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Ferguson Unleashes a Movement for Racial Equality | The Threat of Nuance


Part I of “Ferguson Unleashes a Movement for Racial Equality”

The shooting of Michael Brown (18), an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson (28), a police officer, on August 9th has served as a wakeup call rippling from America to London. On Sunday November 23rd, 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed in Cleveland as a result of wielding a pellet gun in a public park. And there are scores of similar stories surfacing daily.

This tragedy has sparked an important, multilayered, international debate. But it’s not about whether or not Brown was guilty or if Wilson should have been indicted. We will likely never know the truth about what went down on that fateful day. But this discussion has very little to do with what transpired in Ferguson, and much more to do with a fundamentally skewed social agreement.

We have much to learn from this tragic event, and so many others like it. This is a wakeup call for America to discuss the reality and impact of institutionalized racism, white privilege and over militarized police systems that are all too prone to the use of excessive force, most often targeted at people of color.

The rate of violence in America is staggering. The rate of police brutality and misconduct, especially towards people of color, is even more staggering. Here’s a New York Times article that provides a glimpse at some of the statistics. There are 100s of “Cop Watch” style watchdog organizations popping up all over the Internet. Organizations like the ACLU have created an app for recording and reporting police misconduct.

A new Twitter account called “Killed by Cops” already has over 5,600 followers posting incidences of black civilians slain at the hands (or guns, rather) of police officers. This GOOD Magazine article discusses the reality of the shocking number of black people killed daily by police.

Hacktivist groups like Anonymous are on a mission to amplify truth and mobilize thousands across the world. They’re currently mobilizing droves of protestors through their @OpFerguson Twitter group. They’re also battling the KKK in St. Louis through their #OpKKK hashtag and have already DOXed them (shared their personal info) and taken over most of their websites and social networks.

Suffice it to say, things are heating up. And they should.

There is no question that we need a police force. But that does not mean we should allow rampant impunity and widespread racism to be imbedded into the fabric of our governments, institutions and businesses. These entities are in dire need of reform.

The media (primarily Fox News) has no intention of framing the Ferguson tragedy or consequent protests as having any plausible positive outcome. As usual, the focus is on demonizing the black community and trivializing the possibility that recent events might possibly incite a positive movement towards sustainable peace and racial equality.

In a very deliberate effort to instill fear in the minds of the masses, the media continually serves as a portal for scenes of death, destruction, drama, irrational behavior, ongoing racial discrimination and every other type of theatrics that will up their ratings. If you want news you can trust, I’d suggest Russell Brand’s, The Trews and Jon Stewart’s, The Daily Show.

We have come a long way since the days of slavery and Jim Crow Laws. Thousands of black Americans have risen to the highest of heights, despite the surrounding oppressive environments. An African American friend of mine recently said, “I am lucky to have grown up in a household where my parents taught me that I needed to work twice as hard just to get half the benefits”.

The United States represents about 5% of the world’s population and about 25% of the world’s prisoners. What does this say about the US? About 88% of those prisoners are people of color. What does this say about our systems? You either believe that people of color are inherently inferior and destructive, or there is something profoundly broken within our social and governmental systems that has been fostered for 100s of years.

The ensuing riots and protests that have resulted from the Ferguson tragedy have little to do with what happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. Black America is fed up with ongoing oppression through institutional racism.

Nuanced racism may prove to be more lethal than the blatant segregation and oppression of days past. Racism today hides beneath the surface unassumingly like a snake, poised to strike and recoil before you’ve noticed it happening. Most of America has no idea that racism continues to thrive underneath the surface. Sometimes the art of nuance holds the greatest threat of all.

But today, we have the ability to connect and unite like never before. The free flow of information and ease of travel affords us more connectivity and information than what we’ve ever experienced. Now we’re seeing that come to life in a very real way.

We cannot let this discussion dissipate. We must keep the momentum going and channel this energy into positive initiatives for a more egalitarian society. This is an opportunity we should not let slip through our fingers. We must pay respect to Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement and continue to further that important mission.

If you would like to peacefully and productively contribute to the racial equality movement that is rippling across the nation, I would recommend participating in the #BlackoutBlackFriday campaign. You can read more about it, and sign the petition here. You can also see real footage of instances of police brutality. Being aware is the first step. Beware, some scenes are gruesome. And if more people would open up their eyes and take action, these instances would cease to be. 

