That’s the only conclusion I can come to after a day spent reading about 18 year-old unarmed black kid Mike Brown’s murder by a white cop with a god complex. It’s 2014, and we’re still a society in which black parents have to explain to their kids how not to get killed by the police, and a society in which a black man can get executed for selling untaxed cigarettes, a black woman for opening her door to police, a young black man for lying face-down as the police compelled him to., and a black man can’t be assaulted by a white one without getting pepper-sprayed and detained. Meanwhile, white people can carry assault rifles wherever they wish, and even brandish them at police without getting shot instantly, but a black man can’t carry a BB gun in Wal-Mart without getting executed by police. An unarmed black teenager gets murdered by a policeman, and a white pundit wants to know why President Obama won’t offer the murderer condolences for having given in to the impulse to destroy an innocent human being.
Are we happy, white Americans? This is the country we’ve made. Remember all that tough-on-crime talk that’s kept us electing people who’ve promised more cops with more powerful weaponry? Remember how we all panicked after 9/11 and decided it was okay if our police were turned into paramilitary units? And how we’ve put all this heavy weaponry in the hands of white people who disproportionately target black people?
I want you to look at what’s happening in Ferguson, to the people who are peacefully protesting a black teenager’s murder.
This country was founded on the premise that citizens should be able to express their displeasure to their government. The Constitution enshrines the right to protest:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
States are as bound by that Constitution as the Federal government. And yet, in Ferguson, a young black man with his empty hands raised to the sky, petitioning his government for redress of a very serious grievance, is met with overwhelming force. In America, if you are a black person protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, the First Amendment does not apply. You will be silenced with military hardware.
This is the world we’ve made.
Some of you may like it. You’re not likely to be targeted. You don’t have to walk out your front door with the possibility of getting shot to death by the police on your mind. You think the black people you’ve discriminated against and had your proxies brutalize and robbed of any hope of a future deserve everything the police dish out. You like the tough-on-crime rhetoric that lets you enjoy your drugs in peace while black kids have their slender chance at a decent life ruined over a little bit of pot. You can break the law in a thousand minor ways without being murdered by a cop, but will look for any tiny misdeed on the parts of the black folk executed by law enforcement. You think this society is just, that the police are in the right, and those who are suffering deserve their suffering. You think that everything the police do is justified if people who have suffered endless injustice are backed into a corner, and have no way out except to lash out. You condemn them for anything you can, just so that you won’t have to confront the uncomfortable fact that you’re part of a system that crushed them, and then sent riot police to attack them when they had the temerity to protest the brutality visited upon them.
I have nothing to say to you. I will not waste my time digging for that shred of humanity that may be left in you.
For those of us who just didn’t pay attention, who let our fear get the better of us, who didn’t realize the horrific scope of the problem because we never get pulled over for driving while white, stopped and frisked for being white in public, and are treated with at least a patina of respect by police officers who know they can’t get away with casual brutality toward white people, I think it’s well past time we wake the fuck up, and start doing something about the things we’ve allowed to happen in this country. It can start right now, with a signature on this petition, asking for a full investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown. Sign it now.
And then listen to the stories pouring out, the anger and the pain.
The young man was on his way to college the next day.
Yet he was brutally executed by fascist police state thugs in occupied territory and left to bleed in the street like a dog.
He did everything that white America claimed he should do to keep from being branded a savage and was murdered in cold blood.
As a black person in America, it’s getting exhausting to still have to explain, in the year 2014, your right to exist in this country. To explain that you are a human being whose value sits no lower than anyone else’s. To explain our basic humanity. And perhaps worst of all, to explain exactly why we are outraged.
We shouldn’t have to explain why it’s not acceptable for unarmed teenagers to be gunned down by the police.
Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.
So, to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.
Trayvon Martin was just walking home with skittles and a fucking iced tea. He was killed for nothing, bc of a racist scumbag who should be in prison. I’ve walked to the store at night before. I’ve worn a brightly colored tee shirt, and shorts. I’ve carried my cellphone and wallet at all times. Why? Because in the back of my mind, I have to worry about the possibility that someone will want to shoot me because I’m a person of color. Nevermind that I don’t own a gun, and don’t want to. Nevermind that I’ve never been in a fight in my life. Nevermind that I’m not an aggressive person prone to violence. Nevermind that I have a hard time hurting a roach, let alone another human being. No, nevermind all that. There are people out there that wish I were dead, or would take the opportunity to kill me for nothing.
Perhaps you’ve even heard of Ezell Ford, a 24 year old black man who was killed by police while he was walking along 65th street, some TWO HUNDRED blocks north of where a shooting had been reported. He was lying on the ground and obeying police orders when he was killed by police.
He died on August the 13th. oh look.
you all going to be paying attention when the next unarmed black man dies to police on the 15th? you gonna remember their names when there’s another black person lying dead in the street, killed by police on the 17th? are you going to remember eric garner’s name?
