Hitting a man six times with rounds fired from a handgun (even a man with his hands up) is an impressive feat of marksmanship—and that was just part of a tsunami of oppression perpetrated upon our fellow citizens (who are Black) in Ferguson, Mo., oppression which started far before Michael Brown’s death.
I make note of marksmanship because I find the comprehensive array of immediately deployed police dogs, armored vehicles, automatic weapons, military body armor, combat boots and other military-style accoutrements—including rather sophisticated weaponry such as military LRAD sound cannons—to be a demonstration of premeditation against the people of Ferguson. Even the quantity of tear gas available to the police is astonishing. There had to be an almost unbelievable amount of hate, fear and alienation between Police Chief Thomas Jackson and his senior executives, and the citizens of Ferguson. It’s noteworthy that the shooter, Officer Darren Wilson, initiated his confrontation with Michael Brown (before shooting him) by saying either “get the f— out of the street” or “get the f— on the sidewalk.”
I assure you it’s not normal behavior for the police to address middle-class white kids with the F-word; most parents would certainly have a big problem with it used against one of their children. It’s also not normal for a police chief to create an almost relentless stream of misinformation, including releasing a videotape of Michael Brown shoplifting cigarillos when that had nothing to do with the shooting—in fact, Wilson, the police officer who shot the unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown six times including twice in the head, did not know about the shoplifting incident.
What is in Chief Jackson’s experience that tells him that people who report to him should use the F-word when talking to citizens What is Chief Jackson’s experience that he has dogs and armored vehicles ready to go to use against the people whose peace he has been charged with protecting What makes Chief Jackson think it’s OK to first try and hide the identity of the police officer, then to smear the character of the victim—especially when it could be rightfully viewed as inciting riot What would lead Chief Jackson to favor protecting the identity of the shooter over the security of all citizens After all, Chief Jackson is running a 53-man police force (including just three Black officers)—that’s not much of a Wehrmacht!
There’s no doubt in my mind that the fact that the town is 67 percent Black has a lot to do with the license Chief Jackson feels he has to abuse the people under his care. Although Ferguson police tried to stop people from taking video of their militarized confrontation of protesters, the ubiquity of cell-phone cameras made it impossible for them to control the message leaving Ferguson. In my opinion, the images are so stunning, so frightening that even people like Rush Limbaugh have nothing of substance to say (except to smear Michael Brown’s character and to insinuate that the President’s making his comments at 12:15 p.m. was to interrupt his show—hey, Rush, this is your brain on drugs).
Although Ferguson could be used as a turning point for civil rights in our country, I doubt the current administration has the guts to do so. Certainly, feckless Missouri Governor Jay Nixon compounded problems by sending in the National Guard to an already overmilitarized Ferguson. I view the clueless governor’s paralysis as a sign of the detachment between white America and Black America. It’s as if he can’t believe what he’s seeing either.
Indeed, Ferguson has shone a spotlight on our tale of two Americas: two separate legal-justice systems, two economic realities, two standards for government representation and, most troubling, two sets of expectations for how we and our children will be treated by those in positions of power. It’s very uncomfortable and very unsettling, and perhaps the worst thing of all—aside from the death of Michael Brown—is that there’s no resolution in sight.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly encourage you to take a look at the images collected using #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.