About a month ago, an 18-year old black youth named Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri. For weeks afterward, the country focused on Ferguson, where protestors converged to demand justice for Brown’s murder by a white police officer by the name of Darren Wilson. At night, local police began to take alarming measures to “protect public safety” which included the use of military hardware, tanks, and teargas. Like so many people around the country, I went through feelings of anger and horror about what was happening in Ferguson.
As a result of the courageous efforts of Ferguson residents day after day, a few patterns became clear. That police violence against communities of color, particularly African Americans, has to stop. That segregation of schools, neighborhoods and cities in places like St. Louis has far-reaching ramifications on access, benefits and representation. That political power has to be galvanized so that elected officials look like the communities they represent. That the practice of providing local law enforcement with surplus military hardware has dangerous consequences. And more.
How can we keep Ferguson and what it represents on our minds as time goes on? Below are some steps including resources that can be used particularly by South Asian and Asian American communities to generate discussions and conversations. If you have others to share, please do so in the comments and I’ll continue to update this list.
First Step: If You Can, Please Give
Second Step: Stay Informed.
Twitter continues to be an useful way to be updated about what’s happening in Ferguson. Using the hashtag #Ferguson, you can pull up articles and video. This week, the Ferguson City Council held a meeting where residents made their concerns clear. Read more here. Follow people like @antoniofrench, @Nettaaaaaaaa, and @tefpoe.
Dr. Martha Chatelain from Georgetown University started a crowdsourced effort on Twitter to gather resources for educators and parents to talk to their children about Ferguson. You can find these resources on Twitter with the hashtag #Ferguson Syllabus. Here’s an article by Dr. Chatelain that contains a snapshot of these resources.
Third Step: Start Conversations.
Each of us can share information and resources, as well as start conversations on our college campuses and places of worship, with community groups and our own families and friends. These conversations can be about police brutality and racial profiling, the importance of multi-racial solidarity, anti-black racism, and more. Here are some resources framed through the South Asian/Asian American lens.
- Start the conversation within South Asian communities to show solidarity and to unpack anti-black racism. Jaya Sundaresh’s piece at The Aerogram provides reasons for why: http://theaerogram.com/south-asians-ferguson-showing-solidarity/
- Ferguson matters to Asian Americans: Soya Jung’s piece at RaceFiles.com is a must-read to understand the historical reasons for black/Asian solidarity: http://www.racefiles.com/2014/08/20/why-ferguson-matters-to-asian-americans/
- Ferguson is our fight too: I wrote a piece over at The Nation.com about why Latinos, Arab Americans and Asian Americans have a stake in the issues raised in Ferguson. http://www.thenation.com/article/181331/why-all-communities-color-must-demand-end-police-brutality
- Black vs. Brown: Many of the small shops and convenience stores in Ferguson are owned by South Asian and Arab American shopowners. They have stood in solidarity with African American communities. Read Sandip Roy’s piece that looks at what could have happened, but didn’t in Ferguson: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandip-roy/an-unlikely-sliver-of-hop_b_5721138.html
Fourth Step; Take Action.
Local residents have a number of demands that folks around the country can amplify and support. Follow the work of groups like the Organization of Black States, Color of Change and the NAACP-LDF to learn how you can plug in. Groups like South Asian Americans Leading Together, Desis Rising Up and Moving and Muslims for Ferguson are also connecting with local organizers in Ferguson and providing information to communities around the country. On Tuesday evenings, local groups in Ferguson hold conference calls to update people around the country about next steps; to get call-in information, please drop me a note.