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Apathy towards Ferguson dangerous and unsettling

December 3, 2014
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“Apathy: lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern.”

I will preface this by saying that I am a white female raised in middle-class Michigan. I speak from a space of privilege. I do not know the fear of being killed and racism does not affect me on a daily basis.

I am not black, I am not oppressed and I do not have a right to speak in the place of those that are. All I can do is support the voices fighting so hard to be heard.

South African social rights advocate Desmond Tutu is quoted as saying, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” and to be completely frank, the last few weeks have terrified me.

In regards to the outrage over the grand jury decision on Michael Brown, I am afraid for my generation and what is to come.

It is not the protesting or the rioting that is frightening; for after all, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

It is on the nation to listen to that language, to listen to the silenced. However, the reaction to the decision made me ashamed of my own generation.

It is the apathy regarding the decision that scares me. It was a lack of reaction on the part of many.

The night of the decision, a number of people not immediately affected were more interested in watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” or “Dancing With the Stars.” WTVC Channel 9, a news station, posted a tweet stating, “Don’t worry, Dancing With the Stars will be back on after a special report.”

People posting on social media were unfollowed or unfriended when sharing Ferguson updates. People were sent messages asking them to stop posting anything related because it made them uncomfortable. On Tumblr there’s a list of websites said to be censoring Ferguson posts and articles or hiding them as “adult content.”

Many of those who were apathetic were not black, not oppressed and viewed the situation as irrelevant. While many people of all races stepped up to show support, there were also large numbers that could not have cared less.

This implies that society, when faced with one of the biggest stories of the year, doesn’t care if it’s not immediately relevant to them. Society is apathetic about the Ferguson protests and the grand jury decision because it’s easy to shove aside and forget about it if you are not directly affected by racism or violence.

Society is apathetic about the human rights issue that is being protested across the world because their siblings, their family members and their children are still alive. They will still go to college and get married and start families of their own without the fear of being gunned down in the street.

Social media posters are complaining about burning cars or burning flags, about how “violent” and “out of control” these protests are. These “acts of violence” don’t frighten me. Protests that originally began as peaceful turned violent at police interaction, which although is something to be feared is not the most frightening for me.

The fact that people my age, people in my generation — the voters and the people that will soon be inflicting change and laws — don’t care, is terrifying.

In the speech President Barack Obama gave regarding the decision and the reaction, he stated, “We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation.”

Whether people are willing to accept it or not, this is a national issue. This is an issue that has significance in everyone’s daily life. It is something that everyone should care about; not just the people in Missouri, not just people of color and not just black people.

Over Thanksgiving break many of my acquaintances complained about arguments with family members over the protests — family members who asked, “What’s Ferguson?” or “What do you mean? What’s happening down there?” and even family members and friends who decided to condemn Brown or to support Darren Wilson without knowing the full story or going solely off of what other people have decided to say.

This lack of interest in being informed is astounding and abhorrent.

How can you not be invested in an issue of human rights and social justice when Ferguson plasters it on front pages and television screens and explodes on social media? If you have chosen silence, if you have chosen not to care, you have chosen the side of the oppressor, the wrong side of history.

From protests across the country in New York and Los Angeles, to supporters in Palestine and China, the world has come together in support of Ferguson protesters. The world has turned an eye on the United States.

If the whole world is watching, why aren’t you?

Danyelle Morrow is a graphic designer at The State News. Reach her at dmorrow@statenews.com.

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