Don’t let rioters hold spotlight

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Rioters in Ferguson, Mo., held the attention of most in the media and the public Monday night. By its very nature, violence usually becomes the big story in situations such as that in Ferguson – and too many other places.

But the few hundred rioters in Ferguson should not be permitted to hold the spotlight, leaving critical issues to languish once again in the shadows.

Violence broke out again in Ferguson after it was revealed a grand jury had determined there was no cause to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the August death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Brown was black. Wilson is white. Their deadly confrontation quickly became symbolic of a variety of race-related differences among some blacks and some whites in our nation.

Looting, vandalism and assault deepen those differences while often victimizing the innocent. Those who ran wild in Ferguson used the grand jury’s verdict as an excuse for criminal behavior, not a reason to demand cultural change.

But they were outnumbered vastly by peaceful protesters in Ferguson and several cities throughout the country. Reporters in the small Missouri city Monday night saw many people brandishing signs and shouting slogans, not throwing rocks, setting fires and stealing from stores.

Those most personally and tragically linked to Brown’s death – his parents – pleaded for peace. They asked that those upset with the verdict channel their distress – and anger – toward making change happen.

Will the Browns’ ideas and other excellent ones voiced after the young man’s death be drowned out by the rioters?

Will the Browns’ suggestion that all police officers be equipped with personal video cameras be lost in the mayhem?

Will those asking why Ferguson has no police officers of the same race as two-third’s of the city’s residents be dismissed as trouble makers?

Will scores of other questions about race in America not be asked again until the next riot?

For at least the next several days, the rioters will continue to be news in Ferguson. Much of the reporting and the conversation will be about them.

At some point the focus needs to shift. We Americans should begin doing what we do best – tackling tough issues head-on and objectively, and letting the chips fall where they may.

Can we do that in a discussion about race and all its ramifications? We have not done very well on that score for years. It’s time to try again.

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