'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
25-year-old black man killed by police in St. Louis // Nyle Fort - White supremacy is the real culprit // Ferguson, 11 days on: ‘We are sitting on a powder keg’
that’s the crux of white supremacist racial logic: the problem with black people is … well, black people – not mass incarceration and the deindustrialization of urban America, not educational inequality and generational poverty, not 400 years of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow. To be black in America is to be victimized and then made responsible for our victimization. We built this country. But, apparently, it is we who are lazy and dependent. We are bullied politically, socially and economically. But it is we who are called “thugs”. ..“There is never an excuse for violence against police,” President Obama said. Yet there are endless excuses for state violence against black people.
We’ve had enough of the police brutality, of the colorblind mythologies and post-racial rhetoric, of the sweet-talk, of the calls for non-violence; of mass incarceration and systemic poverty, of trigger happy cops and crying black mothers, of the Eric Garners and Renisha McBrides, the Michael Browns and Tarika Wilsons; of black tears and white terror. Dr Martin Luther King Jr said in 1968: “A riot is the language of the unheard”. Today, nearly 50 years later, black America demands to not only be heard but heeded – by any means necessary.
This week in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been more backlash over the resistance of a few black (and some white) protestors than the violence of white police. Meanwhile, according to organizers on the ground, it has mainly been (white) outsiders inciting violence to promote their own agenda. As the writer Sarah Kendzior tweeted: “White people coming to STL to provoke police violence against black residents and get them blamed”. More than blamed: black people are left to bear the brunt of the political mess white infiltration leaves behind, be it by the National Guard or outside organizers.
As Sean Beale, a 27-year-old local, told the Guardian: “If you don’t live here you don’t worry about the burning and looting. You don’t worry about stores closing, or losing your job, or walking for miles to buy food.”
But to focus more on the people’s resistance than the police repression that created it – even as tensions cooled in the streets on Monday night– is to participate in the dehumanization and devaluing of black life. To ignore the elders rallying for the sake of our babies and young people peacefully protesting on behalf of our future while some (white) visitors instigate disarray is morally reprehensible. Beyond Ferguson, the pattern is clear. Blacks are always to blame, even as we are brutalized by police, ghettoized by neoliberal policies, and disenfranchised by a racist criminal (in)justice system.
But that’s the crux of white supremacist racial logic: the problem with black people is … well, black people – not mass incarceration and the deindustrialization of urban America, not educational inequality and generational poverty, not 400 years of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow. To be black in America is to be victimized and then made responsible for our victimization. We built this country. But, apparently, it is we who are lazy and dependent. We are bullied politically, socially and economically. But it is we who are called “thugs”.
“There is never an excuse for violence against police,” President Obama said. Yet there are endless excuses for state violence against black people. For mass incarceration, there’s the “war on drugs”. For poverty and unemployment, there’s “a culture of laziness” and “government dependence”. For the educational gap, there’s the burden of “acting white”. For Eric Garner: “loosies”. And for Michael Brown, there are stolen cigarillos, jaywalking or anything the police can say to shift the narrative from their white supremacist practices to black “ghetto” culture. It is to say that black lives do not matter, that our babies deserve death and despair, that our communities don’t deserve protection and justice.
Obama needs post-racialism like Bush needed the “war on terror”: to camouflage our contradictions, to exercise global dominance vis-à-vis a (neo)liberal-democratic narrative, to lie to the world. But with the numbers of black bodies unemployed, incarcerated and extrajudicially executed, what are to we to do?
No one person knows.
But we must act collectively and courageously. Alongside the immediate arrest of Darren Wilson, we must demand the demilitarization of law enforcement as well as the decriminalization of the black body. In addition to the withdrawal of the curfew and National Guard, we must demand the withdrawal of apartheid police forces and local governments where a black majority is ruled by a white minority. We cannot depend on the same police force that killed Brown to liberate us. In Ferguson and across the nation we must push for the implementation of community-oriented police models that include prevention, problem-solving, citizen engagement and community partnerships. There needs to be a cop-watch program in every city across America with a high concentration of people of color.
Also, we must recognize that naming Wilson as the killer without naming white supremacy as the culprit fails to address the root of racialized police violence. We must recognize, as Malcolm X did, that police brutality is a human rights issue that will not be solved simply by the passing of legislation. Our rallies must spark revolutionary action. Our marching must evolve into a sustainable movement. We must see that this is bigger than Brown and Wilson, than Ferguson or New York City. This is about the value of black life in 21st-century America.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Tuesday that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife "in an overhand grip." But the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department released the video and 911 calls, tellingSt. Louis Public Radio that it plans to act transparently. The shooting death occurred less than four miles from where Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in the suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9.
Last week, a brutal midday sun beat down on Ferguson, Missouri, and brought it slowly to the boil. The temperature has barely fallen since.
Before the apocalyptic scenes of troops, teargas and “less lethal” bullets turned this town of just 21,000 into an international spectacle, a man who gave his name as HB quietly sprinkled Remy Martin cognac on the spot on the residential side road where his young friend Michael Brown had been shot dead on 9 August. Six bullets from a policeman’s pistol meant that Brown, who was 18, would never grow old enough to drink his favourite brandy in a bar. “We are in so much pain,” HB told me. “We’ve got to tear shit up. And it ain’t going to stop until we get some kind of justice. We need to stop these white cops.”
His threat might have been easily dismissed that sunny afternoon as the idle talk of the grieving and vengeful. But more than a week later, just about the only thing clear through the fog of noxious gas clouding Ferguson’s streets is the burning, implacable rage of Brown’s peers against the police and their political masters in this northern suburb of St Louis.
The notion may have taken hold among some elites on America’s coasts and European capitals that the US led by Barack Obama has entered some kind of cheerful post-racial era; that the new challenge, after the great recession, is colour-blind income inequality. Yet 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and six after the election of the first African-American US president, hundreds of young black men this month have taken to the streets of a midwestern suburb to deliver a cathartic roar against the overwhelmingly white authorities that they blame not only for murdering their friend, but for ruining their lives.
Brown, who was unarmed, was shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in sharply disputed circumstances. Brown and a friend were told by Wilson to move from the road to the pavement as they walked back from a convenience store. Police say that Brown assaulted Wilson; several witnesses say that the 18-year-old was shot while trying to flee a struggle. Both regional authorities and the federal government are investigating potential charges.
“Mike Brown was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” DeAndre Smith, a 30-year-old barber and salesman, told me as he retreated with his girlfriend through teargas from an advancing police line during clashes on Sunday night. “That’s when we said this is enough. That’s it.” “This is a revo-fucking-lution,” Smith added, prompting an order from his partner not to curse. “Plain and simple, this is the revolution. The one everybody was waiting on. It happened like this. By a people who want respect. African American people in this country.”