What do I teach my sons about Ferguson?

Posted Friday, December 5th, 2014. Filed Under Voices of wisdom

Two weeks ago at dinner my boys, a friend and I were sitting down to eat. They asked me what I thought about what happened in Ferguson, USA.

Interestingly my older son and his friend felt that the black/white or racial issue should be discarded and the case should be tried on its merits. Did an officer shoot a boy who was unarmed or did that officer believe that the boy had a gun? It was fascinating for me.

I told them that the black/white, racial issue is not an easy one in the USA as it is so prevalent and part of their culture. My boys and I live in an exceptionally multi-cultural society so while we are Jewish my children are exposed and are friends with kids from all backgrounds, colour and religions. It doesn’t phase them.

It is hard for them to understand the great divide that exists in the USA. They have no comprehension and have never experienced it.

I told them a story how I was visiting friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a teenager and I must have gone to school with them one day. I remember trying to find my friend and I had to walk through a large group of black kids and I asked them politely if I could pass through and they let me walk through. I didn’t even think about it. At home in high school I had many friends from all backgrounds. When I passed through and reached my friends one of them asked if I was ok. I looked at them thinking why wouldn’t I be ok. I answered, “Yes”.

They looked at me like I had just put my life in danger. I didn’t get it.

I told my children that I do believe that people should be charged and prosecuted on the merits and findings of the case. Unfortunately a case like this can get skewed especially when it becomes a “he said/she said” or “I thought…”

From a legal stand point I am not in a position to comment. From a moral one, I believe people should be held accountable for their actions if they are guilty.

What I did find fascinating were two articles that came after the Ferguson incident. The first one was published after the big night of rioting where businesses were burned down, etc. The title was “Officer lauded for defusing tensions.” The article said, “Late Wednesday, two nights after rioting lefts blocks of this suburban city in smouldering ruin, a small but angry crowd assembled at the police station on South Florissant Road.” The article continues, “But around 11p.m. Wednesday, an unlikely scene unfolded off to the side. A teenage protester whose face had been hidden behind a ski mask lowered his headgear, approached a police commander and gave him a hug.”

Lieutenant Jerry Lohr of the St. Louis County Police said to Joshua Williams, “Good to see you, man. How have you been? How’s your mom doing? I saw her out here earlier?”

Keeping in mind that riots had recently occurred following the court’s decision, Lieut. Lohr, 41’s decision to wear no riot gear – just a standard-issue brown uniform – was, I believe, powerful. He held not a baton in his hand but his knit cap. He asked Mr. Williams, “We’re going to have a good nigh?” and the 19-year-old replied, “Yeah.”

I showed this article to my boys. I wanted them to see that maybe things are changing in the USA, even if it is baby steps. This act between the black boy and white officer shows everyone that shifting paradigms, even if its baby steps, is possible.

The second article, “Ferguson officer quits without severance” was interesting. The article stated how Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, did not receive a severance package when he resigned over [the weekend] as shared by St. Louis suburb’s mayor, James Knowles.

Mayor James Knowles told reporters how Mr. Wilson, 28, won’t receive any further pay or benefits, and he and the city have cut their ties a day after Mr. Wilson tendered his resignation, which was effective immediately.

The article goes on to explain that the issue began when Mr. Wilson, who is white, had been on administrative leave since the he killed Michael Brown Jr., an unarmed black 18-year-old, during an Aug. 9th confrontation. A grand jury decided not to indict him, sparking days of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and other cities.

Mr. Wilson wrote in his resignation letter that his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the city of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow.”

This decision came after Chief Tom Jackson told Mr. Wilson of alleged threats on [Saturday].

For many this decision by Mr. Wilson came as no surprise as he could no longer be effective for the Ferguson community nor the Ferguson Police Department because of the tragic circumstances that claimed the life of Michael Brown Jr.

I share these stories not to diminish the pain and anguish the Brown family feels and is going through. I only hope that by these small acts demonstrated within this city, show that the racial divide is lessening.

I just want to share one more story. Today I attended an awards ceremony for a program called New Comers and it was to honour those youth both in middle and secondary school that had completed this program as new immigrants to Canada as a way to help them integrate into society and the Canadian culture. I learned that the Toronto School District Board has 140 schools and within this there are 75 languages spoken. What was more endearing was to hear how these new immigrant children, some so new to Canada they didn’t speak English, met new friends, learned about different cultures – honouring and respecting them – including a culinary program where you share the food of your prior homeland.`

To bring change is a choice. A simple choice. We need to choose to tolerate and learn from one another as humans and stop looking at sex, colour, creed, religion and/or background as a way to divide.

I say you are either a good person or not; this comes down to the person as a human being.

I hope I didn’t stir the pot. I really want to educate my children and have them understand that our world is not as tolerant as we are.

Tough topic…

I hope you are enjoying your weekend!

All my love,

Sandra

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