Questions of racism raised by Ferguson

Penn State student Zaniya Joe wears a piece of tape over her mouth that says "Black Lives Matter" during a Ferguson protest organized by a group of Penn State University students on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, in University Park, Pa. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/TNS)
Penn State student Zaniya Joe wears a piece of tape over her mouth during a Ferguson protest on Dec. 2. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/TNS)

With the recent grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson and the firestorm that swept through the town of Ferguson, Missouri, we wanted to offer our condolences to each and every person who has been personally affected by this tragic situation.

We will not take sides to identify a good or bad individual in this scenario. Instead, we will focus on a town that has been engulfed in an eruption of racism that no one in the nation has been able to run from, not even here at the small campus of Weber State University.

The death of Michael Brown has sparked a debate that goes beyond one person’s death. It is a debate many like to think, and some believe, disappeared into the past, but racism continues to be a very real issue in the U.S.

Today and for days, weeks and possibly even months from now, the words “Ferguson” and “racism” will be synonymous and a source of contention. We do not believe the focus of the issue is about a white police officer killing a black man, although many in Ferguson and across the nation do, and they refuse to accept the evidence placed before them in witness testimony, forensics and video footage.

Given all the evidence, we see that a young man made poor choices and faced the ultimate consequence.

Brown robbed a convenience store and strong-armed the clerk. Brown chose to get in a physical confrontation with a police officer and then run from that police officer. Brown made the decision to stop, turn around and charge at that police officer. Although all this evidence is public, Brown’s mother, family, friends and others across the nation are proclaiming the unarmed, black “gentle giant” was gunned down by a white police officer, making it seem as if Wilson is a white supremacist looking for black people to kill.

Are the people of Ferguson bringing an important discussion to the table—one that is focused on discrimination, poverty, racial profiling and a nation still entrenched in racism? Yes, most definitely. Are they to blame for the riots that broke out in Ferguson on the evening of Nov. 24? No, but we feel they have fueled the fire—a fire that has devastated hundreds of innocent people’s lives.

While the media continues to draw readers to biased sides, we believe it is more important to focus on the real issue of racism in our country. The U.S. is the melting pot of the world and there should be a broader view, an accepting view for all of its citizens.