Nothing reminds me that I live in the United States and that I am an American citizen like going home for a national holiday like Thanksgiving. It is filled with delightfully delicious (and seemingly endless) food shared with friends and family. For me, this means that I get the amazing opportunity to learn about other perspectives on reality universe that are truly different from my own. Two of the most outspoken of these opinions come from great-uncle (I call him my great-uncle but I’m not exactly sure how we are related and I have yet to ask or invest in an Ancestry.com account) and from a family friend who is not exactly a “spring chicken.”
These two truly unique perspectives on the universe situated themselves in my parent’s living room amongst a platter of well-prepared and tasty appetizers that my mother and my aunt have spent days preparing. As a host, I began to offer these two guests something to drink. But a lively discussion broke out before I could utter the phrase: “Could I get you something to drink? Maybe something alcoholic or some soda? We have Pepsi, but no Coke…unless, you want to have a can of Diet Coke. In that case, we may be able to float your Thanksgiving boat.”
The discussion was about the situation in Ferguson. My great-uncle begins the conversation with the comment: “Isn’t this stuff in Missouri just ridiculous (referring to the violence that happened after the jury’s decision)?” Our family friend calls Michael Brown a “punk,” who the media are trying to make a perfect kid who never did anything wrong. (On an unrelated note, this family friend honestly believes that all human beings are descendants of aliens and believes that he was once abducted.) My great uncle and the family friend settle on the opinion that Brown was not much of a victim and the reaction following was “absurd.”
I argue, as I do at most family gatherings, against these two men. I state that even if he did rob the store and tried to attack the cop (the latter being a highly debated point), he should not have died by a police officer’s gun. I think police officers should be held to the high standard of not killing the citizens they are sworn to protect. Defending the reaction afterwards, I say that the violence is unnecessary but understandable especially considering that Brown was the tipping point of a national racial issue (his case is one of many). Race is a decisive factor in what type of education an American receives, their income, standard of living, how likelihood of serving jail time, and being discriminated against even in a passing way based on appearance. As one may expect, my opinion was not welcomed and I left the room without getting them drinks.
One of the most frustrating things about the Michael Brown situation is the reaction by the people who refuse to believe that racism is still a problem. America is a wonderful country, but it is far from perfect. Accepting what we have now would be equivalent to only passing in the first body paragraph for a yearlong essay, there is still work to be done. However, like recovering alcoholics, Americans first need to admit that they have a problem.