Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Don’t make debates over Ferguson about you

Sarah Blugis, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

Everyone has an opinion about Ferguson and the recent decision by a grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson.

I do, too. Like many others, I think Wilson should have been indicted, and I believe there’s a substantial need to examine the relationship between law enforcement and minorities in this country.

But unlike almost everyone else I follow on Twitter, I’ve kept my opinions to myself.

I’m a white, middle-class college student from a small, rural town. Plus, as I’ve said before, my dad is a police officer. All of this makes it clear to me that my voice isn’t a necessary, helpful or even welcome addition to the conversations that Ferguson has sparked. And that’s OK.

I’ll admit that it’s been difficult to keep quiet over the past few days. Though I agree with what many of my more liberal friends have posted, there are some sentiments that upset me. Tweets like “Fuck all cops” and “Police are racist pigs” are particularly hard for me to ignore.

My knee-jerk reaction is to fire back, defending my dad and all of the police officers out there who do their jobs well.

But I understand doing that would make the conversation about me, and completely derail the valuable discussions about racial prejudice that social media has fostered. In the same way that #NotAllMen destroys conversations about feminism, #AllLivesMatter does the same to #BlackLivesMatter. Inserting my white, middle-class opinion feels wrong, regardless of whether I’m agreeing or disagreeing with what’s being said.

It’s not my place to control the conversation – and those of us not personally connected to Ferguson should try to remember that.

For white GW students, of course it’s important for those of us who agree with the protestors in Ferguson to show our support. We can stand with them in solidarity, educate ourselves, take to the streets to provide strength in numbers and have meaningful discussions with friends and family.

But this movement belongs to the people of Ferguson and black Americans all over the country.

It doesn’t belong to white college students. We don’t understand, and absolutely cannot understand, what black residents of Ferguson are feeling. We can’t tell them to be peaceful, violent, angry or calm. We shouldn’t pass any judgment at all – because we have no points of reference and likely no connection to the situation.

I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t care about this issue. But the right way to care is to defer completely to the people who are involved. It’s their voices that need to be heard, not ours.

You won’t see me tweeting much about Ferguson, and I won’t be posting a monologue about my white point of view on Facebook. Instead, I’ll listen to what black Americans have to say – and we should all lift up their opinions instead of getting hung up on our own.

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