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My anger and sorrow around what’s happening in the USA, particularly in Ferguson, MO, has not been easy to process. There are too many layers for me to even begin to try to dissect and I find myself asking a lot of questions.

But first I’ll start with a confession.

I embarrassingly admit that I did not pay attention to Michael Brown’s death when it occurred because I was…busy. I was distracted; content in my own tiny and sometimes secure, privileged world. I had heard about it on the news and was shocked that yet another unarmed teenager was killed. A black, unarmed, teenager was dead. And I remember talking with someone about it and drawing a connection to Trayvon Martin’s injustice.

I promise I’m paying attention now.

At the time, I didn’t care more than I could or should have, which is really messed up. Unfortunately, I pushed it aside as “just news” but did allow time to reflect on those generations before us who have tragically died for a similar reason, most not even reported.

Perhaps the insensitivity on my part was an outcome of the desensitization from my career or maybe I’m so used to hearing about it in the news now that it seems like a common occurrence. I hate writing that. Maybe now I’ve reached that mindset that much of our nation, and in my opinion, the police force, has been trained to function on denial as the way to cope in our daily interactions. Seems we are combative in all we do these days. I’ve been programmed to not care.

I promise I care now.

In the past few days, with the news that the grand jury will not indict the white officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, I made time to care and I’m outraged that this boy is dead and that there are people out there who are blaming him, and due to the violence that has broken out, people are more focused on that than on the issue at hand. I’m sickened to hear that the officer got an interview on television, which I have not watched and don’t intend to. But I do care about him, too, in a weird way, and have genuine interest in how our greatest protectors are trained to keep us safe.

Confrontational or not (which I think is a common response from an 18-year-old who has been conditioned to be that way in our society) the details of the altercation actually don’t matter to me right now. Because it’s something so much bigger than a police report.

It matters that a life is gone.

What matters is that this violence has gone on long enough. What matters is that people are angry- raging- about the inequality in the USA and sadly, a lot of us are how I was when I heard the news on August 9th…busy.Why don’t we care?

The past few days, I needed to care. Something inside ached at knowing that yet another shooting took place where a young person died.

I’ve been sick to my stomach, sad to tears, and furious that so many people have turned such a blind eye to this violence. And I’m not talking about the violence from the riots; I’m talking about the violence in which another young black man was killed. I’m OUTRAGED that no one seems to careabout that. It seems much easier to push that aside, standing firm in the belief that racism went out in the sixties.

It didn’t.

Isn’t it sad that a death is easily dismissed because it’s said he was disobeying the law?Can you read that question again and honestly feel okay with the fact that death was the outcome?

My god, what has happened to us? Excuses for death. 

I suppose it’s much easier to believe that it’s not about racism. It’s easy to suggest that had the altercation taken place between two white men, the outcome would be the same. But would it?

Perhaps we need to talk about society in general.

Let’s talk about the rich versus the poor. Let’s talk about the insured and the uninsured and the gap in between. Let’s talk about those who can barely afford to put gas in their car to get to work and those who own five cars. Let’s talk about education. Let’s talk about why violence happens. Let’s talk about the media’s role. Let’s talk about more than just who is right and who is wrong. Let’s talk about trust. Let’s talk about faith in humanity.

Where has it gone?

People are pissed and they have every right to be. I’m pissed, too.

So let’s talk. Let’s not be afraid to say what we need to say. Let’s not be so quick to judge others, but to accept that people should be allowed to disagree. Let’s listen openly and let’s stop with words that produce shaming. Let’s remember to forgive and honor the people who are resilient, admitting their mistakes. Enough with this narcissistic bullshit.

Let’s talk about Newtown, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago. Let’s continue to talk about Columbine. Let’s talk about guns. Let’s get to it; let’s debate whether or not it’s about guns or about regulating guns, or is it about mental health? And try not to get distracted by the noise. Let’s talk about distrust among the people, let’s talk about beingbusy,and let’s certainly talk about fear.

What have we become so afraid of?

We have become a society based on fear. We have allowed fear to have power over our words and actions. Fear of acceptance, fear of cowardice, fear of insanity, fear of glorification, fear of having to go on living in a world of fear. All those things and more. We have become a nation that is afraid to speak up.

After processing (I’m still processing) my emotions about all of this, I realized something crucial: maybe it’s that I care too much. Maybe I made myself busy because it’s all so overwhelming. Where do I even begin to help in such a mess as this? Maybe all we want is to be heard.

I promise I won’t give up on caring. 

So where do we go from here?We need to figure out how to talk to one another and to accept that we will disagree. The person sharing their opinion is valid and the person listening is valid. If we want to preserve the sanity of our future generations, to eliminate the fear, we must educate ourselves. History is important to know.

Our culture wants to be distracted and sometimes that is okay for self-preservation. But it’s not okay if we never acknowledge the suffering. Suffering is essential; it is there to tell us we need to change as that’s when growth occurs. But it’s hard and painful so we tend to play it safe. It’s easier to be busy. No one talks about it, no one comments, no one knows what the right thing is to say. Gulp.Fear.

So I’m waiting.

I am waiting for YOU to be shocked. I’m waiting for you to stop being so busy. I’m waiting to hear that you CARE and I can’t wait to hear your call for CHANGE.

Face those fears and try to listen. Find your voice. And maybe that means getting mad (mad does not mean violent). Learn about what it means to be passionate about something, how to release the mad, and maybe if enough people let it go, change can occur.

Thank you, Michael Brown, for helping me find my mad. Thank you for showing me I need to listen better. Because of you, I am determined to reclaim my faith in humanity.

Joe Wellington can wait. This is more important.

Helpful links:

A favorite study of mine: The Code of the Streets

Donate books: Ferguson Library

Change: Justice for Michael Brown

A powerful read: Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered

Another great read: What White People Can Do

The best read yet: NY Times series from Nicholas Kristof

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