Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Two different worlds: a farmer's thoughts on Ferguson

Anthony Flaccavento, an organic farmer in Southwest Virginia, still sells most of what he grows directly to consumers, but that is not the case for many farmers, and life in general has "become dramatically de-localized over the past two generations, not only in our food system but in almost every aspect of how we live," Flaccavento writes for the Huffington Post. "Our homes are heated and cooled not by the materials we collect or even see, but by some inscrutable mix of coal miners, oil and gas workers, pipelines and utility companies, all of which are entirely out of sight for most Americans," he writes. The criminal justice system is a similar situation.

Many Americans are aware that people of color are in prison in large numbers, but it's often assumed that it must be because they all committed far more crimes and more violent crimes. However, studies have shown that "Black youth and men are more than twice as likely to go to jail than their white counterparts for the same crime; or be arrested and charged before that; or to be stopped by police in the first place," Flaccavento writes. Some people automatically assume that black men, for the most part, are dangerous.

"If that's your starting point, the national epidemic of police shootings of unarmed black men, while certainly unfortunate, seems understandable at some level," Flaccavento writes. On a case by case basis, we often assume the police are treating people fairly and without prejudice because, of course, they're interacting with some dangerous people. In the past decade police have killed more than one person per day, according to the FBI. A ProPublica investigation from 2010-2012 showed that police shot black teenagers ages 15 to 19 at more than 20 times the rate of white teenagers.

The ignorance or acceptance of those ideas are a result of the "disconnections that now characterize almost every part of our lives," Flaccavento writes. People are isolated from others who are different from themselves. We've mostly abandoned overt racism and "substituted indifference towards extreme unfairness and violent injustice, an indifference borne out of a near total disconnect from people different from ourselves," he writes. "Another farmer loses his land. Another black kid shot dead on a city street. Two different worlds. Maybe that's the problem." (Read more)

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