FERGUSON, MISSOURI: THE AFTERMATH
FIRST, A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL BROWN, JR., SO THAT HIS LIFE AND DEATH ARE NOT LOST IN VAIN
Only eighteen years he was
On his chin growing a little fuzz
Already six feet, four, he stood
Two hundred ninety-three pounds
A “gentle giant” from the hood
That fateful day
A “legal” white vigilante…
Because he could…
Never hesitated to slay
Dead on the ground
Shot by a cop
And another black-male tragedy
When will it ever stop?
A Descendant of American Slaves was he
Michael Brown too soon deceased
Though American-made, bred and born
The Irony of his Stock…
Made America Rich and Magnificent
America’s only true first Offspring
Its Original Son for Slavery
Never heard freedom ring
Or experienced “Sweet land of Liberty”
Or knew justice and pride of an honored Recipient to a centuries-old debt
To America’s Slaves
The multiple Mike Browns
Never had a chance to be…
Though American-made, bred and born
Could never know and live their exceptionalities
Beyond the boundaries of American Slavery
FINDING THE REAL MICHAEL BROWN, JR.
He has been characterized, demonized, and brutalized in the media as a thug, a criminal, a brute, a bully, a thief, and a robber.
But no one can say that he was a weapon-toting killer or that he violated human life or property in any way that day.
His killer thought him “Superhuman” and likened him to a demon because of the color of his skin. No human so black, huge, and commanding could be anything more! But Michael Brown was a whole lot more than what the killer saw and took him for.
According to the surveillance tape from the store, Mike Brown obviously was not an armed killer, robber, thief, bruiser, stabber, or beater. He carried no weapon to harm and did no harm when he (in broad day light and in open sight of everyone) went into a store and took a handful of cigars that in his juvenile mind, shaped by economic deprivation and predators, belonged more to him than the store keeper to whom he and his hood paid for generations in the way of overpriced goods and no pay-backs ever in the form of jobs or real discounts from which they economically benefited.
Mike Brown, on that fateful day, chose only to take cigars more harmful than beneficial to him. He took them without violence to and/or vandalism of life or property—he only took what he did not need and which he believed he probably already owned. Compared to the value of his life, what he took amounted to only pennies but he had no time to know that. He was only eighteen—a “gentle giant” from the hood, who never knew who he was or could be. There lies the tragedy sustained by centuries of racial, social, and economic inequalities and injustices that deprived a young black boy (among countless many others, past and present) of dreams, hopes, and futures different from his (their) present-life circumstances. We all saw what great potential and life-possibilities this eighteen year old, six feet, four, two hundred ninety-three pound kid could have realized had he been able to live unthreatened by the likes of Darren Wilson.
Did Mike have time to ever dream? What happened to his dreams? Was he allowed to explore them or was he forced to put them on a shelf and wait for them to explode (or implode)? I think today we all know, without saying so, what the answers are.
Mike Brown’s father said, “My son was a good kid, and I don’t want his life and death to be in vain.” Yes, there was more to Mike Brown that not even Mike Brown knew. But to us, we know that he was good enough and big enough and “superhuman” enough to puncture a hole in a long-simmering, much overdue, volcanic-like, civil rights revolution, waiting to happen—to inform, reform, and transform the racial, economic, and social justice landscape in the country of his birth—built and made wealthy by his stock—the American Slaves and their descendants, of which he was one. Those of us left behind are now charged with carrying forth the mandate that the national debt owed to the American Slaves and their descendants not go unpaid.
The American Slaves and the Descendants of American Slaves have never been dealt with economically as a collective group. That needs to happen for racial justice to be realized in this country. The time is long, long overdue; and the more it is ignored, the more justice and equality are jeopardized and endangered for everyone in this country.
What created the environment that enticed the young Michael Brown to forfeit his life for a handful of cigars? The answer all around is economic deprivation caused by whites’ hoarding rights and economic opportunities. We live in a capitalistic country that depends on work and money. Yet we have collective groups in this country who are unfairly deprived and denied both. They live like rats in a cage with no way out, while the desire to survive burns deeply inside of them, as they watch those on the outside move freely and happily about. What do you think the caged rats are ultimately going to do to survive? It is not rocket science.
Ferguson is 67% black; the police force is 94% white; the Grand Jury consisted of 9 whites and 3 blacks; the prosecutor had a conflict of interest.
Mike Brown was shot down in broad daylight. The Grand Jury’s Announcement was made at night, after dark.