* As this is a multilayered discussion, I have broken my original post up into a series of posts that will be ongoing, for as long is necessary. Please join in to the conversation in the comments section and help amplify the word through social media. Thanks!


  1. Anonymous Coward on November 28, 2014 at 5:09 AM

    The battle between the haves, and the have-nots has been going on for thousands of years and isnt going to change because a a bunch of people create temporal social change.

    The simple fact is that the vast majority of protestors are simply uneducated people that prefer to create drama. I wonder how many of those protestors care about the number of people who die each day at the hands of black warlords, white leaders in north korea, and all colors in between.

    Racism is derived from our biological sense of safety. Its nature to trust those who look like us. A white person in a black neighborhood feels just as stereotyped as a black person in a white neighborhood.

    You cannot purge racism. Just like you cant purge hate, love, hope or fear. Racism is a biological reaponse. To think otherwise would imply that you should also just tell your kid to trust strangers.

    The jews maintained hope and faith, as a group. But their persecution, 70 years ago, didnt really change our nature as humans.

    A better use of time is probably trying to figure out how to accept we are war loving racists who mostly want to live off the backs of others and using that as a basis implement a system to prevent nuclear war or destruction of the earth at the hands of humans.

    To all the people who see this as negative, maybe you could show one period, in the history of mankind, where humans truly changed for the better (or worse) from one generation to another. You wont find it. Because we are creatures.

    Maybe with DNA modification we can breed humans to this “ideal” — but absent that, we might be better off moving to wonderland where racism doesn’t occur. Oh wait…

  2. Joanne Miller on November 28, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Jared, I have always contended that the real change is going to happen in the home. As Barbara Bush once wisely said, “The future of our country lies not in what happens in the White House but what happens in your house!” I firmly believe racism is perpetuated within families and is often passed on generation to generation. It has to stop in the home, which will filter to the community and on to the nation. Teaching children the meaning of justice, equality, responsibility and the goodness in humankind will do more to change this country than adults carrying baseball bats and shouting obsenities. That is simply being poor (and stupid) role models.

  3. Jared Angaza on November 28, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    I completely agree that that the most effective way to eradicate racism is to teach our children the importance of equality and ubuntu. We must foster that in the home daily and practice it everywhere we go until racism dissipates into nothingness. And I do believe that can be done. We’ve come a long way since the slave trade.

    I would urge you to watch unbiased coverage of what is going on around the nation right now. 90% of it is peaceful protesting. There are always going to opportunist radicals that riot and cause havoc. I hope these few are not able to blind you from seeing a truly beautiful, and much needed, movement that is arising. I have listed many links to positive coverage, rather than watching biased news channels like FOX and other local stations that prefer to show sensationalist, drama in order to provoke and divide.

  4. Jared Angaza on November 28, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    This is precisely the cowardice, weak and ignorant perspective that has fueled racism from the beginning. The “battle between the haves and the have-nots”, as you say, was never intrinsically determined by race. It was determined by wealth. Racism is manmade, and perpetuated by perspectives reflected in your comment. If you are unable to comprehend the fact that racism (in the United States) has dissipated significantly since the colonization of European slave lords, and by the general tone of your comment, I would have to assume that a rational, intelligent conversation is not in the cards. So let’s agree that you’re a racist and I’m not, and move on. Peace.

    (I approved this comment because I believe it’s important for people to understand the level of entrenched racism (blatant & nuanced) that still runs rampantly throughout the United States. Thank you for helping me prove my point.)

  5. Anonymous Coward on November 28, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    Its not that racism has changed, or that people have changed. Its that the rule of law has forced us to live by new
    rules. If you take away our laws, we are still, at our core, human. And human, at their core, are racist, biased, good, and evil.

    If all the non-whites were removed frol America, then those remaining would still find a way to positively and negatively classify each other.

    We are not equal. Its our differences that make us strong enough to move through live and progress.

    The only people that are equal are the high percentage of lazy people who are afraid to get off their butts and tske action in the world.

    Our schools recognize anger, love, and sex as fundamental. and so it educates about these things.

