Hey White Folks, Don't Be Afraid to Talk About Ferguson.

This Ferguson, Missouri stuff sickens me. I feel so bad...for Michael Brown, for his family, for the predominantly black community of Ferguson, for people who want change but are being portrayed negatively, for the business owners and community members that are dealing with looting and police brutality, for the rest of the Americans who are watching and feeling ashamed of our country for this incident...

I feel bad for basically everyone.

I haven't known how to talk about it. I don't feel educated enough. I don't know about the situation - I'm not there. I'm not a person of color. I'm a Russian-Polish super white girl. I want to make a difference but I don't know how.

But I'm going to try.

The first step was (and continues to be) to get educated. I wasn't happy with the way the mainstream news sources were covering this (super sensationalized and definitely slanted), and I knew that Twitter was leaving me with information gaps. But then I found this great article on Vox.com that is updated daily - 11 Things You Should Know About the Michael Brown Shooting. It breaks it down very simply, giving you just the facts. As information comes out, they try to incorporate it into one of the 11 questions.

(Actually, on Vox they call them "cards." The whole website is a neat concept - the creator, Ezra Klein, is trying to keep information super basic, and they often break the info down into topics or single questions that each sit on a single card or slide. As he was quoted in New York Magazine, "Sometimes I think in the media there can be a weird condescension toward the idea of providing people with simple, useful info they need in a simple format." Read more about Ezra and Vox in this NY mag article.)

Obviously I'm not entirely sure, but it feels like the information on Vox is relatively unbiased. So I'm starting to feel like I have a better grasp of the full situation.

But I still didn't really know what to DO. My second step was to read this fantastic piece by Janee Woods - 12 Things White People Can Do Now Because of Ferguson. (I swear I don't only read things that come in buzzfeed-like lists. It's just a la mode to organize your information like that.) Her 12 suggestions on how to take action are good and heartfelt and worth hearing. But her preamble about the fear white people have to reacting publicly is even better. She nailed how I felt:
A lot of white people aren't speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation so that they can move to action against racism. It’s not so much that they have nothing to say but rather they don’t see an opportunity being opened up for them to say something or to do something that matters. Or they might not be sure what to say or how to do it.
So I'm trying to do what Janee Woods asked me to do in the rest of her article, as a white person who cares about ending racism in America - I'm trying to TALK ABOUT IT.

I'm trying to talk about the fact that Michael Brown shouldn't have died.

I'm trying to educate my friends and family on this incident, so they know all the facts, not just the selective one-sided views CNN and other news sources are providing.

I'm trying to help other white folks feel comfortable talking about it.

I'm trying to explain to anyone who will listen that the only reason Michael Brown died is because he is a young black male. A white male in this same situation would not have been shot.

And if you're still thinking - what does this have to do with me? Yes, I feel bad about it, but I don't relate to it. Then please read this personal essay called A Mother's White Privilege.

This will help you to see, not only what a privilege it is to raise middle class white children in America, but also what could happen if we don't talk about these injustices, if we don't educate and discuss these issues with our children and our friends. We are quietly enabling the system to continue. I know it's hard. The writer of this essay (only known as Manic Pixie Dream Mama) also knows it's hard:
To admit white privilege is to admit a stake, however small, in ongoing injustice. It’s to see a world different than your previous perception. Acknowledging that your own group enjoys social and economic benefits of systemic racism is frightening and uncomfortable. It leads to hard questions of conscience many of us aren’t prepared to face. There is substantial anger: at oneself, at the systems of oppression, and mostly at the bearer of bad news, a convenient target of displacement.
But let us not let the fear guide our actions. Let us stand up for what is right, and let us express our opinions without fear of consequence.

Let us continue to educate ourselves - on this incident and others - and let us keep talking about it. Even if it makes us feel uncomfortable.

It's the least we can do.

PS. One more itemized list for you...10 Ways We Can Help the People of Ferguson.