There are so many false narratives and misunderstandings about what is going on in Ferguson.
I am not sure whether I am more offended by the bigotry and selective hearing as someone of African descent, or by the ridiculous logic as a trained analyst.
I have felt, over the past few weeks, like I was playing Asteroids when it got to that last level where there were like 50 million asteroids coming at you (yeah, I’m getting old). Honestly, I am not sure if I am writing this to preserve my own sanity, or to enlighten others.
For those of you that cannot seem to see the logic behind Ferguson, I have a question for you. What is more likely? Is it more likely that so many educated people are stupid, or that there is simply a set of experiences and perspectives that you are not aware of? Do you think that all the parents I know that are hugging their black sons tighter these days are naïve or aware? Let’s see how you feel after I talk with you for a few minutes.
For those protesting, “IT” is not just about Ferguson
People are angry about long standing patterns of injustice. We are angry about the fact that there has never been a time in this country where people, including police, were not significantly more likely to target, suspect, and kill black men.There have been a host of “others” who police have targeted prejudicially. But for black men, this has happened since the inception of this nation. So, when you see the protests, this is only partially about Mike Brown. This is about a pattern coming to a head (again). So, when you are talking to any aware person of African descent, please realize you are not having an isolated discussion about Ferguson. Because that is not what this is for us.
Beyond race, there are so many of all races that are noticing an emerging pattern familiar in police states. The tools of fascism abound. Military tools are being stockpiled and used by police at an alarming rate. There is, in addition to the race issue, a thin blue line and some issues with cop culture. If the pattern holds true, the police will continue past black youth and begin targeting all youth who get even slightly out of line. So, if you think this will remain a black problem, think again.
But for now, it is still primarily something black youth, and youth of color in general have to deal with daily. Do I think this because I have been “duped by Al Sharpton”? Please. I am a trained scientist. I know this because of the combination of experience, knowledge of history, and current data. Please study the chart below and tell me that this problem is somehow in my imagination.
The ridiculous assumption that we only have the choice to say “I stand with the cops” or “all cops are bad” must stop. I’m not talking about your brother who is a cop, who donated warm blankets to a family, and stayed up all night holding the hand of a 5 year old. I know those guys too. There are cops and federal agents that I love, and I am grateful to have. I call the Sherriff in my hometown “Uncle BJ”. So, let’s put that to bed right now. Recognizing that there is a systemic problem is not the same as saying “every single one of them is a racist pig”.
What we have to acknowledge is that there are so many who have never seen a nice cop. There are so many who have never had a positive experience with a police officer, who have only seen harassment simply because of where they live and the fact that they do not wear a suit and tie.
Before you come back at me with “well, if they didn’t dress like that”, let me stop you. Because I have also seen my father harassed when I was a teenager while driving a car in a suit with his family and college administration license plates. I have seen my best friend, the most polite person any of you have ever met, thrown up against a wall for no reason whatsoever. When I say no reason – I mean it. No reason. It happened when we were in college. Yes, we went to Internal Affairs, an engineering major and a molecular biology major. What happened to the cop, you ask? Nothing.
You know there aren’t only two positions about rioting, right?
I have been so frustrated by some of the conversations about Ferguson. So many think that one can only, in a discussion, pick “for” rioting or “against” rioting. Some people’s fingers can only seem to be able to click and post pictures of looters, despite the fact that this is the smaller percentage of protesters. Most protests have been exceedingly peaceful. I know that some of this selective hearing is because of prejudice, and some is because people amplify conflict.
Let me explain something to those of you who do this. I have a wide variety of friends, but probably 66.7% of them are of African descent. Not a single one of my friends endorses looting businesses. What I do know is that there are many of us who understand why it happens.
You see, when you oppress people for a long time, over generations you create several groups. You create those who will assimilate so fervently they forsake their own identity. Generational oppression will create those who become protesters, and those who simply and quietly strive to out excel it. You will also create more criminals. In every single community, there are also selfish opportunists. How are the looters that different from those on Wall Street who violate federal laws in order to use economic crisis to their advantage? How can you find one group “disgusting” and not the other? Could it be because one wears a suit and is a different color?
I can only speak for my Facebook friends, but of those who were constantly harping on the looters during Ferguson, I didn’t see most of them say a mumbling word about the rioting after Joe Paterno was fired for turning a blind eye to years of child molestation. What conclusion am I supposed to make about that? Do you suddenly care about rioting now?
I hate looting. I hate that rioting happens. I don’t like it. I wish people would make more constructive choices. However, we cannot escape the fact that rioting is simply part of what happens. To truly change something over the long haul, we must understand it first.
