Last week, the Daily Eastern News reported on a march by students held in protest of the events still unfolding in Ferguson, MO, where police office Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black male, shooting him six different times.
As we reflected on the protest and gathering, many of our staff were disappointed by what seemed like a lack of presence by the non-black community, both in actual numbers as well as opportunities to speak about the issue in a public place.
Of course, we understand that the events in Ferguson are, primarily, an African American issue, systemic of a much more frightening and pervasive police mentality that often seems national.
And yes, we understand that, given that fact, many non-African American students (both at Eastern and across the world) are likely intimidated by speaking up, the notion being that, because they don’t fit the description of a Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin or Eric Gardner, their voices must remain within the margins. They suppose their voices barely footnotes in a story, the constant call being “well, this doesn’t really affect me, so…”
But, simply put, it does.
Not only because of the implications of Brown’s killing, but because, when a glaring injustice exists within a society, it is the duty of that society to fix it. The ability of a society to do exactly that falls on the shoulders of every citizen, not simply the ones most devastatingly affects by the problem at large.
In fewer words: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And by this, we do not just mean Ferguson, but every aspect of life, period.
And while, as a white student, jumping feet-first into a conversation about race and prejudice in America might seem daunting at first, it is absolutely integral, if for the simple fact that it shows there’s some empathy, some understanding—if for the simple fact that it shows you care. In times of tragedy, that simple notion of “someone caring” can be stronger than words, can be the reason people push on, can be the spark that helps ignite a movement,
Progress, at any level, is contingent on creating dialogue and fostering places where different opinions and thoughts can coexist, so as to build a stronger perspective for those involved. But it’s also contingent on supporting others in their time of need, in showing true human emotion, not simply standing by the wayside and saying “it doesn’t matter to me.”
This semester, the News has already been outspoken in the need for students to “get outside their comfort zones.” If students can do that, while simultaneously supporting a likely critical moment in social change, even better.