Ferguson Burning: What We Know
18 year old Michael Brown was shot to death on Saturday, August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, a majority black suburb of St. Louis. St. Louis County Police Chief Joe Belmar held a news conference the next day stating the investigation shows that Brown was unarmed, physically assaulted the officer, and during a struggle between the two, Brown reached for the officer’s gun. One shot was fired in the car followed by other gunshots outside of the car.
Since then, the first day of school has been cancelled, the police have received death threats, protesters and even journalists have been arrested, and the FBI announced it is doing a parallel investigation. Michael Brown’s parents have asked for peace, and the NAACP has organized community leaders in candle light vigils.
Still other protests have not ended peacefully, and the police have used tear gas. A list of demands have been made by the public to the police department, and Rev. Al Sharpton has organized protesters as well. It’s gotten so bad that the FAA announced air restrictions over Ferguson to allow law enforcement helicopters to maneuver.
The city asked protesters to act during the day for the night gets too chaotic. A movement has already begun to rebuild what has been physically broken; however, protests erupted at night ending with cops throwing tear gas at citizens. It has been determined that Brown was unarmed when shot prompting the Justice department to open a federal civil rights investigation. This is where we are now.
Law Enforcement and the Black Community
Law enforcement has discriminated against black people since the time of capital punishment for “eyeballing” white women through the disparity in the sentences between crack and cocaine possesion, and continuing with the disparity of the application of “stop and frisk” There is no slant in these stories. There is no bias in these stories. The criminal justice system is unequivocally biased against black people. In fact, minority populations of countries in the western hemisphere compose the largest percentage of their respective countries’ prison populations.
St. Louis is a particularly interesting situation because it is literally split in half with black people living in the north and white people in the southern part of the city. Coincidentally, Detroit is setup this exact same way with 8 mile serving as the dividing line. It’s no wonder these spots are bubbling cauldrons of racial fury. It’s a kind of 21st century “separate but equal”
In the respective maps of St. Louis and Detroit below courtesy of wired.com (warning: this is the map of all maps and you will spend hours nay days going through it with interest and curiosity), white people are blue dots, black people are green dots, asian people are red dots, latino people are orange dots, everybody else are brown dots. The separation is stark.
The rioting that is happening in the black community by the black community is actually a form of containment. It would never spill into the white community for it would never be allowed by law enforcement. This misplaced anger and rage towards law enforcement will die down, and similar to riots in Detroit, the damage will only be in the black community which is unfortunate.
Denial, Denial, Denial
Until we stop denying these very real factors, we can’t improve upon race relations socially though we may be able to make advances legally. People are too vested in making excuses and not enough in acknowledging the problems. Like any other profession, there are good cops and bad cops. Unlike many other professions, cops have the power to take lives. Let’s not uphold the actions of bad cops nor lump good cops in with them.
However, we have to look at what is really going on. Four unarmed black men have been killed by the police in the last month, while white people are carrying assault rifles in Chipotle. What about that feels right in 2014?
Black on Black Crime
This non sequitur is always introduced when a white person kills a black person. Blacks are most likely killed by other blacks as are whites by whites, asians by asians, latinos by latinos etc. We kill who we see everyday which are normally people in our community. Furthermore, along with all crime, it has decreased rapidly over the past 20 years as has all crime.
The reasons why black people are murdering other black people have less to do with race, and much more to do with poverty. I hope (I am always shocked) people don’t think black people are genetically predisposed to be more violent than other races? The race of the assailants should have little baring on the impact of the tragedy of a murder, but it does. Why?
White on black crime is unifying for the black community because there is a historical precedent that white perpetrators of black victims are not arrested, tried or convicted due to institutional racism. This still exists in some regards today though it has gotten better.
For lack of a better term, it is “normal” for a black person to be killed by another black person as it is for a white by a white, latino by a latino, and asian by asian etc. Murder is always bad, but if you are killed and you are white, there is an 84% chance that your killer was another white person. If you are black and are murdered, there is a 93% chance that your killer was black.
While noble, I think it’s pretty farfetched to think you are going to stop people from killing people in their own environment. You can mitigate it with better schools, housing and opportunity, but black people have been killing black people forever as have asians been killing other asians, latinos killing other latinos etc. Ironically, throughout history, white people have killed themselves and every other race of people more than any other race but, like Mark McGuire, I’m “not here to talk about the past”.
I think we all know that this is what I’m about more so then bitching about the problem. There has to be a reintroduction of community policing as opposed to the rotating shifts that a lot of police forces use nowadays. Cops whom know the community tend not to shoot upstanding members of it.
Secondly, and this is much harder, there has to be a demilitarization of the police force. Since 9/11 and the ill named “War on Terror” police have been handed the reins to do whatever it is they need to “protect and serve”. this includes high powered automatic weapons, issuing out beatings like hot dogs at a baseball game, and general antipathy towards the public. This is much harder to do for we have to balance the need for safety with protections of our civil liberties.