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Monday, August 25, 2014

Motivational Mondays: Michael Brown Coming Home: Why All Americans Should Reflect, Mourn & Work for Change Today

Thought for the Day: Those of you who have been following my blog know I believe strongly in the psychological importance and universal significance of rituals of mourning. Every culture and religion has similar rites which help people cope with the loss of a loved one. Today, as the family buries Michael Brown, every American, White, Black, Asian, Christian, Muslim, or Jew should join the family to reflect and mourn the death of a young black unarmed youth. The facts will come in over time; however, the issues and questions need to be answered and addressed. The Reverend Al Sharpton said yesterday that demonstrations need to lead to legislation. I believe that demonstrations need to lead not only to legislation, but also to education. Education is the foundation of democracy. Sadly, my guess is that education failed Michael BrownPolice Officer Darren Wilson and our democratic system on multiple levels on both sides of the tragedy.

We do not know what went through the mind of Officer Wilson when he shot and killed Michael Brown. He may have been following what he believed was protocol; even if he was, the training and protocols need to be examined.

The aftermath of the incident and how it was handled by the authorities raises additional questions about the use of excessive force in a democracy. The military style reaction by law enforcement authorities led to increased violence, fear, and mistrust. It also may be a contributing factor in the escalation of citizens purchasing weapons. Since the Newtown tragedy, I have advocated for sensible gun control laws. The police's reaction to protesters in Fergeson, Missouri has surely fed fuel to the fire of those advocating for the arming of citizens. In reality, more children and adults are injured accidentally by their own weapons than by police; however, there is no excuse for excessive use of arms during peaceful demonstrations in a democracy.

I spend my life encouraging people to believe in and reach for their dreams. Michael Brown's dreams ended abruptly. What transpired may have been a failure of our educational system as well. Across the nation there is a crisis that our schools are failing to address. Schools are struggling with smaller and smaller budgets. More and more emphasis is being placed on academic test scores. I have written about how focusing on the 3 R's of reading, writing and arithmetic, has led to ignoring the fourth R, namely, respect. We are not making time to teach our children to respect their elders and authority figures, to be tolerant of racial and religious differences and to accept social norms. Lack of respect leads to prejudice.

Where do our children learn about treating one another with respect? It is not happening on the playgrounds far from teachers' earshot during recess or on school busses.  It is not taught on violent TV, movies or video games. What has happened to lessons in citizenship? When children misbehave or bully one another, schools proclaim a "zero tolerance" policy and suspend the bully. Suspension does not treat or solve the problem. All too often the disgruntled shunned teen comes back to school angry and armed hoping to harm teachers or fellow students. Where are the comprehensive therapeutic interventions to teach both the bullies and their targets to resolve differences and treat one another with respect? Are police forces doing enough to educate children about what to do it stopped by an officer? Do any children black or white understand what can happen if they do not listen to and follow a policeman's orders?

Laws may help change discriminatory practices; however, they must also include mandatory educational programs to lead to real social changes. As a mother, I mourn for Michael Brown's family. If the tragedy leads to better understanding of the plight of black mothers and children across the nation and to changes in how police handle work with minorities, his death will not have been in vain.

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