Ferguson: The Aftermath

It’s time to Break It Down!

In August I wrote about the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters conducted a series of vigils, marches, and other acts of mostly peaceful assembly after the first several days following the incident, during which violent acts of civil disobedience ensued.

On Monday of last week, the District Attorney announced a finding of No True Bill, which means, no criminal charges will filed against Officer Wilson. After the decision, which was announced at approximated 9:00 p.m. EST. News outlets announced early Monday afternoon that the Grand Jury had reached its decision, which for sometime had widely been assumed to be no indictment of the Officer. Given that dynamic, a host of factions and citizens had positioned themselves in various places around the City of Ferguson to await the announcement.

As the hours passed, many observers openly questioned why the announcement was being delayed. More wondered if it would actually be made at night, or whether the D.A. would wait until the next morning. Once it was made clear that the D.A. would announce the results of the decision at 8:00 p.m. local time, there was a near universal outcry in the media suggesting that this was a bad call.

Making the announcement at night ensured that local law enforcement and the assembled members of the National Guard would have a much more challenging job controlling what was almost certain to be multiple rowdy gatherings. It would have been difficult to create a more volatile mixture, if one had planned to so…which is exactly what some skeptics accused the D.A. of doing.

Given the preceding stipulations, not surprisingly, the D.A., Robert McCulloch, announced the Grand Jury had not found probable cause to indict Officer Wilson, so No True Bill was issued. Equally unsurprising, riots and looting broke out in Ferguson.

This matter of Brown’s killing has now been front-and-center, or near center for three and a half months. The most recent violence, after nearly three months of peaceful protest, reignited a spate of national psychoanalysis of the black community, played out daily in various media outlets. The one sure thing that has resulted from the country responding to a proverbial open invitation to discuss race matters is a reminder that no matter how much so-called racial progress we have made in this country, the central view of blacks and whites on the matter is poles apart.

Almost certainly, there are blacks folks and white folks who agree on the big picture pieces of the subject. I am not convinced, however, that agreement is representative of the majority of blacks or whites.

As I read the comment sections of news articles and social media outlets in which a white person cites with full-throated authority that black folks’ problems inure from black-on-black murders, a la Rudy Giuliani, or welfare dependence, per Dinesh D’Souza, or the race-baiters, according to Rush Limbaugh, there is almost always a chorus of apparently white voices who can hardly wait their turn to echo the lead voice, and most often illuminate further, for good measure.

Similarly, when I see a black person write or voice what seems to me a well-reasoned, even balanced perspective, whether it be Leonard Pitts who countered the Mayor Giuliani’s rant by explaining that murder is a crime of opportunity and/or proximity, which results in the majority of white murders being committed by whites (83%), or Ta-Nahisi Coates reminding us that this country actually had a very violent beginning (see Africans and Native Americans), or President Obama recognizing that there have been aspects of the legal system that have been historically applied to African Americans in an inequitable fashion, these same white folks, or their ideological twins race to the fore to note that the black writer or speaker, no matter who it is, presents a racist argument.

In a previous space in my life, I spent a fair amount of time participating in and in a number of instances, leading diversity initiatives. I came to recognize that as a matter of course, many white folks enter such conversations with the intractable point of view that racism is a false construct. That is to say, many white Americans believe racism does not exist. Some of these people are willing to concede that it did exist “once upon a time,” but they insist that it was eliminated long ago…and they add, no, they are not racist.

How could they be, since there is no such thing?

A popular argument is that this country ended slavery, and when it did so, the playing field, for all practical purposes became pretty much even. Others, while not making that assertion, argue civil rights laws were enacted in the 60’s, and that ended discrimination. Ergo, with the elimination of racism, and the end of discrimination, any remaining inequity experienced by blacks in America is on blacks themselves, pure and simple.

After years of sifting through different variations of “I am not a racist,” I do not discriminate,” and essentially, “it’s not my fault,” I began to see American History in a much more compelling way. I understood, with much greater clarity, what my parents, teachers, advisers, and mentors meant when they talked about the sacrifices our forefathers made to lay the foundation for the progress I am privileged to enjoy today. May God bless all of them!

Those people did not have an opportunity to discuss such matters in a format even remotely intended to represent equals. They were not merely subjected to electronic bullying and belittling; they were physically assaulted, maimed, or even killed for daring to express an opinion that might be deemed out of line or uppity, as it were. So in comparison, I can almost understand why today, a person could in good conscious contend that there is no such thing as racism, and that discrimination is dead…almost. But not really.

Newsflash! Racism and discrimination are alive and well. Not everything bad that happens to black folk is a result of either. But the fact is, it would be a lot easier to foster and maintain a dialogue, and to move forward if, these pernicious behaviors and practices were called what they are when they do occur, and dealt with accordingly. A popular meme from the 1970’s is “No justice, no peace.” I cannot simply issue a demand that anyone concede racism and discrimination exist. I understand that. But if there is some kind hopeful notion, that if you bury your head in the sand long enough, all this “stuff” will somehow blow over, I have a one word response for you…WRONG!

Moreover, if that strategy makes its way into public policy, I envision a reprise of that 70’s meme…”No justice, no peace!” Sadly, for now, that pretty much sums up “Ferguson: The Aftermath!”

I’m done; holla back!

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