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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Earlier this week, I arrived for a scheduled visit with a medical professional and left reeling over just how divided we remain in this country about race.

I had just settled into the examining chair when he walked into the room and said, “This country, I’m telling you, we are in real trouble here.”

I nodded and said, “Ferguson?”

“Yeah” he said, shaking his head. He rattled off his concerns in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who visited Ferguson days after the shooting, is a “troublemaker who’s just making everything worse.” The police officer who killed Brown “had to have a good reason. You know he did.”

I interrupted to point out that the teenager was unarmed when he was shot six times. He shrugged his shoulders.

“He was 6 feet 4 and weighed 300 pounds,” he said. “Think about that. Now we have rioting in the streets.”

I was stunned.

“We really don’t know yet what happened between him and that police officer,” I said.

“We can imagine,” he said.

My turn to rattle off what we did know: Brown’s body lay in the street for hours. Ferguson is overwhelmingly black with an overwhelmingly white police force and city government. Most of the protesters have been peaceful. Police wore military gear as if residents were a foreign enemy. Journalists were being arrested for just trying to do their job.

He held up his hands. “OK, OK,” he said, smiling. “Maybe we should just stop talking about it.”

What struck me about this exchange, beyond the inappropriateness of the venue, was his assumption that our mutual whiteness meant I would agree with him. I left feeling as if I’d just time traveled back to 1972 for an argument with my dad about race.

I’ve had a little time to reflect on my encounter with that doctor, and I think what bothers me most is that I know he represents a significant segment of white America — so certain in his assumptions, so blind to the privilege of race that fuels them.

A Pew Research Center poll released earlier this week revealed a deep racial division over what is happening in Ferguson.

From the study: “By about 4 to 1 (80 percent to 18 percent), African-Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47 percent to 37 percent, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.”

Lack of empathy, codified.

I am embarrassed and discouraged.

I address this to white parents: Imagine for just a moment that instead of Michael Brown, your child lay dead on the hot pavement in Ferguson. An awful thing to ask you to do, I know, but for us, it’s just a fiction.

Your child, who was unarmed, has been shot six times, twice in the head. The police officer who shot him didn’t call it in right away, didn’t try to revive your son. No EMT crew rushed him to the hospital. Instead, police let him lie in the street. For hours.

Now think of the stupidest thing your teenager has ever done. We all have stories of our kids doing something in complete contradiction of how they’ve been raised. We shake our heads at the memory of it. They survived. They turned out OK.

Now go back to that dead teenager on Canfield Drive in Ferguson. Imagine that’s your kid who did something stupid. Your kid, but this time he didn’t get to learn from his mistake. He’s dead, and more than a week later, no one agrees on why.

I’m tired of admonishments from other whites to wait until all the evidence is in before we talk about what is happening in Ferguson.

Let it be, they say. Let justice run its course.

As if we can’t have an opinion about an unarmed black teenager shot dead in the street.

As if we aren’t entitled to demand a full accounting of the shooting.

As if we have forgotten what happens when good people choose to shut up and walk away.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ([email protected]) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

AFP Photo/Scott Olson

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  • 1standlastword

    Just can’t wait to hear the officer’ thoughts about what was going on in his head then and his after the fact reflections. Will the horror of that moment seem minor to the horror after the fact? I presume he felt more rage than fear. There had to a lot of pinned up rage released in a kill like that.

    • joe schmo

      Boy, are you brainwashed. Just read an interesting article written by Larry Elder, a black best selling author and radio host. I feel this article fits.

      ‘While media covered Ferguson as if it were D-Day, there were other
      incidents of “racial” news that never became national stories:

      A rabbi in Miami, walking to the synagogue, was murdered by two young black males. Crime unsolved.

      A black homeless man was stabbed to death by six illegal aliens last
      month. No national debate on porous borders and the crime committed by

      A 72-year-old white man is seen on video knocked down by a young black man ?- apparently part of the so-called Knockout game.

      In Philadelphia, a black park ranger was brutally beaten by a black
      skater when the ranger told him skating was not allowed there. All was
      captured on video tape.

      For the third time in as many years, a Chinese graduate student at
      USC was murdered in South Central Los Angeles last month. Four teens
      have been arrested, including one illegal alien. Were these Chinese
      students racially profiled? No national debate on the issue of crime
      committed by illegal aliens who enter through our porous borders?

      By all means, investigate the Ferguson shooting. But where’s the perspective?

      The No. 1 cause of preventable death for young black men is homicide.
      For whites, it’s unintentional injuries, such as car accidents. And if a
      high percentage of the kids in a neighborhood are without dads, and if
      those children are 20 times more likely to end up in jail, isn’t this a
      far bigger problem than the rare instance in which an unarmed black
      person — unjustifiably or not — is killed by a cop?’

