In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, we’ve been beset by black rage, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (“a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”), violence, threats, fires and even political suicide (Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon failed to send the National Guard into Ferguson immediately after the Grand jury verdict was announced; he’ll never be President).
In the midst of the resulting chaos, threats and hyperbole, almost all of us have been picking sides and promoting national polarization.
And then a photo turns up in the news of a 12-year-old black kid hugging a cop at a Portland, Oregon, demonstration about Micheal Brown’s death. The boy is carrying a sign that says he’s giving out free hugs; the cop asked for one. Somebody caught the moment with their camera. The photo goes viral.
You see the photo and, almost without any words at all, you realize how stupid, unnecessary and self-destructive polarization can be. Most of our conflicts and wars are based on our denial of our adversary’s humanity, and on our adversary’s denial of ours.
This photo shows the humanity of both sides. Here’s a white cop and a black kid caught up in, and trying to escape, the tides of polarization.
The photo’s effect is astonishing. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but I think this one’s worth a lot more. How much rage has been dampened, how many lives might be saved, how many fires prevented by simply showing this photograph?
Who still wants to shoot? Who still wants to burn?
Here’s an edited excerpt from the original photo:
(Incidentally, this is the 1,600 article I’ve published on my blog.)