Ferguson: The tears came anyway

Like many, if not most of you, i was assuming that the Grand Jury would not indict Officer Wilson.  I was hoping that they would at least find something to charge him with, but i did not really expect it to happen.  I figured that i would be ready for the Grand Jury’s decision.

But i was not.  I listened as the explanations were offered and i suddenly realized that tears were slowly coming down the side of my face.

I have not had faith in the US judicial system during my adult life, but i still found the decision more than i was prepared to take.

In these cases of police lynching, as my wife noted this evening, no one ever seems to explain how it is that an individual who is trained to deal with harrowing circumstances, finds it necessary to fire their weapon twelve times against an unarmed, alleged assailant.

But there is something else that probably needs to be openly discussed.  I thought about this when i was in the occupied Palestinian territories and witnessed the manner in which the Palestinians are treated like dogs by the Israeli occupiers.  There is a deep anger and resentment that emerges among the oppressed that frequently evolves into rage (sometimes open; other times less than open).  In those moments one can find one’s self saying or doing something unexpected because one is simply tired–in a bone deep way–of being treated as less than human.  In the short time that i was in occupied Palestine i, personally, was filled with rage, a rage so deep that there were times that i wanted to challenge the Israelis…scream at them for their inhumanity…only to remember the countless “Michael Browns” in the USA who have lost their lives at the hands of the authorities, almost always demonized and caricaturized; almost always with their death explained away as justifiable.

I don’t know what happened on that summer day in Ferguson.  I do know that a young, unarmed black man was robbed of his future.  Could he have been argumentative?  Quite possibly.  Could he have gotten into an altercation with the officer?  Certainly.   But are we supposed to believe that even under those circumstances that an unarmed, sane person would decide to charge someone with a fully loaded weapon?  Over an argument of some sort?  And we are supposed to believe that a police officer has no training to prepare for such a possibility and can only respond with deadly force?

I am sick to my stomach about the decision and the numerous similar such decisions in these cases of extra-judicial killings of youth of color.  I am sick of the terror that it inspires in communities of color across the USA.

The lynchings must stop!

20 thoughts on “Ferguson: The tears came anyway

  1. Like you Bill, I wasn’t surprised at all. When the Governor put the state under emergency status, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. The state has militarized the police in an unprecedented manner with “surplus” military equipment. It’s not being deployed because they think Islamic militants are imminently going to attack Ferguson. It’s being deployed against the righteous anger of the people. When the police are dressed and equipped like an occupying army, they start acting in that manner. There was no reason NOT to let a jury decide. Yet another slap in the face of justice.

  2. No matter the specific actions of Brown and Wilson, it’s clear the game plan/protocol in police interactions is missing any semblance of civility or respect…and in that context killing a young black man has become an acceptable response to an issue that never would have arisen if Michael had been white….not unlike the NYC man selling cigarettes on the street who was killed with a chokehold despite his pleas. Can the media, the protesters, government leaders even begin to explain why black lives don’t matter? Obama spoke of progress in ‘race relations’, and there are all kinds of indices that would reflect that, but when you look at Baltimore, Newark, Detroit, etc., social structures are disintegrating.

    I look at the transiency (from cousins’ couches to friends’ floors) among my students, the inability of single-parents to manage the crises generated by poverty, the violence affecting practically every family….and then look at my school as an institution. I won’t go into details but there is an exodus of teachers, the Junior class’s GPA is something like 1.6, and basically, teachers can’t teach. It’s out of control… Langston Hughes’ raisin in the sun….is exploding and imploding, and neither government nor the larger society really cares. Does the work in NC offer a potential model? Here on the ground in Baltimore, I’m not very hopeful.

  3. In almost every case before a Grand Jury, the prosecutor is seeking an indictment, very unlike Ferguson, where the prosecution used this process in exactly the opposite way. I was reminded earlier of the saying that “a prosecutor could get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich”. When you turn that abuse of power on its head, you get these totally unjust results. The fix has been in. And, there is no remedy, outside the streets.

  4. I knew, everybody knew, what it meant when James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner vanished in Mississippi fifty years ago this summer just past.
    It didn’t mean there weren’t tears running down my 14-year-old face when news came that their bodies had been pulled from an earthen dam in Neshoba County.

  5. Bill, The decision was outrageous. The Cherokee people know of a “Trail of Tears,” but what African-Americans have experienced in terms of tears shed is easily equivalent to how native Americans have been treated. As Frederick Douglass knew injustice has to be constantly confronted by people willing to “agitate, agitate!” — Philip Reiss, author “Blue Eyes On African-American History”

    • I wish that i understood what was “crap” about lynching. We have lived with this reality for quite a long time.

