An open letter to Governor Jay Nixon & President Barack Obama about Michael Brown and Ferguson

I was among the millions last night who were at home having a peaceful night until we realized the injustice in Ferguson had continued to get worse. We saw Michael Brown’s death Saturday and asked questions and we are still waiting for answers. The frustration is growing. Like so many of my friends, we watched Twitter and local news for more information about what was happening in the nearby town of Ferguson, a town I visited for the first time Monday.

Like many others, I was outraged by what I was seeing and hearing and my actions may have gotten more emotional than they should have. Today as the sun came up, though the frustration is still as high as ever, I hope to be able to express myself more clearly.

There are many things that I understand about this horrible situation and some things I just cannot get my head around. I think my predicament is pretty common this week not only in the St. Louis metro area I now call home, but in homes throughout the country and indeed in homes around the world.

I feel a responsibility to at least try to clearly communicate these things in hopes that more people opening the lines of communication will help us get to a place where we can have both justice and peace. As I put my thoughts here I hope friends will join me in filling in gaps, providing their opinions, etc.

Things I Understand about Ferguson

Justice for Michael BrownLet’s start with some of the things that I think are clear.

  • The family and friends of Michael Brown have every reason to ask questions about what happened Saturday. The rest of us do too and I would say we also have a responsibility to ask questions. Some are asking questions and some aren’t. For me, I need a lot more information about what happened on Saturday. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but it is getting harder everyday.
  • I can sympathize with folks all day and I can try to learn more but I can’t see it from someone else’s perspective. Luckily I have friends who try to help me out. That includes my inability to understand what was going through Michael Brown’s mind or the policemen.
  • I understand that this could happen to people I know and love…. on both sides of the confrontation. I didn’t know it until Monday but friends are from the Ferguson area. Friends and family in Memphis and elsewhere are weighing heavy on my mind. I think of my nephew and his friends, many of whom are black, and want to help make this right. I also have friends who work for police and fire departments, they could be called into the middle of this. I have tried not to think about it for a long time because it is so painful but I have decided the raw emotion needs to come out. And in that, I hope I am not alone.
  • families in Ferguson MissouriThe majority of people in Ferguson are just going about their day-to-day. They want their kids to live in a world that is better than the one we have. Some know how to help make that happen, some are probably going down the wrong path and some are no longer sure what to do. We need to empower people who want to do well for their community and be sure they are aware of roles that may be helpful in reaching some resolution.
  • I understand that there are troublemakers in Ferguson who are not helping the situation and they have probably been joined by others making the situation even worse. Some of those troublemakers can be on either side of the lines — looters or police.
  • I understand how frustration continues to build because there appears to be nobody working on a solution. The growing frustration could mean it continues to get harder to get on a better path which is why something needs to be done now!
  • I totally understand reporters have a story to tell and their own agendas at times. Ratings are also something that no doubt is driving around the clock coverage. We are getting some of the story not all of it.
  • Far too many people in Ferguson and elsewhere have become totally disillusioned with the system. If you don’t know this, look at how many people voted in the last election. We need to help people understand they can help improve the system in ways that will better represent them. We need to encourage others in our communities to run for office too so it is better representative of us.
  • Local law enforcement is struggling. They are exhausted and desperate. Whether or not they have the best intentions, their actions are not helping. The county police have been there for days on end too. I’m not sure who is giving orders but we need a new leader.
  • The situation in Ferguson is out of control. I don’t know how long that has been the case, but the “authorities” that are elected to protect and serve appear to be in over their heads. I want to know clearer heads are approaching the situation calmly and in a way to seek peace and justice.
  • I understand everyone’s reluctance to get involved. This is messy. There will be no quick win most likely. At the same time, this is not just about Ferguson. We as society have allowed things to degenerate over time to the point that young black men have to live by different rules to simply remain alive. That is not at all just. I not only demand equity, but would like to know what organizations are working to this end so I can join the effort. Society — ie me and you — let it get to this point and I want to be part of society that helps get us on track. That means I understand I have been part of the problem.
  • I understand that just because you are white or black does not mean you think poorly of others but I also understand that we currently live in a world where skin color far too often shapes our experiences.

Things I Can’t Understand About Ferguson

  • I can’t understand how Michael Brown was shot — there is so little information being shared. When information is not shared it appears there is something to hide. That may not be the case but it does feel that way.
  • I cannot understand how so many of us have been complacent as a large swath of our communities have come to live in fear. Our neighbors deserve better.
  • I can’t understand how things continue to get worse day-by-day in Ferguson other than to frustration grows when the right actions are not being taken.
  • I cannot understand how we can have a community minutes away from my home under siege. It looks like a war zone there and yet so many of us — in Ferguson and elsewhere — are trying to go about life normally. This has caused untold dissonance in my brain!
  • There is no way for me to understand multiple reporters (white & black, print & broadcast), all within an hour saying they were threatened by police and told to get out of the area. How could the police justify targeting the media like that? I also cannot understand how so many reporters continue to go about their jobs — they and all the people in Ferguson have my admiration. I cannot understand how police could think that would help anything.
  • I can’t understand how things turn to pulling an elected official from his car and taking him to jail over night without charges. Really.

Looking at this list, you may think I feel like I know more than I don’t. Only in terms of number of bulletpoints. So many of he unknowns are big things that really leave me struggling. I hope the conversations open up soon and answers start coming out.

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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6 Responses to An open letter to Governor Jay Nixon & President Barack Obama about Michael Brown and Ferguson

  1. Molly August 15, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Some things I want to know are this:

    Why are the police dressed in fatigues and looking and behaving as if they are the military in a war zone? This is not the appropriate role for police in the US.

    Why is the photo of Michael Brown that the press is choosing to use a photo of him acting tough? Why aren’t they using his graduation picture or other photo?

    • Janice Person August 16, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      Great questions! I am happy to see the state police have taken command in a much more rational way but I do think we need to get to the bottom of this not only in Ferguson but broader too. On the photos that is interesting. I had heard the images were pulled from Facebook, but having not gone there I’m not sure why they couldn’t have gotten more, besides that could work for immediacy but the family could certainly be asked for some other images.

  2. Leroy August 16, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Kudos to you Janice for putting this information out there because you could easily say this area is not mine. I have coworkers that are scared to go to Ferguson. Really.

    The Water Guy

    • Janice Person August 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

      Hey Leroy! Glad to see you are still checking the blog out! I was fine there… I understand being uncomfortable in an unfamiliar neighborhood but I’m not sure why people are afraid. Fear is so unhealthy

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Thinking Through "No Justice, No Peace" - August 19, 2014

    […] An open letter to Governor Jay Nixon & President Barack Obama about Michael Brown and Ferguson […]

  2. Letters from Ferguson about Our History Story - June 24, 2015

    […] I wondered what could be done to help that community move forward. While I realized part of it was telling my version of the story, I wanted to do something more tangible. That’s when I found a Donor’s Choose project […]

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