A Humanist Statement on Ferguson

Tear gas on the streets of Ferguson, MO. Photo by Loavesofbread via Wikimedia Commons.

Issued by the American Humanist Association Board of Directors
August 25, 2014

Recent events in Ferguson, St. Louis, Los Angeles and other American communities highlight our country’s collective need to reflect and take action. It is time for our society to recall our highest ideals, those of a rule of law, freedom to peacefully assemble and the inherent equality of all of our citizens, regardless of race.

As humanists, we hold these values as intrinsic to a civil society. The color of a person’s skin should not signal privilege or abuse in how agents of the government view and treat them. And, under no circumstances should one’s skin color signal a permission to suspend the right to their civil liberties.

The death of yet another unarmed black man by agents of our government is unacceptable. What has become of our one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, when a young man is killed for walking in the street? America has issues with driving while black, and now again, walking while black. This devaluation of a segment of our citizenry is a legacy that we have not left behind. From slavery, to Jim Crow, to Selma, to Rodney King, Trayvon Martin and now to Michael Brown, how is it that we can call out other countries for prejudice and civil rights violations, when we ourselves let it go by? Where is our commitment to our common humanity?

Empathy is critical when looking at these events. Empathy is hard to find when we are afraid, when we have become a country in fear, and when the police see the citizens (especially those of color) not as fellow human beings but as an enemy who must be aggravated and harassed at every opportunity. As humanists, we are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity. Where was this for Michael Brown and those before him? What will become of those after him?

As humanists, we call for a time of reflection and action against racism and police brutality. We, as Americans, must not allow another Michael Brown to die.