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What Now?: How to Discuss Ferguson and Systematic Racism

It has been a little over a week since the decision to not indict Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown was announced, and this week has been filled with riots, blog posts, news articles, and heated conversation. I have heard people question the facts of the incident, the grand jury process, and if the incident was race-related in the first place. As I have been reading and educating myself on both the incident and the subsequent responses, I have come across a number of privileged/ignorant/rude comments, both in person and online. Each one would infuriate me, but I was at a loss as to how to respond…

Until I found this gem. The Ferguson Masterpost: How to Argue Eloquently & Back Yourself Up With Facts by Aida Manduley is an amazing blog post that takes the most frequent ignorant questions and provides rational and factual responses, with multiple links to outside information. This is the most central and extensive resource that I have found that is specifically designed to combat the misrepresentation of the Michael Brown shooting and to encourage a larger conversation about systematic racism.

Credit to Button Poetry and Javon Johnson

The first section, “To Refute Fake Facts, Misleading Information, & Inaccuracies,” focuses on the specific facts of the Michael Brown shooting. The section is divided up among the various myths and racial stereotypes that are frequently used to excuse Darren Wilson’s choice to shoot. Most interesting is the myth that Michael Brown was a threat and could not be taken into custody alive. The post mentions examples of dangerous white criminals, including 2Eric Frein (who murdered numerous police officers) who were taken in alive, while highlighting the lack of discussion about this option in dialogue regarding Michael Brown.

The next section, “To Address Ignorant &/Or Misguided Questions and Statements,” deals with the many many MANY ignorant statements used when discussing the aftermath of the decision. The two statements that caught my eye were “Why are you making this about race?” and “…But ALL LIVES MATTER!” The post counters with some food for thought regarding black men and police officers:young Black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than White men.” If this is not a racial problem, I’m not sure what qualifies. Michael Brown is a catalyst to discuss the bigger problem of systemic racism, and ignoring that opportunity by thinking this is an isolated incident is an injustice. The statement of “ALL LIVES MATTER” is woefully ignorant of the experience of oppression that black people face in America. As 3@chescaleigh puts it, “…we’re not saying all life doesn’t matter. We’re saying that BLACK LIVES NEED TO MATTER TOO BECAUSE RIGHT NOW THEY DON’T.” For once we are not lumping all human experience together, but instead are pointing out the egregious and downright dangerous inequality of life present in this country.

Finally, “Replies & Information For Actually Curious People &/Or Important Questions” highlights ways of having these tough conversations. the section is full of helpful information, from how to teach about Ferguson in the classroom to how to talk to your family about Ferguson over Thanksgiving.

The Ferguson Masterpost is a tool that uses rational argument as a way to fight the ignorance and lack of education surrounding conversations about Ferguson. It is also a useful tool for personal education; I’m definitely not an expert on racism and oppression in America, and it’s something that I haven’t had personal experience with. However, this post has some amazing historical, artistic, and educational resources that deal with the issue in a very real way. I highly recommend taking a look at the Ferguson Masterpost–arm yourselves with facts and let’s try to make this better.

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