(Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
When you consider the nature of the spark that began this conflagration, everything that went up in its flames may not seem like a very big deal. A young man was shot dead, his body left on a street for hours; the system that was supposed to speak for him offered an anemic and consequently doomed prosecution of his killer; and as we now know, that killer's story was not only riddled with contradictions, it practically dripped bullshit. But during the several days that I was in Missouri back in August, I tried very hard to get off the beaten path -- at that time the main drag of Florissant Avenue -- and show readers here the faces of the regular working-class folks of Ferguson.
It's the people I met then that I'm thinking about today, because last night part of the town they expressed love for and loyalty to burned up. Their streets were again a battle zone. Their lives, already rendered seemingly invisible by the justice system, were put in imminent danger.
As far as I know, The Daily Banter isn't going back to Ferguson this time around, but someone who did go back is Mashable's Amanda Wills and earlier today she talked to a couple of the people she's met during her time in Ferguson. Anyone who followed my coverage back in August will remember that Amanda was the person who attended to me and got me out of harm's way after police maced me in the face during an outbreak of violence. Irrespective of that, her work both before and after that little incident has been pretty damn outstanding.
Since I'm not there to try to track down some of the people I met the first time around, I can appreciate a report Amanda just filed in which she talks to a woman named Jeniece Andrews. While you probably have no idea who Jeniece is, you might recognize her place of business -- or what's left of it anyway. Last night, the little antique shop Jeniece owns with her husband was burned to the ground in one of more than a dozen fires set in the aftermath of the grand jury decision that let Darren Wilson walk. This is a woman who likely never did anything to anybody and yet the shop she put her heart and soul into is now gone forever.
As Amanda puts it:
Watching the city burn on Monday night, I felt heartbroken because when the world sees Ferguson, it's the looters and arsonists, the inept politicians, ravenous journalists and lines of cops in riot gear who dominate. The Jenieces of Ferguson are invisible, crowded out by much louder groups, each pursuing their own agenda.
What is not projected to the world is the day-to-day struggles of the Ferguson residents in low-income, predominately black neighborhoods — struggles that center on race, economics and unequal access to the justice system.
I'm sure this isn't meant to in any way diminish the outrage of those who feel as if they can't take one more instance of the justice system failing them and police considering them a target. While it's stupid and irresponsible -- not to mention counterproductive -- to condone arson and looting and violence, it should go without saying that those protesting peacefully are good people whose indignation is righteous and whose voices deserve to be heard. But those people are going to have to continue to live in Ferguson -- and last night a dozen of the businesses that serve them were destroyed while the hard-working owners of those businesses saw their livelihoods vanish in a pillar of smoke and flame.
I was only in Ferguson for a little while and it was shocking to see places I visited on fire. Imagine what it's like to live there. To know that this is your home.
Mike Brown may be the one person in all of this who can't walk away from it, but he's not the only victim. People like Jeniece Andrews are victims. The people I met while in Ferguson are victims. Ferguson itself is a victim. All suffer.