FERGUSON, Mo. - It's been a turbulent five days in North St. Louis County: demonstrations, confrontations, looting and vandalism in the days following a Ferguson policeman fatally wounding Michael Brown. There's been a second police shooting. A St. Louis County police officer critically wounded a man who police say pointed a gun at him early Wednesday.
Long term, many of us are wondering what's next? How do Ferguson and nearby communities recover and what will it take?
The facts as we know them: 18-year-old Michael Brown was unarmed when an unidentified Ferguson police officer fatally shot him. Witnesses say Brown was surrendering with his hands up when he was shot. Many questions remain because answers are few and far between at a time when transparency from those investigating might inform the public and lesson distrust by the public.
While Michael Brown's family grieves, and local and federal investigators sort out what happened,
Ferguson and surrounding communities are teetering from days of violence. Cooler heads are not prevailing.
To the lawful protesters who want to fight the power, if your goal is meaningful change, then by all means use your anger as fuel to make things better. But to those who loot and burn and shoot
and senselessly destroy the businesses of people who had nothing to do with Michael Brown's death, you're making things worse. Please stop.
As the protests and tense confrontations continue, with SWAT teams and police dogs as a show of force, we're left to wonder about what next, after the tears and tear gas fade away. Five tumultuous days in August will transform Ferguson one way or another.
The mayor says the reason Ferguson has only has three black policemen out of 53 is that not enough young African Americans want to be cops. If that's true, how do we convince more black men and women to become police officers, or run for public office in cities such as Ferguson whose officials are mostly white, when the community is two-thirds African American?
Can we improve job opportunity and fix schools that are broken? Is the black community willing to do its part to stem the plague of black-on-black crime? Spray-painting "snitches get stitches" to intimidate potential witnesses won't get the job done.
This incident is a crossroads for Ferguson and the region and an opportunity to address issues decades in the making. Will we seize the day? If we don't, Michael Brown's death, already tragic, will be in vain.