      • Clifford Cj Tate

        And the fact that you felt the need to post this further illustrates the point of the article! People of your ilk LOVE it when other black people point out these kids of things against other black people!! NONE OF WHICH has ANYTHING to do with what happened in Ferguson!!

      • latebloomingrandma

        You could have skipped this whole post. Your ending says it all. It’s all Obama’s fault. No wonder he is being so careful about what he’s saying.

      • techBob

        Brainwashed much? None of the tragedies you list involve Law Enforcement
        killing an unarmed citizen. Do you really not understand the difference? If we ever expect to co-exist this event cannot be shrugged off.
        What if your “black officer” did the same to a white youth? Do you really think justice would take it’s time to contemplate charging the officer? Do you think the Blue Wall of silence would protect him?
        Wake up,

      • winnona

        I’m not going to waste a lot of words on you (you probably wouldn’t understand them anyway)..but your username says it all “joe schmo” the kind of name a TRUE moron would take…

      • cpbis

        I understand your view(s) on this situation but why bring Obama into it? He did not condemn anyone! It seems whenever something goes array Obama is somehow at fault. C’mon!

      • Joyce

        joeschmo, and you had to quote somebody else for this lame-brained point of view.

      • Sand_Cat

        One little, tiny problem with all of your little “tit for tat” bullshit examples: NOT ONE of them involved shootings by the police or other government officials supposedly enforcing the law, and keeping the peace. And you’re not even aware enough to realize it.
        Yes, it’s all the black community’s fault: they obviously all deserve the death penalty for the most trivial of misdemeanors, or for no other reason than a cop was feeling angry and paranoid and knew he could get away with it.
        But we’re the race-baiters, aren’t we, Joe? The bigots like you who essentially cheerlead for police brutality and other misconduct against dark-skinned people aren’t racists. How DARE anyone “play the race card” when people like you walk around with “racist bigot” all over everything they say and do in the political arena. But this is all of a piece with your declaration that the NAACP, ACLU, SPLC are “hate groups.” Yes, they hate injustice and bigotry, and you hate them for it.
        You whine about a lack of research: it’s obvious you’ve never researched this issue, or – more likely – no amount of research and no facts or evidence will ever convince you that it’s open season on the poor, because you see them in your mind as black.

      • JPHALL

        As usual you missed the point. The whole point is that the news media always picks a story that sells. They, both liberal and right wing media outlets. are a business. The other stories happen all the time and like you most American could care less. If the story does not sell, the news media puts it on the back burner till it has legs of its own.

      • 1standlastword

        You can take the 8 comment made below in my absence as accurate to my sentiment for your off topic, way out in left field remarks.
        Man you’ve got a dead pan ear for sure! Can’t hear the theme

    • Sand_Cat

      You probably never will.

  • sigrid28

    Walking in the shoes of the other person–a helpful prescription for our troubled times. Just take your kids to Good Will, or its equivalent in your neighborhood, and try this exercise, which cannot be replicated by a video game. It requires real feet and real shoes. This excellent article reminds me of the closing argument in “A Time to Kill” (1996), the film adaptation of a John Grisham novel. An attorney asks jurors to close their eyes and imagine a crime–the rape and beating of a child in which the young victim is tossed over a bridge and left for dead, but survives. Then, the defense attorney says, “Imagine she is white.” It worked in the novel in 1989 and in the film in 1996, but somehow over the next two decades, we seem to have lost our capacity for empathy of this kind, if the racial divide about Ferguson is any indication. As parents, we hope our children will never know what it is like to experience the shock and grief of violence, in real time, when what you might have dreaded for so long or only suspected for a moment comes overcomes you in a way you will never forget. Does the failure of empathy with respect to Ferguson to suggest an atrophy the collective imagination that could, in the end, hobble it, causing future generations to lose a capacity we all used to count on, whether to avoid danger or to disarm a potential enemy: the capacity to understand what another person was thinking or feeling.

  • Dominick Vila

    The fact that tragedies like this, the looting and destruction of property that followed, and the attempts to defend the indefensible, are still happening in the USA is an embarrassment.

  • ellen

    goof for you, connie . I have an afican American son in law (i’m white). while we too wonder what would make a policeman leave that boy lying there, we also are able to talk bout it. i’m afraid we both agree with you. there would hae been no conversation with my dad! nothing to talk about! I feel very bad about what is happening and pray it settles down soon. bur, only charges and a trlal will hope to bring justice.

