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Chapman: Next-gen civil rights movement

By Staff | Aug 15, 2014

This week’s debacle in Ferguson, Mo., is too troubling to ignore.

An unarmed, young, black male was allegedly shot by police and the next five days have been marked by rioting in the St. Louis suburb. The militaristic presence of the police appears to be overdone and is a clear representation of ugly racial tensions that persist in society today.

These issues don’t often affect North Dakota, but it’s a moment in history that no American should ignore. The tragic death of Michael Brown will hopefully open yet another opportunity for leaders, law enforcement and average citizens to have a meaningful discussion. Unfortunately, the opportunity usually eludes us.

I’m a media nerd and have to scan the various outlets to see how major events are covered. One conservative network chose to focus on the looting that’s resulted from the rioting, while failing to acknowledge the socio-economics of the predominately black community.

Latent racism is all around us and it stems from a lack of wanting to understand. The majority of us have never been minorities and do not have any comprehension of what it means to be one. Instead, we make assumptions about people who don’t resemble us. In the upper midwest the fear and misunderstanding is often directed at Native Americans and blacks. Don’t think so? Think about a recent time you were with a group of friends and you encountered someone of another race. Someone always says something. And, sure, the misunderstanding can be directed toward whites too, but it’s probably tougher to handle the stares and avoidance experienced by minorities in America – there are more of them and less of you.

I don’t attempt to equate my four-month experience in the Caribbean to the plight of blacks in the U.S., but I lived in an impoverished area and was very much in the minority there. It was difficult to be one of the only non-tourist white guys. It was made clear on a number of occasions that I was not trusted.

But it made me think. I can’t come close to understanding what it’s like to live in the continental U.S. as a black man with nearly no equal representation. I can empathize and try to imagine that it isn’t exactly easy. Profiling is rampant.

Maybe the first part of understanding is realizing that you simply don’t know what someone else goes through. So before judging, take a step back and consider that some people have reason to feel indignant at the language, actions and attitudes of the majority.

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