I know this is going to devastate a bunch of whiny privileged white people and politicians who would just love to say that we’re “post-racial” because we have a mixed-race president, but here we go:
America has a serious problem with police. And, it’s not a problem with police and everyone else. It’s a problem specifically between police (or people who fetishize authority) and people of color.
On August 9th, 2014, the 18-year-old Michael Brown was stopped by authorities in Ferguson, Missouri. Whatever happened during that stop is unclear. What is clear, however, is that Brown, a young African American man with seemingly no weapon on his person, was shot to death by police.
Just a few weeks ago, New Yorker Eric Garner, another black man, was apprehended in a chokehold by cops to where he eventually died. The asthmatic Garner, too, was unarmed. On the YouTube video of his arrest, Garner is heard repeatedly, and desperately, telling officers he cannot breathe.
His offense, according to police in New York, was selling illegal cigarettes.
And, of course, we all remember Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager killed by a man, George Zimmerman, who pathetically obsessed about becoming a police officer. Zimmerman never hacked it as a cop. The New York Post called him a “cop wannabe on paranoid patrol.”
Naturally, this being America, Zimmerman was allowed to kill Martin. After all, Martin was a young black kid in a hoodie.
For good reason, then, folks in Ferguson, Missouri, had enough. They expressed their displeasure not just with Brown’s killing but with the system as a whole with civil protest and, thanks to military-style police provocation, civil unrest. If you just look at these three instances, instances that should chill the conscience but have become offensively commonplace in this so-called “post-racial” society, you can see why people are outraged.
They should be. And you should be, too. The civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, is entirely justified. Not only was it a direct response to police stifling speech, but it was a literal flashpoint demonstrating just how far America’s police have come in their arrogant authoritarian swagger. Cops there in Missouri even went so far as to unconstitutionally detain members of the press covering what was going on there. One Washington Post reporter had to politely ask an officer not to wave a gun at him. Of course, that reporter was detained and manhandled. Once the cops realized he was a journalist, they released him. (Why?)
Oh, that’s right, he has a right to record police: just like how all people have a right to assemble and freely move about without being harassed or provoked by uniformed men with guns.
That’s still something we’re working out here in Philadelphia. Sure, we have a quaint memo that Philadelphia Police aren’t supposed to hassle those recording them, but it’s obvious thanks to claims by the ACLU that we’re not terribly serious about that. Then again, if we aggressively monitored police actions in this city, the police would likely be rather unhappy. After all, how many narcotics unit cops have been indicted in the past five years? (Answer: Way too many.)
But while white journalists might enjoy rights, black people in America seem to have little in terms of protection from police. (And it’s not white versus black. It’s all police versus black people.)
What happened this week in Missouri could best be described as protests that turned into riots. But this was a fight the police invited with their tanks and heavy armor covering their heavy hands. And, it was a fight America has invited by making the disingenuous claims that we’re all equal in society. We are not. Clearly, two sets of rules exist: One for white people and one for people of color.
This needs to stop immediately. And, it’s only going to stop with aggressive actions by citizens drawing a line in the sand: We will not tolerate another unarmed, young black man killed. In order to understand that this demand is serious, we must as a society communicate that enough is enough.
Clearly, peaceful, quaint protests have not been enough. It took those riots in Ferguson to get our collective attention.
Naturally, though, Fox News and a bunch of other privileged white people with small minds started wringing their hands and wondering if these black folks were “forgetting” Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s message of civil disobedience. After all, the First Amendment doesn’t protect rioting. It protects carrying a sign and, I guess, folks not being all uppity, making actual demands for actual action (like, for instance, a ceasefire telling police to stop killing unarmed black teenagers).
Nope, in America, we’re only OK if you follow our rules (read: rules created by white people) in our government (read: government created by white people, many of whom owned black slaves) in our cities (read: cities patrolled by miniature militaries full of George Zimmermans who made it through the exam).
If you actually think the problem is with the people protesting in this country, you’re a moron and likely racist. You might not realize you’re racist, which is sort of the point. See, white people in positions of power (or even those not in positions of power) seem to think that they’re the arbiter of what is and is not racist in this country. And, they typically have a blind spot to their own ingrained racism, dressing it up with “respect for rule of law” and “respectability politics.” After all, it’s why white Americans just love Bill Cosby whenever he goes on a tirade about black people. But the minute Whoopi Goldberg says something similar about white people, she’s a radical.
Those odious “respectability politics” are on full display here in Philadelphia, too, with Mayor Michael Nutter callously dismissing the racist execution of anti-marijuana laws where police arrest blacks at four to five times the rate of whites as the fault of black people. His office says folks shouldn’t be doing illegal things.
How about we turn that around and say the police shouldn’t be doing racist things? After all, they serve us, not the other way around.
There’s nothing peaceful about the war on people of color at the hands of police in this country. And, there’s nothing peaceful about the nasty implications of white people who are condemning the protests in Missouri. The governor there, Jay Nixon, has said that Brown’s death and the ensuing unrest was like reopening a scarred wound.
He’s wrong. The wound has never healed. In fact, new wounds are made on a daily basis in this country, and the more that we dismiss this the more likely these wounds are going to fester. Eventually, these wounds will infect the entire body politic.
Follow @jawshkruger on Twitter.
Source URL: https://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/08/15/ferguson-race-police-treatment-people-of-color-michael-brown/
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