  • paulyz

    We need to discuss the entire conditions that lead to these types of conflicts. After spending Trillions of dollars for social-programs, head-start, diversity training, multi-culturism, quotas, welfare & food-stamps: conditions are worse in our inner-cities. The crime in these inner-cities create distrust & fear, & rightly so, and many police officers have to deal with life & death situations every day. When will some of these so-called Black Leaders stop with the us against them mentality & take steps to stop the conditions that lead to criminal behavior and an attitude of hate & division? Add to this the bad economy for 6 straight years, Millions of Illegals taking jobs & belonging to gangs, fatherless children, high costs of gas, etc, & things will never get better for them. This is what needs to change.

    • winnona

      Just felt like spewing some more bigot BS did you? These few words is all your comment is worth, for all the characters you wasted.

      • paulyz

        Don’t like to face the Truth do you??

        • winnona

          LMAO! Sure WHEN there is a truth to face…*shrug* NONE to see here in your asinine comment.

    • JPHALL

      Isn’t it strange that this happened after six years of right wing bigots lying about President Obama? Not only lying, but spewing racist nonsense about him and his family. If you do not belief this just go to, or any other right wing site and check it out for yourself. Stuff that would be flagged on any straightforward site is standard for them..

      • paulyz

        Please stop listening MSBC’s Socialist propaganda. Didn’t you know that the officer’s face was smashed & swollen, while he was lying on his back in the squad car, while Brown was trying to grab his gun? You Liberals so quick to play the race card before even knowing the facts.
        p.s. Even Chris Matthews is all over Obama about his foreign policy.

        • winnona

          You must be watching that FOX Noise garbage…by ALL accounts, this young man was not fighting, but surrendering WITH HIS HANDS UP. Even the autopsy reports confirm the positions of his hands/body when he was EXECUTED WITH 6 GUN SHOTS…you really stupid enough to think it took that many shots to stop a man??? C’mon, face the truth yourself…that victim wasn’t even close enough to that murderer to be a threat…now suddenly they come up with this “facial injury BS.

        • JPHALL

          Talk about listening to propaganda. Where did you get your information about the officer’s swollen face? Faux news or the Breibart Report? Once again here you are spouting unsupported slurs without answering my response about racist remarks made against Obama and his family. I have always given you right wingers a chance to prove your point, but I see you are nothing more than an ideologue with nothing to support your statements. Go back to Breibart and the other losers..
          Subject: Re: New comment posted on Ferguson: A Failure Of Empathy

        • kimhusseinbrunelle

          LOL!! There’s a good chance that paulyz gets his news from The Blaze…which we all know is the cornerstone of journalistic integrity. HaHaHaHaHa!! They were all over this fake story, even going so far as to use some old MRI scan in an attempt to prove their lies.That’s some choice wingnut propaganda someone is eating up like ice cream!

  • itsfun

    Let justice run its course. It seems that some just want to lynch the officer.

    • winnona

      LMMFAO! @ such foolishness as you spout! “It just seems some want to lynch the officer.” Hell, the folks in Ferguson just want this man, who shot an unarmed young man 6 TIMES, in jail!!! That’s not too much to ask…any one of us who had done the same would be sitting in jail (or out on bond) until the trial!

      • itsfun

        Just a what if: What if the officer was being beaten by a 300 pound man and was in fear of his life? Would he be justified in protecting himself by shooting the attacker? Yes the man was shot 6 times, maybe the officer was tying to stop him by wounding him, but the arm shots didn’t stop him. If something like this happened, then we wouldn’t be in jail or out on bond.

        • DennisRL

          And so if this officer is indicted and found guilty, will you then admit his culpability? I doubt it. You will just move on to your next ring wing goofy cause with no response at all…exactly as will happen with the rest of the right wing media. It’s always the same with these polarizing events. As soon as the right is proven wrong, they just move on to something else and never admit they’re wrong about anything.

          • itsfun

            If the officer is indicted and found guilty, he should be punished according to the law. Its that simple. I have no ideal how you can make this a right or left issue.

          • Sand_Cat

            Because people on the right have made all sorts of things that shouldn’t be left-right issues into left-right issues: science, voting rights, racism and other discrimination, compassion, basic honesty and integrity, and lots of others.
            If the police have nothing to hide, why are they going to such lengths to obfuscate? Why did they threaten military assaults on peaceful demonstrators?

        • JPHALL

          But he also would not have gone into hiding right away, refusing to talk to the media. The Chief of Police would have made a statement saying something similar to what you propose. Instead we got nothing for days until the video was released, and the Officer still has said nothing. That is usually how a cover up occurs. In California the Highway Patrol tried that but in the end handed the case over to the DA.

