Following Ferguson: Why White People Struggle to Understand

By Julianne Hing Aug 21, 2014

Ferguson experienced its first night of relative calm since Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown nearly two weeks ago. That doesn’t mean the town’s been offered meaningful answers or lasting resolution.

Racial isolation has contributed to white people’s inability to understand what Ferguson’s black residents dealt with on a daily basis that made the town a veritable powder keg, writes Robert P. Jones over at The Atlantic. White people simply don’t experience police harassment and racial profiling like blacks in the U.S. do, but that distance is exacerbated by social and residential segregation. But, white people, there is a place for you in this moment. Kate Harding’s list of action items for Dame Magazine published last week was written with you in mind, and white people have been among those who’ve protested Michael Brown’s death. 

Meanwhile, Matt Yglesias turns the media obsession with "black-on-black" crime on its head, and cheekily explores "white-on-white" crime for Vox. And what do you know? It’s "out of control." 

Social media has been instrumental in myth-busting and truth-telling at a time when mainstream media’s overly concerned about so-called "rioters," Elon James White told Al Jazeera America. "You have no idea. When you can’t walk in your own community and can’t feel comfortable and safe in your own space, and the people paid to protect you are actually the ones you’re afraid of?" 

Seventh and eighth graders in St. Louis are back in school, and grappling with the events in their community, reports Dave Jamieson for Huffington Post. Their young minds are paying attention, even as so many of the facts don’t add up. Writes Tykese:

I feel like the things that are happening in Ferguson are unfair. I thought after Trayvon Martin the killing will stop but it comes back again. What did Mike Brown do for the police officer to kill him?

If he was a caucasian male will he still shoot?

And Matt Pearce, reporting for The Los Angeles Times, provides a glimpse of the local McDonald’s on West Florrisant, source of proven tear gas salve (mini bottles of milk), the site of reporters’ arrests, and a pitstop for snack breaks and gulps of air-conditioning. 

Pearce reports:

Ifama Kellin, another worker, took off after her shift one recent night to join the protests, still wearing her uniform.

Kellin was wearing a "Justice for Michael Brown — Hands up!" button pinned to her shirt one recent evening as she stood outside the store’s smashed windows, smoking a cigarette in the August heat.

"It’s my people," she explained, holding up a picture on her phone of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, standing in the McDonald’s.

She told how recently a man had come up to the counter to order and yelled, "Hands up!’"

She was stunned at first. Then the man said, "You’re supposed to say, ‘Don’t shoot!’ "

Kellin said her manager stood there and looked at him.

"So I said, ‘Don’t shoot!’"

What are you reading today? We’d love to know, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow for the Friday edition of Following Ferguson.