“A riot is the language of the unheard.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I rushed home last night, in time to see the announcement. Some sunken sliver of me must have hoped I’d hear the unexpected. So much for slivers. No matter the evidence, I knew no indictment was coming. Didn’t we all?
I am from Missouri. I love Missouri. Long for it even. The rolling landscape, the rivers, the green, the limestone cliffs, the deep home of the place. But I am also repelled by the fear-talk I hear in the houses of my family, the flip jokes / racist jokes, the open use of the n word. Not so long ago I sat in a family kitchen, where a police officer was getting ready for his night shift. He stood at the sink, rinsing out the insides of a soda can, talking about how he was going to get some “fuckin’ n-er crack heads,” as his brother in law shouted from the living room, “fuckin’ A!”
My cousin’s 18 yr son recently got a large red Confederate Flag tattooed on his shoulder. I called his mother and said, “He’s going to get himself killed.” His mother said, “Oh he just likes the Dukes of Hazard” and then, “he’s 18, what can I do?”
And now Ferguson, Missouri is burning.
Ferguson has been coming all my life.
I wasn’t there when Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown. But I know this: I know that an unarmed black boy was killed by a white police officer and then, unspeakably, left bleeding in the street for 4 hours while his family and his community looked on, helpless. No sliver of hope.
I see them, I hear them, and I’m listening.