In America’s largest city, the judicial branch declined to pursue charges against a security officer who was videotaped in broad daylight choking a man to death. This came less than two weeks after courts in the nation’s often overlooked central region reached a similar decision in the shooting of an unarmed teenager. Both victims were members of the country’s largest minority group, and the killings have set off nationwide protests that have often escalated into clashes between dissidents and the security forces.
You’ve got to love being overseas, and reading about what is happening in America. You really get a whole new perspective. This quote comes actually from an American writer Joshua Keating at Slate who writes columns about US events using the same tone & tropes US media does about foreign events.
There has been a lot of really good writing, reporting, reflecting and analyzing coming out of the violent events of #Ferguson and #EricGarner and more. I’ve had time to read more than I normally do on my mini-sabbatical here in the Philippines. I still find it difficult to react as quickly as I’d like to, but I’m sending out a deep appreciation to the people who have taken time to do so. I am particularly drawn to the landscape analysis given my long-term interests in social change, but also have found several very influential portrait posts. Without must annotation, here are some very good posts worth reading or reading again:
White America’s Scary Delusion: Why Violence Is At The Core Of Whiteness by Dr. Brittany Cooper
Ferguson Solidarity Protests by Deepa Iyer (keynote at APANO Convention 2014)
#CrimingWhileWhite Confessions by Noam Cohen and a response #AliveWhileBlack by Zachary Goldfarb
I find it valuable to have a trove of White folks naming the privilege they’ve received in #CrimingWhileWhite, as a window into Whiteness. I think this increases the likelihood of reaching other White folks, and comes out of the context of our current US racial context. This aspect of the twitterverse provides a level of reality check for White America. I see #AliveWhileBlack less as a “response”, because I don’t think we’re debating right/wrong here, but more as an important continuation of our dialogue on race.
Encounter at Protest Leads To Hug by Gosia Wozniacki
Gosia, who is a friend, shares this followup personal reflection, particularly in light of the critiques of the photo:
After the photo of a 12-year-old African American boy hugging a white police officer in Portland went viral, it generated a lot of interesting responses on all sides. I’d like to add my thoughts to the discussion, because I’m a photographer and lover of photography. Please note these are my personal views, not those of the AP. I fought hard for the AP to print this photo, secured the rights from the freelancer to publish it, and got in touch with both the officer and the mom of the boy to write the back story of the photo. Many people reacted very positively to the image – they said it was a sign of hope, of much needed healing, and it left them weeping. But some have also criticized the photograph, saying it has shifted the attention away from the problems of racism and police brutality facing our nation. Critics also have said white people grabbed onto the image as an easy excuse that all is well after all. And they’ve accused the photographer of cropping the photo to distort reality and the officer and the boy’s mom of staging the photograph and using it as PR tool for the police. First, let me say that I’m glad this image is generating big emotions and discussion from all sides about race relations and about the meaning of photography. Did this photograph tell the truth, or not? Every photograph in existence is “cropped”. Photographers frame photos in the field by choosing a certain piece of reality and excluding everything around it. They also crop shots using editing software. These are the basic ways photography works. Every piece of photo out there is subjective and selective, because the moment and the frame are chosen by the photographer. Every photo is just a small piece of a much bigger reality and we all know and expect that. But good photographs also have the power to stop time and focus on tiny moments that we might have missed. The placement of photos in newspapers and online is important, and editors need to weigh the importance of what is newsworthy and why – but clearly, this wasn’t the only Ferguson-related photograph published last week. Also, there are circumstances I can imagine where the framing can be deceiving, when key pieces of information are missing. I don’t personally think this is the case here. One of the criticisms is that a lot of people were shooting photos of “the hug”, making the police and the boy’s reactions inauthentic. If you’ve attended any recent street protests, you know that every other activist is holding a cell phone or digital camera and taking photos or video or everything and everybody. Photography and shooting video have become ubiquitous, esp. in times of public chaos. This was a noteworthy moment, and the fact that people were paying attention with their cameras doesn’t surprise me. I wasn’t there to see the hug, and don’t know what the true motivations were, but let me offer this: When it comes to the boy, he was crying before he ever approached the cop, so I believe his emotions were sincere. When it comes to the policeman, we’ll never really know what was going through his head other than what he tells us. In the end, here’s why this photo was so compelling: on the surface, it was a positive image during a week of negative images, the element of surprise. But it wasn’t just a normal hug. What made the image a standout was the expression on the boy’s face and the story behind it. According to his mom, the boy has been struggling with the issue of police brutality and racism against black teens. He was there at the protest, bravely facing the police barricade, tears streaming down his face. And when he was hugging the officer, his face was anguished. That face said everything – it said how hard a black teen’s life is and how difficult and complicated it is to hug (read: to trust) a policeman who should be there to protect you. The struggle on this boy’s face expressed the relationship between black teens and cops. And it’s that face that should lead us all to ask why, in a country where police should work for all citizens, a black boy has to cry when hugging a white officer — and why this is even newsworthy.