    But violence and racism, as the author incorrectly states, are not man made. They are intrinsic to all creatues. And maybe schools should explain why kids have guns and and why some people fuel hatred in the name of racism and or religion.

    As long as their is a need for economies and personal safety, there will be the weak, strong, lucky and unlucky. But there will not be a world where “we all just get along regarsless of race, color, or religion”

    We have been educating our kids about drugs for 30-40 years. Fail. Alcohol education. Fail.

    I know this appears negative, but I just think that trying to deal with emotomal and sentimental issues is a pointless endeavor. You cant change people. But you can change laws.

  6. Anonymous Coward on November 28, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    And as far as “starting in the home” — a very large chunk of the world dont have homes. Or food. In fact, it’s the lack of access to these things from birth.

    How can you change a parent’s behavior towards their kids when those parents either not around or were never there in the first place.

    We cant send every kid in the world to a nice cottage house where grandma bakes apple pies and tells him that whites and blacks are equal and that its just man made. Because otherwise, there would be no little kids working in production plants to build that nice new ipad for grandma so she can watch all the worldly horrors from the comfort of her freshly baked apple pie kitchen. And we all know that ipads and apple pies are more important than forcing the US government to end child worklaws in india orconcentratiom camps in south korea.

    Which leads me to the entire new level of racism where americans and french and germans think they are better than everyone.

    racial tension in the us pales in comparison to the death camps in these other countries, but we do nothing. that, to me, is classist, racist, and hypocritical. As if we are somehow more important.

  7. Jared Angaza on November 28, 2014 at 8:41 PM

    Thanks for the Nihilistic perspective. That should serve well to provide some balance in case anyone visiting this post happens to have anything positive to say. If all has gone to hell, why waste your time on a blog designed specifically to promote peace and unity? Seems like an odd place for you to hang out. I could obviously delete your comments at any time, but I try to welcome balance in the discussion. There is a line though.

    By the way, I believe the term “home” was referring to “the family”, rather than a physical location. I’ve lived in the slums of East Africa for the past 9 years. Trust me, you can have family in any situation, regardless of a physical home.

    There is injustice and hypocrisy all over the world. I designed this blog to serve as a platform to positively, constructively develop sustainable solutions to those maladies and misguided social agreements. Any fool privileged enough to have an internet connection (such as yourself) can point out the problems of the world. It takes wisdom and courage to develop real solutions. And it starts with constructive discussions. I’m happy to engage in those conversations, but this is not a forum for nihilistic hate. You might want to consider a more suitable forum for yours.

  8. Jared Angaza on November 28, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    Equality implies that we are of equal value as humans, not that we all have equal abilities, morals, personalities, etc. Nor does it imply that we should be the same. Our differences are what is so beautiful about humanity. Especially when we are able to unite, despite them. We should not be the same. However, human life should most definitely be equal in value.

    You said, “You cant change people. But you can change laws.” So…who makes the laws? Our actions derive from our perspective. And perspective is the problem we are dealing with. Yours exemplifies this.

  9. Anonymous Coward on November 28, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    I actually was rethinking my approach to this topic today.

    In fact, i dont exactly disagree with what people have written.

    My issue actually is the priorities we take with social issues.

    For example. Creating change in the home is great, but home and family are luxuries for many. Why teach people to run when they cant walk. In other words, why spend time talking about racism when the more fundamental issue is treating humanity in general the exact same. its hard to believe America is willing to crrate such war scenes in its home country in the name of racism, but not create such drama to pressure Congress to pressure change in n korea and cuba.

    we as a nation want things to be pretty. racism is ugly, but mass genocide is far uglier and yet we dont as a nation fight for that.

    so, maybe to summarize: teach your kids to fight for humanity before trying to teach them that color doesnt matter.

    the day that americans rally by the millions to prevent mass genocide… thats the day america has changed. because today, seems like the message is “protect your colored brother, but let your white cousin around the world die in a camp”

    racism simply isnt worth fighting for if you arent first willing to fight for humans in general. that isnt happening, even aftet hitler and pol pot.

