Opinion: Understanding the privilege behind the Ferguson verdict

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On Nov. 24, Americans experienced one of the saddest injustices in our history when the Grand Jury decided not to indict former officer Darren Wilson of all charges in the murder of 18-year-old Ferguson, Missouri, teen Michael Brown.

History repeats itself. For blacks in America, much of that history means racism, prejudice and social injustices — not exactly things we want to repeat. Since the announcement, peaceful protests ensued across not only the country, but throughout the world as well. Check any social media site and you’ll find posts and pictures of people of all colors, from New York to New Zealand protesting against the Grand Jury’s decision.

While most of the world decided to unite peacefully and protest in a call for action, it’s unfortunate that sensationalized media like CNN chose to focus on the riots and looting that broke out in Ferguson following the announcement.

I watched CNN until the wee hours of Tuesday morning, waiting for reporters to interview one – just one – protester or rioter and received nothing. This did viewers a tremendous disservice, because it gave us zero answers as to what was going through the minds of the rioters. It gave us no real information, just speculation.

Reporters’ lack of well-rounded reporting left the public to take to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram posts for videos and pictures of what was really happening in Ferguson.

There are many Wilson supporters who don’t understand the public outcry, the rage and the devastation after he was not indicted. The issue is that minorities feel as though the Grand Jury’s decision was a clear message that black lives do not matter. It didn’t matter with Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley or 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

For hundreds of years, blacks have been oppressed in this country. We can’t help it if we see color in everything – our justice system bases everything off of social class and color.

A common question some white people often ask when tragedies like this happens is, “Why is it always about color, with you people?”

My answer: just look at how the media portrays black victims in these stories.

I realize that not all Wilson supporters are white, but to the ones that are and are questioning the race card, it’s hard to see the realities of minorities because of how blinding white privilege can be. The media’s sensationalized reporting is just the tip of the iceberg with how the media dehumanizes black murder victims opposed to white mass murderers in conjunction to white privilege.

Author Tim Wise recently discussed his many bouts with privilege on his website, even going as far as initiating the hashtag #IWasNoAngelEither; an effort to alter public opinion of Brown, after the media’s many mentions of Brown’s insignificant marijuana usage.

Following Brown’s death in August, Huffington Post published a story called “When the Media Treats White Suspects Better Than Black Victims,” pointing out how the media demonizes black victims opposed to cold-blooded, white killers.

Wilson himself, even referred to Brown as a supernatural demon even though they were only about an inch apart in height and Brown was wounded more than once before being shot twice in the head.

When people ask why protesters are making a big deal about race, it’s because the case is about race.

Everything about this case was about race from the way Brown was targeted for jaywalking, to the portrayal of Brown in the media, to the fact that in a predominately black town, the jury consisted of nine white and three black people.

White people have the privilege of rarely experiencing the fear of unjustly being targeted by law enforcement. As awful as it is, white people have the privilege of murdering mass amounts of people and somehow still manage to be arrested alive. Privilege is also knowing you’ll be remembered for how great of a person you always were in the media after doing it.

White people have the privilege of committing a crime and knowing that whatever sentencing they receive, it won’t be as harsh as a minority. African Americans are incarcerated nearly six times the rate of whites, according to NAACP. White privilege is knowing that although about 14 million whites and about 2.6 million blacks report using an illicit drug, most people won’t automatically assume a white person uses some type of drug.

White privilege is knowing that although about five times as many whites are using drugs as blacks, the latter is 10 times more likely to be imprisoned on drug offenses.

So when people ask, “Why is everything always about race with you people?,” just look at the facts. The proof is in the numbers but the numbers can’t even compare to the reality of the everyday oppression of minorities.

While I don’t agree with the rioting, as a minority, I understand the anger behind it. I understand the feeling of hopelessness — the emotion and the desire to physically fight.

Ariel Crockett is a senior in mass communications.

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