Reflections on Ferguson and Beyond
Let’s call out the names of our fallen brothers and sisters: Michael Brown, John Crawford, Timothy Thomas, Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Johnathan Ferrell, Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Renisha McBride, Darius Simmons, Jordan Davis, Kimani Gray, Rekia Boyd, Kendrec McDade, Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams, Everette Howard, Amadou Diallo, Orlando Barlow, Arron Campbell, Victor Steen, Steven Washington, Alonzo Ashley, Wendell Allen, Ronald Madison, James Brissette, and the list goes on.
What can I say about what is happening to our people that hasn’t already been said? Here a few of my reflections:
Police brutality: Police brutality is a fraction of what most officers do but we cannot deny they are still agents of a system of oppression. Police are not required to protect the citizens of USA but more so to protect the interest of the State. We also cannot deny the police historical ties to slavery (slave patrol). According to Victor Kappler, “The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.” Another observation is the culture of fear that has been established. We fear they will abuse their power and get away with it because it has happened so many times! When they murder someone, why don’t they get life in prison?. Why did Johannes Mehserle, Oscar Grant’s Murderer only serve 292 days? If a black man killed a police officer (or falsely accused like Mumia Abu Jamal), he would get the death penalty or life depending on the state. When I see a police cruiser behind me, I automatically get tense and assume my tail light is out or I am about to get a ticket. I fear for my life when I get pulled over in Kentucky. I rarely appreciate the presence of police because I know the power they possess, being agents of the system. This fear creates a country of cowardice or rebellion instead of seeing how the are potential allies against white supremacy. At the end of the day, they are working wage folk who are being used for the benefit of the oppressor.
Leadership: Leadership is difficult to dissect. There are so many styles of leadership but when it comes to a movement, there are so many organizations, groups, and individuals that struggling for liberation; it is hard to figure out what tactic works best. So, what we need is thought leadership through human centered design to create a shared I-D-E-A. I am an idealist and theorist but a realist I am too, and complete unity is a childish dream. What we need to achieve is a common goal based on a shared idea. In my experience, black people have looked for an Al Sharpton as a means of leadership or the black savior but that is not leadership nor does that design work well because it is misguided and reactionary. We need to stop relying on the “race hustlers” and the “celebrity activist”. I have some reservations about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but it was “leaderless” in the classic sense but there was still leadership, it just did not have a face. We (black folk) look for that “face” way too often. Who is the leader/face of the Gay Movement? The Feminist Movement? Immigration? No one really cares, but people know what they stand for even if they go about it differently. And why is that? Because they have a shared IDEA! Though the black experience is more complicated, we need more consensus on what our end result should be and what role everyone can play based on that shared idea.
Leadership again: I am tired of hearing people say that we do not have any leaders and that “back in the day they used to do this and that, blah, blah, blah”. I respect my elders and my ancestors above all and I get my inspiration from the Black Power Movement, but we cannot romanticize the past to the point our current efforts are overlooked. We may not have enormous mass organizations, but we do have many organizations and people doing good work. For example, APSP, InPDUM, BYP100, Ohio Student Association, New Abolitionist Association, The Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, The NOI and this is just to name a very, very small sample. Are we not leaders because we are not giving speeches in front of thousands? To overlook our work is to undermine our sacrifice. We as a people need to respect the local organizer, the educator, the community advocate, instead of always looking for the Martin Luther Kings. But I will add and say that we do have national leaders such as Louis Farrakhan Muhammad, Sr, Chairman Omali Yeshitela, Melissa Victoria Harris-Perry, Dr. Umar Johnson, and many others that get overlooked because they push a political and economic revolutionary agenda!
Black on Black Crime: What a joke! Crime is culturally and geographically based. The term in itself is a political weapon against the masses of African people. Why don’t we hear white on white crime? Hispanic on Hispanic? We need to stop using that term, because when we do, we give power to our own destruction.
Possible solutions: The level of consciousness is being raised to the point that our people are seeing through the race hustlers and touring activist. The level of consciousness is being raised on a global level because imperialism and capitalism is under attack and the system is in crisis. Capitalism is based on oppression and profit, so as time progresses, this oppression becomes more evident with the misuse of resources and the middle class and the comfortable are starting to suffer as well. People understand that Obama saving us (Riley voice) is no longer a reality. White supremacy has always put someone in power that looks like us as a grand finale magic trick. Ferguson has shown our people that we are moving passed this illusion of freedom by putting aside gang rivalries, showing solidarity with the Palestinians, and standing their ground against military assault. So what do we do now? We can start policing our own communities. African People Socialist’s Party and InPDUM have tactics for this specific purpose and I am sure the NOI does too. We can focus less on social issues and focus more on economic and political power and I do not mean just voting. We need to start putting pressure on the education system, businesses, and banks in our community. Though we may not own them, we have invested our tax money into these systems so they should reflect our investment. How does a school in a black community not teach anything African? The root of all issues is based in education, economics, and politics. Once we have a shared idea on these three areas, we need to take our time and not rush because this issue is complex and needs proper strategizing. Then we will see true progress in the revolution and we can finally bring goliath to his knees.