The Ferguson Files: Sanctuary


Safe. Home base. A mother’s arms. The tree in hide and seek.  Somewhere no one can harm us. We have had them since time immemorial.  We recognize them when we see them, whether they are our sacred space or not.

This has been a hard week for America again.  It should now be abundantly clear to all but the most fervent ditto heads that Black Americans are not safe, anywhere.  They can’t walk in the street, go to the store, a park, playground or swimming pool.  Even if they stay in their homes they are not safe from the racial violence and terrorism they must face every day in America.  The ones who are supposed to protect all of us, are some of the very ones perpetrating crimes against our Black citizens.

Now, in a darkest hour, racism has again violated the last sacred space Black Americans might turn to, their churches.  Not just in South Carolinas’ horrific massacre but also in Memphis, Virginia and Georgia these past few days.

Recently I was privileged to travel to New York City with a young, Black journalist.  In the speech he gave there, he put forth the case for buying a gun to protect himself from people who look like me, instead of him.  I was shocked to my core, but I could see his reasoning.  He and I have stood together many nights and days in Ferguson. He has always responded with amazing forbearance to the violence  and hate rained down upon us by police and white citizens despite the rage being constantly stoked in his heart by the interminable murder and mayhem towards Black people.  And now, he’s considering getting a gun.

Think about that for a minute.  Black people are very aware that the race war that the person in SC wished to “start” has been ON, and on them, for centuries.  Even white people who are not politically or socially aware are starting to see the pattern.  Some try and twist it up with law, order, or faith, but then they are brought back into the bleak reality of everyday racism in America.  It’s come to the point that the palest among us, having had the racism in America shoved in their face often enough are starting to talk about “starting the conversation about race”. Yes, starting to talk about maybe having a conversation.  Enough!

Make no mistake, racism is real, it’s not a fluke that the person just arrested in SC is next to the former police officer who shot Walter Scott in the back. No whim that the State of South Carolina, and it is not alone, has one the Confederate battle flags flying over it.  No happenstance that police seem to be shooting more and more Black people on sight, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Kajieme Powell, Akai Gurley, Lavar Jones, Dontre Jones, Michael Brown and on and on.  And that is just the Black men shot in the past year.  There is also a list of Black women: Yvette Smith, Eleanor Bumpurs, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tarika Wilson, Miriam Carey, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd,  and Myra Thompson.

Racism is pernicious, prevalent and absolutely unavoidable for Black Americans, it’s past time white Americans woke up, listened, and stepped up to stand with their black brothers and sisters. And they need to keep standing.  The time for the “conversation about race in America”, is about over.  If history is any template, and it usually is, we are out of time to choose sides. You see, the shooting has already started in this war.


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