When Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, MO, a struggle ensued that I didn’t know how to enter into.
Because my first reaction is almost always, wait until we get more information. We hardly ever get all the facts in the first rush of news (and that’s even more true now than it used to be, as 24-hour “news-ertainment” is unmoored from journalistic standards!).
But that position was regarded as betrayal, for those who said they knew that the police in Ferguson were out of control. How could one stand back and “wait for more information” when ANOTHER unarmed young black man was shot to death by police who seemed to think their lives were unimportant?
And certainly I understood that, too – I know a young man would not deserve to die for stealing cigarellos. And I saw, too, the predictable and immediate pushback from right-wing media – the release of a videotape showing Brown to be a hulking threat in the store, stories about how he reached for the cop’s gun, stories that undermined the testimony of the young man who was with him.
Those who didn’t get into the streets right away, were on the side of those who implicitly thought cops were always right when they shot black men.
Of course, by now, we know a lot more. Not just about that story but so many others: perhaps Michael Brown did reach for the officer’s gun, but we also know after a DOJ investigation that the Ferguson cops had been behaving like an occupation force toward the black residents of Ferguson for a long time.
To those of us who could never have found Ferguson on a map, that begins to make more sense, when the residents filled the streets and began to shout, “hands up! Don’t shoot!” It wasn’t just Michael Brown but years of feeling threatened.
So was I “right” to feel that we had to wait for more information?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, it’s true that more time equaled more information, and that information did not exonerate the police. More time didn’t mean, wait and see that the police are right.
But it’s ALSO true that without people in the streets, without the national press and the TV cameras and everyone talking about what was happening there, perhaps no such investigation would have happened. And two camps would have settled into opposition, sure of their accounting of events.
Of course, since then we’ve had Eric Garner, and Walter Scott, and now so many more I can’t remember the names.
And this week, the teens at the pool party in McKinney TX.
I’m still inclined to wait for more information, in each of these stories. There is always more to it. The TV news and the Internet media are hungry for sensationalism – the story is rarely the one that we first hear.
But now I know, it is betrayal to just “wait.” Those of us who do want justice to be done need to drive for more information. We need to demand it, wherever it goes, but from all perspectives.
This week, we have heard differing stories about how that pool party trouble started. But so far we have learned not just that a white cop sat on a black girl who was quite obviously unarmed and no danger to him, but he also pulled out a gun and chased two black boys, while completely ignoring the white teens standing there! We’ve also learned that white people at the pool had racist things to say, that the white cop in question had a blemished record, that a white man in the complex had a blemished record, too and he’s the one who called 911. He’s the one standing over the black girl as the cop sat on her, and he’s the one who put up the signs all over thanking the cops for their good work.
As time goes on, we will learn more…but only if someone keeps asking.
So I don’t feel shamed by those of my colleagues who immediately hit the streets with the Ferguson protestors, even though I was invited and didn’t go. I do think we always need as much of the whole story as we can get.
But we need to be discontented with only as much of the story as supports our previous point of view. As children of the One who is the Truth, we need to insist on all of the story, so that we can reach to heal all of the wounds. We need to demand it. We need not to wait for it, but to drive for it.