White folks feel various self-imposed combinations of guilt, pressure to show they're on the right side, pressure not to yield to that pressure. At the same time a million fault lines in our culture open up in sharp relief, from our uneasy relationship with our own justice system to our racial issues to the question of how well we can trust the media (and is that trust enough to conduct a trial in it of anyone) all the way to observations like this one
Swarms of people trampling eachother on Black Friday as mindless consumers is cool. People protesting for social justice isn't. - The System
— Lex Looper (@lex_looper) November 25, 2014
There's an impulse that people sometimes have in moments of trouble, an impulse to Say Something that will Make Things Better. At times, this impulse does not serve them well, particularly if they don't really know what they're talking about. At times like that, it's best to just shut up. At times like that, it's best to pay attention, to watch, and to listen.
There are a million ugly things crawling out from under the rock that is Ferguson right now, and while shooting from the hip is my usual stock in trade, now is not the time. The truth is I'm a white teacher in a rural school where the population holds at a pretty steady 98% white. For me to understand Ferguson and the places like it, I need to look and listen and shut up long enough to really hear what is happening.
On the topic of Ferguson, I have kept my mouth mostly shut and will continue to do so. I am sure that I'll shoot it off at some point, when I have been able to process enough to have something useful to say. I know the broad strokes-- when policing in a community is so effed up that a jay-walking stop turns into a shooting, there's something terribly wrong with how power is being exercised, and when you are telling people who have been punched repeatedly in the face that they should complain more politely, you're not getting it. This is not how policing is supposed to work. This is not how a community is supposed to work. But to learn more through the filter of highly selective reporting is a fool's errand, and social media at the moment simply makes me cringe with the number of people shooting off their mouths as if the tiny bits of information that has made it to them filtered through mainstream news is a full picture.
So invite other under-informed folks in far away places to join me in shutting up. Not forever. But long enough to watch and listen and learn and understand. Nobody else has a responsibility to explain things to us, but we do have a responsibility to try to understand before we make noise. As for blogging-- what's called for are conversations, and this is not the format for that. We'll have conversations in my classes today, I'm sure, but it won't be me providing The Answers. So, on this topic, for the moment, I am shutting up. I invite other under-informed people to do the same.