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Fuel To Ferguson Flames

Protester+Boss+Bastain+of+St.+Louis+locks+arms+with+others+as+they+confront+Missouri+State+Highway+Patrol+troopers+in+front+of+the+Ferguson+police+station+on+Monday.
Protester Boss Bastain of St. Louis locks arms with others as they confront Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers in front of the Ferguson police station on Monday.

Protester Boss Bastain of St. Louis locks arms with others as they confront Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers in front of the Ferguson police station on Monday.

Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Protester Boss Bastain of St. Louis locks arms with others as they confront Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers in front of the Ferguson police station on Monday.

McKenna Blair, Editor In Chief

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This was the story of two criminals.

One criminal was an eighteen year old boy by the name of Michael Brown. His crime was the theft of five cigarillos from a store in Ferguson, Missouri, where he resided. He had threatened the store manager, who called the police. He later ignored the request of a cop, who told him to move out of the middle of the street where he was walking.

The other criminal is a man by the name of Darren Wilson. His crime is the shooting of an unarmed man, who fit the description of a suspect, in the middle of the street in Ferguson, Missouri, where Wilson served as a police officer. The man was shot six times.

When guilt can be seen at both ends of the equation, oftentimes solutions can be blurry. And in Ferguson, with tear gas haze and the dark night air lighting up with gunshots, blurry is too nice of a word.

When the decision was delivered by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch not to indict Wilson of any charges, Ferguson looked like a war zone. Live feeds streamed from every news network and corner of the internet. And where the real world was scary, social media became a virtual civil war. Ferguson is one of the first major events to result in riots for the Millennial generation, and Millennials, as pointed out in what seems like every article about them, love to share their opinion. Heatedly. Online.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Michael Brown was black. Darren Wilson is white. And that, as everyone can agree on, shouldn’t matter.

But it does. Oh, boy, does it. And with that, the story of two criminals changes: This is now the story of two criminals of different races.

As I scrolled down social media on Monday night, Twitter kept prompting me with ‘What’s happening?’, and I would just stare down at the screen, because whatever was happening was happening too fast. African American friends of mine were speaking out against whites as a whole. White friends of mine were speaking out against African Americans as a whole. Those promoting peace were just as frequent as those praising aggression.

Our generation is on a communicative disconnect from those older than us. Ron Gregory, 72,  told the Washington Post, “We were trained when we marched. We were taught if they spit on you, just wipe it off and continue marching. But we are dealing with a new breed of youngster. They say, ‘You better not spit on me.’ ”

Gregory is right. This is no longer the era of sit ins. Welcome to 2014, where racial tensions in the US are alive and well, where suddenly all white people have been labeled ‘racist’ by black people who are protesting their label of  ‘criminal’, where a dictatorship is calling a democracy “a graveyard of civil rights”, where radicalism and sensationalization are more welcomed than calm and rationalized views. Welcome to 2014, where 25% of the world’s prisoners are located in America, where next to no data is regulated about the amount of police use of lethal force per year, much less the statistics about which race appears to suffer the most. Welcome to 2014, where Twitter post-decision made everyone- white, black, rich, poor, really humans as a whole- feel like their opinion was wrong.

Young people are the future of this nation. We run social media. The message we are sending is not one of peace, though many are attempting to calm down their more radical peers. We are sending the message that we are intolerant of any injustice that happens, and that anyone who attempts to debate us is wrong and ignorant.

Minds do not change with violence. Minds do not change with the forcing of ideas down throats. Minds change with rational debate and loud voices. Minds change with education about what really happened.

Maybe the latter is why Ferguson is so difficult to nail down. Few eyewitness stories add up. Wilson’s side is degraded by those on social media, as he is the defendant, and white, and in a position of authority. And the case can be taken in so many ways: race, police brutality, gun control, lethal weapon use by officers, low income neighborhoods versus authority, minority versus authority.

Millennials, as a fellow Millennial, I ask- no, I am telling you- whichever way you take this event, do not promote the racial slurs being hurled across the internet, white or black. Keep an open mind. Listen, observe, learn, and change things with your voice, not what others are telling you is the right thing to believe, and not with your fists, or fires, or guns, or bricks.

It takes a rational voice to appeal to change. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This story does not belong to two criminals anymore. It belongs to us. So let’s make it end like it should have in the sixties: with equality, true equality, for all.

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