Embattled town seeks justice

There are tremendous police officers in our society today, but unfortunately, you’d have to go outside of Ferguson, Mo., to notice them.

I live in a town called Florissant, only a 10 to 15 minute drive from Ferguson, so I have spent a lot of time in both towns through the years. If you are not from Ferguson or the neighboring areas, you honestly do not know the problems that exist. There is a raw tension between law enforcement and the African-American community.

I remember several times in junior college when I would go with friends to a corner store in Ferguson to get some snacks after track practice. My friends and I were stopped by the police more than a dozen times, just to hear them say, “Where are you going?” A few officers even had the audacity to say, “Where you going, boy?” Calling an African-American “boy” is like using the N-word. There is no need to say it; you’re just intending to start a feud. It got to the point where I didn’t want to wear a hoodie with the hood up because I knew it would draw attention from Ferguson police. Other black friends have experienced the same treatment from local police, even being arrested with little explanation.

When I heard about the shooting of Michael Brown and how it happened, I immediately thought back to all the times I was stopped by police just for walking down the street. Even though there are still questions to be answered, the fact remains that another African-American was gunned down in St. Louis. I knew moments after hearing about this tragic event that it would not sit well in this community, and that the shooting would only add fuel to already heated encounters with law enforcement. I did not expect that Ferguson would become national and international news. I wanted my town to be put on the map for successful young African-Americans who make a positive impact on our society. Instead, my town looks like a ruthless battleground with racial inequality spread throughout the town.

Around this community it can be challenging to find positive role models who make a difference. Far too many local high school students let education go to waste, but it’s education that can lead uninspired teens to a promising future. Ever since high school I’ve been told I could not make it to college. I simply let journalism be my safe haven to cut out the racially entrenched community around me. I obtained an associate and bachelor’s degree in journalism. I did this hard work not just to prove I can be a successful African-American, but for all the African-Americans who wish to do the same. I hope and pray this community can be blessed with equality someday, but it just seems that it is very far from it, especially with the fallout from the Michael Brown case engulfing the area.

People of this community, and any other community, are entitled to express their freedom of speech and protest freely. However, rioting and looting is never the answer. This is causing more harm than good in trying to get justice for Michael Brown. I also believe the thousands of police officers in the streets of Ferguson firing off tear gas nightly is not helping any cause at all. Reporters are barely able to do their jobs in Ferguson without being subject to arrest, which seems to be violating First Amendment rights. The bottom line is people will continue to line the streets of Ferguson until there is a verdict to this messy ordeal of a case. This town wants one thing and one thing only: justice.

Jeremy Thomas is a Southern alumnus and former sports editor for The Chart. He reports news and sports for The Independent News of Florissant, Mo.