The Ferguson Verdict

On August 9th we were arriving back in Santa Fe after a vacation excursion to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and mesa Verde National Park.  Michael Brown was being shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson.  Riots broke out throughout the St. Louis area as news broke that Brown had his hands up when the cop shot him.  The killing of unarmed Black men by police has become epidemic in America as racism rears its ugly head in opposition to a Black President.

I wasn’t able to watch the television coverage of the riots because the casita where I was staying didn’t have a TV but I did follow it on social media and through the New York Times.  Yesterday a grand jury decided no charges were to be filed against the police officer and more unrest followed.  Confronting violence with violence runs counter to everything Ghandi and martin Luther King Jr. have taught us.  Sometimes tempers flare however and great injustice demands civil disobedience.  That should never include violence though.  Looting, shootings and theft of other’s property won’t win any converts to one’s arguments.

We know we live in an era of The New Jim Crow where mass incarceration fueled by unconstitutional stop and frisk harassment by police is funded by federal government grants.  Growing up in America as a Black man is dangerous to one’s health and well being even in the 21st century.  America hasn’t really come very far in terms of race relations.  The virulent statements and deeds by the KKK regarding Ferguson amidst other threats to the President and other African Americans is ample evidence.

Speaking of evidence the grand jury decision came as no surprise to many.  There simply aren’t any consequences when white cops shoot African American men.  The testimony was taken by a grand jury which worked in secrecy with no cross examination of witnesses.  The lack of transparency makes it all suspicious which will only feed the sense that justice was denied.  If the prosecutor really wanted to pursue justice in this case he should have filed charges against Darren Wilson and let an open and public jury trial determine the evidence and render a verdict.  The Brown family, the people of Ferguson and the Black community nationwide was denied such justice.

Why is it we hardly ever hear of unarmed White men being gunned down by cops?  The militarization of police became a national issue because of Ferguson.  Many community activists and leaders have questioned the wisdom of such tactics following the vast over reaction seen on televisions by millions.  This may be the only good that comes from Ferguson.  Yesterday “verdict” was a shame.

Ferguson

Michael Brown’s remains have been interred.  With him go any pretense that racism in America is past us.  Any sense that electing a Black President put a four century old record of slavery, segregation, lynching and racism behind us is blasphemy.  Michael Brown was shot dead while unarmed and holding his hands over his head by a racist Ferguson, Missouri cop.  He was summarily executed for walking while Black in the middle of a street.  Unfortunately there have been hundreds of Michael Browns and dozens of Fergusons in America.  This particular one set off an entire community and ignited a sense of outrage among African-Americans tired of being targets of over militarized, racist police.

It has also revealed the depth of racism in America’s right wing.  The cop who committed the murder has been the recipient of $250,000 contributed by white racists who think he did the right thing.  Fox News went so far as to broadcast a fake story trying to raise sympathy for the man and excuse his actions.  The Ferguson Police Department released a partial video purportedly showing Brown shoplifting cigars.  Watching the entire, unedited video shows him paying for the items.

Such is America post-Ferguson:  a nation awash in unmitigated racism and a right wing unashamed in illustrating its racial hatred.  Right wing media has fanned the flames and cops stating virulently racist things in videos gone viral have fueled weeks of protests by Blacks in the suburban St. Louis town.

Ferguson is a predominantly African-American town ruled by white racists.  Because only 12% of its residents turned out to vote in the last Mayoral election it has a racist Administration and police department.  Our silence at the polls translates to the type of community in which we reside.  When a Black American, a poor American, a Union card carrying American doesn’t vote they have no voice.  They have no rights to a representative government truly seeing to their needs and protecting their rights.

The Michael Browns of Ferguson dug their own graves by neglecting to vote, by deciding not to participate in the system.  This is what they get in return and no amount of looting, protests or cries of anguish and remorse will atone for their sin of not voting.  Democracy is a wonderful thing:  we get what we deserve and we deserve what we get,  When we opt not to vote we then cannot turn around and complain at the outcome.  Ferguson is simply the latest example.