On Ferguson

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I was all over Twitter the night the situation boiled over in Ferguson and I was flabbergasted by a lot of what I read online. I thought we, as modern Americans, had developed awareness to the marked racism in this country. I assumed we were simply too sophisticated and worldly to deny the unabashed bigotry that plagues minorities, even today. Well, I was wrong and it was a sobering, angering and dismal realization.

As a minority, it was especially frustrating to watch others react with vile flippancy to the death of an unarmed 18-year-old and the gross abuse of power exhibited by authorities in Ferguson. It was difficult not to get angry at the apathy that I was witnessing materialize online. People were referring to protesters as animals and thugs and it was alarming. Of course there were looters and others that took advantage of the chaos in Ferguson for personal benefit, but realistically speaking, when is this not the case? These looting vultures did not make up the majority of the protesters in Ferguson; they were a violent byproduct of a situation sorely mishandled.

protesters

Image Source: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Do these people think this can’t happen to them, in their city? Why do they think this kid deserved to be shot and killed if we don’t even know what happened? Why are the police treating protesters like animals instead of people? Why isn’t this outraging everyone? These are the things I was asking myself as I read people’s reactions to the news coming from Ferguson.

As far as the events that led to Mike Brown’s death, I don’t know what happened and I’ve read the police report, but it just doesn’t make sense. I also couldn’t tell you why the police in Ferguson decided it would be ok to hunker down like the goddamn military and treat their neighborhood like occupied territory. The only thing I know for sure is that the police killed an unarmed 18-year-old. Furthermore, this happens all too often in my America—the beautiful—and the victims are almost exclusively black men. I don’t think that’s a coincidence and I have a problem with that.

What’s more, the constitutional rights of the protesters (not the looters) of Ferguson were being ignored and we—yes you and me–can’t be OK with that. Right now it’s Ferguson, but tomorrow it could be your town. One day it will be your cause and you’re going to want the opportunity to assemble and make yourself heard. Freedom, y’all—this is where we could use some of that mythical shit that we’re constantly fighting to achieve and protect.

As a matter of fact, I take pride in our nation’s underdog history. Yep, I’m that asshole, so you can imagine how disheartening it felt to realize that we haven’t come as far as I’d thought since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr.—that part was depressing. Watching the abuse of power unfold while reading reports of violence, compromised civil liberties and violations of human rights, that was enraging.

Reading real-time reports of police removing their name badges and ordering the media to stop documenting the chaos, that was insulting. Did the police really think they could contain this story? As I said the night violence broke out, the police may have been able to shut down cameras, but they were not going to shut down social media. Thankfully, they didn’t. Reporters, protesters and regular citizens took to Twitter and other social media outlets to ensure that what was happening in Ferguson would not go unnoticed.

ferguson
Image Source: Scott Olsen / Getty Images

Well, the world watched as police treated protesters with the same disdain as the looters. We devoured the stories of reporters that were unjustly arrested. We shared pictures of journalists and their camera crews being tear gassed and forced into press pens “for their safety.” We saw everything, Ferguson, and we’re still waiting for justice. Mike Brown deserves justice and the people of Ferguson deserve it too.

I suppose I was expecting the tragedy in Ferguson to unite us as Americans. The police were bearing down on protesters as if they were criminals and what’s more they were equating them to the actual criminals that were looting and burning the city. Adding insult to injury, Ferguson police were violating constitutional rights and rationalizing every move along the way. What the people of Ferguson needed when violence overtook their city was for the rest of us to wake up, look around and shake off the denial. What they still need from us today is to admit there’s a problem so we can begin to search for a solution.

It seems it was patriotically naive of me to expect us Americans to find unity through tragedy and that’s too bad. We’ve got problems, America, and it’s pretty obvious to me. Maybe that’s because I’ve got the kind of perspective that comes with brown skin, but that doesn’t devalue the observation. While I don’t believe race to be the only motivation behind the violence in Ferguson, I do believe underlying racial tensions must now be addressed. Furthermore, the police in Ferguson must be held accountable for their actions. If there is no accountability for those that serve and protect, what will stop them from controlling and manipulating too? If left unchecked, Ferguson will happen again, but next time it might be in a town closer to you.

 

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