NAUGATUCK — The racial division, rioting and conflicts between police and protestors in Ferguson, Mo., is difficult for most Americans to witness.
For one Ferguson native who now lives in Naugatuck, it is heartwrenching.
Nate Munro, 37, was born and raised in Ferguson, where he lived until he attended college in St. Louis, about 10 minutes from his hometown. He has fond memories of Ferguson and said it’s almost surreal to see news reports of violence from his old stomping grounds.
“The first couple nights were really tough,” he said. “As it goes on, though, you are starting to see the true colors of Ferguson.”
For example, he said, people seem to be controlling themselves much better and those who want peaceful protests are starting to fend off agitators, many of whom seem to be from out of town.
Ferguson, a small city of just over 21,000 people, has been featured in many news reports since Aug. 9, when an unarmed, 18-year-old black man named Michael Brown was shot six times and killed by a white police officer. The outrage surrounding the incident has rivaled that of the Travyon Martin shooting that occurred in Florida in 2012 and has led to mass protests in the streets of Ferguson, some of which have led to violent altercations between police and protesters.
Munro saw a bit of a racial divide in Ferguson growing up, but said it very rarely turned violent. He said some white families moved out as more black families began moving in. But many whites, like Munro’s family, chose to stay.
Munro moved to Connecticut after spending time in New Orleans and Baltimore. His wife, Cara, and her family are from Connecticut, so they moved here to raise a family.
The experience of growing up in a community that was about half black and half white was enlightening, and Munro wants his children to experience a diverse community, as well, he said.
“For me, it was a wonderful place to grow up,” he said. “The diversity was a huge benefit because I learned how to interact with people who might not look like me or act like me. … One of the reasons we chose Naugatuck is because it is becoming more diverse and it reminded me of home a bit.”
Currently, Munro works with people from all backgrounds at his job at Family Services of Greater Waterbury and through his business in Naugatuck — he is the owner of Kids Create on Rubber Avenue, where he teaches young people art and lets them create their own projects at his studio.
“Growing up in a diverse community taught me compassion for all people,” he said.
He said his heart is still with people from Ferguson. He has family members and friends there and talks to them constantly, either via phone or by social media. He said most of his friends, both black and white, say they want to see justice prevail. But, he said, they want to go back to a bit of normalcy.
“They want the streets to be quiet again,” he said. “They want their kids to be able to go back to school.”
Munro said the shooting and its aftermath will put a scar on the image of his hometown, but he believes some positive can ultimately come from the situation.
“I think in the long run it’s going to be the best place in America to have a conversation about race because blacks and whites grow up together in just about equal numbers, which is rare, and most people are better off for it,” he said.