  10. Jared Angaza on November 28, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    In general, I totally agree. I think we are saying it differently, but ultimately, we want the same things. I have spent about 15 years petitioning against genocide and similar issues in Rwanda, DRC, Sudan and Kenya. And I’ve spent my life petitioning for racial and gender equality in Africa and the US. Ultimately, it comes down to what I’ve written on my “ubuntu” tab on this site. It’s all connected. And it has to do with our perspective. I believe that fighting for humanity implies all the other elements I’m petitioning. I hope you’ll be a positive voice in that fight as well. We’re all connected. Peace.

  11. Josh on November 29, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    Hi Jared,

    Thank you for this highly thoughtful perspective on this topic.

    I’d like to extend on the idea of ‘family’ and connection – I fully believe in what you and Joanne are saying here. This perspective truly does begin in the home, in a family, in community. I think that one of the largest challenges my generation faces is that, despite being more ‘connected’ than any previous generation – we have continued to allow our communities and our families to become more separate than ever before. For example, virtually any city in the U.S. is a story of a blighted urban core that struggles on all fronts: high levels of violence, poverty, and dismal educational stats. Meanwhile, a small number of city areas, and large swaths of suburban communities fare astronomically better.

    The ‘anonymous coward’ on here would likely say that these divisions are a natural result of ‘human nature’. I, on the other hand, contend that it is precisely our capacity for compassion and our ability to endeavor for justice that dramatically separates us from the ‘it’s all about human nature’ perspective, which seems to view us only as mere animals. Given that, I believe that the separation in our communities, in our families, in our cities, will begin to be overcome when people living in the ‘privileged’ communities decide that what happens to the inner core of their city impacts them too. An understanding and humanization of such communities can come through actions as simple as dedicating yourself for 5 hours per month to a child in a struggling community (via a mentoring program like Big Brothers), 5 monthly hours to a community organization there, or really 5-10 monthly hours to anyone in a blighted community (who is, nonetheless part of your community) – and you can make a tremendous impact.

    Will this sort of ‘simple’ action solve all our problems? Of course not, there are many more systemic issues at play here – but the point is, when communities that have separated themselves from each other take proactive steps to re-build the fundamental connections that tie us together (regardless of color, income, religion, you name it) – that reconnecting has a profound impact on the tenor of our policies, our interactions, and the success of our community as a whole.

  12. Jared Angaza on November 29, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    Josh, thanks so much for this thoughtful response and insight. I completely agree. I believe we are created to live interdependently and in unity, with equal value. But we’ve come so far in the other direction that it’s hard to believe that is possible sometimes. I think we have a gravitational pull towards the ego and selfishness, but our purpose (and opportunity) is to overcome that pull every day. And the more we do, the more we experience our full potential as humans. And it all starts with our own individual perspective and consequent actions. Then that ripples out across our community, and beyond.

  13. Joanne Miller on November 30, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    Now this comment reminds me of a church we went to for years. We tried valiantly to have an emphasis on family. To hold up an ideal where those who don’t have a sense of family could feel loved and have a role model to try to emulate. Never worked. Everytime we tried to hold a family centered activity or event, we would be criticised because we left out the singles, the gays, the divorced, etc. Where is the ideal? Where is the NOT perfect but the role model we are trying to get to? We found ourselves apologizing for being a happy, loving family. Sounds similar to what is going on here. I know Jared’s passion and I know his heart and it comes from love and a keen sense of fairness and justice. We CAN start in our homes. We CAN start by treating others as we want to be treated instead of jumping to war or fighting. We all make choices. We will never have a Utopia because we are human beings. But we CAN strive for better lives….whether we live in a mansion or on the streets.

  14. Jared Angaza on November 30, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    Simply put, “be the change you want to see”. Obviously that starts with you (all of us) as an individual and ripples out from there, starting with those closest to you, whether they be blood relations, friends, cell mates or the person living in the dumpster next to you. My drive for an ubuntu society was no different when I spent years living on the streets, or in Africa, or anywhere else. Materials things have very little impact on my perspective. Our connection and understanding as humans always takes precedence. That’ the perspective I want to spread. And I believe it begins with a fundamental understanding that we are all humans with very different abilities, personalities, motivations, perspectives and…equal worth. We’re on a universal journey, and it’s all connected.

  15. Betty Schlacter on December 1, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    I agree change begins in the home and supported in the church and then the community.

  16. Jonathan on December 2, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Your comments are becoming more interesting than your blog

  17. Jared Angaza on December 2, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Well that’s unfortunate.

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