Some Thoughts on Ferguson and Race in America


It seems there are two types of people in America right now – those who know that what is happening in Ferguson, MO is fecking awful and has EVERYTHING to do with race relations in America, and those who think that some *ahem, black* 18 year olds “deserve” to be executed on the street for jaywalking. (Please remember that EVERYTHING else about Michael Brown – the alleged robbery, the potential marijuana in the bloodstream, etc. ALL of that came out after the teen was dead on the street and NONE of it was known or even suspected by the officer who shot and killed an unarmed youth. In fact, none of it is KNOWN now, these are still just allegations from a police department desperately trying to cover its own ass.)

This ties in to the promised – and not yet delivered – posts on gun culture in America, the need to reform the “justice” system and the “correctional” system in America – starting with addressing racial disparity in judicial outcomes and demilitarizing our police forces…

But in the meantime, while I take care of myself for a few days and collect my thoughts and try not to get swallowed by the GRRRRRR… A friend of mine, Jessica McDonald, wrote this and I think it’s worth a read. (Note, emphasis was added by me, as was the link at the bottom to a site for people who want to support Mike Brown’s family or offer aid or support to the people of Ferguson, MO.)

I know my regular readers are awesome and thoughtful commenters. If you’re new here, play nice in my sandbox – you are free to disagree, we like intelligent conversation that challenges our assumptions. However, asshats, trolls and rude people will be nuked. I have no tolerance right now for that kind of shenanigan.

A Quick Word About Mike Brown, Ferguson & Race in America:

By Jessica McDonald

I haven’t said much about Mike Brown and Ferguson. Partially because I just haven’t been online much, and partially because I have had a hard time collecting my thoughts. But I’ve been watching, and reading, and the things I’ve seen and read have made me by turns enraged, ashamed, shocked, and so depressed I want to crawl in a hole.

I’ve heard people say things like, “I wouldn’t want to be a cop in the inner-city.” I’ve heard people call the victim a thug, and all but flat-out say he deserved to be killed. I’ve heard these things from otherwise intelligent and progressive people. It leaves me reeling and deeply misanthropic.

I don’t care if he stole cigars. I don’t care if he lipped off at the cop. It doesn’t matter. IT. DOESN’T. MATTER. He was 18-years-old, and nothing he did warranted being shot. Consider for a moment that the Aurora theater shooter–who KILLED twelve people, injured 70, and rigged his apartment with the intention of harming both civilians and officers–is alive to stand trial. Police took him down without killing him, without roughing him up afterward, without beating him. Consider that this is common when a shooter is white–if they end up dead, most of the time it’s by their own hand.

Consider also we live in a country that instituted a media blackout in Ferguson, that barricaded the city, that has officers removing their IDs and badges so that they can’t be identified. Consider that the United States has now been condemned by Amnesty International. Consider that if this were happening in another country, we’d call it a gross violation of freedom and democracy.

Consider that there are only two real positions here. Either you think the police were justified, in which case, if you’re arguing there was no racial angle, you have to believe that lethal force is a tenable solution to teenage stupidity, or you don’t. If you honestly believe the police are justified in all of their actions since August 9th, consider what that says about the kind of country you’d like America to be. Consider that we have fought *wars* to prevent that kind of behavior abroad.

Consider also that if you are white, you will never experience this world the way people of color do. That’s not an attack; it’s the truth. An uncomfortable truth, maybe, but that doesn’t change its nature.

So when I say that it doesn’t matter what Mike Brown did or did not do, those are my reasons why. He wasn’t an isolated victim. We have a problem with race in this country that festers beneath the surface, because we Americans have never been good at facing the ugly side of our culture and history. This is the outcome of that willful ignorance. It’s dead teenagers in the street and people blaming the victims for their own deaths. It has to stop. We, as a country, have to stop pretending that everyone is equal, that everyone is treated the same, that privilege doesn’t exist and that somehow racism just disappeared with the election of Barack Obama.

Stop and *listen* to the people who deal with this every day. Consider what you would do if the tables were turned. Consider *why* you are so eager to place the blame on the victim, why the issue of race makes you so uncomfortable, why you are so willing to relegate an entire group of your fellow citizens to a second-class life.

It doesn’t matter what Mike Brown did.

It matters how we respond to his death.



