A White man’s reaction to Ferguson, and an important Thanksgiving message

MSR Editorial








By Alan Fine

Guest Commentator

My name is Alan Fine. I was a candidate for U.S. Congress in 2006. I have been a faculty member at the Carlson School of Management for nearly 20 years now.

For six summer over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to teach many disadvantaged minority students entrepreneurship at the Carlson School (most of which have been people of color) through the “Lead Program” sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and through the jEM program housed within the department of Business Community and Economic Development at the University of Minnesota.

In reflecting upon Ferguson, when I saw the prosecutor lay out the case in favor of Officer Wilson, I thought that it plainly revealed that Officer Wilson clearly acted in self-defense. His interest in releasing all of the evidence to the press seemed as though it served to provide transparency to the situation (which I thought was the right thing to do).

However, I was then confused about why the demonstrations afterwards. Because, if Michael Brown had in fact robbed a convenience store and attacked the police officer, why should there be riots?

Without my experiences, I would assume (as a White person) that these people are just crazy. And that is much of what I hear from White people. But, from my experience, I think that the Black community is frustrated from being treated unfairly in general in this society.

Moreover, regarding Officer Wilson, I am sure that many people of color wonder why he wasn’t prepared to use a Taser against an unarmed Black man rather than bullets i.e., are there other ways to subdue an unarmed person that does not involve lethal force. Most of us do not understand the current dynamic between police and the community in Ferguson, nor the plight of people of color living in that community. We see, solely, this one situation. So, we have difficulty assessing attribution in this context.

This past summer, I remember getting off the bus with some students from the jEM program to do community service at the Oak Park Center in North Minneapolis. At the same time, President Obama had arrived and was speaking at Lake Harriet Bandshell. The welcoming that I received from the children of Oak Park, as we arrived 30 minutes late due to the president’s motorcade causing traffic delays, was one of the most beautiful experiences ever.

These children, at least 50 of them standing in the front yard of the Oak Park Center singing to us their good morning song (with the entire staff and many parents) as we exited the bus (and they waited for us), was something that I wish all of you could experience and see how beautiful all these children were, as well as this community. I just wanted to embrace them all and felt that their greeting was fit for a president of the United States, and I was just a teacher working with students to pull weeds and plant some flowers.

The one thing that most of us forget is that most all of us are born out of the joyous union of two people in happiness. And under the surface, all people are built from the same mold. If you venture into these communities, you may be surprised by the warmth and love with which you are greeted.

So, I encourage our community to go and explore the other sides of town and do community service and open your hearts to the plight of others including those brothers and sisters in our community that are of different racial, religious and national backgrounds. Expose yourself to the beautiful diversity that is our country and through it, gain understanding, a sensitive heart and thoughtful understanding and actions.

Lastly, Thanksgiving was originally a holiday established to bring Indians and settlers together in peace. We typically go home to our families and talk about what we are thankful for. Maybe, instead, we should take this holiday as an opportunity to bring together our diverse community in friendship and brotherhood, to bring people of diversity around our tables and unite as one community in celebration of our diversity.

Recognize that we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and just for all. Some food for thought!

Alan Fine lives in Minneapolis.