This age group of young adults does not have the experiential base that older adults have, and they make mistakes—sometimes big mistakes. My role was to unravel the mistakes and provide direction, often through the college’s judicial system. Hundreds upon hundreds of young adults have sat opposite me to explain why they did what they did.
I mention the above because when I try to understand the Ferguson situation, my focus is the 18 year old who wrongly reached into the police car. Why did he do this?
Whether Michael Brown was impaired or not on August 9th, he was not thinking clearly. He angrily responded to a dark-skinned store owner and then a white officer, both of whom had given a command. Did he react because of race? Or, did he react because these men were ordering him to do something?
Though we will never know what Michael was thinking, I offer my opinion:
I believe Michael (a child wrapped in the body of a very large man) was asserting himself. He was declaring that no one was going to push him around. On that fateful day, he was focused on his experience of power or self-worth.
We may never know what preceded Michael’s actions on August 9th that led him to assert himself as he did, but we can know the environment in which he lived -- the struggle and the poverty.
President Obama has declared that “nothing of any benefit results from destructive acts,” and I too hold this as true. Though I understand why people are protesting in the streets, for me Michael’s untimely death is an urgent call to address the needs inherent in impoverished communities. The most important element, I believe, is education.
We have a collective responsibility to ensure that our youth grow up knowing how precious they are. If we can better provide them with the tools they need to navigate life (a sense of personal dignity, an experience of their gifts and talents, a means to find a job), we will transform our country--and maybe we will not have another "Ferguson."
May you rest in peace, Michael.