Filed under Rant

9 responses to “Some Thoughts on Ferguson and Race in America

  1. I am glad that you brought up the Aurora murderer being taken away in handcuffs. Even the most peaceable of us, might not have had such a problem with a cop shooting him on the death at the scene of the crime. Certainly many would have cheered in movie theatres or in front of their tv screens had that been the case. So why is it the Ted Bundy’s and Charles Manson’s of the world – criminals of the worst kind, get the soft-glove treatment from the police, and countless numbers of black men and youth are humiliated or brutalized or murdered … just because.

    Just because black people are the world’s favorite scapegoat. Truly, racism isn’t just a national thing. We have our racist roots from our immigrant forefathers … it is a grand evil old tradition, centuries old. That white people should pretend that it isn’t relevant in society today, is just as preposterous as wealthy claiming there is no classism in America.

    • Unfortunately the people in power in this nation have been conflating blackness with violence for so long that many people don’t even realize when they react in ways that make the problem worse.
      We defend people who kill black people because in the back of our brains, where the social conditioning hides, we believe that somehow it must have been justified – even if the black person was unarmed, or needed help, or hand their hands up saying “don’t shoot” – we believe the shooter’s fear was justified.
      As we’ve seen in Ferguson – people then work overtime trying to drive that piece of the narrative, he might have robbed someone, he might have had pot in his system, he was large… It’s all code for “He was black and therefore threatening.”
      We have to break this narrative. We have to rail against it.
      After all, statistically the people most likely to snap and go on a killing spree – angry white guys:

  2. I am sure there was a bit of racism in play. I also think its fairly easy to lump all of the issues into the race category. I think the police would have been ALMOST as interested in over reacting to a WTO rally filled with young multi raced college kids. Over the past few years, we as a nation have created a Frankenstein’s monster. The rest on my rant is here:

    • Hi, original author of the post here.

      Militarization of police is definitely something concerning, and I’m not downplaying that. But the use of that force is disproportionate across the population, and that’s also important to remember. I’m going to say something that will more than likely come across as controversial and combative, but hang with me and I promise I’m not personally attacking /you/.

      White people don’t get to decide what are issues of race and what aren’t.

      You don’t get to decide it because you don’t experience racism. You never have. (Required caveat: By “you” I mean white people in America, not you specifically.) You can make that speculation about how police would have reacted to a WTO rally, but let’s remember that while protesters were pepper sprayed wantonly, police didn’t kill protesters over and over and over and over again. Black men in America are shot by police not just once or twice, but with frightening regularity. Do white people get unfairly abused and killed by police? Yes, of course. But not nearly with the frequency that people of color experience. Example: Recently, a man high on mushrooms in a courthouse grabbed a court officer’s gun, fired it, and was apprehended with no damage done to him. He was white.

      This is issue is inextricably tied up with race, because of how the population reacts to police violence. When a white person is gunned down, people are outraged. There are cries for the officer to be punished and an examination of police brutality. When it happens to a person of color, we (as a society) find a way to justify it, to blame the victim. He was a thug, he was dangerous, he was threatening–never “he was innocent.”

      When I say that you don’t get to decide what issues are ones of race, it’s because you are judging that from a perspective that is not faced with the reality of racial bias in America. I’m mixed race, and have passing white privilege–the things I hear people say when they don’t know I’m mixed is horrifying. Most of the time, they don’t even understand or recognize WHY it’s horrifying, because they don’t understand how those words hit someone who struggles in the face of racial prejudice. In the same way I’ll never really understand what it’s like to be a man, or Japanese, or blind, white people will never really understand what it’s like to be a minority in America. So when there’s an issue like this one, please try to listen to what people who live with it every day are saying. Don’t dismiss it as “trying to make everything about race.” The truth is, everything IS about race, because it’s an inescapable part of life for racial minorities in this country.

    • Lets not forget that the events in Ferguson were started when a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager.
      You cannot tell me that moment was not about race, that the white cop was not responding/reacting to the youth’s race.
      Unarmed black boys/men are killed by police at a rate of nearly one a day in this country.
      Meanwhile armed white criminals, including active shooters are rarely killed by the police, they are sometimes killed by their own hand, but not by police, no, they are captured alive and given trials – it’s called due process.
      That is what I meant when I said Ferguson was sparked by America’s ongoing racial tensions.
      And yes, the police response to the protests was disproportionate – and that too was about race.

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