This is my city. This is my state. This is my country.
I start with the obvious because the obvious seems to be missing from the uproar surrounding Ferguson. I start with the obvious because so many people appear to be living under the impression that black people in America need to prove their worth – as parents, as taxpayers, as community members – before they can demand safety for their children or accountability from their police force.
I start with the obvious because too many of our leaders feel comfortable framing this as a conversation about whether black children deserve to live, rather than a conversation about what kind of privileged, democratic nation allows so many of its young people to die violent deaths in schools and on our streets.
Always the ungovernable ‘you’
“The white police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70-75 percent of the time,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared Sunday on “Meet the Press.” Which more-or-less summarizes why the Republican Party attracts just 5 percent of black voters. It is not blind allegiance to the Democratic Party that deters the other 95 percent; it is the shrewd understanding that black people are never a “we” to the Grand Old Party; we are always the ungovernable “you.” In essence they say, “If only you had values, we’d consider telling our officers not to shoot you.”
Do you know who is responsible for the crime and poverty and despair in our black communities today? Here’s a hint: It isn’t Canada. It’s not Afghanistan. And it’s not Iraq. When any community in the United States is struggling – from shrinking farm towns to crumbling urban projects – that’s America’s problem. When just 63 percent of low-income students in Minnesota graduate on time, that’s Minnesota’s problem. And when a young man is shot six times and killed for stealing a pack of cigars or even, were it the case, for physically confronting an officer of the law, that’s everyone’s problem.
Giuliani may glory in saving “more black lives” than any other mayor in all of history, but Michael Brown’s mother didn’t lose a black child. She lost a child. Just as the mothers in Newtown didn’t lose white children or Asian children or black children. They lost children.
Every mother and every family deserve a country that has the honor to grieve for all its young people and the courage to build a better country for those who remain.
Katherine Jumbe works as a fundraiser for a youth development organization in St. Paul.
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