"In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police and the American dream"

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Maysie Maysie's picture
"In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police and the American dream"

In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police and the American dream

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On Saturday a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager on his way to college this week. Brown was shot multiple times, though his hands were in the air. His uncovered body was left in the street for hours, as a crowd from his neighborhood gathered to stand vigil. Then they marched down to the police station. On Sunday evening, some folks in the crowd looted a couple of stores and threw bottles at the police. Monday morning was marked by peaceful protests.

The people of Ferguson are angry. Outraged. The officer’s story is dubious. Any black kid with sense knows it is futile to reach into an officer’s vehicle and take his gun.  That story is only plausible to people who believe that black people are animals, that black men go looking for cops to pick fights with. Absurdity.

....

The police mantra is “to serve and to protect.” But with black folks, we know that’s not the mantra. The mantra for many, many officers when dealing with black people is apparently “kill or be killed.”

It is that deep irrational fear of young black men that continues to sit with me.  Here’s the thing: I do not believe that most white people see black people and say, “I hate black people.”  Racism is not that tangible, that explicit. I do not believe most white people hate most black people. I do not believe that most police officers seek to do harm or consciously hate black people. At least I hope they don’t.

I believe that racism exists in the inexplicable sense of fear, unsafety and gnawing anxiety that white people, be they officers with guns or just general folks moving about their lives, have when they encounter black people. I believe racism exists in that sense of mistrust, the extra precautions white people take when they encounter black people. I believe all these emotions have emerged from a lifetime of media consumption subtly communicating that black people are criminal, a lifetime of seeing most people in power look just like you, a lifetime of being the majority population. And I believe this subconscious sense of having lost control (of the universe) exists for white people, at a heightened level since the election of Barack Obama and the continued explosion of the non-white population.

The irony is that black people understand this heightened anxiety. We feel it, too. We study white people. We are taught this as a tool of survival. We know when there is unrest in the souls of white folks. We know that unrest, if not assuaged quickly, will lead to black death. Our suspicions, unlike those of white people, are proven right time and time again.

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police

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1. Over-Simplified Talk of “Riots”

[A] community pushing back against a murderous police force that is terrorizing them is not a “riot”. It’s an uprising. It’s a rebellion. It’s a community saying We can’t take this anymore. We won’t take it. It’s people who have been dehumanized to the point of rightful rage. And it happens all over the world. Uprisings and rebellions are necessary and inevitable, locally and globally. This is not to say that actual riots don’t happen. White folks riot at sporting events, for example. Riots happen. But people rising up in righteous anger and rage in the face of oppression should not be dismissed as simply a “riot”.

....

2. Looting

Looting is often part of the “rioting” narrative. Peaceful protests that turn violent are often accompanied by looting. During the first night of the Ferguson protests there was looting reported at various locations nearby. 

....

Also (and this important), looting as a crime is NOT on par with the taking of someone’s life. Property is not a life. In this country, police protect property while killing human beings. Sometimes they, as well as civilians, kill human beings in order to protect property. That’s wrong. That’s savagery.

Whatever you think of looting, though, remember this: it’s not the issue, either. The issue is yet another unarmed Black teenager murdered by cops. His name was Mike Brown.

....

4. The Murder Victim’s Past

I wish I didn’t have to tell some of you that victim-blaming when a Black person is murdered by police is a huge no. That it doesn’t matter if they were on the honor roll, or smoked weed sometimes, or were going to college, or what brand of hoodie they wore, or even if they spent time in jail at some point. That the right to walk down the street without being a target for murder by the police isn’t a right one should have to prove themselves worthy of. 

....

5. Respectability Politics

Respectability politics is part of almost all of the things I’ve listed here already. It plays its part in most of the ways we get distracted when a Black person is murdered by the police. It’s there in the idea that protests should always be non-violent; it’s there in the idea that looting erases someone’s humanity; it’s there in the idea that the victim’s past, if not squeaky-clean by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’s standards, makes their victimization less valid. It’s always there in the way people talk about Black youth.

...

This country has spent the last several centuries systematically killing Black people. Black death is built into the system. Black death, alongside Native American genocide, built the system. Yet, whenever yet anotherunarmed Black person is killed by police, it’s somehow our fault? We must’ve been threatening/drunk/holding a BB gun/maybe possibly shoplifted some candy? Because after 500 years of never needing a reason, they suddenly need a reason? No. No. They have never needed a reason.

....

6. Lies Mainstream Media Tells You

...

The MSM will tell you whatever it needs to tell you to get you to click on another link or watch for another 5 minutes. Pushing back against oppression isn’t on their list of things to do today. Don’t let them distract you from the issue.

