There is a saying going around college campuses these days that pops up in conversations regularly. “Check your Privilege.” It is a reminder that a person’s perspective is often honed by life experience, a level of stability not marred by hunger, danger or economic peril. It’s a way to stop someone who may be staking out one position or another by asking them to consider their life experience versus someone else’s. But it is also a little condescending because it discounts the idea that people are capable of stepping outside of their own box to consider the perspectives of others.
If the story that started in Ferguson, Missouri one week ago today has taught us anything it may not be that we need to “Check our Privileges.” Maybe it is time to “Check our Assumptions.”
What have we learned?
We’ve learned that Missouri is called the Show Me State for good reason. When the world reacted to images of military level tanks and combat gear, the Governor didn’t talk about what he was going to do. He did it. We assumed it would help and it appeared to for a day or so. Unfortunately, there is looting and rioting again.
But how come, earlier in the week, we failed to realize the police officers in Ferguson were just as capable of overreacting the way so many young gang members have when settling disputes with drive by shootings and gunfire? And did anyone of us hear the police say the only reason they started carrying this level of artillery is that it is what they were facing on the street. Well, they may not have run up against too many tanks but they have encountered too many assault weapons.
Both the police and the protestors were acting out of fear. Maybe each side genuinely believed they needed to be armed to the extent they have been for protection. It was either the former head of the New York City Police Dept. or the current Chief of Police in Cincinnati who said on CNN the other night that the Ferguson police looked like kids playing with big, new toys they didn’t know how to use. The very same could be said of so many young people in this country right now who are armed with assault weapons that they use to settle disputes over girls, perceived slights and neighborhood rivalries.
Who is going to step in to get those assault weapons off the streets? Show Me Missouri.