Well, with a little, at least. Yes, that’s a thinly veiled attempt at making an excuse for posting this way after the fact. But it still seems relevant.
What have we learned from Ferguson? First and foremost, racism is still alive and well in America. If not racism, then racial tension for sure. We may have a black President in office, and there may be unprecedented progress in the battle against racism in America, but regardless, it’s still there, and not going anywhere anytime soon.
It’s the type of events that rings several bells, exactly for the fact that it’s happened way too frequently before. Think about it. If you read the newspaper headlines and read “Black man killed by white police officer, southern town in turmoil”, would you be able to tell if the year was 1965 or 2015? Well, maybe, but only because the headline may have been a lot more subjective back then. We’ve seen the storyline dozens of times back when the Civil Rights Movement was paving the way for…the news that you’re reading today. Yes, change there has been aplenty, but much more is still needed. If nothing else, Ferguson should serve as a stark reminder that the problem of racism might not be solved yet, but simply harder to find. And it’s still pretty easy to find at that.
The question of the day seems to be, who’s fault is it? A more contreversial and loaded question you may not find anywhere. I’ll be subjective here, but I think what I say is pretty objective in nature. The truth is that the blame belongs with no one and with everyone, and most of all with the historical seeds that had been planted in America when it was colonized.
In terms of Michael Brown v. Police, it’s difficult to say who the fault lies with, because all the evidence doesn’t seem to be out. Before you correct me, let me add that any evidence we take into light is heavily biased; as is the norm with this kind of event, it’s almost impossible to be neutral when analyzing the evidence. We know for a fact that the police gunned down Brown while his hands were up in surrender. But we also know for a fact that Brown wasn’t the perfect citizen; whether or not we like the way the following evidence was provided (we don’t, because it was ridiculous), it would be a lie to say that Brown hadn’t robbed a store shortly before he was shot. It may be true that that had no relevance to this case, and the way the police presented it by randomly releasing it was absurd, but the fact remains that he was a criminal. So we have a policeman gunning down a citizen who appears to have surrendered, but that being said, the man was a known criminal. So why is this a big deal?
Because he’s black. It sounds outrageous, but it’s also the unfortunate truth. If this had happened anywhere else in the world, I sincerely doubt it would have received the press it did. That’s not to say it shouldn’t have – it’s a big deal, but inherently because of the racial tension embossed in the events. If both men had been white, I don’t think any of what followed the shooting would have followed. Such is racism in America.
The racial prevalence is strong, as you may imagine, when we learn that Ferguson is a predominantly black community in the South with a predominantly successful white population, and more importantly, an almost exclusively white police force. So it isn’t hard to see where all the sympathizers of Brown are coming from. Black man shot by a white man, and the white man is let free? It has echoes of the antebellum south and the KKK all over it. It’s exactly the kind of thing we thought no longer happened in America. It’s exactly the kind of thing history classes review when learning about the Civil Rights Movement, and I have no doubt that fifty years from now, this event likely will be brought up when discussing said movement. The issue here does involve some basic questions about police brutality, but it’s clear that the bigger issue is racism.
In terms of Brown and the police, I think the fault lies with both of them. Firstly, Brown should not have robbed the store he did. I know I don’t know anything about where Brown was coming from, and I know that some people in the impovershed conditions in the discriminatory south have to turn to extreme measures to sustain themselves, but he still should not have done it. If he was indeed a criminal, yes, that is due to the society he grew up in, but in the end, that’s on him. So if he acted wrongly, and we know he did, the blame is on him. That being said, the police officer should not have gunned down Brown as he was in the act of surrendering; that is an act of uncalled for brutality, and has no place in any civilized nation. We consider America the country ahead of all others, and yet this happened in America and America alone. The policeman who shot Brown should himself have been arrested and tried in court for acts on murder, manslaughter, or whatever the hell you want to call it. He should not have been allowed to walk free from his actions. He had to be held accountable. And none of that happened. I could say a lot on that, and a lot of people have already rightly done so. For now, I’ll leave it at saying that it’s simply unacceptable.
So we’ve established that both sides were in the wrong, and both sides were wronged…or were they? It’s at this point that I must leave with my relative objectivity and take sides. Because after the confrontation between Brown and the officer, it’s painfully obvious that one side acted in a manner that horrified the rest of the world. It’s not hard to sympathize with the people of Ferguson after the shooting.
Apparently it was beyond the police force, and the governer of Missouri(!!!) that the event in question concerned Brown and Brown alone. Instead, they took out their issues on the rest of the black population of the Ferguson. That was a huge insult. Ferguson had nothing to do with Brown, but they were treated as though they were his accomplices. In short, they were treated like criminals, when the reality was that they had done nothing. When you’re trying to reconcile a people over a racially embued event, the worse thing you can do is continue to perpetuate a stereotype, and treat the people as though they were responsible for simply being born black. I don’t know who the governer is, but his actions were in line with the long line of great governers we have been cursed to reign in the south. You know the governers I’m talking about – the ones who vowed to keep segregation forever, the ones who personally barred blacks from entering universities, the ones who have treated blacks as animals. This governer is no better. Instead of apologizing to the people and promising reconciliation, he scolded the rest of Ferguson for what had happened, and for the obligatory protests that followed. By locking down Ferguson, he punished the citizens for …nothing. It may have been Brown who had acted out of place, but the rest of Ferguson was punished for it. All he needed to do was emphasize that everything that could be done was being done, and that now as a time to reconcile and to discuss how to improve. Instead, he treated everyone else as a criminal, people who had as much to do with Brown than did citizens of North Korea. This too was, and is, simply unacceptable.
Whenever an event of this type occurs, protests are deemed to occur. And as is the case with all protests, there were some bad apples in the crowd, and some of the protests turned violent. Not all of them, though. In fact, given the circumstances, I’d say the protests were remarkably tame. Nevertheless, Ferguson was punished. Brown may be dead, but I think Ferguson was the greater victim. From the events that have transpired, the future there looks pretty bleak. Make no mistake; racism is still alive and well, and it’s going absolutely nowhere. That pretty much sums up everything I think we’ve learned from Ferguson. That, and the fact that Dr. King’s movement is not yet over, and it’ll take a lot more work to see his dreams to fruition.
What can be done now? After all the damage that’s already been done, I don’t know if there is much that can be done to improve the situation. It seems that, like most of the rest of the black struggle in America, it will be time that does the most healing. Action through legislation is nothing more than a wistful dream, especially after seeing Republican solidarity in being willing to drive their country into the dirt before cooperating with the Democrats, who, by the way, are currently led by a black man. But if anything is going to make a change, it’ll be through legislation. There need to be more laws on racism, because laws on segregation isn’t enough. It got rid of Jim Crow only on the surface, but he’s still behind everything racial that happens in America. And more than anything, messages need to be sent. The men who were responsible for the mess in Ferguson need to be held accountable. The people need to be shown that they can be treated fairly and equally, instead of being grouped together as one large stereotype. Something has to change, because it it doesn’t, racism is here to stay. Unfortuante as it is to say, with the way things are right now, the question isn’t when the change will come – it’s if the change will come at all.