. I consider myself a Progressive, but am still waiting for him to apologize to those New York City police officers who's lives he ruined 25 years ago during the false accusations of rape by Tawana Brawley. He surges in to events such as these, inflames opinions by intentionally pitting Blacks against Whites, then merely floats away to his next media circus. Instead of being a force for good, he is nothing more than a lightening rod for evil and a buffoon!
And the 24-hour news cycle must take responsibility here as well. A writer who spends an entire day researching a portion of the story, who then publishes a thorough view of events, is still the best source for accurate and thoughtful perspective. But ... video outlets like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC have turned Ferguson into one-subject, non-stop, repetitive nonsense. Today's technology and the overly-competitive nature of Cable news has given us Rosemary Church suggesting Ferguson police use water cannons to disburse protesters; or Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow who's back-to-back hour-long shows have been almost exclusively focused on Ferguson, regardless of how often they run the identical video loops ... day-after-day-after-day. Reporting from the scene for the evening news as Brian Williams did is great; groaning on and on at the expense of other important news is a disservice to viewers.
So, in conclusion, thank you, Connie, for your insightful writing. Thank you for being concise. Thank you for challenging misconceptions, whether in your doctor's office or through your writing. Thank you for allowing those with uninformed viewpoints to weigh in. But, if you can get some of your Cable TV colleagues to tone down their rhetoric (Left & Right), that would really be great.
I await all your future columns.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Stephen H Bossin
Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:47 AM
OK, Connie, now I am discouraged. I don't think some people get that one big problem is the presumption that one knows another's position just because of their race. Like a white person could not possibly empathize with someone of another race. Waiting for the justice system to work before having an opinion, evaluating how the issues were handled, seems just another way to avoid the difficulties. What a luxury. "Lack of empathy, codified."
Comment: #8
Posted by: nstella25
Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:47 PM
Thank you Connie for your comments. The doctor did in fact assume that it was us white people against those others. The reason that we do not know many facts is because the very people in possession of the facts will not release them. We do have many facts and none that I can see point to what this officer did as reasonable. None of the responses of the police and other government officials in the city have been at all helpful. When year after year we have killings of citizens by police and little is done, that is a huge problem. When the killing is so lopsided in terms of the race that is killed and the race that does the killing, that is even more of a problem. When there is such divide in how the races view the situation that explains exactly why we have the problem.
Comment: #9
Posted by: JRGrissomCA
Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:52 PM
With Identity Comes Civility is an excellent concept but it appears that that is going by the wayside here. Some of these names being used remind me of the Plain Dealer group. Mine is my name and the State in which I live. I don't think Zzzzzzz and some others qualify.
Comment: #10
Posted by: JRGrissomCA
Thu Aug 21, 2014 9:30 PM
Connie, your last line "As if we have forgotten what happens when good people choose to shut up and walk away." makes me think that maybe those who shut up and walk away are not good people. Just a thought.
Comment: #11
Posted by: John McGrail
Fri Aug 22, 2014 7:54 AM
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