          • itsfun

            I would think the officers lawyer and/or union has told him to not talk to anyone.

          • JPHALL

            Right. Funny though, not even the Police Chief or the police union have come out strongly for this officer. Usually they both would have spoken up instead of just leaks about the victim. Subject: Re: New comment posted on Ferguson: A Failure Of Empathy

        • winnona

          WHAT IF??? LMAO @ your foolishness. We’re not talking about “what ifs”, but what IS. 1) Mike Brown was NOT a “300 lb. man” 2) Mike Brown was NOT “beating Darren Wilson”, so that he had to protect himself; by ALL accounts, he was YARDS away with his hands up. 3) After the first couple of shots, Mike Brown was on his knees with his hands up (and falling, which is why [according to autopsy doctors] he had a shot going through the TOP of his head. Come out of your fairy tale, rationalize for the policeman, FOX Noise bubble.

          • itsfun

            How did the officer get a broken eye socket? Several witnesses have come forward and are saying the officer was being beaten. Lets wait until all the facts are in.

          • winnona

            Awww, c’mon!! And it’s taken nearly TWO WEEKS for that little item to come to light? You see, that’s been one of the most glaring faults of this whole affair…TOTAL LACK OF TRANSPARENCY BY THE FERGUSON POLICE DEPT. “Dripping out” small amounts of information [that they think will affirm D. Wilson’s position] to the public. Where have these “witnesses” been this whole time? YOU’RE so willing to grasp onto this foolishness in the attempt to smear Mike Brown’s character and make him appear to be a violent “thug” that it’s obvious where your preferences lie…Now I’m through with you and your rationalizations…you’re a waste of time and typing.

          • itsfun

            You are so wrong about how I feel on this. My position is and always has been to let justice take its course. None of us know what really happened. Remember the reports of how he was shot in the back. I imagine that lawyers are telling the police dept and the officer what they can and can’t say. We need to wait before hanging the officer. If he is guilty of murder, then he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

          • winnona

            HOW IN THE WORLD CAN YOU SAY THAT “NONE OF US KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPENED”??? Are we suppose to discount the EYEWITNESSES who saw it all??? WHY, because they are BLACK??? It’s not as if [at least two of them, out of three] they all knew Mike Brown…IF there was “justice”, D. Wilson would have been arrested, and out on bond LIKE ANY OF US IN THE SAME SITUATION [and policemen should be held to a higher standard, after all], OR OUT ON BOND, WHILE THE INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL IS ‘RUNNING IT’S COURSE’!!!!!

          • itsfun

            We don’t know exactly what happened. Some “eyewitnesses” stories conflict. We need to be patient and wait for all of the facts to come out. Police officers are not thrown into jail every time they shoot someone in the line of duty. It is still to be determined if this is the case. They may be put on desk duty or suspended until the investigation is completed. Some say Mike Brown was charging him, others say he was standing with his hands in the air. Some said he was shot in the back, the autopsy says otherwise, If YOU are in fear for your life, you can defend yourself.

  • Diana Owens

    When I woke up his morning I thought in light of the incidents in St. Louis of allegedly Michael Brown and another black man being killed by police after shoplifting, maybe it should be posted in businesses, “Beware, Shoplifters could be executed by police, especially if you are black.” The story that went unnoticed about a obviously mentally disturbed man being shot twelve times for having a knife, and moving toward the police, could have been handled differently. They could have tasseled him or shot the knife out of his hand. When he reportedly was shouting “shot me!” He was obviously asking for “suicide by police”, is it against the law to assist in suicide in Missouri ? Yes, Connie Schultz is right, in these incidents, there appears to be no empathy. Either material things or worth more than life or black people’s or anyone’s life is not worth the same as mini cigars, or energy drinks. Who appointed some people judge and jury? The bankers and people on wall street that were responsible for the greatest thief of all in 2008 did not get any prison time. Are they more valuable because they have money? Whatever happened to “Love God, and your neighbor as you love yourself?” Do some people feel they are God?

  • Diana Owens

    Are we becoming a people like Isisl, barbaric, killing each other out of fear, and because we think we have power, and want power, and can’t tolerate others who don’t think like us or practice the same beliefs or religion as we do? The constant disrespect and accusing the president of being a Muslin, because some can’t accept him, because of the color of his skin, even when his mother was the same as them, is the same kind of mentality. Hate begats hate.

