How Ferguson Proves The World Is Getting Better

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“It seems so hopeless,” my wife said.  “The world is just getting worse all the time.”
“Nope,” I said.  “It’s getting better.”
The thing about watching the abysmal police violence in Ferguson is that this is not unusual.  The cops have been mistreating black kids for years.  When I was young, I had a black friend who I used to play with.  Years later, I discovered that he got himself shot by the cops.  He was handcuffed at the time, and on the ground, but whoops apparently he was a threat.
There’s been excessive brutality to blacks all along.  You just didn’t have to pay attention to it.
But thanks to cell phone cameras and Twitter, we now have a situation where it is literally much harder to hide a body.  What’s happening in Ferguson is not the sign that oh my God, it’s hopeless – the fact that this has made front-page headlines despite the fact that CNN and Fox were initially ignoring it like all the other cop shootings is proof that we’re making progress.  Slow progress, and redundant progress – yes, similar things have happened before, and will happen again in the future…
…but don’t confuse the exposure of a problem with the intensity of the problem.  Blacks have gotten the raw end of the deal from cops for over a century now.
But thank God we’re looking it in the face.
And it’s like Occupy Wall Street, which I’ve come around on.  Initially, I thought, “Well, they’re not activists, they’re just raising a question.”  And I’ve come to realize that even in the absence of a focused agenda, raising the question can do a lot of good.  No, Wall Street hasn’t been torn down brick by brick yet, but I’ve seen a lot more debates in mainstream media about whether greed is good, and it’s been a lot harder to smother questions about “Why should these dudes have all the money?” with the usual conservative grumblings of “Class warfare, harrumph” because, well, we’ve opened up a debate.
Ferguson probably won’t end well for Ferguson.  I suspect the status quo will reign there after the media leaves.  But we’ll have tossed another question into the mainstream media to debate, which is “How many people do cops kill in the course of their duty?” – and guess what?  Not surprisingly, the government isn’t collecting that data.  Now, thanks to Ferguson, we’ve got people assembling that data, and now we’ve got people asking, “So really, how comfortable are we with these numbers?”
It’s a slow change.  It’s not happening on Twitter time.  Political shifts take years.  But I think Ferguson will be a high-water mark in terms of getting people to understand that yeah, you can have a city that’s 67% black with a police force that’s 94% white.  People will start wondering if that’s fair.  And some people, God bless you activists, will decide that it’s not and start trying to fix that.
It may take decades for this to work.  The Stonewall Riots were all the way back in 1969.  And forty-five years later, gay activists are finally seeing the payoff for that.
Visibility doesn’t equal immediate action.  Or victory.  Nothing guarantees victory.
But you can’t have anything else without visibility.  And man, this is like a needle to the eye.

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