Social Issues

the facts are these

I am a man

I haven’t said anything about what happened and is still happening in Ferguson, Missouri for the primary reason that if I did say something, someone else has already said it better, and I’ll be linking to what I think are some important articles at the end of this post. I also haven’t blogged about it because I incorrectly assumed that if I knew about it, then everyone I know and have the opportunity to reach would also already know, would already have seen the same posts and articles and tweets and pictures that I have.

But over this weekend I found out how untrue that was. So, I’m taking a break from my review series to hopefully contribute something helpful.

So, if you have no idea what anyone is talking about when you see “#Ferguson” or hear someone mention Michael Brown, this is what you absolutely need to know.

On Saturday, August 9th, Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, and some of these shots appeared to have created multiple entrance and exit wounds. It is possible that the first four or five shots were not fatal, that it was only the sixth shot– which seems, to some experts, to have been delivered “execution style” to the back of the head. He was killed by a man named Darren Wilson.

Wilson was a white police officer. Michael Brown was a black teenager.

The Ferguson police department has a history of civil rights violations and also were so inept in their duties that their records were rejected for “major errors in data” by the Missouri Department of Public Safety; they also criminally charged a man for bleeding on an officer’s uniform after they beat him. The officers involved in that situation also appear to have committed perjury in open court.

Because of what Wilson did to Michael, and because of this history, the Ferguson community, which is almost 70% black, began protesting– a right protected by the Bill of Rights, and a right which is under literal, physical, brutal attack. American citizens are guaranteed the right to peaceably assemble, to petition their government for a redress of grievances. The people of Ferguson are embracing their duty as citizens to make it known that they will no longer tolerate such reckless disregard for human life and a completely out-of-control police department.

Since Saturday, many citizens have been tear-gassed, including senators, children, and news crews. After tear-gassing the Al Jazeera news crew, the police took down the video equipment and then approached the KSDK news crew with guns drawn. Multiple journalists have been arrested. Wesley Lowery, who was assaulted during his arrest, said that he was not given any names of arresting officers, would not be given badge numbers, was not told what he was being arrested for, and was released without knowing anything and without having any paperwork whatsoever. Multiple reporters have been threatened, detained and imprisoned under similar circumstances, and many have beguan wearing gas masks and bullet-proof vests because the area is so dangerous.

The police have been firing rubber bullets and tear-gassing peaceful protestors all week. These methods are technically considered non-lethal, but they are capable of doing horrific damage, like what they did to pastor Renita Lamkin and Mya Aaten-White:

rubber bullet 1mya aaton white

And the situation is continuing to deteriorate. After two nights of trying to enforce a curfew, the governor has opted to summon the National Guard to Ferguson. President Obama has sent the Attorney General to co-operate with the Department of Justice and the FBI, who are conducting investigations into Michael’s murder and civil rights violations.

At this point, it would be easy to get caught up into all of the rights being openly attacked by our own police force– violation of the right to free speech, unlawful seizure, to peaceably assemble . . . but that would not just be a mistake, it would be wrong.

We cannot forget what the community of Ferguson is protesting, and why all of this is happening. They are protesting because their police officer, a man sworn to protect and defend their community, murdered one of their children. We also must not be distracted by the smoke-and-mirrors show that the police and much of mass media has to offer.

Those are the facts.

I would highly recommend you read the following articles. I think they would be valuable to read, as they offer an important perspective on the reality of systemic racial oppression in America. For what are hopefully obvious reasons, I’ve decided to include only articles written by black people.

Things to Stop Being Distracted by when a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police,” by Mia McKenzie.

Black Bodies, White Souls,” by Austin Channing Brown.

Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder,” by Janee Woods

10 Ways Racism Killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner” by Chauncey DeVega

For accurate, up-to-date information, I recommend you follow this list on Twitter.

 

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  • Reblogged this on Adventures in Mommyland and commented:
    I haven’t written about what’s happening in #Ferguson for the same reason the author of this post hasn’t: I don’t know what to say and others have said anything I could say so much better. The linked posts at the end of this post are also really fantastic.

  • J. Rachel

    This is the best piece I’ve read about this so far… a lot more comprehensive and in depth than some major news sites. Thanks for your work.

    I do think all of those civil rights violations – for Brown and then the protestors – are incredibly important. But I haven’t really seen any of those papers pointing out that these sorts of civil rights violations are nothing new for people who find themselves outsides the mainstream in this country – particularly for black people (though I may have missed that). It’s just when it gets all over the news, people protected from that are shocked and maybe think, oh no, they’re coming for me so now I need to care about this ISSUE. But the people themselves – Brown, his family, his community, are forgotten in the spin.

  • L

    Thank you for this summary. I try not to look at the news too much so at first when the situation broke I didn’t read the articles and thus got behind, but I know it’s a terrible, terrible situation happening that I need to get caught up on.

  • Reblogged this on The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors and commented:
    This is an excellent summary of the events that have taken place in Ferguson, with links to recommended articles examining racism in the wake of these horrors.

  • Crystal

    This is horrible. I’ve always known the whites hated the blacks – even today! Maafa 21 (dealing with a different angle of civil rights violations for blacks) would be a good movie to check out if anyone’s interested!

