Saturday, November 29, 2014


It's pretty much everywhere and if you're not thinking about the Ferguson decision and all things related, I'm not sure I can talk to you right now. The evening of the decision was disheartening all around and may have been doomed to be so. That evening I faced the fact that growing up, I had an innate tendency to give police officers or anyone in authority, the benefit of the doubt in most situations.  In similar ways that parents and guardians expect me to teach so their kid will learn and grow, I expect police to do the work of keeping our streets safe, which undoubtedly can include degrees of violence and confrontations.  

This unwritten agreement I've had, however simplistic, is just not operable in some parts of American society.  It's certainly not how it's perceived within New York's "stop and frisk" communities or in small towns such as Ferguson where racial imbalances exist between the resident population and the police force.  And Wisconsin, particularly Dane County does not go unnoticed for racial disparities regarding arrest rates, education, housing, and other lifestyle factors. The racism torch shines brightly here - how can you not think about it?


Unfortunately, people read about it and may even witness it, but to actually be it, to have that lived experience is not easy to hear or read about, and from much of what I've been reading over the last several years, it's particularly hard for people to face it.  With reliable sources already available, I won't repeat the numbers that illustrate the racial disparities that exist for arrest rates in particular, but here's the deal:  The galling discrepancy has played out in recent months since the death of Michael Brown on several awful occasions - the worst among them have to be the BB gun shootings of 12-year old Tamir Rice, and 22 year old John Crawford, both in Ohio.  In both instances police officers were operating on admittedly misleading or incomplete reports from 911 calls and confronting young Black males "armed" with BB guns. Crawford's nonlethal BB gun was off the shelf in Walmart.  The likelihood that both of these boys could have been prepping and eating their Thanksgiving meal with their families is deeply troubling.  


The day they were published, I read the transcripts from the Ferguson decision and Darren Wilson's testimony did not clear things up for me as a citizen concerned that an unarmed teenager with his whole life ahead of him could be gunned down in the street.  Anyone who is not concerned or who has turned a blind eye to this police killing and others like it - well, I can't talk to you right now.  Darren Wilson's decision to fire that gun - whatever poor training, racial profiling - unspoken and unknown to the public, rules of policing, even Wilson's own anger and pride, it became fatal. And that terrible unjust and unfair move is something I'm facing today whether I want to or not.  

The first question on many of my students' minds November 25th the day after the grand jury made its announcement was the question, "Did you hear Ms. Naputi?" When I heard that night the first thing I did was explain and inform my own kids what went down, and then I updated my FB status with, "Travesty."  Cause killing is a travesty.  So on Monday I'll be using Phillip Agnew's speech "Two Minutes" to launch us towards What to Do and away from apathy or any potential to mark up our lives with it.


You are responsible for everything you do and everything you don't do.