I often wonder why when black people come together after an act of injustice it’s always based around the same political, racial narrative. You know the narrative that whenever someone who is opposite of African-American descent or let’s just be honest; “anyone classified as a white male” narrative. But it becomes another heightened level of scrutiny when the individual in question is a white male police officer. Such is the case we have in Ferguson, Mo over the weekend involving an officer shooting and killing an unarmed young adult, 18-year-old Michael Brown. Here is an excerpt from CNN.com from a witness who was with Brown at the time of the shooting:
Dorian Johnson, 22, told CNN that he and Brown were walking in the middle of the street when a white male officer pulled up and told them, “Get the f*** on the sidewalk.” The young men replied that they were “not but a minute away from our destination, and we would shortly be out of the street,” Johnson said.
The officer drove forward but stopped and backed up, almost hitting the pair, Johnson said.
“We were so close, almost inches away, that when he tried to open his door aggressively, the door ricocheted both off me and Big Mike’s body and closed back on the officer,” Johnson said.
Still in his car, the officer then grabbed Brown by his neck, Johnson said. Brown tried to pull away, but the officer kept pulling Brown toward him, he said.
The officer drew his weapon, and “he said, ‘I’ll shoot you’ or ‘I’m going to shoot’ ” and almost instantaneously fired his weapon, hitting Brown, Johnson said.
Johnson and a bloodied Brown took off running, and Johnson hid behind the first car he saw, he said. The officer got out of his car (http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/11/us/missouri-ferguson-michael-brown-what-we-know/).
Johnson continued to express that the officer followed Brown firing several more shots even after the victim tried to get away. The authorities, however, tell a different story in which Brown physically assaulted the police officer by pushing him into the officer’s vehicle; which at one point, lead to a struggle for the officer’s weapon. This would eventually lead to the officer retaliating by firing multiple shots at Brown killing him outside of an apartment complex this past Saturday. All of this “allegedly” was stemmed from the fact that Brown was a possible suspect from a shoplifting incident. Brown, who was slated to start college this week, was seen being cooperative with the authorities several eyewitnesses stated at the scene, but the police have yet to confirm these allegations. Later Sunday evening, a memorial and prayer vigil were held to honor and remember the slain young man and many in the neighborhood showed up to give their condolences. What took place immediately after the vigil; however, became what I call a “tragedy within itself.”
What began as a memorial and prayer vigil for yet another unarmed African-American male, turned not only the suburb of Ferguson upside down, but transfixed the eyes of America in the process. Citizens from Ferguson and neighboring communities took to the streets in what could only be reminiscent of the 92’ L.A. riots. Several stores became targets for looting and vandalism as citizens burglarized and took everything from beauty supplies, car rims, alcohol, to black America’s favorite shoes: Air Jordan’s. Hoards of young adults filled the streets as local law enforcement had to request back up from neighboring precincts. Angry protesters were met by police in full riot gear armed with everything from rifles, shields, gas masks and dogs. In all, 32 people were reported to be arrested and two officers were injured. History has always had a way of repeating itself; and 50 years later after the historic Civil Rights Act was signed into legislation, the American justice system has been any but “civil.”
Now before you go dust off your “Straight Outta Compton” cd while chanting “No Justice, No Peace,” I must remind you that I said this is a tragedy within itself. Why does our act of civil disobedience have to result in stealing things that most African-American purchase and consume annually in the first place? Yes, the unidentified officer in my opinion was probably at fault and deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, due to the rioting and looting which took place several days prior, the media and to some extent, African-Americans have turned this into a budding race war albeit a war our communities aren’t prepared for. Police brutality seems to be the “clarion call” for black America and further reinforces theories such as Joy DeGruy’s Post Traumatic Slave Disorder and victimology; while further perpetuating an ongoing trend that a black life in America only has value when it’s taken at the hands of someone who’s white. I understand this case has glaring similarities of another African-American male, Eric Gardner, who died (literally) in police custody by way of an illegal chokehold and unlawful force not even a month ago in Staten Island, NY. But I wouldn’t be fair, I wouldn’t be truthful, and most importantly; I wouldn’t be black if I didn’t mention, hell, demand this same type fervor and zeal to be reciprocated in our own communities. And if you’re saying to yourself “Why am I bringing this up?” Damn it because the only time black folks get bold about violence and want justice in our communities is when “The Man” bothers us. It’s dumbfounding to me how we demand answers and badge numbers, yet when it comes to us killing each other we facilitate the “No Snitching” policy. I’m sorry but black America, you can’t have it both ways!
