Ferguson, MO: When The Camera Stops

imageDuring the seemingly ceaseless Ferguson, MO, riot I noted coverage of a north St. Louis resident, Jeffrey Hill. In a National Public Radio interview, Hill said it made little sense to try and work with a society that hassles black men daily. Furthermore, African Americans should refrain from any interaction with the white community.

“This isn’t the first person that’s died from the police,” he said. “This isn’t the first racial issue that we’ve dealt with in this country. We’ve been in this position to be in public and have discussions and get answers and all of that, and they have proven time and time again that that’s not what they want to do.”

Hill suggested that the black community pull away from broader society.

I sincerely value Mr. Hill’s comments, but personally, society as a whole and many African Americans sacrificed too much to pull back. There has been too much blood, too much death and too much destruction to simply walk away.

What’s interesting to watch is how Ferguson residents struggle with their response. I concur that what happened to Mr. Brown was tragic. And should eye-witness reports prove accurate, the officer in question must be adjudicated via a court of law, not by a lynch mob mentality that serves no meaningful purpose other than to inflame.

It probably won’t shock you to know that after the cameras stop rolling, we’re left nearly in the same place we started. Harry Chapin’s song W*O*L*D is spot on, “… you can drive on ten-thousand miles and still be where you are.” And that’s what happens when camera lights stop – after all the sound bites and television interviews, someone needs to query, “Why did this happen? Why did Ferguson residents destroy the town in which they live?

Reverend Traci D. Blackmon of Christ the King United Church of Christ (Florissant, MO) acknowledged widespread frustration in the wake of Brown’s death.

We are here to stop the bleeding in our streets,” Blackmon said. “We are here to take our communities back. We are here to take our children back. We are here to take our voices back. And this time, we will not go away.

I can’t agree more. How do we stop the bleeding? How do make our voices known?

It’s tragic Michael Brown lost his life. But should our reprehension be limited to only Brown? What about all the other young black murder victims? Nationally, half of all murder victims are black, with the vast majority of those deaths being committed by other blacks. Where’s the march for them? Accordingly, whites are just as likely to be killed by other whites. Yet, we march not for them either. To bring this point home, a Ferguson woman was shot in the head during a ‘drive-by’ shooting as citizens rioted in Ferguson streets. Where’s her marchers? Who rioted’ in her name?

The term “white on black,” “black on black” or “white on white” crime is denigrating. Instead of attributing increased crime to poverty, lack of education, opportunity, inequality and disenfranchisement, we blame police officers, courts, whites, blacks, Jews, a Quick Trip store or whomever happens to be around. If it’s proved Michael Brown was gunned down without provocation, it’s due in large part to the stereotypes and slander all ethnic races assign one another. Riot to the nearest mirror and look. There, within the reflection, lay a key participant to the current mess.

In effect, we’ve institutionalized our racism. We provide the fewest routes for the poor to succeed, pay crappy wages, disfranchise people from voting, deny healthcare, a solid education and the opportunity to progress. Then we have the gall to be stunned when the volcano erupts some hot night somewhere near Jerkwater, USA.

America cannot afford to live in a segregated society. Rather, society needs a transformative solution. But what I’m afraid of is that we’ll ignore all of this … when the camera stops.



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