Monday, August 25, 2014

Where will the next Ferguson uprising take place?

By Charles Brooks

Michael Brown has finally been laid to rest after he was gunned down two weeks ago by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th.  You can only imagine what Mr. Brown’s parents, family, friends and those who knew him – have gone through in the last two weeks since that fateful day on August 9th.  Just like that - after their son's fate encounter with the police - Mr. Brown's parents now have to deal with the grief and numbing sadness that comes with having to bury their 18 year old son.

Who would have thought or even have the foresight to see Michael Brown's murder – the death of yet another unarmed black youth by the hands of a police officer – as the trigger to a rebellious uprising in Ferguson? Who would have believed Mr. Brown’s death would peel back the scab of American hypocrisy for all to witness the bubbling infectious sore of American apartheid, racism, and social inequality?  Ferguson has clearly become a flashpoint - a hotspot where racial frustrations and deep seated tensions were unleashed in the face of aggressive and provocative policing.  Within hours after Mr. Brown’s murder, the response to the rebellious uprising quickly escalated into a domestic military operation – complete with the deployment of the National Guard.

While eyewitnesses of the shooting told the citizens of Ferguson what they saw, there were several other forces at work that caused tensions to quickly flare up thus igniting widespread anger and frustration.   

For one, Mr. Brown’s dead and lifeless body laid in a pool of blood for at least four hours – in full public display.  Mistrust mushroomed into fears of an apparent cover up as the police provided the public very little or conflicting information while withholding other pieces of critical information.  For six days, the public was forced to wait before finding out the identity of the assailant police officer, Officer Darren Wilson. The public had to wait because of concerns for “fear of his safety”.  Yet, Officer Wilson remains free, and in hiding. Meanwhile, for days as Ferguson smoldered from the tear gas and flames - critical questions were left unanswered: How many times he was shot? Where was he shot? “Why did Officer Wilson stop Michael Brown? What does the incident report say? What does the forensic and autopsy reports say? 

As key questions were left unanswered, two developments were emerging in the midst of this engine of misinformation. There was the campaign designed to demonize and criminalize Mr. Brown in order to build a narrative that ultimately justifies Officer Wilson’s kill shot. Meanwhile protesters were confronted with a militarized police force, a state imposed curfew and the National Guard. What happened next was bound to happen – fierce opposition that escalated into a rebellious uprising. As more and more of these acts of police brutality come to light and vigorously defended by political leadership, these moments can quickly escalate into a social upheaval.

As we see these police brutality incidents over and over again – we are also bearing witness to a unapologetic dismissal of one’s humanity.  Consider the video of Mr. Garner’s desperate  plea for the officers to recognize his humanity, that was denied.  With Mr. Brown’s death – we saw an unsecured crime scene, an uncovered dead body in a pool of blood - in the summer heat like cattle. And that is the typical trigger in these cases of police brutality – the failure to see black people and other people of color as human beings who are deserving of the same rights as anyone else. This is the core difference that defines the racial divide in how whites and blacks view the police in general, and in particular, the murder of Mr. Brown. In this country, most white communities have a far different outlook and therefore relationship with the police compared to the black community.    

Consider for a moment, the nearly 400 year African American experience in America that can only be best described as the struggle – the continuing struggle for racial equality and social justice in the face of blatant and not so blatant racism.  The struggle for freedom and liberation did not start and certainly did not end with the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements of the vaunted Sixties.  There is a perpetual demand for racial justice that clearly continues today. This issue of police brutality has very strong roots in black communities for many years when the police were the enforcers of Jim Crow and legal segregation.  The police were on the front lines of resistance to black liberation during the social movements of the Sixties – the socially transformational Civil and Black Power movements. Considering that the police departments were an integral part of the COINTELPRO program – you can begin to understand the contentious relationship between the police and minority communities, particularly black communities.

But this battle against police brutality is gradually coming to a head – you saw cities across the nation respond to the Michael Brown murder with demonstrations of resistance – “Hand Up! Don’t Shoot!” Yes, there are these on-going discussions around creating a more diverse police force, the need for more police training, the use of body cameras and tasers as well as economic empowerment and boycotts. Additionally, there is the demand for indictment, arrest and even federal intervention and oversight.

This is about excessive use of force and the political support for police in the face of a blatant lack of accountability to these seemingly routine acts of police misconduct and murder. The discussion or debate must include consequences and accountability.  There must be structures and mechanisms in place that compels punitive measures – special prosecutor, indictment, arrests and yes – prison time.  This has to be a fundamental part of the discourse around addressing this issue of police brutality. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of Michael Browns and Ferguson’s all over the country that are equally on the verge of a rebellious uprising.  If you haven’t guessed by now – there is a national crisis emerging… 

1 comment:

  1. Once again, very concise, and well explained, as well as great writing. 100 years from now someone can read this and get a clear picture of what the times were.

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