We should all be thinking of Ferguson, Missouri, and what has happened and is happening.
It began with a police officer killing a young black man Michael Brown. The circumstances of the killing are disputed. We know the policeman, Darrell Wilson, was a white man on a force that was about 90% white in a town that had become 70% black.
These are the circumstances under which Wilson shot Brown:
A: Wilson was looking to kill a black man so he shot and killed Brown who presented no threat to him;
B: Wilson believed his life was in danger so he shot and killed Brown who he believed presented a threat to his life.
As a result of Brown’s death, riots and protests broke out. The rioters believe Wilson intentionally killed Brown. They suggest Brown had his hands up and Wilson just decided to kill him, shooting him six times. From that we have the chant: “hands up, don’t shoot.”
The police suggest there was a struggle for Wilson’s gun in the police car; a shot went off and Brown fled; Wilson went after him; and Brown turned back when challenged and started to run at Wilson.
There is an audio recording done immediately after Brown’s killing. It seems to support the police version.
Here’s what is reported that is on the recording: “The alleged witness tells the man that Brown was in the police car with Wilson and then got out and ran away. ‘Then the next thing I know he doubled back towards him cus (sic) the police had his gun drawn already on him,’”
As a result of the killing protests and riots took place that evening. These protesters were peaceful and rioters were not. The police from Ferguson and the County of St. Louis were called out. A minority were dressed in military-type gear. At least one armored car with a machine gun on top was also called out. (Of course, we’ve seen the picture of that splattered all over the media.) The result of the police action was to stop the rioters and bring some stability to the area. This was done without anyone being killed or seriously hurt.
The media and politician take on the police response was overwhelmingly negative. They all of a sudden decided the police were the problem and not the rioters. The problem with the police response was it was militarized. The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, decided the police response was causing the problem.
Senator Warren of Massachusetts joined in to condemn the police response proclaiming “this is America, not a war zone. The people of Ferguson just want answers.” She felt no need to condemn the rioters. It was reported Senator McCaskell said “she thought the police response had become part of the problem. “The police response needs to be demilitarized.”” No one credited the police with calming the situation without loss of life or serious injury. Actually, we’ve been led to believe otherwise.
The governor brought in the Missouri State Police and put a black police captain named Johnson in charge. The first thing Johnson and some of his men did was to join hands with the protesters and participate in a Kumbaya parade. At first the friendly and kind approached worked. Peace descended on Ferguson for a night.
After a night’s respite, the riots again broke out. Stores were looted and set on fire. One person was shot by the rioters and someone shot at a police car. Molotov cocktails were thrown at police. The looters were not confronted by the police and no arrests were made. It was obvious after a second night of rioting the Kumbaya approach was not going to work.
Governor Nixon has now called it the National Guard. Was that his recognition that the militarized police response was correct? No, he now blames all the riots on the police reaction. As with all these things, we don’t know what would have happened in the first place if the police had not put on a forceful show with military gear. We only know that having done it no bad results followed and that doing without it things got worse.
We now have the very real military response with the National Guard rather than the limited military response of the police. We have still not focused on the underlying causes of the problem.
Sure most of the protesters were peaceful but without the protests would there have been riots? Without the protesters exciting the community by false narratives or suggesting racism was the reason for the killings there may have been no swamp from which the rioters could spring.
Ferguson with its hatred boiling below the surface did not happen overnight or with the killing of Michael Brown. It has been a long time coming to a boil. It is also simmering below the surface in many other cities of America. The gap between the black communities and the white communities is growing greater with each passing day. Perhaps no one knows how to stop this chasm from growing.
The politicians, pundits and demagogues without answers suggest this is a police problem. They fear facing the real problem. The people are getting the old political shuffle of throwing up a dummy (the police) which everyone can whack away at to hide the reality of the situation.
Until we recognize it is not the cops; it is not even the rioters; but it’s what has happened to a large part of our society that is the problem. We will never get ahead as long as we hide things behind the idea of “the rogue” situation; that is, that one thing is an outlier when it truly represents the core of the matter.
What we are staring straight in the face with the Ferguson riots is that there are two different cultures in our society. It is beyond race. It is like Janus. One culture which produces those who look to the future with hope; and the other in which the people look and see all hope is gone.