That we aren’t all mute with anger is what is extraordinary. Grateful for anyone who can speak the words that my anger won’t allow.
Hol’ Up PBS – America is Not ‘After Ferguson’
Over the weekend I took the rare opportunity to do some channel surfing, and came across PBS’s “America After Ferguson” community town hall meeting. The special was hosted by journalist Gwen Ifill and took place at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. The focus was supposedly to explore what kind of America the incidents in Ferguson revealed, as well as the relationship between communities of color and law enforcement. Nice and fluffy stuff basically.
Out of curiousity I tuned in, even though my first thought was: How in the world are we discussing how to move forward from Ferguson when protests are still going on and Darren Wilson hasn’t even gone to trial?” As I watched, my side-eye only got stronger.
First off, Gwen Ifill moved through the topics as if she was totally detached from the reality of racism and unaffected by Michael Brown’s shooting. I get it – she’s has to be objective as a journalist – but it was just too robotic and bland for such a hot topic. Even in her write-up after the special, she kept things super PC as if she was far removed from everything being discussed. At one point during the show, Phillip Agnuew (the young man behind Dream Defenders) was raising great points on systems that uphold racism within society, and Gwen awkwardly shifted gears to Ross Kaminsky of The American Spectator – a self-described “middle class white guy” – who totally sidestepped the point and turned the conversation to the white man’s burden of reverse racism. I just couldn’t.
After yawning through a random one-on-one chat with Michele Norris discussing her cutesy Race Card Project, where people are challenged to put their thoughts on race into a 6-word statement (“I’m afraid of young black men.”) – I got annoyed yet again. Gwen took closing remarks and then ended the night out with a jab at St. Louis artist Teff Po. She got her stiff-neck, Wayne Brady chuckle on while joking that Teff Po was the “pessimistic” person in the room simply because he stated how most young black men feel: you can’t trust cops or politicians. It totally downplayed what was at the heart of his frustration, and reduced him to just another angry black dude. The only person who acknowledged his comments without being dismissive was Senator Claire McCaskill, who touched on the importance of voting as way to change the system.
Once I cringed through Gwen Ifill’s fail at being light-hearted, I was done. I didn’t expect much from a PBS special from the jump and my low expectations were met. It only showed that this post racial bullshit identity crisis the media keeps pushing is only making it harder to have meaningful dialogue. If that’s the angle you’re starting on, the conversation is never going to go anywhere.
It’s cool to showcase opposing perspectives but we first have to be real with the fact that we’re nowhere near after any of this. America is barely removed from slavery, let alone systematic racism and racial tensions. Michael Brown’s shooting and Ferguson protests just made this all the more obvious.
Even with all the promotional hype, the approach to this town hall was way too blah and out-of-touch to be productive. So much was glossed over simply to make everybody walk away feeling good, and that’s that ish I don’t like. Racism and social inequality are topics that are bound to make people uncomfortable. We can’t shy away from that, so until we get real America will never be “after Ferguson”.