the inspiration blog

Ferguson, Michael Brown, and Speaking Up

Posted on: November 25, 2014

I was planning on posting something different today – on how to talk to your ideal clients. I will do so… but right now there is only one thing on my mind. So I wrote this up, and also created a short video about it.

If you haven’t been following the story, here’s the background. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot 6 times and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. And a grand jury just decided to not indict Wilson.

I live in Oakland, California, which has a bad rap for being a dangerous unsafe place – if you’re not from here. In actuality, Oakland has both posh, upscale neighborhoods as well as poor, economically-challenged areas; it’s also one of the most diverse communities in the country even as it’s rapidly being gentrified via the San Francisco Bay Area’s skyrocketing housing prices.

Tonight, I met with a group of friends in an 18th floor apartment one of them has, just a short walk from my home. From our safe (and, definitively privileged) location, we watched protests, police in riot gear, and hundreds of people streaming onto the freeway and stopping traffic. As I write this, the sound of helicopters is omnipresent. Similar protests are happening across the United States.

Many people in my community reading this live outside the United States; or, you may be in the U.S. but feel far away from the issue. Unfortunately, while we have a black president, we by no means live in a “post-racial society.” Unconscious prejudice and racism are still prevalent. I’m disgusted that this is still happening; the 1992 Rodney King riots occurred while I was in college, under similar circumstances – and this is still happening?

Watching these protests, and feeling heartbroken that this is today’s news and not decades old, had me feel the need to write to my community and just say this:

YOUR VOICE MATTERS.

What you say matters. And, if you don’t say anything, that matters too.

Look. While I have really strong feelings about what’s happening now, I’m called to just use this as a reminder to tell you to speak up.

I didn’t name one of my online trainings Claim Your Voice because I thought it was catchy. This is one of my deepest beliefs: we will create change in the world once we choose to step up and say what we need to say.

If you’re not speaking up about what you care about… well, let’s refer back to what pastor Martin Niemöller wrote about the rise of Nazism, as quoted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is not to imply that people of color can’t speak up for themselves. They have powerful voices. But those of us who benefit from white privilege also have a duty to 1) really get what this is about, and then 2) speak about it. Here’s my favorite quote on the topic I’ve seen so far: “White privilege is me being outraged and angered by the Ferguson decision rather than utterly terrified.”

Do it. Choose to speak up about what’s important… to you, and to the world. 

You can make a difference. For example:

Write and give a speech.

Write a blog.

Create a YouTube video.

Whatever works.

What do you need to speak about? What have you been holding back saying? Why? What are you afraid of? It’s okay if people don’t like you. Really. They may not anyway.

But we have to speak.

You can disagree with me if you want. It’s an explosive issue. It should be. But I really want to know what you deeply want and need to speak about.

Leave your comments below.

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6 Responses to "Ferguson, Michael Brown, and Speaking Up"

Thank you.

This is such a sad day, and as always breaks my heart that this kind of things still happens 😦

Although my heart is broken, my mind isn’t surprised…As the mother of an African American son, I’m outraged, saddened, and prayerful. In fact, I spent most of last evening in prayer…that was my first response, but not my last or only response.

As man-made law fails, Divine Law Prevails.

I’m choosing to believe that despite the ugly facts, the fact that a young Black Man’s life was sacrificed, and a White Cop – a uniformed man sanctioned to murder others, is not being held accountable in this country’s so-called court of law…and that this has been going on since we were brought to this country as enslaved peoples, I’m still choosing to believe that a greater good is being revealed as citizens of all colors and classes must reconcile these institutional and systemic inequities, inequities upon which this country was built (on the exploitation of Native Peoples and enslaved Black People) – that if we as a people living on Mother Earth, refuse to right these injustices, we as a human species in this country and others, will not survive, nor will our children or grandchildren…..I’m choosing to believe that, just as 911 was, this is an opportunity to transcend artificial differences and come together as one nation under God to stand for JUSTICE, PEACE AND SUSTAINABILITY…it is the only way we will have a future worth living. I’m willing to speak and stand for JUSTICE, PEACE AND SUSTAINABILITY in my lifetime! And I know that others are putting their lives on the line to do the same!

As man-made law fails, Divine Law Prevails.

Peace,
Harriet

I am looking at this situation somewhat from the outside since I am a Canadian. However, as just a plain old person, it seems to me that this decision, which is causing such unrest and anger is, once again, a matter of inequity. Whenever something seems unfair or unjust it hurts. Whenever I feel powerless to change something that clearly needs to be changed, I become emotional. Whenever others have power and I feel it is misused, I want my voice to be heard. I want to take some action so others know how I feel and what I think. I want it known that I am feeling confused, angry, dissatisfied, helpless… Inequity is a pervasive and age-old problem and one that sticks its ugly head in my face more and more frequently. Whatever veil is laid over the inequity, be it race, religion, social standing, economic status, gender, age or what have you, it is the inequity that is the rub.

These situations are our call to action. Peaceful action. Whatever resources are available to each American to stop the fear, violence, intolerance, discrimination and inequity, that is becoming more frequent and apparent, should be fully utilized and quickly. Let your leaders know what you are expecting of them. If your representatives are not effective, support better ones, become one. Talk to your friends and neighbours about your vision for your communities and whether or not your laws support that vision. You know what the issues in your communities and country are, address them to the best of your ability without weapons and violence.

Carol Ann

Brilliant blog, Jonathan!

Hi Oakland, i just listened to you video- it was very sincere and enlightening.People do think their voices will not be heard.

Myself-I did take a leap of faith and still continue to do so for my own good and the good of others coming after me. Once I started writing what I felt then others started chirping in with their same concerns. I even found myself growing and evolving into creating better environments for myself. Questions asked of myself where: Why I was chosen to experience the situations now buried in my memory? Why i was chosen to go through certain situations when i was quite young and well into my mid 50’s. Now I realize because i was to take my experiences and convert them into enlightening others on making preventative measures for the lives that will come behind me.
Same with Ferguson most likely had been the hotpot of crime—and it was ignored. Ferguson is now on the map-and not being ignored anymore-a change is definitely going to come.

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