August 9th, 2014 was just another typical day of studying and working as every normal college student does at the University of Missouri. My friend Jay and I were studying together like we have done the past two years in engineering school. I consider Jay to be one of my best friends in school as I spend an average of fifteen hours a week with him studying for classes (we are engineers after all, so we study, a lot). Jay is of African American descent and was born and raised in the heart of Ferguson, MO. On the other hand, I am of Italian and Irish descent, so I’m white. Jay is black, and I’m white; yet we are still best of friends who see no difference in our skin color. Perhaps a friendship that wasn’t possible a hundred years ago, but more importantly IS possible today. However, on this particular evening we would be reminded that America doesn’t always observe people in all shades and color, but rather a tendency to see strictly black and white.
Michael Brown, a black American teenager, was fatally shot by a white police officer by the name of Darren Wilson. I read CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, and several other news headlines and saw the same content. Race specifics were included in every headline. Jay and I were both shocked that this happened so close to home, and that over time it accumulated so much national attention. Over the next few months a strong sense of tension would build between the African-American students and the Caucasian students at the University of Missouri leading up to the Jury’s decision of whether or not officer Wilson was guilty of murder.
We had several protests in our student center. “Hands up don’t shoot!” the African American students would yell in massive mobs. As this occurred all over the country, I asked Jay if these actions would help Caucasians be more accepting of African Americans?
“Of course not,” he replied “with every protest the race barrier increases in strength. There’s no way yelling at a bunch of white people will make them like us more.”
This conflict would become my main focus on the white versus black battle here in the heart of our very own country.
After what Jay had said, I thought to myself, ‘How does protesting and burning down buildings help America improve their opinion on the Ferguson community?’
The answer is it really doesn’t, it makes everyone angry to see images of burning buildings, American flags up in flames, and the looting of local Ferguson businesses. I needed answers; I needed to know why Ferguson would burn itself to the ground for a racial encounter. After all Ferguson is +70% African American, so what good would burning your own homes and businesses do?
“That’s an easy one Daniel (me), these rioters aren’t from my hometown, they’re from Maryland, Arizona, California, and hell probably even Miami, Florida. These people came to loot and rob store owners; they came to steal because there is a reason to loot with national attention. On the other hand, the peaceful protests in the street were Ferguson locals who truly disagreed that Michael Brown was guilty, and they wanted to make a difference!”
Darren Wilson would be found not guilty, but I found that it really made no difference whether he was guilty or not, what really matters was how we see races in our country.
Today it’s April 11, 2015 and since then we have had so many accounts of white officers shooting black UNARMED citizens. Suddenly this is a massive issue that keeps popping up all over the country, it seems that the ongoing oppression and discrimination is very real in today’s America society. Do police officers need better training to be allowed to carry a lethal weapon? Are these black citizens doing anything to provoke white officers? Possibly. Perhaps if cops were required to wear continuously recording GoPro cameras we would know.
We must work together to stop this mentality. We are not living in the 1800’s anymore; we are all equal and have equal opportunity in the land of the free and brave. I personally believe this tension can be relieved through progressive education; more demanding police training, and taught self-control of how and when to use firearms. We are a formally unified country, but the real challenge is becoming really unified; we need to start acting like it. This kind of racism and conflict hurts communities, notably Ferguson, MO. It must be stopped so our country can move toward equality and progress.