By David Ragland
While going between Ferguson, New York and Pennsylvania since Early August, one of the protest chants from Ferguson stuck with me: “The whole damn system is guilty as hell the whole damn system is guilty as hell.” As a peace learner and educator, I cannot but help to reflect on that statement, especially in the wake of what has become an all but forgone conclusion that a non-indictment of Darren Wilson is coming. In that protest statement, we are all implicated, as we each benefit from different kinds of privileges, while simultaneously experiencing indignities related to our identities and rooted in structural violence and injustice. In that we are all connected. Ferguson has been building for sometime now and we are immersed in this epochal time that seems to be a cavalcade of controversy and tragic events erupting in protests, police and military repression and news of ‘unrest’ from around the world.
I cannot help but reflect on how these issues and a myriad of others are holistically connected: from police violence to ecological degradation. As a peace educator, I believe we have to help our society develop a kind of moral imagination and capacity for peace and political efficacy in times that demand we be engaged. As of now the social creativity for violence is high and shamefully absurd. So the time I’ve been spending in Ferguson and St. Louis at protests and in conversation, I’ve also been reflecting on my life as a Black man and the importance of solidarity, critical thinking and learning… to discern or learn about injustice with those who experience our participation in it… to begin disarming and dismantling this racist-sexist-militaristic system – because “all lives matter.”
As a result, some colleagues and I began a project that brings together a collaboration between the Center for Educational Equity with the Peace and Justice Studies Association to hold structured dialogues and convene a truth-telling process, calling on victims of police violence from Ferguson, the surrounding areas, and across the nation to come to St. Louis and speak truth about this brutalization and what they believe are the root causes. Only when voices from the ground are heard (not government sponsored offices) and experiences validated is healing possible. Truth-telling that leads to reconciliation and peace is not some week or month-long event, but based on a human dignity and rights framework that requires a real commitment to listening. If you are tired of hearing about this, consider how people of color in this country are tired of the indignities they experience. To learn about, support be a part of such important initiatives, visit: tinyurl.com/thetruthspeaks