How Should I Feel?

Barbara Jones joined by other protesters raise their hands up in the air as they protest Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson,
Barbara Jones joined by other protesters raise their hands up in the air as they protest Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo., more than three months after an unarmed black 18-year-old man was shot and killed there by a white policeman in Ferguson. Ferguson and the St. Louis region are on edge in anticipation of the announcement by a grand jury whether to criminally charge Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Angry? Sure. Angry sounds good. Anger is okay -- no, preferred -- when dealing with injustice.

Now, anger doesn't have to -- no, shouldn't -- lead to violence.

But sometimes it does; sometimes anger makes someone do something they will regret in the morning, possibly for the rest of their lives.

Do I think the people that set fire to those businesses in Ferguson will regret it? Possibly. Maybe not tomorrow, or in the next decade. But it's possible that when they're telling their grandkids about this pivotal moment in history they will wish they acted differently. Maybe they won't. I don't know.

Maybe Darren Wilson can't sleep at night; and will forever be haunted by what he saw in his gun sight that day in early August: Michael Brown's head moments before the fatal blow. Maybe he sleeps fine. I don't know.

I don't know -- and who cares? The damage is done. Businesses are smoldering and Mike Brown has been dead for over three months.

So how should I feel? How should we feel?

These things happen all the time, right? They will happen forever, right?

It's nice to think they won't. It's probably best to think life won't always be like this.

Optimism is good.

But I know I'm going to have to tell my future children about this country. What should I tell them? I could tell them Columbus discovered it and police officers are here to protect it from bad people. I could tell them everyone is equal.

So what do I tell my son when his girlfriend's father doesn't want his little girl dating a black man?

Do I tell him what my mom told me? Do I let him know that's just the way things are? Or do I tell him that man is an anomaly? That man is a cancer?

I don't know.

And what should I tell my daughter if she wants to go to school in Missouri because Missouri has the best journalism school in the country?

Do I tell her what my mom told me? Do I pull her aside as often as possible, look her deep in the eyes, and ask: Are you sure? Do I tell her that Missouri is different from Chicago? Do I have faith in her strength, confidence that the world isn't as bad as I think it is? Or do I refuse to let her go? Should I make sure she never leaves Chicago? At least in Chicago there is strength in numbers? Do I let one lie slide into another?

I don't know.

And what if they both want to go to Missouri? What if Missouri is as unkind to them as it was to me? What if my son drinks too much and gets into trouble because a cruel environment drains his self-worth? What if my daughter feels isolated because she wants to love everybody, but nobody wants to love her?

What if they can't take it and want to leave, but I tell them to be tough?

I'll hear them crying over the phone, begging to come back to Chicago, sounding like hollowed out shells. I'll hear this and say: "Toughness and resilience are what make our people great. Focus that fear and put it to work. Become exceptional."

Or will I cry with them?

But what if I start crying too late?

What if they now feel leaving is a sign of weakness?

Do I tell them what my mom told me? Do I pull them aside as often as possible, look them deep in their eyes, and ask: Are you sure?

They'll say, "I don't know." And I'll say, "I don't know."

Who knows how you're supposed to act when the world is set-up against you and you know it and you know you're going to lose no matter what and you're angry and sad and desperate in ways you've never felt but, somehow, you know you'll feel like this forever?

But how do you tell that to your children?

And when I'm in my sixties and another unarmed black teen is killed and no justice is served; when my grandchildren innocently look up at me and ask: "Was it always like this?"

What will I say?

Will I tell them that Emmett Till was worse than Rodney King? That Darrion Albert was worse than Trayvon Martin? That Amadou Diallo was worse than Michael Brown?

Will I tell them that progress is slow? That every time more people seem to care?

Or will I look back at my life and wish I were angrier -- more focused with my anger?

Will I tell my grandchildren that anger is the only thing the world responds to?

Or will I look at them gently and tell the truth?

I don't know...