Last night, just before I shut down my laptop, I noticed a new hashtag on twitter: #16times.
As it turns out and as you probably know by now, the tag refers to the number of times 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers was shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer.
But somehow it’s not only possible, it’s pretty easy. Ferguson stayed in the news for about a week before media turned its attention elsewhere. Without twitter, it’s likely I still wouldn’t have heard about Vonderrit Myers, even though I listen to the news every morning and watch it every evening.
I’ve had a number of conversations with friends and classmates about these incidents online and IRL. And one of the prevailing questions is: what can we do?
One of the reasons I still write this blog is it helps me think about what it means to be a complete, ethical adult in 21st century America. I don’t want to just be successful at work or writing or even in my personal life. I aim to be a thinking, involved person.
I don’t have a single good answer for what to do about situations like the one in Missouri right now. But I have some ideas:
I think the first thing we should all do is pay attention. Whether we board a bus out to St. Louis or track events from our phones and computers, let’s not forget what’s happening. It’s not a passive influx of information; we have to seek it out. And for God’s sake, if we see something, let’s promise not to ignore it.
Moreover, we can directly support the affected communities.
As always, we can contact our elected officials.
And, of course, we can vote.
But perhaps most importantly, we need to start listening. The Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers shootings are part of systemic problems in America. There is an ingrained way of thinking which makes these incidents possible without a national public outcry.
So, I have this to say to my black friends: I’m so sorry if I have ever failed to take your concerns seriously. I cannot begin to imagine the inescapable challenges that you face every day. I want to hear what you have to say. I am listening. Let me know how I can help.