Why Ferguson is YOUR Fault!
by Arthurine Harris
It's August 8, 2014; do you know where your community is??
A year following the events that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, few people today can answer that question honestly without triggering feelings of shame and guilt. Certainly not many of our colored colleagues and family members who have taken residence in the middle-class ranks of American society and never glanced back, least they risk turning into pillars of salt. You know, the ones who flew like caged birds and are now blazing trails within the frontiers of corporate America. Through improving their station in life via their financial position, they became “better,” and with advanced college degrees in hand, they happily saddled up and rode off into the West county sunset with visions of their 401(k) dancing through their heads.
But enough with the jokes. If you should find yourself fitting the description of the characters from the narrative above, you're probably either chuckling nervously to yourself or just down right indignant. What's so wrong with upward mobility?? you may be asking.
Well, nothing, of course. That is, except for the fact that in our pursuit of health, wealth and happiness, most of us left the least of us behind.
Let that simmer for a while.
You live in St. Louis; there is little need for me to rehash the crime statistics and police brutality data that has been regurgitated ad nauseum throughout the media (lest we all become depressed all over again). We are all well aware of the fact that “Ferguson” has been happening throughout the region for decades. Black youth have endured harassment, abuse and death at the hands of those tasked with protecting and serving since....well, slavery. It's no secret that the very city of St. Louis was built on racial injustice. A casual stroll through the Old Courthouse will enlighten visitors to the precise locations of the multiple slave markets located throughout St. Louis in 1859. Our predecessors were literally herded off of steamboats on the Great Mississippi River and sold at public auctions in the downtown area. The cobblestones of downtown from years past are sullied with the blood of human cargo. Indeed, the Mississippi River houses the despair of slaves past...
I'll cut the poetry short and get back to why you (yes, you) are responsible for the events that led up to the international frenzy that became Ferguson.
Simply put, in leaving the 'hood, you forgot to look back! Unlike our physical presence, the cultural ills that many of us fled upon graduating from high school never went away! As we embarked on our respective journeys to make a difference in the world via Peace Corps, Teach for America, international volunteer work and adopting a child from a foreign country (for the unbeatable price of $25 of month, no less), we forgot that our own people remained in the struggle! We got comfortable with—and, dare I say, distracted by-- the Almighty dollar and we simply forgot that the war was not over for many of our sisters and brothers who were unable to leave city limits. We pretended that all was well in Black America (since everybody had the same options as we did, right??) and that those who remained behind could fend for themselves.
Well, as it has been demonstrated by the blazing buildings and boiling angst broadcast across the globe, they couldn't. (Hindsight is always 20/20.)
I have a confession to make: I, too, am guilty of the charge of abandonment. In fact, we all bear the blame (to varying degrees) for allowing our mirage of the American dream to interfere with our knowledge of the fact that some of our people were still fighting the battle to even be considered American..
But this article was not written in the spirit of riddling your body with bullets of blame. On the contrast, I am here to proclaim that there is hope yet.
High above the clouds of the West African sky exists the mythical Sankofa bird, which flies forward toward the future while looking backward toward the past.
As most of the slaves brought to the Americas were of West African descent, maybe it's time for us to learn from our ancestors...