  6. lynchings stain this nation and there have been many, but lynchings had nary a thing to do with the shooting of Mr Brown, who spent his last day in strongarming a store clerk after robbing the store and then committing an assault against a cop.

    it’s a shame that the cop shot the guy to death, but trying to tie it to lynchings is deeply unwise and unjust.

    • I had a discussion with a friend of mine, some months ago, who is very familiar with law enforcement. He made an argument aimed at trying to explain the killing of Michael Brown. What I said to him i will repeat here, because it is relevant to this discussion.
      In so many cases of police killings there are almost always “extenuating circumstances” that are raised to explain away the action by the police. But here is the problem. It is now established that African American men in their early 20s are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than are white men of the same age. How does one explain that? You see, that is the question upon which we should really be focusing. How can one explain 21 times more likely???
      The short and honest answer is that one cannot unless one looks at the underlying issue of race and, to put it bluntly, lynchings.
      Are there police killings of blacks that do not fit into the pattern of racial lynchings? Of course. But in order to understand the deep suspicion that exists within Black America about the activities of the police one must understand the reality of the “21 times” problem. It is a problem with which we, in Black America, live day in and day out.
      If one were to argue that the police killings are somehow justified, one must then ask why Irish American youth are not being shot and killed in Charlestown, MA, the supposed national capital of bank robbery. One would need to ask why there are not rampant police killings of Russian immigrant youth, given the notoriety of the Russian mafia. The list goes on and on.
      The Ferguson killing, therefore, must be understood in this broader context. Efforts to separate the killing from this content will, at a minimum, result in bad policy. But more importantly, it does not help us to understand anything about the relationship of African American youth to the police.
      I know what the Department of Justice had to say about the killing of Michael Brown. Forgive me if i am not prepared to believe it. When the killing ratio is not 21:1 but 1:1 i will be prepared to reconsider.

  7. an argument by statistics that ignores the facts in this particular case is swallow and of little worth, if any.

    I tend to doubt that you’re so ignorant as to be entirely sincere.

    matter of fact, i think that if someone pointed out that 9 out of 10 gun homicides in NYC are committed by Hispanic and black males 18-35 and then says that until that changes we should assume that every time there is a gun homicide there we should believe that it was perpetrated by a black or Hispanic male… you would be unhappy if not quite vexed.

    put your racist assumptions away until there is some evidence. Mr Fletcher and look for truth and justice. the kid should hve acted less like a thug and a criminal and the cop should have refrained from firing all those shots…. despite having legal authority and justification for them.

    • Funny how you are unable to address the “21 times” matter. I would be a bit more reluctant to throw around the term racist. Perhaps you should look at the DoJ’s report on Ferguson police?

      In terms of the issue of thuggishness, if that were a pretext for killing on the part of police, then i would guess that a lot young white men would be dead at the hands of the police…but they are not.

      To throw around the term “thug” ignores the reality of the Black experience with the police since the days of slave-catchers. It also ignores many other police killings, such as that of Eric Garner.

      But your post made me think about a posting i put up on my Facebook page a few weeks back from a Black high school student who was walking through an area not far from his home taking photographs for school. A white woman saw him and called the police. The police stopped him and began interrogating him with the assumption that there was something wrong in the fact that he was in that area taking photos. They asked him about outstanding violations, etc. You see, when we are treated, at the outset as if we are guilty, it has an impact on one’s attitude.

      I do not know anything about Michael Brown’s innocence or guilt. What i do know is that in every interaction with the police that a Black person in the USA has, there is a level of fear and anticipation that this could go REALLY bad. My guess is that you have absolutely no idea what i am talking about and probably never want to know. But what i can tell you is that when one is the subject of repeated treatment along these lines, there sometimes comes a moment when you say “…i am sick and tired of being treated this way…”

      So, my constructive suggestion to you is that you read a little bit more history about the experience of African Americans with law enforcement. I would be very open to continuing a dialogue on that basis.

  8. funny how the intellectually bankrupt throw around terms such as ” the reality of the Black experience” rather than muster up the honesty to address the specific situation.


    • I decided to sit on this comment (from March 23rd) since the author of the comment has made it clear that he does not wish to pay attention to actual history and what he dismisses as the reality of the Black experience. But, this morning, after hearing about another police killing of an unarmed Black man–this time in Florida–following the video release of the killing of an unarmed Black man in South Carolina, there is no room for silence.

      I would ask a very simple question: how many white communities would permit the police to get away with such killings? If the Boston Police started killing unarmed white youth in Charlestown due to the proliferation of bank robberies, how long do you think that such actions by Boston’s finest would be tolerated?

      In order to understand the intense reaction to these police lynchings one must put this all in the proper historical context. I realize that such an approach goes against the grain of many people in the USA who would rather not address history and instead only focus on the future. But that will not work. It never has; it never will.

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