Part I of “Ferguson Unleashes a Movement for Racial Equality”
The shooting of Michael Brown (18), an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson (28), a police officer, on August 9th has served as a wakeup call rippling from America to London. On Sunday November 23rd, 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed in Cleveland as a result of wielding a pellet gun in a public park. And there are scores of similar stories surfacing daily.
This tragedy has sparked an important, multilayered, international debate. But it’s not about whether or not Brown was guilty or if Wilson should have been indicted. We will likely never know the truth about what went down on that fateful day. But this discussion has very little to do with what transpired in Ferguson, and much more to do with a fundamentally skewed social agreement.
We have much to learn from this tragic event, and so many others like it. This is a wakeup call for America to discuss the reality and impact of institutionalized racism, white privilege and over militarized police systems that are all too prone to the use of excessive force, most often targeted at people of color.
The rate of violence in America is staggering. The rate of police brutality and misconduct, especially towards people of color, is even more staggering. Here’s a New York Times article that provides a glimpse at some of the statistics. There are 100s of “Cop Watch” style watchdog organizations popping up all over the Internet. Organizations like the ACLU have created an app for recording and reporting police misconduct.
A new Twitter account called “Killed by Cops” already has over 5,600 followers posting incidences of black civilians slain at the hands (or guns, rather) of police officers. This GOOD Magazine article discusses the reality of the shocking number of black people killed daily by police.
Hacktivist groups like Anonymous are on a mission to amplify truth and mobilize thousands across the world. They’re currently mobilizing droves of protestors through their @OpFerguson Twitter group. They’re also battling the KKK in St. Louis through their #OpKKK hashtag and have already DOXed them (shared their personal info) and taken over most of their websites and social networks.
Suffice it to say, things are heating up. And they should.
There is no question that we need a police force. But that does not mean we should allow rampant impunity and widespread racism to be imbedded into the fabric of our governments, institutions and businesses. These entities are in dire need of reform.
The media (primarily Fox News) has no intention of framing the Ferguson tragedy or consequent protests as having any plausible positive outcome. As usual, the focus is on demonizing the black community and trivializing the possibility that recent events might possibly incite a positive movement towards sustainable peace and racial equality.
In a very deliberate effort to instill fear in the minds of the masses, the media continually serves as a portal for scenes of death, destruction, drama, irrational behavior, ongoing racial discrimination and every other type of theatrics that will up their ratings. If you want news you can trust, I’d suggest Russell Brand’s, The Trews and Jon Stewart’s, The Daily Show.
We have come a long way since the days of slavery and Jim Crow Laws. Thousands of black Americans have risen to the highest of heights, despite the surrounding oppressive environments. An African American friend of mine recently said, “I am lucky to have grown up in a household where my parents taught me that I needed to work twice as hard just to get half the benefits”.
The United States represents about 5% of the world’s population and about 25% of the world’s prisoners. What does this say about the US? About 88% of those prisoners are people of color. What does this say about our systems? You either believe that people of color are inherently inferior and destructive, or there is something profoundly broken within our social and governmental systems that has been fostered for 100s of years.
The ensuing riots and protests that have resulted from the Ferguson tragedy have little to do with what happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. Black America is fed up with ongoing oppression through institutional racism.
Nuanced racism may prove to be more lethal than the blatant segregation and oppression of days past. Racism today hides beneath the surface unassumingly like a snake, poised to strike and recoil before you’ve noticed it happening. Most of America has no idea that racism continues to thrive underneath the surface. Sometimes the art of nuance holds the greatest threat of all.
But today, we have the ability to connect and unite like never before. The free flow of information and ease of travel affords us more connectivity and information than what we’ve ever experienced. Now we’re seeing that come to life in a very real way.
We cannot let this discussion dissipate. We must keep the momentum going and channel this energy into positive initiatives for a more egalitarian society. This is an opportunity we should not let slip through our fingers. We must pay respect to Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement and continue to further that important mission.
If you would like to peacefully and productively contribute to the racial equality movement that is rippling across the nation, I would recommend participating in the #BlackoutBlackFriday campaign. You can read more about it, and sign the petition here. You can also see real footage of instances of police brutality. Being aware is the first step. Beware, some scenes are gruesome. And if more people would open up their eyes and take action, these instances would cease to be.
* As this is a multilayered discussion, I have broken my original post up into a series of posts that will be ongoing, for as long is necessary. Please join in to the conversation in the comments section and help amplify the word through social media. Thanks!