WELCOME TO AMERICA'S POST-RACIAL SOCIETY!
THE FERGUSON MESS
|Is This Alabama ca 1961?|
Just happened to catch CNN’s interviews with two young Black people – one a young Black man, the other a young Black woman – who were on the scene when Brown was shot. Both said that the officer was holding (pulling) Brown into his vehicle when the first shot rang out. The young man ran (rightly so) and the young woman, in her car at the time, reached to get her cell phone. Both then testified that they then saw the officer out of his vehicle, (both did not see the officer leaving the vehicle), Brown fleeing and the officer in pursuit when another shot rang out. They both testified that Brown appeared to have been hit, stopped and turned around with his hands in the air and the officer continued shooting. Frankly, both young people appeared very credible.
When this mess hit the national news media, I heard eyewitnesses state that the unarmed Brown had been gunned down in the street. And left there for three hours in the sun. Of course, I did not disbelieve the eyewitness accounts but thought: “Well, it looks like this might be another case of failure to heed, resisting arrest or some other, more serious confrontation gone tragically bad.” I had no doubt that the predominantly Black, St. Louis suburban community was venting its anger and rage, not at this single act, but at a history of police racism as is the case in so many communities around the country. I have to say that my bias is on the side of the community in these cases having witnessed too many incidents that starkly illustrate the plight of African Americans at the hands of our justice system. Ferguson, from my point of view, is just one more community that has been injured time and time again at the hands of “their” police and the folks have simply had enough.
But as events continued to unfold, I began to get this creepy feeling that something was very wrong. Especially during the Police Chief’s first (only?) news conference. While displaying remarkable acuity over the robbery Brown allegedly committed just prior to his death and the gratuitous release of the officer’s identity, there was not a word about the circumstances that led to Brown’s death. It was a confusing, rambling, disorganized news conference to say the least and certainly from my point of view designed solely to smear Brown. The conveyance of information to the public, as such news conferences are supposed to do, was sorely lacking.
Then yesterday came the “recording” of a friend of Officer Wilson, Josie by name, basically reciting the police report version of events. She was not an eyewitness. This was, apparently, from an interview she gave at a local radio station. Until today, courtesy of CNN, there had been no comparable words from the people who were actually on the scene and witnessed the shooting – as reliable or unreliable as their recollections might prove to be. I'm glad CNN chose to do this.
Now, however, I am becoming convinced that what the Ferguson Police Department was and is attempting to do, is to whitewash and cover up what actually happened. As more details come out about how the Police Department handles community complaints – they are filed away in case files never to be seen again – as more and more people talk about how the 55 member police force (three are Black officers) treat those they are supposed to be protecting and serving, the more I think that we have another case of the unjustifiable killing of a Black man. There was the Ferguson resident who was falsely arrested, beaten in jail, released without any charges being filed and is now suing the police.
Despite the massive armaments directed at the protesters, I’ve been exceedingly impressed by the Ferguson community members. Despite the anger and rage that this killing has evoked, they have acted in a remarkably calm and peaceful fashion. I’ve heard shop owners say that each morning folks are out on the streets cleaning up broken glass, collecting debris, helping the shop owners, and generally acting in a manner that lets me know that this is a community who is not out to burn and loot but a community who really cares for their community, are tired of being looked at as beings less than human and want justice. This, I would remind you, in the face of the kind of “policing” one would expect in Baghdad, not Ferguson, Arkansas.
So far it looks to me as if the authorities “handling” this situation have done pretty much everything they could to provoke confusion and anger, to protect themselves at the expense of the community, seem overly concerned that the media is documenting their actions, demonstrated that they have not a clue about community policing and community relations, to say nothing of crowd control and, quite frankly, at every turn, seem to be taking actions that provoke rather than quell mistrust, anger and violence.
I have to ask myself, how would I respond to having military weapons pointed at my head and armored tanks after my ass?