Yesterday, the family of Michael Brown, the teenager controversially killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, laid him to rest.
After weeks of turmoil in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, protestors took a break at the request of the grief stricken family.
Personally, I’ve been struggling with my thoughts on this tragedy, more recently, after my son stumbled across the info on an Internet news feed, I’ve had to think about what to say to my children about the violence and upheaval that has plagued our nation following the death of this young man.
Here’s what I’ve decided to say.
What to Say to Your Kids About Ferguson, Missouri and the Death of Michael Brown
Michael Brown was a human being. A human being who didn’t deserve to be left, dead in the street. That was wrong. Even if everything else about the situation was right, that element, that one decision by the authorities in that town, was entirely wrong.
Michael’s death is a tragedy. Whether he was a two bit criminal or a college bound youth, his mother and father are without him now. They will never attend his wedding, they will never be grandparents to his children, they will not get to hear him laugh or see him celebrate a victory or share another single moment with him again in this lifetime. No matter the circumstance of his death, that reality makes me ill. I can’t even imagine losing one of my Dudes, let alone in a violent way. I am heartbroken for his mother and his father and his family and his friends.
I do not support the people who have been creating violence and causing turmoil in the city of Ferguson. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Of course I understand their outrage. I am outraged too. Certainly I want justice for all injured parties. America is supposed to be built on it. Sure I seek to understand the truth. The truth will set you free, at least that’s what they say. But violence is not the answer. It just isn’t.
You don’t need to be afraid of the police. You need to be afraid of bad people who do bad things. The police are people too. Some of them are bad. Just like some of your neighbors and some of the family members we don’t talk to anymore. You can trust the police to take care of you and you should call them if you need help. And, if you still want to be one when you grow up I think you will be a noble one that will take his duty to serve and protect to heart.
Racism happens in America. Sadly, you may already know this. You’ve been black and Latino every single day of your short lives and you know that sometimes you get treated differently because of that. You know that some people don’t like you or trust you or want to be around you and your family just because of the color of our skin. You’ve felt how hurtful being called a racial slur can be, because you’ve experienced it, first hand, already. But, you also know that you’re more than just the color of your skin; that you are a good person who is trustworthy and kind and smart and funny. You know that you have the ability and the opportunity to achieve great things in your lifetime and that no one, no matter their ignorance or hate, can get in your way unless you let them. Also, you’re my favorite, and I will punch people (with my words because you know, the whole violence thing) if they hurt you.
You have to be better. There is truth to the idea that black men in America have to fight the fear of others. You will have to face that whether you want to or not and the only way to really do that is to not be those things. I don’t want you to think that everyone is out to get you, or that it’s okay to blame your lack of success on racism, or that you should be treated differently because of it. None of that is true. Most people aren’t out to get you. You can only blame your lack of success on your own failure to create it. And you deserve to be treated the same as everyone else. Exactly the same. But I want you to be aware of the battle and understand that you are a part of it, and then respond with integrity and purpose. Does it suck that you may have to prove yourself when others are given the benefit of the doubt? Of course it does. Is it right for people to judge you based on the color of your skin? Nope, not even. Do I want you to be better? To lead by example? To be the children who change these things and make this world a different place? You betcha.