On Ferguson and the Policing of People of Color

Who will survive in America?

This post originally appeared on Let Your Voice Be Heard Radio. 

I thought writing about the death of Eric Garner was hard. I was wrong. In my African-American family with roots in the Deep South, moving to the North did know quell our fears. My aunt feared for my cousin. My cousin has had “the talk” with my 14 year old cousin about “how to interact” with law enforcement. Standing at six feet tall at the tender age of 14, I am instantly fearful, but also ready to go to war for him. I am scared for hypothetical children of mine, who before they even exist, they would be coming into a system that takes them away through the prison industrial complex, or through beating, choking, shooting them. In fact, has there ever been a time in United States history where our mother’s mothers, and their mothers before them, did not fear for the lives of their children?

The bodies of People of Color have been policed since they were brought to the Western Hemisphere against their will more than five hundred years ago. Yet here in 2014, the supposed era of “post-racial” America, a young Black man murdered the weekend before he was heading off to college. In “Obama’s America,” a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri became the boiling point of the institutionalized racism that so many try to ignore. According to several corroborating eye-witness reports, Mike Brown and his friends where walking down a suburban street, and Officer Darren Wilson, without seeing any weapons drawn at him – announced that he would shoot. As Brown and his friends kept running, a shot rang out. Brown turned around, and dropped to his knees, with his hands up – compiling – and was met to Officer Wilson shooting him several more times and ending his life.  Within the month since Eric Garner was murdered by police, Mike Brown joined John Crawford, and Jeremy Lake in losing their lives to those who were allegedly protecting and serving them.

There were, and are still more names to come, as a Black man or woman is killed by the police every 28 hours in this nation. In the first few days of rallying in Ferguson, and after the local police had fired teargas and rubber bullets into people exercising their supposed “rights,”we learned that the Police Chief had received “counter-terrorism” training in Israel. As the justifiable Black rage spread, and looting took place, mainstream media continued their character assassination of Michael Brown.  Are we really ready to listen another Obama speech calling for us to remain calm, only for his press core, and the public, to call him out for his lack of rage? Or is it time to stop holding our first President of African descent to such high moral standards, and continue to seek radical justice elsewhere?

Perhaps we can begin to question how it is that the community was met with sniper rifles, tanks, and other military-grade weaponry. The military industrial complex produces stockpiles for the current quasi wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and is documented to sell it to Israel, and others around the world. How did those guns get aimed at Americans? In order for the government to make a profit – they have to sell these weapons back and get rid of the surplus, so they can repeat the vicious cycle and ask Congress for a bigger budget. In other words, the violence we as a nation have exported to other lands, far away from mainstream American consciousness, came back full force and was used by poorly trained weekend warriors to infringe upon our “inalienable” human rights as American citizens. Peaceful protests and vigils have been met with violence towards people of color and the further policing of their bodies through the imposing of curfews.

As the anger of the Black people in the neighborhood continued, White Americans in the surrounding areas began to arm themselves in an alarming rate. People who asked “what was he doing to get shot” found the answered they wanted in the reports that came from the Ferguson Police Department – that tried to link Mike Brown to a shoplifting incident earlier in the day. These same people, who may know not to ask a rape survivor “what were you wearing” – but would be skeptical of Black rage – have been swiftly called out for their lack of compassion. Even if you think Mike Brown shoplifted something – does that justify taking his life? As Kara Brown of Jezebel points out a White man who was proven to have committed a far worse crime in Aurora, CO, “James Eagan Holmes, who killed twelve people and injured 70 others after opening fire in a movie theater, was escorted into a squad car.”

There was an outcry and stream of support to combat the character assassination and misleading media reports. #JusticeforMikeBrown, #Ferguson, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, and host of other hashtags appeared within days of the murder. J.Cole wrote an emotionally raw song for Brown, who was an inspiring rapper.  Reporters for news outlets were being arrested for existing and trying to get the truth to the public. When Palestinians in Gaza, who have also been murdered simply for existing, learned of what was happening in the United States – something beautiful happened. They harnessed the power of truth telling through Twitter, and sent out messages of solidarity. When they could have remained silent and focused on their own resistance, they took the time so warm protesters of how to deal with burning eyes after being teargassed. Back in Ferguson, Black people sent messages of appreciation and waved Palestinian flags, and hopefully learned about their struggle.

However, in the midst of this tragedy, we cannot forget the women who have lost their lives to the same law enforcement. Miriam Carey. Rekia Boyd. Erica Collins. Heather Parker. If any healing or reconciliation is to occur, we have to include all people of color that have lost their lives to the institutionally racist, patriarchal, capitalist system and continue to rise up, rally, and remember our loved ones. We must remember that this is the system that protected Darren Wilson’s name and livelihood by refusing to release his name for several days, than addressing the needs of that Black community. If we cannot come together as a people, we can never hope to have true justice or accountability from those who trespass against us. Mike Brown had a dream that the world would know his name through his music. Instead, we mourn for him and pray for his family, and demand transformative justice.

 

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