What do these facts suggest about fairness and justice out of Ferguson? A screaming “miscarriage of justice,” straight out of the gate, is highly suspect!
There is no need to belabor the facts. They speak for themselves. But what still seems most troubling is why the Grand Jury’s announcement was made at night, after dark? The timing raises even more suspicions about the culture of law and order in Ferguson and the governing body. Many people think that the timing was calculated to provide a cover for white businesses looking for insurance claims to get payouts, enabling them to relocate their businesses, given the racial repercussions their businesses would be hit with in the aftermath. The cover of night would make it easy for owners of businesses to hide themselves while torching and/or vandalizing and/or looting their own businesses and to blame the lawless acts on the protestors. Why else make such a divisive, volatile announcement at night? Surely, the reactions to the announcement must have been anticipated? Who would stand to benefit? Apparently, the timing must have benefited somebody!
SECONDLY, THE AFTERMATH
The aftermath or fallout on November 24, 2014, from the Grand Jury’s decision to find “no probable cause” to indict policeman Darren Wilson for murdering unarmed, eighteen year-old Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO, has thrust, again—a nation, divided along racial lines that have had centuries in the making—onto the front lines, poised for combat. Again, we, as a nation and a people, stand in the eye of a perfect storm, waiting to erupt, for more than fifty years, since the second Civil Rights Revolution of the Sixties. The white resistant backlash that rode on the heels of the second Civil Rights Revolution in the 1960s created the eye of the perfect storm which we all find ourselves in, now, and which has given us the young Michael Brown and generations of others like him.
Because of the “national” white resistant backlash against equal Civil Rights for blacks, systemic, antebellum, white supremacy racism and “cloaked” Jim Crow have grown and been richly cultivated to feed intolerable racial cultures and legacies today, designed to keep blacks disfranchised, shut out, deprived, and denied equal rights and equal opportunities whites hoard and take for granted. That has always been and continues to be the great divide of our nation and our people and will become our breaking point if we insist on allowing business to continue down the same historic paths as before. History has shown us that repetition of the same patterns and behaviors have not gotten us the results we all need and must have as a “united” nation and people, so why continue doing the same old things and expecting different results? Einstein, I believe, said that kind of behavior was a sure sign of insanity!
The third Civil Rights Revolution may have been sprung with the slaying of young Michael Brown and the aftermaths in the streets of Ferguson, MO, and across the country; but the third revolution cannot be fought and won in the streets. It must be addressed by our best minds on both sides, who must bring organized, transparent leadership to this revolution, which cannot be a repeat of the previous ones that were unable to sustain our gains. Over the last fifty years or so, our public education systems across the country have become corrupt breeding grounds for perpetuating social, political, and economic inequalities for generations to come. Going forward, our young people must be willing to be mentored by the understanding of life and history that older generations have—the knowledge and lessons that older, more learned generations can bring to the movement for redress, reform, and transform.
We have a time-span— going on for nearly five centuries of oppression to delve into—not only that of the last fifty or so years ago. Many of the Post-Civil Rights generations have been alienated from black mentors and history and have no firm grasp of how they as individuals and a collective group have been/are being impacted by systemic white supremacy racism and discrimination. And that, too—the detachment of our young from their roots—is by design! What better way to control a group of undesirables than by alienating them from their history and people in every possible manner, including not only their past, but also in contemporary, everyday disconnects in the workplace, education, politics, and life, in general? The tactic is called “divide and conquer” and is/has been the trademark of imperial Western Civilization for millennia.
What is more relevant is that we have seen it at work and continue to see it at work every day in our lives. Take, for example, the second Civil Rights Revolution of the Sixties. A few of us were astute enough to see and comprehend what was happening and attempted to give a clarion alarm to which no one responded or noticed. The alarm was that “Desegregation/Integration is just an illusion of inclusion.” With the onset of desegregation/integration, a movement to eliminate as many black educators as possible from institutions of education occurred and continues to this day.
But no one dared or dares to address that, or even the regentrification of blacks in our public historically black colleges and universities. Many public historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) today are predominantly white and other! The people for whom those educational institutions were founded have become a diminishing group for decades when these public institutions became regentrified by state mandates and expectations to overwhelmingly replace black educators in those institutions with predominant other racial groups, such as whites and non-white foreigners who were/are passed off in the paperwork as “black.” This regentrification of blacks not only happened in our educational institutions but also in all areas of employment. As a result, an economic lynching of black Americans (the Descendants of American Slaves) took place and continues to do so, today, right before our eyes, and nothing is done to stop it, in spite of the deleterious consequences for blacks in the areas of education and employment opportunities. It does not take rocket science to know what the short- and long-term impact of such economic deprivations and/or lynchings have on our individual and collective persons, communities, neighborhoods, and livelihoods.
