I refuse to write the prosecutor’s name in this blog. He is a waste of characters. Last night the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri failed to indict the officer (I will not mention his name either) who killed Michael Brown on any of the possible five charges. After 100 days the 12 men and women who composed this grand jury added Michael Brown’s blood to the long litany of Black men in America who have been either lynched or murdered from America’s sea to shining sea.
The action of this grand jury has inducted Michael Brown into a fatal fraternity where he joins Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell and Kimani Gray and countless other unnamed black teens who have been gunned down by police and had their dreams drowned in a pool of blood while their killers have walked free in the name of an American criminal justice system that strongly skewers justice to favor the majority culture of this country!
Simply put, my brother Michael Brown was murdered. 12 rounds of bullets fired at one person by an out of control gun wielding police officer whose actions have been sanctioned by an American criminal justice system that places no premium value on the lives of Black men.
I have read what has been made available of the grand jury report. To say that it is conflicting is a mild understatement of the facts. However, in Mr. Brown’s murderer’s testimony we have a great and grave insight into how too many white police officers view young black men. Brown’s killer testified, “Michael Brown looked ‘like a demon.’” Black men are demonized from coast to coast from the Catskills of New York to the curves of the Carolinas to the rugged roads of the New South which has returned to the Old South to the maddening Midwest across a turbulent Texas to the coasts of California and many places in between.
The unindicted officer continues his testimony by saying, “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan.” So he goes from demonizing Michael Brown to seeing him as a fictional character. Between “like a demon” and “Hulk Hogan” we have the lens through which a lot of white America sees young black men which explains why over 60% of white America said before the verdict that there shouldn’t be an indictment.
Both of the aforementioned labels scream, “We devalue black life in America.” When you see a person as a demon or a character, then you don’t see them as a person at all. You simply see an animal. You see something that needs to be killed. You see a “something” instead of a person and when we dehumanize each other bad things happen. The bad things that usually happen are sanctioned by a criminal justice system that gives policemen a green light to gun down young black men without having to worry about any repercussions because the law protects them under the cover of “justified shooting.” To say that this system is broken is a gross understatement of the facts.
Young black men are an endangered species in America and the law allows police to hunt them like wild animals. Studies show that black teens are 21 times more likely to be shot dead than their white counterparts.
One source, in a report called “Operation Ghetto Storm” says that in 2012 that of the 739 “Justified” shootings from 2012, 313 of them were Black. 44% of them or 136, were unarmed. 27% of them (83) were claimed by Law Enforcement to have a gun at the time of the shooting, but that could not be later confirmed or the “gun” was in fact, a toy or other non-lethal object. 20% of them (62) were confirmed to have been armed with a gun, knife or cutting tool.
I invite you to look at the chart at the top of this blog and then allow it to tell you the horrific story of the disproportionate killing of Black men in this country in just FIVE American cities.
I went around the barn just to tell you that much of this madness is driven by racism. The American criminal justice system is racist. Police departments are filled with racists. Both the criminal justice system and the police department are in bed with each other and have taken an unspoken sworn oath to murder “the demons” and “the Hulk Hogans.” They cover for each other. They stand united in their efforts to legally “kill” my black brothers.
If we don’t break up the marriage between the criminal justice system and the police department, then we are going to see a repeat of Ferguson over and over again. The next Michael Brown is on deck and police are ready to see him as a “demon” and “Hulk Hogan” and we will see a repeat of this vicious cycle.
Remember in the 60s when the world saw policemen spray protesters with water-hoses? Well, the policemen’s guns are the new water-hoses. The police chiefs are the new “Bull” Conners. The District Attorneys are the new George Wallaces. The only thing that has changed relative to justice is the date on the calendar because the ideology has been frozen in time and it is conveniently unthawed at “their” appropriate time of need. That ideology says that black lives don’t matter and especially the lives of young black men.
By refusing to indict Michael Brown’s murderer, America has once again indicted herself before the world. My good friend Christel Beelen writes from Belgium, “The whole world is in shock. These are sad times for justice. No justice, no peace.”
America keeps writing her black citizens bad checks. America tells us to vote but then America suppresses our vote. America tells us to get a job but America discriminates against us when we apply for jobs. America tells us to go to college but America puts up admission hurdles. America tells us that justice is colorblind but America strongly skewers justice away from the black, brown, yellow and red. America invites us to dream and then works overtime to turn our dreams into a nightmare.
No matter how much progress that we make in racial relations in America it is a steep climb up a monstrous and unforgiving mountain. Nelson Mandela had it right when he said in Long Walk to Freedom, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” We have many more hills to climb to reach racial reconciliation in America. The gap is great. The divide is wide. The differences are vast. Mandela goes on to say, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”
So where do we go from here? While I don’t in any way support the Ferguson riots, I understand the rage. Yet, this rage must be turned into a righteous plan. A plan to register voters. A plan to then vote. A plan to oust the District Attorney. A plan to oust the police chief. A plan to take control of the city council. A plan to take control of the school board. Ferguson cannot and Ferguson must not return to the way life was before the murder of Michael Brown. #changeFORWARD
For Ferguson to change forward it will not be easy.
I want to close this blog by allowing two giants to speak from their graves. First, we will hear from the immortal Nelson Mandela.
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”
A final word from my favorite Civil and Human Rights activist Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. who wrote in 1967 in his book Black Power: A Form of Godly Power: “Unless man is committed to the belief that all mankind are his brothers, then he labors in vain and hypocritically in the vineyards of equality.”