Wednesday, August 20, 2014

At What Point Can The Stupidity of Racism End?

(Update: Batocchio at Vagabond Scholar linked this blog to the 2014 Jon Swift Memorial Roundup.  Hi, everybody!  Please leave comments if you want, and if this is your first visit here, please take a look around.  Io Saturnalia and here's hoping the next year isn't going to be as sh-tty as this one...)

It's easier to express rage during a round of Twitter messages.  It's been more than a week since the shooting death of yet another unarmed black teen by an angry guy with a gun... only this time the angry guy with the gun was a cop.

I don't want to pity Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates.  But every time there's been a shooting involving an unarmed black teen and an armed angry guy (usually white), he's been called to make comment:

...It will not do to point out the rarity of the destruction of your body by the people whom you pay to protect it. As Gene Demby has noted, destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. All of this is old for black people. No one is held accountable. The body of Michael Brown was left in the middle of the street for four hours. It can not be expected that anyone will be held accountable.
We are being told that Michael Brown attacked an armed man and tried to take his gun. The people who are telling us this hail from that universe where choke-holds are warm-fuzzies, where boys discard their Skittles yelling, "You're gonna die tonight," and possess the power to summon and banish shotguns from the ether. These are the necessary myths of our country, and without them we are subject to the awful specter of history, and that is just too much for us to bear.

And Coates has been called too often the last few years to this role as the Speaker To Unspoken History. It must be tiring.

What's been horrifying in the wake of Michael Brown's murder has been the combination of arrogance out of a police force over-reacting to the protests by the Ferguson community, and the willful eagerness of the racists (there is no other word to describe those people) who were and still are quick to demean, defame, and demonize the victim as well as the mostly black neighborhood in which he lived and died.  As that article by Steven Rosenfeld notes, "the victim becomes the suspect."

It came so easy to the haters on Twitter.  I lost count of the number of tweets calling Brown a "thug", and claiming the city and county police were in their rights to break up the street protests using any violent force available.  I saw about fifteen, maybe twenty different tweeters bringing up the argument about how all the "white-on-black" protesters keep ignoring the "black-on-black violence", despite the evidence that, yes, black communities ARE protesting such violence and it's just the haters and the mainstream media are the ones ignoring that issue in the first place.  And I'd like these critics to give some public time and effort decrying "white-on-white" crime please and thank you...

What's at argument here, what's at stake, is the ongoing problem where a powerful governmental agency - responsible towards serving and protecting the public - is abusing such power when dealing with the poor and disenfranchised public they're supposed to serve.  What's at stake here is as much the militarizing of our nation's varied law enforcement offices as much as the dehumanization of entire communities.  Where the police lining up with tear gas and body armor are calling their unarmed civilian targets "f-cking animals", less about how those protesters were acting - most of them just walking with their "hands up" calling "don't shoot" - and more about the skin those protesters wore.

The threat of racism among our law enforcement agencies has been and continues to be a serious problem.  The racism in our nation's history, and our nation's current psyche, continues to be a serious problem.

At what point, haters, at what point do you f-cking let go of all that hate in your heart?  At what point do you stop the fear, recognize that the problems with our communities come NOT from skin color but because people - white and black and brown - are poor?  At what point do you give up the f-cking obsession of some southern conservative pipe dream of returning to an 1850 "utopia" where everyone knew their place by the power of who held the whip?

I am serious.  Dear Ferguson PD: when your fan base is made up of the KKK (!) you are clearly on the wrong side of history.

This entire week has been an exercise in watching the police enforce the unenforceable - the outrage of a community - through violent militarized tactics that even actual military veterans decried as overkill.  (The quote that's stuck with me all week, and needs to be said here, from the Business Insider article: "We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.")  At only one point had calmer heads prevailed: when after a violent police-instigated crackdown on Wednesday night during that first week went global on the news, it forced the state governor to order the local police to stand down and sent in state troopers to handle the crowds.  The state law officers went in that Thursday with bullhorns instead of batons, standard patrol uniforms instead of body armor, and hugs instead of tear gas.  That night saw little if any violence.

What the hell happened after that Thursday?  Other than the Ferguson PD coming back with accusations that Brown was wanted for shoplifting cigars at a local store, making another attempt at defaming the victim to justify the shooting.  An accusation that quickly developed holes when the store-owner revealed he never called in a theft, that the police never even showed up for the video until that same Friday, that the timeline and earlier testimony was that the shooting cop Darren Wilson couldn't even have known Brown might have been a suspect, and that a subsequent review of that video showed Brown actually tried paying for those cigars.

In the wake of all that, the Ferguson and county police went back to their heavy-handed body-armor arrest-all-reporters tactics.  Against all evidence that Soft Power efforts - engaging the protesters on an equal level - work, they went back to the violent confrontations.  The only reason why I can figure out is racism: the Ferguson police want this fight, they want to debase and demolish their own citizenry because they can't imagine handling the issue - them vs. the black community - any other way.

Is that racism ever going to go away?  Is that blind stupidity - pushing them to shoot tear gas at kids and families, most of them unable to avoid it all because they live there - ever going to go away?

We should be rolling lighter than this through our own communities.  What the hell is wrong with us?

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