In our lifetime, for more than fifty years, a terrible human and civil rights atrocity has happened to us individually and collectively. I am an educator of nearly fifty years, with four college degrees, including a doctorate in education from Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; but I was not saved from being unfairly fired and then maligned in ways that ruined my professional and personal reputations, as well as any future professional and/or gainful employment opportunities I might have had. The Jim Crow fallout plays out much the same way that it played out for blacks who threatened white supremacy, racism, and Jim Crow, in the Deep South, before the Civil Rights Revolution of the Sixties. Blacks who were too “uppity” or refused to stay in their place of subordination to whites were literally lynched, blackballed, and/or eventually run out of town, if they wanted to live and survive. A case in point was Rosa Parks and her family. What happened then and what too often continues to happen to blacks today bear striking parallels, except today no one seems to care!
For instance, after playing by the rules and doing everything that was instilled in us to do (go to school and get the best education we can get which would serve as the economic equalizer and would open doors of opportunity for us) as we positioned ourselves for economic success, we have still been subjected to economic lynching, throughout our adult professional life, with consequences more deadly than the actual lynching by hanging, while also being blackballed with the intent to force us back into places of subservience to whites or to get out of town and/or out of the state. But who cares today?
The last and final time that I was targeted for economic lynching occurred in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, in the most bizarre, surreal, unimaginable way. I was left with no uncertain doubts that, if I wanted to survive economically and physically, I would need to leave the Commonwealth. This experience first happened to me in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, beginning in the 1970s and subsequently recurring in the 80s and in 2000 to the present. The last economic lynching occurred in 2010, after almost twelve years of working as an English/language arts teacher in the public school system, in Louisville, KY. The state laws and rights that allowed what happened to me to happen came straight out of pre-Civil War (antebellum) white supremacy racism (Black Codes, and all), in the Deep South which we have read about in textbooks but never would have believed that pre-Civil War life (antebellum South) could still be present-day reality.
When President Obama was running for the Presidency of the United States in 2008, the white resistant backlash, which had operated covertly until that time, began to surface with very overt, vicious attacks against blacks of influence who could have positive, long-term effects on the future of other blacks in the country, to a time when, if left unstopped, could create more of the likes of Barack Obama. The aim of the backlash was to go after the economic livelihoods of vulnerable groups of blacks, such as social justice activists, educators, and other employees who had no control over their jobs, and who could easily be framed, maligned, and eliminated through fraud, though, which would be impossible to fight with no job, no money, and no legal advocacy, and unlikely to get any anytime soon, despite their education, skill-sets, and work ethics. In other words, racism (a form of social control) is always about economics: (stop them dead in their pocketbooks).
The point that I am making here is that what happened to me has historical precedence and keeps recurring because of the failure of government and morally responsible people to end racist cultural legacies that allow one group to deprive and deny another group in order to have power and economic advantages which are hoarded by the advantaged group. The historic disadvantaged group whose rights are usurped by other groups is always the American Slaves and their descendants, who remain, even today, an undocumented people in their birth country! However, we are not going anywhere; and we demand acknowledgment, justice, equality, and freedom of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as other groups have in our country of birth. Those of us who can relate to what I am addressing and have had similar experience need to stop hiding the shame and suffering and speak out so that we can bring about change. The time is right to seize the moment. Perhaps, now, because of the untimely wrongful death of young Mike Brown, someone may stop to hear our concerns and give voice to a cause, left neglected and unattended far too long!
A Ferguson protestor referred to the late Michael Brown as a “gentle giant.” That gentle giant was a Descendant of American Slaves, who may have been slain so that other gentle giants can wake up. The gentle giants are waking up now, and they see that their gentleness has been trampled on for a long time. When they fully wake up, the United States of America will never ever be the same. The world has changed and is changing as we speak. The past is past, and it is time to move forward as a new, evolving people with new visions and aspirations for our country and all of its peoples, but especially for the Descendants of American Slaves—the bastard offspring, disowned, abused, disfranchised, oppressed and downtrodden—but time is whispering “no more”! The time is upon us for justice and equality, once and for all times.
What we need, now, more than ever is the courage of good, decent people to rise up and say with conviction that enough is enough and the insanity and immorality of racism must end because no group will win if it persists.
