I begin this post by sharing my personal affirmation toward the killing of Michael Brown by a member of the Ferguson Missouri police department. That should not have happened. Period. The one(s) responsible for the death of Michael Brown should be held accountable and prosecuted to the letter of the law.
In 1967, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water jets and police attack dogs on the children and bystanders gathered to protest the integration efforts of African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama. Forty-seven years later in Ferguson Missouri the Ferguson Police department used high-powered artillery, rubber bullets and tear gas on the children and bystanders gathered to protest the killing of an unarmed Black Man. If Martin Luther King Jr. is somehow watching this, he must be thinking, "I thought Bull Conner died". Yes, Dr. King he did, his policing tactics and racial mentality did not. They are still as alive as they were in 1967. Just like in 1968 in Chicago when protesters chanted "The Whole World is Watching" that world found itself once again watching what some old-timers probably swore were reruns of a past nightmare, unfold live in Missouri.
The media circus rode into Ferguson Missouri in full force before the blood stains from the fallen teen's body was cleaned from the hot asphalt that just the day before served as an execution ground.
The media circus had no problem luring residents and analysts from both sides of the situation in what quickly turned from news reporting to fact sensationalizing and dramatizing.
Moreover, of all the parties involved, the Ferguson Police Department stepped into the embarrassing role of "Cops Gone Wild".
Some of the media coverage can even be viewed as magnifying inflammatory stereotypes of both the police and the citizens of Ferguson, but the Police freely painted their own ugly picture. It is certainly indisputable coverage that potential jurors will see or at the least hear about. Depending upon what side of the courtroom, they are showing their allegiance to, that can be a good or a bad thing. In retrospect, the tone and ambiance of the media coverage turned up to be a good, bad, and ugly, thing but most importantly - a telling thing.
The good out of this media coverage is it (once again) forced the blinders off those folks that try to pretend Blacks are not treated differently than other ethnic groups by police. The media coverage in Ferguson Missouri delivered a global reality production of the gritty side of the "Black Experience". It validated the abyss of concerns Blacks voice about looming physical confrontations with authorities that all too often boil to the level that fueled the uprising in Ferguson. There are millions of stories untold because most Blacks simply charge the treatment to "living while Black". A charge that has started to come back "declined"- as it should. It is past time for the senseless and malicious eradication of Blacks to cease and desist. The Ferguson Police department unwittingly proved to a national audience the mindset present among a lot of law enforcement officers on a broad scale level.
The number one thing that Police Department should not have done was create a residual situation similar to the one that got them in trouble in the first place - shooting at unarmed people. By shooting tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at protesters, the Ferguson Police cosigned the main accusation hurled against them as a result of the killing of Michael Brown. If there was any doubt in any rational observer's mind regarding that police department's regard for the safety of their citizens and concern for Blacks, Ferguson Police extinguished it when they multiplied their street weapons and then used them against protesting citizens.
Turret mounted vehicles rolling down an American Street manned by armed sentries arbitrarily aiming weapons at random American citizens will not bridge any existing trust issues. On the contrary, it exacerbates the level of anxiety and tensions. I wonder if the bold show of aggression was not so much stupidity as it was a well-veiled strategy designed to bait law-abiding citizens into unlawful conduct.
In the heat of the night
I've got trouble wall to wall, oh yes I have
An' I repeat, oh, I repeat in the night
Must be an ending to us all - Ray Charles
The Wednesday night after the killing of Michael Brown, I saw repeatedly flowing images on TV that looked similar to rebellious uprisings in Gaza, Israel, or Iraq. These officers were not dressed in riot or swat gear. They were adorned in full-fledged soldier body armor. There was equipment rolling down the street that would raise alarm in any F-16 fighter pilot or infantry soldier on the battlefield. Ferguson was even designated a no fly zone. Who were they worried about shooting down aircraft? It had to be their own Police because they were the only ones armed with weapons capable of doing that.
Someone over at Ferguson PD forgot to distribute the memo that stated Black People do not own anti- aircraft weapons.
There obviously was no plan or direction, rhyme or reason for the heavy artillery or just what to do about the protesting crowd that the Police themselves were antagonizing. Officers taunted protesters with invitations like "Bring it on." Reporters were arrested; rubber bullets and tear gas canisters were fired into the night. Fired into the night at citizens that were guilty of only exercising their first amendment rights. This is a picture that an America already distrusting of most armed authorities did not need to see. This is a picture Black America is all too familiar with predating back to Jim Crow. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Welcome back to "living Black in America" - oh that's right you never left.
"If I know in this hotel room they have food every day and I am knocking on the door and they let me see the party ... I can see the food ... but they are telling me there is no food in here. Every day I stand outside trying to sing my way in, 'We are hungry, please let us in,' after a week that song is going to change, 'We hungry, we need some food.' ... After a year, you are just like, 'I'm picking the lock and coming through the door blasting." - Tupac Shukar
Yes, folks in Ferguson were upset. Considering all that was heard from residents, the frustration and anger was brewing long before Michael Brown. Frustrated residents had knocked on that door Tupac talked about countless times in the past. They had tried to sing their way in each time only to be denied. They were hungry and the killing of Michael Brown took them to the point of starvation from never tasting humanity and or swallowing justice. They were fed up with being hungry.
The images that we all saw via TV and social media should scare us all. They should scare us all into the actions that will spawn change-because change is definitely needed. The Black Communities of our nation are void of embedded leaders and judging from Ferguson, void of local officials of any color with the best interests of those communities at the top of their To Do lists. I found it appalling that suddenly appeared a sprinkling of local Black politicians and activists in front of the cameras AFTER Michael Brown was gone. Spineless check collectors attempting to peddle the perception of shock and awe. What have they been doing while all the predated profiling, harassment and brutality was taking place? Tucked away from the neighborhoods they are supposed to be working for until they need votes.
Speaking of votes, they play in integral role in change in places like Ferguson Missouri. There is no reason in the world why any 80% Black city township or suburb should have a 90% white police department. That is the sort of skewed data effective and aggressive voter turnout can fix from the front end. If there is an appointed Chief of Police as leadership impotent as the chief in Ferguson, he needs to be out of a job. If he was voted in, he needs to be voted out the next time around. If he was appointed by an elected official then that elected official needs to be voted out on the next trip to the polls. Reticence does not get results in situations of this gravity. Noise does. The kind of noise that puts people out of jobs.
As of this post, Ferguson Missouri is still a tense powder keg with many racial tripwires.
Healing will not be a short-term process and change will be an even longer one. Law enforcement definitely needs to be walked back to Humanity 101. American policing has to return to more humane techniques - like getting out of police vehicles, talking to people, and not being prone to overreaction with the use of firearms, tasers, or pepper spray. … They will have to be untrained in creating difficult and confrontational procedures. Ferguson Missouri is a text book example of the inferno that can erupt from inflaming citizens as opposed to engaging them.
Communities are going to have to use their political clout put local politicians in place that not only listen to their voices but make policy that makes those communities better places for all. The solution is not chess, however its not an elementary game of checkers either.