Who is Ferguson?


graphic by: Leo Diperro

By Holly Parkin

graphic by: Leo Diperro
Graphic by: Leo DiPierro

In the wake of the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, news outlets, the Internet, and everyday people focused non-stop on the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri. Details about Brown’s shooting and the African American community’s protests continue to emerge, instigating debates and further action. Everywhere, it seems, is buzzing about Ferguson – except for Tam High.

The civil disobedience in Ferguson was first triggered by the aforementioned shooting. Citizens of Ferguson were quick to react to the event, which marked what many saw as yet another unjust death in a long line of black teenagers killed as a result of racial profiling by police. For more than two weeks, civil unrest permeated Ferguson, as highly militarized police responded violently towards Michael Brown’s supporters, who adopted the slogan “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and engaged in mostly peaceful protests. While the worst of the situation seems to have subsided for now, and media attention has diminished, the protests in Ferguson continue and Brown’s shooting is not old news. The debates sparked by these affairs are still very real and relevant, and have shed a light on the fact that racism and police brutality – two separate issues, but ones that often go hand in hand – are still alive and kicking in a not-so-post racial America.

However, as these events have unfolded over the past few weeks, I have noticed a stunning, and very disappointing, lack of interest from the majority of Tam’s predominantly white student body. Obviously, nobody expects Tam students to fly down to Ferguson to join the protests against racism and police brutality. But there are plenty of other ways to take action for a highly important cause, whether it is signing petitions or simply raising awareness via social media. Unfortunately, many students at Tam seem to lack this motivation to stay informed.

Instead, the highlight of my Facebook news feed was filled by campaigns such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which, coincidentally, is also centered around raising awareness for an important cause. While still a beneficial campaign, it has been disheartening to see Tam students spending more time dumping ice water on their heads rather than educating themselves on an important social issue. Any Tam students or other young adults who have been keeping updated and continuing to spread awareness over social media deserve respect for engaging in a serious, real world issue that may not be a bandwagon topic at the time.

Of course, it is unfair to base all of my assumptions about how invested people are in Ferguson solely by their social media accounts. I don’t doubt that many Tam students are aware of what has been going on. The issue is that not too many kids seem to care all that much. In conversations that I have had with my peers over the past few weeks, I have heard such reasons for not being too involved such as “it doesn’t have anything to do with me,” and “that kind of thing wouldn’t happen here.”

Racism and police brutality happen everywhere. Watching my friends or my peers sigh, eyes rolling in a “oh, here we go again” fashion whenever Ferguson is mentioned, is not only incredibly insulting to the immense multitude of people who are subjected to racism every day, but also to everyone who fears the abusive power of a militarized police force. It may not seem like it is happening at first glance, but there are police everywhere, and there are minorities everywhere. Nowhere is guaranteed to be safe from outbreaks like what we have seen in Ferguson, not even our own neighborhood, especially when police departments across the country are being supplied with military surplus gear.

This is why raising awareness is necessary. All it takes is one click of the “share” button below a petition or a video. One “like” of an article highlighting the protests and their significance. We are the online generation, after all. If we have enough time to be dedicated to raising awareness for ALS, a disease that, while deserving of attention, is relatively rare, then we definitely have the time to spread awareness of racism and police brutality, two afflictions that have the potential to affect the majority of the country every day. According to a report issued by the CATO Institute in 2010, 23.8% of the 4,861 police misconduct reports that year were classified as “excessive force.”

Ferguson may be out of the major news headlines for now, but it is by no means a dead subject. These eye-opening protests that we have seen are merely the start of a nationwide recognition of issues that used to – and often still do – get swept under the rug in today’s culture. It may seem as though America has entered a new era of equality, but in reality, the broken values our country has endured for centuries still hold a place in our society.

Therefore, it is up to our society’s members to take a stand. One thing is for certain: these issues will not go away forever until people – young adults, like Tam students, especially – start to care.