To move our country and all of its peoples to the next level, there are certain requirements that need to be provided. Such requirements will be necessary to revisit state and federal laws that facilitate racial and cultural legacies the promote racial disparities and discriminations, such as the Civil Rights Act of 199l, which makes it nearly impossible to bring redress against racial discrimination in the workplace. Blacks, today, continue to lag behind whites, with stark economic, educational, social, and political differences. These factual differences are not coincidental. At the core of these differences are economic disparities and/or inequalities that drive social unrest and protest among those who are economically disadvantaged and with whom there will be inevitable collision with the police.
President Obama’s Task Force to improve the quality of policing in the nation, headed up by Attorney General Eric Holder, appears to be a reaction to a symptom of a very serious and deadly social ill, and does not appear to be an attempt to get at the root cause of the social ill, which is economic. The root cause of the problem needs to be identified and, then, a plan needs to be put together to devise interventions and/or treatments and cures for the root cause(s) of the economic problem, manifested along racial lines, including the poor and disfranchised, the haves and have nots. Such a plan would have to include interventions for improving the quality of policing in the country, but it would not be the only interventions to treat the social ill or the big problem (because police relations are just one symptomatic problem emanating from the big problem, which is economic racial disparities).
Until economic disparities among blacks and whites are taken seriously, there cannot be any solution to the social unrest that is playing out in Ferguson and across the country. The police are simply a tangible symptom of the problem, and not its root cause.
In other words, we all know that something is very wrong with our economic system, when those of us who go to college to prepare ourselves—as we are told to do to get jobs that will yield economic prosperity as a way of realizing the American Dream—find ourselves no better off than those who don’t go to college. In some cases, we find ourselves not as well off as those who do not go to college and/or who lack formal schooling. I have four college degrees and several decades of trying to work in mainstream settings; however, my economic circumstances, today, are no different from those who have no formal schooling—or very little, compared to mine—and who have limited work experience in mainstream settings.
For some economically deprived groups, having street-smarts is more economically profitable than having a formal education because mainstream jobs requiring formal education are skewed and hoarded by favored groups. Such practices create two societies when there should only be one. The reality is that there is not one, but two; and the two will unavoidably compete and clash with each other to exist in the same spaces and/or places. This is what must be acknowledged and dealt with at this time when addressing the Ferguson collision and others like it across the country. This is not the time for more “dog and pony” shows, if our goal is to create a more just, equal, fair, and united society for everyone. Some countries around the world are torn apart because of religion. Our country differs in that it is torn apart by racism and white supremacy. We are, however, diverse enough and evolved enough to heal and unite our country, if we can only put our country and its future above our petty, myopic, self-centered interests that have no life beyond ourselves.
In many ways, President Obama’s national challenge is similar to President Lincoln’s. During President Lincoln’s administration, racial and cultural legacies threatened to divide the country. His challenge was to find ways to keep the country united. Lincoln chose expedient solutions over permanent ones. In other words, he chose to put a band-aid on open wounds that existed then and that have not healed to this day. Those open wounds today still have at their core the American Slaves and their descendants, their freedoms, civil rights, and equalities, the same as those that whites have. This too in President Obama’s administration is still the challenge that threatens to divide the country in two, as in President Lincoln’s time. History has shown us that this country cannot survive united until the economic, educational, social, and political circumstances of the American Slaves and their descendants have been fairly dealt with once and for all.
To provide a platform to redress, reform, and transform racist conditions that result in racial disparities in our country, we need Presidential and Congressional leadership, Supreme Court justices who are visionary and fair-minded, Constitutional reform that documents a people specifically with the explicit, identifying language that states, “American Slaves and their Offspring and/or Descendants of American Slaves,” as well as in all other important, subsequent governing documents. We must stop hiding the existence of a people so as to whitewash American history. We also need to appreciate the inevitable evolution of a country and people ready to embrace all that is just, fair, and noble, which this millennium offers us. Time moves forward, not backward; and it never ever stands still in our culture.
President Obama is encouraged to acknowledge all of the critical signs of the time (and not just those involving the police). The critical signs are screaming all around us that all still is not well with the American Slaves and their descendants who, as a collective group, continue to live in abject poverty, along with all of the ensuing deprivations, much the same as did their American Slave ancestors. Sometimes, with us, the more things change, the more they remain the same!
Dr. Joyce Watford is an educator and a Descendant of American Slaves, who also participated in and lived through the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s.