I remember when the Mike Brown shooting was first leaked. I shook my head as what seemed like another unjustified killing of a young black man. I remember talking and reading comments about the case on an online forum and agreeing with one of the other commenters that the police officer would not get indicted not because a lack of evidence, but because history has a way of repeating itself.
There are so many things that bother and grate me about the Ferguson case, but ironically one of the biggest of these is the lack of understanding by those outside the black community. All it takes is to look at a Yahoo message board and you will see tons of ignorant racist statements, that make you wonder if we have made progress at all in terms of race relations. It is obvious that there is a big disconnect, largely due to the different experiences between the different communities.
African Americans have had to deal with the lack of justice in our communities for over 300 years. We cannot and do not necessarily see the justice system in the same light as our white counterparts. For blacks, Ferguson is not just an isolated incident but another case of a legacy of blacks being killed with impunity.
So for those of you who are struggling to understand black outrage, I want to give you five reasons for rage.
1.From the 1600’s-1800’s Black slaves were killed with impunity by white slave owners.
Because blacks were seen as property, they were not even afforded due process of law. Millions of blacks were killed, murdered and raped on the way to this country or in the country without any legal consequences.
2. After slaves were emancipated in the early 1800’s blacks were often lynched, hung (strange fruit), beat, and killed by white cops, sometimes by white vigilantes without any political or legal repercussions.
3.We are not even 50 years from the civil rights era, so the photos and videos of police beating innocent black protesters, having ravenous dogs unleashed on them, along with imprisonment on trumped up charges are fresh in our minds
4. Many blacks have a huge distrust of police and law enforcement agencies such as the CIA that seemed to turn a blind eye to the incoming flux of drugs from Latin America that flooded inner cities in the 70’s and 80’s.
Some interesting facts about drugs and incarceration taken from naacp.org
- About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
- 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
- African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
- African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).
- Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
- In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic
5. Along with the discrepancies in incarceration there are scores of incidents of black men being unnecessarily shot or beaten:
Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Kendrec Mcdade, Timothy Russell, Amadou Diallo, Aaron Campbell, Trayvon Martin, and of course the latest Mike Brown. In many of these cases the assaulter got off with a lax penalty or none at all. In the Ferguson case there were so many things that were mishandled or done backwards that it just breeds distrust.
Besides these, many of us have personal experiences, myself included, of being pulled over, profiled, hassled, yelled at , talked down to simply for being black.
When you have multiple generations of family, friends, neighbors, strangers who have witnessed, experienced, and suffered harassment, and violence from the justice system, it changes the way you see the system. We are not making these things up. We have lived and will continue to live this reality out. The system was not made for us. We were an afterthought, that only came through the blood, sweat, tears and prayers of forerunners who fought for a better future. These forerunners protested for change. They cried out for justice. They marched, they organized, voted, fought, wept, were beaten, and were killed so that their children would not have to face the same injustices. So when we see young, though not always innocent life taken, it makes us question the future of our sons, daughters and grandchildren.
Cover ups are not something new for us. Whereas some groups may take the word of officers and law enforcement officials at face value, we have learned that the face in front of the television is not always the same when the cameras and lights are off. There are signs, scents, faces, that are all too familiar. Our grandfathers and great grandmothers warned us about them, in videos, pictures, poems and head stones.
So we have a right to speak out, to march, to cry, to be angry to mistrust. Do not deprive me of my right to respond and react to cry and to scream, as long as I do not harm others or their property. There will always be knuckleheads, rabblerousers, who will take advantage and cause chaos, but do not condemn the whole for the actions of a few. If Abel’s blood cried out to God, be assured that there are rivers of blood that swamp inner city streets and rural dusty roads that call out for justice in a mighty chorus.
Yes, the black community has a lot to work on, but do not let that be your only response in times of anger and mourning.To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ pray for our country, for our police, for our courts and your black brothers and sisters. Pray that justice be served. Weep with those that weep, and mourn with those who mourn. Listen to the cries of your brother mourning his child. Whether you agree or disagree with the Ferguson decision at least try to understand. I close with a scripture and a prayer.
Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
May the Judge of the Earth do right not only here but in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and across the globe.