Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We Are All Angry and Afraid

I live in St. Louis. And while my blog has been sort of Jane-Austen-like in what appears to be a blatant disregard for political events (for the record: I don't think that's true of Jane Austen) and instead indulges in the narcissistic glory of whatever it is I decide to write about myself (also not true of Austen; in fact, my blog actually has virtually nothing in common with Austen except maybe an insufferable heroine--haha), the Ferguson tragedy is so close to home that I can't not write about it.

The violence is scary. The loss of Michael Brown's life is tragic. The antagonism between the police and the people of Ferguson is appalling. The systemic problems are undeniable.

David and I never watch TV news because I can't stand the combination of sensationalism and banality, but we watched last night as the grand jury verdict was read. And we watched the aftermath.

I wasn't on the grand jury. I don't know all the facts of this case. But I do know that these issues go beyond St. Louis and beyond today's headlines.

Last year, I saw Dawn Porter speak. She's a lawyer-turned-filmmaker who made a documentary called Gideon's Army (you can rent and stream it on Amazon--I highly recommend it). The statistics she mentioned shocked me. The justice system is no where near just, and minorities--especially young, black men--and poor people are the ones who pay the price.

I understand why people are angry. They're not just angry about this one incident. They are angry about everything they feel it represents--a longstanding history of disenfranchisement and prejudice and fear.

I look at my students (like the young black man with dreadlocks who told me after class one day that reading Shakespeare is sort of like "songs without music." I smiled and said, "Yeah. We call that poetry." And we both laughed.) I look at my friends' kids, their adorable faces in my Instagram feed, I look at Zuzu's daycare buddies who touch Coco's feet with gentle hands, and I know why people are angry. It's infuriating to think that these boys face a world that will fear and misjudge them. I'm angry, too.

And I watch the footage of burning buildings and people looting stores, and I know why people are scared. It's scary to see the way mob mentality moves from righteous indignation to violence and destruction. I'm scared, too.

It's a huge problem that goes way beyond this verdict and I wish I had something powerful or wise to say about it. I want to fix it. But I still struggle to make some of my students understand the generations of mistreatment and misunderstanding that led us to where we are today.

I'm choosing to be optimistic here (easy for me to say, I know). But I would like to believe this could be a turning point. 

I hope our city recovers from this in a productive way that affects real changes, in policy and in perspective. I hope we find a way to move toward peace. I hope we can realize that we should all be fighting for the same thing: neighborhoods in which everyone feels safe, and cities we can be proud to call home. It's certainly better than the alternative--in which we are all angry and afraid.


  1. Thank you for this. Thank you for sliding Jane to the side for a minute and speaking your truth, your heart.

  2. I'm beyond angry. But you know this, because I've said it, and written about it, before. Turning to "songs without music" today.

    Tomorrow we visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta with the girls on our journey to the farm for Thanksgiving. Trying my best to "restructure the sentence our lives are making".

  3. Oh Brooke. I love you for so many reasons, and this post really is so incredibly accurate to how I feel about what is going on in our society as well. It's tough and frustrating and makes me angry, too.

  4. You are one of several bloggers I read from the St. Louis area, & I've been thinking about all of you through this. Sad & scary and no easy answers. :(