Thoughts on Misrepresentations, Misinterpretations, Michael Brown, and Ferguson

Daniel J. Kelly

 

There’s something I was thinking about all day today. If you choose to read this please read all the way to the end. Back in the early 1980s I worked at a shelter for homeless youth (teenagers). These were kids who’d either run away from home or been kicked out by their families.

One day, a 16-year-old boy was referred to us by the Social Services Dept for housing. Social services sent us a report that included the following statement, “_________ also assaulted his mother with a bottle.” Sounds pretty scary—right? Did this young man take a glass bottle and beat his mother over the head with it?

Fortunately, the shelter’s counselor took it upon herself to investigate fully. Here’s what really happened: This kid was having a heated verbal exchange with his mother and grabbed a plastic bottle of hair conditioner and squirted it on her dress. Yes, it’s a true story.

So, the next time you hear the so-called authorities narrating events in Ferguson, MO or Gaza or Ukraine or wherever, keep this story in mind.

Context: The kid in the story above had recently come out as gay to his parents, (this was 1981). For weeks leading up to this event they had berated, belittled, and verbally abused him. They’d called him just about every name they could think of and told him he was no longer part of the family and that he should just go live on the street. When this young man had all he could take, the worse thing he did in response was squirt a little hair conditioner on his mother’s dress.

We should all have that much self-control.

Bonus: Don’t assume Michael Brown was a “thug” just because someone in authority or media frames it that way. There is more than one way to interpret images, snapshots, and even write-ups.

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