Fortunately, there was one bright spot that has emerged from the protestors efforts with the help of social media. The “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” is starting to catch steam across several cities in America (including my own) and has become more than just a trending topic on Twitter. What started as a hashtag to counter the media’s attempt to show the public demonizing photos of Michael Brown; has become the symbol of injustice and the mantra for change. Although I’m not particularly thrilled to know that Al Sharpton, the NAACP, some New Black Panther Party and the attorney who “allegedly” represented the Trayvon Martin family (while disappearing at the actual trial) Benjamin Crump has made their presence felt in an obvious attempt to incite racism. Nevertheless, there was something else far more egregious that as American citizens (and I use that term loosely) should all be concerned about: the dawn of an eminent, militarized police state. Jesse Jackson was quoted this week in the USA Today saying “There’s a Ferguson near you,” implying there’s tragedies just like this going on in a city near you. It was also another opportunity (as usual) to prioritize the race card and make this case about blacks versus white-cops. The implication that came to my mind wasn’t the issue of race; however, if Ferguson was a preview of how paramilitarized law enforcement reacts to local citizens as if they were in Afghanistan somewhere, what’s in store for the “Ferguson” city where I reside? In a span of a few days, protestors were bombarded with everything from militarized SWAT vehicles, rubber bullets and tear gas; to special operation forces with snipers taking aim at local residents. Local and national media and press reporters where given little to no video access of what became a full fledge paramilitary operation. Not trying to be overly conspiratorial, but under the banner of “Homeland Security,” lawmakers in Washington have shelled out some $34 billion over the past 10 years to state and local law enforcement. The grant money provides funds to build capabilities at the state and local levels while implementing the goals and objectives included in state homeland securities. Out of 14 categories ranging from Emergency Management Performance to Law Enforcement Terrorism; the program that receives the most funding is the Urban Areas Security Initiative. This “initiative” is what Ferguson residents and many who viewed their televisions this week, found out what America has in store to impede any “acts” of terrorism.
After nearly a week of rallying, marching and pictured selfies of “No Justice, No Peace” signs, citizens of Ferguson and the rest of nation, finally received the answers they were looking for–or did they? The Ferguson Police Department released the name of the unidentified officer involved in the shooting; six-year police veteran, Darren Wilson. However, to the chagrin of family, friends and supporters, not only did they release a police report linking Brown to a convenience store robbery; but they also revealed surveillance footage of Brown committing the act. Many people are saying this is an attempt to “assassinate” his character the same way they did Treyvon Martin back in 2012. Again, my condolences to Michael Brown’s family, relatives, and friends for doing all they could to raise a son; and now having to deal with the grief of losing one.
So why did I entitled this article “The Failure at Ferguson?” I could point to the militarized law enforcement and their handling of the protestors, media, and press. I could also point to the Ferguson Police Department for releasing the police report and surveillance video of Brown; which had nothing to do with why he was killed. I could and should point to the rioting and looting that took place nearly a week ago. All of these things, even the race hustlers and race agitators, I could irrefutably point to. Instead, I’m going to point to the fact that the African-American community is not only waking up; but we’re starting to come together. I’m going to point to the fact that despite another white on black tragedy; maybe this time our galvanizing efforts will filter down into our communities when it comes to violence in general. Perhaps this will finally allow us to practice group economics, own more businesses, even emphasizing the value of our children’s education. So what’s the failure in all of this? We won’t—and that’s the failure.
So black America, please prove this cynical, pessimistic blogger wrong. I’m rooting for you.
One of your own