I watched along with the rest of the nation two weeks ago as the Ferguson, Missouri, District Attorney announced the decision of the grand jury regarding whether to charge the police officer who gunned down an unarmed black teenager in August. I can honestly say that it turned out the way I expected. Anyone who expected otherwise would be fooling themselves.
Why? Well allow me to give you Darren Wilson’s observation as to why he shot 18-year-old Michael Brown as they were struggling over the officer’s gun, “He had the most intense aggressive face, the only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.” And that’s all you need to know boys and girls: “demon.”
It’s not a new word, just a substitute for thug, gang-banger, drug dealer, pimp, etc. It’s the way we are seen as a people. Something less than sub-human, and white people are not the only race that sees us this way. I’ve had people of other races hurry past me when I’m walking down the street. I’m know what it feels like as a young black man to be accused of being a drug dealer because I had a briefcase and a beeper. I know what it’s like to walk down the street with a couple of white women and be accused of being a pimp. H***, a wrong turn here or there and I could have been Michael Brown.
Do I sound angry? I am, but not at Darren Wilson, and not at the police officers who accused me of those things I mentioned. I’m mad because we still marvel at the fact that these things still happen in America.
What happened to Michael Brown is the result of a society that, after the civil rights movement, sat on it’s collective a****, patted itself on the back and said job well done. I was too young to participate in the movement, but it should have been my responsibility and that of those my age to take up the fight and keep going. Those who fought the civil rights battles should have gotten us ready for it. But it didn’t happen. Instead, we stood by while the progress that had been achieved by people like King and Malcolm X slowly eroded over time. We had opportunities to jump on board, but we were all caught up in disco and big hair.
Meanwhile, the shootings of blacks by white cops hadn’t stopped, the rights of others being violated hadn’t stopped, homelessness and AIDS were on the rise, and still we partied the night away. We felt we had progressed enough that marches and rallies were unnecessary. All that “We Shall Overcome” stuff was for those old timers. We had no need for that stuff. There were others that needed our help, and we did nothing or waited until it was too late. We followed and listened to toothless leaders who shill for the camera and care nothing for us. But we got another chance: Rodney King. It was right there, injustice on the screen. We responded, but we soon forgot once again and everything went back to what it was. We rallied around OJ, a man who did his best to distance himself from us. We thought that when Obama was elected we had progressed. But we have not. We are still seen by many what Darren Wilson saw: “demons”.
So what are we supposed to do? I will tell you one thing. All this looting and burning cars does nothing but reinforce Wilson’s words. What we should be doing are the things we’ve been seeing: rallies, marches, die-ins. And this time keep going. We need to get back to “We Shall Overcome”.