As the Ferguson trial unfolded these past few weeks, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what the great men who built our country foresaw. When they wrote the Constitution, edited the Bill of Rights and boldly sent out the Declaration of Independence, their world was much different from ours. Many of them believed in the benefit of slavery, didn’t see women as strong-minded individuals and they had to live by candlelight. Although these men lived in a different time period, I would like to believe that their core values of liberty, individual rights, and equality would lead them to embrace the societal changes in the 21st century. So as racism climbs back into the spotlight as a national issue, it makes me think: How would they want us as Americans to process this trial?
Ferguson brings to light some of the ugly aspects of our judicial system. How juries and courts can make decisions that seem crazy to many Americans, how racism can sometimes unfortunately play a role in those decisions and how a family’s loss can be used as a dinner table topic at Thanksgiving are all things that this trial has made newsworthy. As ugly as this trial was, it has also been beautiful. For me, the Ferguson story has told me that people still care about one another, regardless of race, and that America is not perfect nor will she ever be. We are not a utopia, we are not flowing with milk and honey like the Promised Land; instead, we are changing and actively attempting to be better. I am thankful for a country where change is okay and citizens have the right to express their displeasure with the government or the judicial system.
When thinking about Ferguson and its impact, I think it’s a good reflective moment for our campus. How can we change in light of the loss of a life? How can DePauw, as a microcosm of the real world, reflect the changes that we want to see in America? Can we have meaningful discussions about these topics? Our campus is changing and that means something different for every individual. While it’s easy to get swept away in the drama and excitement of Ferguson, I challenge DePauw students to internally think about what this trial means to them and for other students to be okay with the idea that these meanings might differ. Maybe take the time to intentionally listen to another’s story and instead of judging them for not understanding your point of view, be willing to accept that individual experiences cannot be right or wrong. Although our student body is diverse in many ways, we all call Greencastle, Indiana home for nine months of the year, we all get late night food from the Hub sometimes, we all spend long nights in Julian or Roy writing papers or studying for tests and we all sometimes get awestruck by how pretty East College is when lit up at night. It is these small everyday similarities that unite our campus and what we should focus on illuminating in discussions.