  • Brett

    It boggles the mind that the Ferguson Police Department is even on the streets while the protests are on-going, considering how incredibly incompetent and awful they’ve been in response to the protests. What was the point of even bringing in Ron Johnson and the Highway Patrol to do lighter-touch crowd management if they’re going to let the Ferguson police back in the vicinity?

    • I’m kind of wondering at this point if Mo. governor Jay Nixon is actively pursuing a legacy as “the bad Nixon”. It’s staggering how inept an entire government can be for a week and more, now.

  • Let’s all say it together: THIS IS SOME BULLSHIT.

    • Crystal

      Agreed!!!!!!

      • Crystal

        Meaning, I agree with Samantha’s article: Let’s add to this that RACISM IS ALWAYS SIN, REGARDLESS. GOD WANTS US TO LOVE AND CARE FOR EACH OTHER!!!

  • Taking Time

    Still a little early. Prudence may suggest to wait until all the examinations of the body are in. Coroner reports can reveal more exacting details such as distance fired upon, entrance wound angles, and even direction of the person who was shot (facing forward, backward, side, etc.) Any death is a tragedy, so it is always unsettling when someone dies in this manner, and then the political wheels start kicking in with all the additional noise. Our hope is that no one else would have loss of life during these protest, and that government leaders would wake up to the realities, rather than leaning on perceptions.

  • Thanks for this summary. The background is so hugely important and I’ll admit some of it I didn’t even know, and I work in news.

  • Taking time: there have now been two autopsies, one done pro bono by the respected Dr. Michael M. Baden, former chief medical examiner for the City of New York. There will be a third by the Federal government

    The short summary:
    1. There was no gunpowder on the body; the shots were fired from a distance.
    2. All shots were fired from Brown’s front.
    3. Four shots hit his right arm.
    4. The fifth hit his eye, and probably killed him.
    5. The sixth hit the top of his head, and would have killed him if the fifth did not.

    This is consistent with someone being shot, falling, and being shot one last time. Since Brown was unarmed and leaving, It does not seem to be consistent with any scenario in which he offered a threat to Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown.

    In any sane world, Officer Wilson would be in custody, and the local district attorney would be investigating. Instead, nothing has been done, people are protesting, largely peacefully, protesters are being harassed by the police, who have even taken to arresting journalists. What I find striking is that neither state or federal government have yet stepped in. The risk of disaster mounts. If our highest authorities do not act on behalf of justice, we are all at risk.

    Information on the autopsy from The New York Times. The article was entitled “Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Was Struck at Least 6 Times,” by Frances Robles and Julie Bosman. It ran on August 17th and you can find it at the NYT web site, as well as most US public libraries.

  • Qualification: the Missouri Guard has been called out by Missouri’s Democratic Governor Jay Nixon to—I am not sure what the Guard is to do. There is already plenty of firepower on the streets of Ferguson. What might resolve the conflict are some moves towards justice, and if there are any, I have not heard of them.

    • Crystal

      Nor I, sadly. I shed tears in my heart for his family. To his family, I wish them well, and join them in their mourning. People ought to be holding a Tangihanga (Maori for mourning ceremony) for this boy. Instead, they will pass his dead body by, riddled with bullets, and say that he “deserved it.”

      To his family – I wish you well. We tangi (mourn) together. (I’m not sure I’ve got the usage of the Maori words right, but I’m beginning to learn! The meanings of the words are right, however.) Here’s the link for my fellow Kiwis and Iwis who want to add Maori/non-Maori flavour to the situation (http://history-nz.org/glossary.html). Hope my well wishes and the link are accepted.

      Crystal

  • Crystal

    To the man who shot him, I have only this to say:

    “He aha te mea nui o te ao?
    He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
    What is the most important thing in the world?
    It is people! It is people! It is people!”

    (This Maori proverb is quoted word-for-word from the website http://www.korero.maori.nz/forlearners/proverbs.html.)

    I wanted to say this because people are VERY IMPORTANT AND WHAT HE DID WAS MURDER AND NOTHING LESS!

  • Hattie

    I read the articles, they are fantastic. Especially this one quote from Austin Channing Brown:

    “I am convinced that the soul of the white church has yet to be ashamed. It is not ashamed of slavery- it only dismisses it. It is not ashamed of Jim Crow- it only claims credit for ending it. It is not ashamed of incarceration rates- it only excuses it. It is not ashamed of ghettos- it pretends to have nothing to do with them. It is not ashamed of segregation- only silently benefits from it. There is no shame for who America has been. I believe that until there is collective shame for who white America has been to people of color, white America will not choose to be something else. It is fine with who it is, it will continue to do what’s always done.”

    Mr. Brown, you have the white church’s attention.

    • Crystal

      I second Austin Channing Brown’s statement; it is so true!!!!

  • Thank you, Samantha. When I finish with my blog post on Ferguson, I will link to this one.

  • Samantha, thank you for pointing us in the direction of these articles. I too, thought that everyone knew what was happening in Ferguson and have been surprised to talk to people who don’t and who deny that race had anything to do with it when I tell them what happened. I am glad that all of the police department’s corruption is being exposed since it seems so easy for people to categorically deny any possibility that an officer of the law, much less many of them, are racist.

    • Crystal

      Many in the conservative camp deny the racism all the time “People (the blacks) want the police to act like real police officers, but they complain when they do…”

      What has that got to do with specifically targeting and attacking black people?

      Just wonderin’.