What We Desperately Need to Learn from Ferguson

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Built This WayIf you still think police protect and serve, then turn around and close this tab.

But if it’s as clear as a mother’s tears to you that such fantasy is as dead as her innocent son, then what are we going to do about it?

The old style marches and chanting aren’t going to undo a system with centuries of history. The politicians won’t do more than bait us into complacency with phrases carefully crafted to inspire hope without making real commitment.

Darren Wilson is the fist of a state that doesn’t hold equal the value of the lives of its non-white citizens. The Ferguson grand jury is the cold heart of that same body. Our legislative representatives are the brain. The media is the slick haircut.

If you really understand the sheer terror of the reality in which we exist, you’re left with nothing but the most profound sorrow in place of any idea of what to do. Often, our activism is little more than a way to cope with that grief. If we don’t keep ourselves distracted, keep telling ourselves our strategies might work, keep repeating mantras of change comes slow, then we would be crippled by our sorrow.

But what is the best possible outcome of this strategy? Body-cams on police officers across the country, as Mike Brown’s family is calling for? Even if we had that in effect tomorrow, even if we achieved such an ambitious measure of success, that doesn’t address the root issue. That says to police: we’re going to catch you killing our kids. What we need to be saying is: we’re not going to let you kill our kids.

Any strategy for reducing police racism and violence that relies on asking the police to change is not enough. What we desperately need to learn from Ferguson is this: we must develop ways to create safety and justice in our own communities. We must reduce our dependence on police.

I’m not saying efforts to reform police practices are in vain; we need to try to reduce police racism and violence. However, it is vital that we not stop there. We need to begin a long road of social innovation that will result in new ideas, new groups and new practices. We need to figure out how we can take safety and justice into our own hands in responsible ways. We need to practice community conflict resolution, alternative responses to violence, and restorative justice. We need to brainstorm new strategies that have never been tried before. We need to build something for ourselves.

So long as we depend on police to keep us safe, we won’t all be safe. So long as we depend on courts for justice, we won’t all be free.

Until we know how to create safety and justice for ourselves, we will all depend on police.

SorenWhat We Desperately Need to Learn from Ferguson

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