For everyone, but especially for the conservatives who don’t know a single word Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said beyond “I Have A Dream” – here is his statement on rioting:
“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
So…I don’t think he is “turning over in his grave” about the rioting. I think he is “turning over in his grave” about the series of injustices that led to the rioting. But, you know, you’re right. This is far worse than burning cars when your favorite sports team wins or loses.
Bring it: Let’s talk about Mike Brown, too
Another ridiculous assumption some have made is that people are protesting “a lawful action by a police officer”. Here is why that is completely stupid: It haughtily assumes that those protesting believe the action share your opinion that is was lawful, and have seen nothing of the evidence. I cannot tell you what other people have looked at, but I can tell you I have followed this from the beginning. Here is what I have found, and why I am angry. Let’s see if you think I am stupid, ignorant, and reactive after this.
It is in doubt whether Mike Brown robbed the store in the first place. The storeowner says that he did not call the police. It also looks like Mike Brown could have paid for the cigarillos and simply had a brief altercation where he pushed the storeowner, after the storeowner invaded his personal space.
I think it highly unlikely that Mike Brown just up and attacked a police officer that was simply doing his job. I find it hard to believe that a crazed, giant “demon” (as Darren Wilson described him) would stop beating the hell out of someone to be like “here bruh, hold my Swisher Sweets”. I think it even more unlikely that Mike Brown tried to grab this officer’s weapon, then after losing that battle, turned and ran, only to rush at the officer again. But say you find all of that foolishness perfectly plausible. After all, Mike Brown was a really big black guy. That is the kind of stuff “they” do, right? Yeah, ok.
What about the fact that we didn’t hear from Darren Wilson for 3 months? Do you think the marks on his face are consistent with a crazed, 6’6” 300 pound “demon” beating him senseless? No, sorry. I have been in a few scrapes, and am a former martial artist. A man of that size, hitting someone the way Darren Wilson says he was hit – that’s leaving a big old mouse on that jaw. I won’t even bring up all the fake pictures of Darren Wilson that were put out there. We all know what the motives were there. But I digress. Let’s say that you think it all plausible.
You don’t think it the least bit odd that a grand jury allowed the defendant to testify (that almost never happens)? You don’t think it the least bit odd that the prosecutor didn’t ask the jury to consider charges (that almost never happens)? You don’t think it odd that they chose this prosecutor to do all of these highly unusual things?
But yeah, you’re right – all of us are just having knee jerk reactions.
You don’t need to be as suspicious as I and many others are to understand the cause for the unrest. You need to understand the logic behind it. You need to understand that you do not share that logic due to your own experiences, biases, and belief systems. That’s fine. But don’t dismiss us others as if they are stupid when, given a set of experiences (read: data), our suspicions are perfectly logical.
Want to address “black on black crime”? Yes, let’s.
The term itself is a fallacy. Every single ethnic group on the planet is more likely to kill those close to/like themselves. This is fact. There is going to be more crime where there is more poverty. More black people are likely to live where there is more poverty. Add to that multigenerational oppression, and its effects on the psyche.
Let’s talk about what happens when black folks kill black folks – they are not coddled by the justice system. When they kill white folks and are caught – they go directly to jail. I have never seen a black guy kill someone white, be found, and pass go or collect $200. So, what are we talking about here? Our problem with the pattern of cops and vigilantes killing our youth is that so few of them go to jail. I am so grateful that at least two have recently. But far more have not.
Further, I might mention that police targeting and brutality, over generations contributes to crime. If I think you are out to get me, why am I going to you for help? That defies logic. Is that “healthy” or “right” or “good”? Do I endorse not witnessing crimes or the whole snitches get stiches philosophy? No. I am simply explaining to you that this is just what happens.
So, what are we talking about? Oh…you want to know what we are doing about violence in our communities? Well, I just so happen to be a psychology professor at Hampton University, where we just launched several anti-violence initiatives. My students are involved in mentoring young black males and females. My friend, Mary Pat Hector, started a nonprofit to address this as a youth. There are countless others. So, we are. Thanks for asking. I know you only ask out of concern. So, I am sure that given your high level of concern for this issue that you will contribute funding and time to one of these efforts. I know that, given your compassion and concern for this issue, you will work tirelessly alongside us to address the systemic, psychological, and economic issues that contribute to violence in our communities. I thank you in advance.
Some of you will read this, ignore everything I have said and substantiated, and continue with your bigoted view. You will continue to feed your self-righteousness. I won’t hear you, because I have stopped listening. You story is an old and trite one. Some of you will read this, and say “thank you for writing this, I have never considered these things”. That is the movie I want to see. That will renew my faith and hope in humanity, and we will walk hand in hand today. Deep in my heart, I do believe. We shall overcome someday.