  • Emilio

    I think it is important to understand that while whites may have an opinion about whether or not this is a racial issue, I would argue that their opinion counts for far less, if at all. This is an examination about perception, not fact and as such, doesn’t sit well in the light of the statistical flavor of a survey. The perceptions of these groups do not hold equal weight. It is far too easy for whites to insist that this is not a racial issue, they have no stake in the issue as part of a group that knows itself to be oppressed. Citing the polling numbers makes it look like this is some sort of question that can be objectively weighed, but it cannot and should not try to appear so. Whites and other groups can insist that this is not a racial issue as long as they care to, but it only means that they cannot listen, cannot empathize, cannot see from another perspective and therefore will only continue to support the status quo, which may be beneficial to them, but is a oppressive force in the lives of their fellow human beings across town and across the country.

  • ExRadioGuy15

    That doctor represents the view of way too many GOP Progressives and Moderates, who are uncomfortable talking about the sad state of their party, especially the sad fact that the GOP are deep into Fascism. It’s not “polite conversation” to tell the truth here; instead, we’re supposed to minimize the GOP’s Fascist ideology while employing “false equivalency” to wrongly claim that the Democrats are just as bad.
    For more than two years, this long-time Non-Affiliated voter (24 years) has been imploring GOP Progressives and Moderates, who employ false equivalency to make themselves feel better about being GOP and to continue to vote GOP, to vote for the group of politicians that TRULY represent them now: Democrats.
    It’s not false equivalency to say that the GOP and Demos have gone to the right. But, considering that the starting points were where they were, the GOP leadership now truly represents a superminority of loud, wrong and insane Fascist ideologues (psychopaths and sociopaths) and the Democrats represent everybody else.
    BTW: the “Firebaggers”, Libertarians within the GOP, have made headway with their adherence to one of the five Tenets of their party: radical social liberalism. Don’t be fooled, outside of that social liberalism, Firebaggers are Republicans. I call them Fascism-suborning (instead of straight Fascists) because their form of government would lead to a Fascist regime overthrowing it.
    Electing Democrats this fall will help break the GOP’s Fascist grip on this country.
    BTW II: a lack of empathy is one of the signs of sociopathy and psychopathology…

  • Elbert Dempsey

    My empathy for the black race died any years ago. Thee incidents are not happening because of white on black racism or police prejudice. They are happening because the young black men are out of control and bent on doing as much damage to everything around them that they can. They are arrogant, nasty disposition, criminal, ignorant and uneducated, listless, lazy and do not even know there is such a thing as morality. Black men, if you don’t hate them, you don’t know them.

    • DennisRL

      you are the exact example of what this article is talking about. Your response is totally racist and stupid. I’m white and know a number of blacks who are responsible, smart, ambitious and good people. On the other hand, I know a number of whites who are just as you described the blacks. So your comments are the very definition of prejudice and racism by judging a whole race with one description.

  • howa4x

    The chief obviously didn’t attend a crisis communication course. Starting out with a cover story for the officer involved flew in the face of the community and started the protests
    Imagine if he instead said as a 1st statement: 1This is a tragic loss of life.
    2 My heart goes out the parents of this boy 3 we will conduct a fair and thorough investigation
    If he said that there would be no protests or riots. Clearly he was insensitive to the community he represents

  • kimhusseinbrunelle

    I’ve written many words about this subject since the tragic shooting of Michael Brown so I won’t repeat them here. All I would like to say is that whenever I start to lose faith in the integrity of so many journalists, there are those like Connie Schultz who restore that faith. Thank you Connie for saying what many white people, people with a sense of empathy and the desire for justice for all are feeling right now. It’s comforting to know that someone with an international platform is out there refusing to be silent and continuing to fight for what is right.

  • ps0rjl

    Someone once said the first casualty of war is truth. Maybe that’s true in incidents like in Ferguson.

  • ridemybroom

    IM sorry but i think alot of you has it wrong…Micheal Brown was a loser…a thug…a thief…. and a robber…he was not a “HERO”…we all saw the video how he tried to choke hold the store owner…but somehow you people dont want to see that…..Micheal Brown got what he deserved as far as i am concerned….you dont go around doing ugly to people and think you can get away with it…dont work like that in my eyes sight…they should put is parents on trial for raising a kid like him…..he paid the ultimate price cause his ways got caught up to him…and for the people to get in an uproar they should be thanking the guy for getting rid of a bad element…i dont care if you black you white…he has the propensity of killing you…he was that type of person…from what i understand he didnt even register for any college…another blow to the loser…but for you people to fall on your knees and worship this loser is beyond me…but you know what…the Bible says the blind will lead the blind…and sure enough it has begun….what a sad day in this coiuntry when the news media has has to bow down and worship a loser by showing his funeral on tv……God Help us all…!