Racial profiling, disproportionate sentencing including the application of the death penalty, police brutality and murder, institutionalized discrimination, systemic inequality in matters of health and quality of life, changes in voting laws and redistricting to try to minimize Black votes, disproportionate rates of being the victims of violent crimes, involuntary sterilizations and contraceptives with serious side-effects offered without proper counseling, high maternal and infant mortality, children disappearing into the foster care system instead of being placed within their own communities, etc.
Some things have gotten better since We Charge Genocide, but mostly they’ve just gotten a little less official.
Here are a couple stories in which police officers shot people, and race was most certainly not a factor, because race is never a factor now that Barack Obama is President/Dictator for Life. We begin with the tragic death of a man named John Crawford, who was shot by police officers in an Ohio Walmart for the crime of shopping for a BB gun while black. While Crawford was busy exercising his Second Amendment rights, two other shoppers, April and Ronald Ritchie, decided they ought to inform the local police that a scary black man was carrying a gun in a store where guns are sold.
This is not the same as every race’s intraracial crime (yes, every fucking race has intraracial crime; every race does not face anti-Blackness [or settler colonialism, which connects to this history] and this particular historic structure of violence, however) nor would be prevented by the politics of respectability. Black people in America do not have the power of the police or the State. We cannot “earn humanity” through behavior, dress, or even beliefs. We are dehumanized as Black people based on who we are, the fact that we are Black, not based on what we do. A lack of “respect” for the city (one already under investigation for profiling and racist policing long before Michael was executed) didn’t kill Michael Brown. A long legacy of anti-Blackness and violence in that city, in this country, in our history is why he is dead.
I don’t care if Mike Brown was going to college soon. This should not matter. We should not have to prove Mike Brown was worthy of living. We should not have to account for the ways in which he is suitably respectable. We should not have to prove that his body did not deserve to be riddled with bullets. His community should not have to silence their anger so they won’t be accused of rioting, so they won’t become targets too.
Officers have tanks now. They have drones. They have automatic rifles, and planes, and helicopters, and they go through military-style boot camp training. It’s a constant complaint from what remains of this country’s civil liberties caucus. Just this last June, the ACLU issued a report on how police departments now possess arsenals in need of a use. Few paid attention, as usually happens.
The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.
If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.
Yet again, the protesters took to the sidewalks and streets, facing a row of police guarding the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office. “Hands up!” they chanted, their arms aloft. “Don’t shoot.”
“This is how the boy died!” Kendrick Strong, 42, hollered at police officers Tuesday morning. “This is how the boy died! With his hands up in the air!”
The hands-up — a sign of surrender and submission black men and boys here say they learn early on when dealing with police — has been transformed into a different kind of weapon.
Standing in his backyard along with a few friends and family was 24-year-old Rich West. And after seeing the police deploy tear gas as they marched down the empty street, West and his friends felt like protesting.
“You go home! You go home!” they chanted. As the police come closer, they all put their hands up.
Once again, the police officer with the megaphone ordered the protesters to go home.
“We’re in our yard!” they responded.
At one point West walked to his fence with his hands high up in the air.
“This my property! This my property!” he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.
Whether you identify positively or negatively with the term or the idea, whether you feel that uprising is an appropriate reaction to state violence or whether you prefer the term rebellion instead, the act of the riot is a historical one as necessary to democracy as any form of civil or uncivil disobedience.
One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s lesser known quotes ‘riot is the language of the unheard’ keeps me grounded here. In fact, did you know that MLK and many other non-violent black activists employed armed guards in the 60s?
Besides, all of this talk about ‘violence’ this and stereotypes that is just so unhelpful. Let’s maybe talk about the fact that in cases like this police deliberately censor footage gathered, in some cases arresting photographers for fear of sparking unrest. You know why that is? Because they understand what most riot shamers don’t: if you corner injured people, there is no where to go but against.
When your town is two-thirds black, your police force is almost exclusively white, and you’ve taken to the streets in tanks like it’s fucking Fallujah, you need to hush your cracker mouth about “respect.”
The white establishment is absolutely terrified that they may have gone just slightly too far by murdering a young black boy who was unarmed and whom witnesses claim was 35 feet away from the police officer who murdered him. And they’re expressing this terror by creating a paramilitary presence to gas and attack and try to frighten the living bejeezus out of the people who dare say “yeah, murdering that boy WAS a little too far over the line, thanks.”
You also think the stomp of boots, rumble of tanks, teargas, rubber bullets, big damn guns and real bullets can’t ever come marching to you. Because you don’t want to understand what happened yesterday. That day when a police force went rogue military and shut down a town is a day I thought I would not see. I didn’t think I’d live to see that happen, but I have. And what I have lived to see is fucking terrifying. It should scare the hell out of every single person in the U.S., regardless of class, colour, or location.
Never think it can’t happen here.
It’s time for the police to be de-militarized, time for this country to truly confront its problem with racism and racial injustice, and time for us to demand the brutality stops.