The issue is yet another unarmed Black teenager murdered by the police. His name was Mike Brown.

 

 


 

 


 

Webgear

Hi Maysie,

Here is another article on the same topic about images the police and media use.

http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/yourcommunity/2014/08/iftheygunnedmedown-cal...

"Have you ever thought about which photo of yourself you'd want news outlets to use if you happened to be shot and killed by a police officer?

It's not a question that many people are forced to think about, but it's an important one to the thousands of black youth who are speaking out today against the media's portrayal of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a St. Louis, Mo., police officer on Saturday." 

onlinediscountanvils

Thanks for those posts, Maysie.

http://prisonbooks.info/2014/08/11/hey-step-back-with-the-riot-shaming/

Five Rebuttals for the Riot Shamers

1. “THIS DISTRACTS FROM THE MESSAGE.”

No it doesn’t. If you think this is a distraction, take a deep breath and focus. It’s not “about one person”. It’s about fearing the loss of your family and friends at the hands of police. It could happen at any moment, and Michael Brown’s murder reminds us of this. He was quite literally supposed to start college today. It’s possible to have compassion and sympathy for the bereaved and still act out against the systematic exploitation of communities of color. If you can’t do these two things at once, it’s time to examine your commitment to a world without this terrifying syncopation of police violence and economic starvation.

As for distracting the media, well … Attempting to appeal for mainstream media visibility in this age of instant information is a pathetic neutralization of our capacity. Let them cover the sensation if that’s what they’ll do. Our resentment should not be engineered by their attention span.

2. “DESTROYING ‘YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD’ WON’T HELP.”

I’m not sure how people who make this argument imagine ‘owning’ a neighborhood works, but I’ll try to break it down: we don’t own neighborhoods. Black businesses exist, it’s true. But the emancipation of impoverished communities is not measured in corner-store revenue. It’s not measured in minimum-wage jobs. And no, it’s especially not measured in how many black people are allowed to become police officers.

White flight really happened. Go [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight]LOOK IT UP[/url]. And insinuating that simply because all the white people left certain neighborhoods following desegregation doesn’t mean they are suddenly ‘ours’. This kind of de facto ‘self-determination’ is so short-sighted it makes me wonder how we can even talk about gentrification and segregation usefully if we think black people somehow ‘have all these neighborhoods’. We don’t have ghettos. Ghettos have us. Prisons have us. Sports teams own us. Record labels own us. We don’t have shit.

3. “LOOTERS AND VANDALS ARE CRIMINALS.”

I grew up afraid to put my hands in my pockets at the store. For us “can I help you find something?” means something very specific. Young people of color are presumed guilty. Police cars slow down when they pass us on the street. They search our pockets and dump out our bags. On our way to and from school. To and from work. If we walk through a wealthy neighborhood, we might get shot. A third of us have been to jail. The law protects this kind of targeting, so yeah, we’re criminals. We are criminals because we are seen as criminals. We were criminals long before we climbed through broken windows. We were criminals long before we ‘refused to disperse’.

4. “BLACK COMMUNITY LEADERS OPPOSE VIOLENCE.”

First of all, this is kind of a baseless generalization. One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s lesser known quotes ‘riot is the language of the unheard’ keeps me grounded here. In fact, did you know that [url=http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_for_... AND MANY OTHER NON-VIOLENT BLACK ACTIVISTS EMPLOYED ARMED GUARDS[/url] in the 60s?

Besides, all of this talk about ‘violence’ this and stereotypes that is just so unhelpful. Let’s maybe talk about the fact that in cases like this police deliberately censor footage gathered, in some cases [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/04/nyregion/after-recording-eric-garner-c... PHOTOGRAPHERS[/url] for fear of sparking unrest. You know why that is? Because they understand what most riot shamers don’t: if you corner injured people, there is no where to go but against. Judging people’s commitment to ‘the cause’ based on whether they can bottle up their reasonable frustrations, and finding selective affinity with only those who can say from safe distance to ‘turn the other cheek’ is part of what sparks these riots in the first place.

5. “REFORM THE JUSTICE SYSTEM, DON’T RIOT.”

Something tells me people who make this argument haven’t really looked into the prospects of this task. Let’s be real, this ‘justice system’ people suppose is possible has been the subject of political and economic philosophy for hundreds of years. I got news for you: it’s not looking up. The ‘fair’ economic system that a reformed justice system would require is a myth.

“So are you saying we should just give up?” That’s what people ask me when I say things like this. My response: “eh, how about just not reducing everything to patience and progress?” Don’t ask kids to wait around and dodge bullets until the system treats us fairly. Just stop putting that on them. Believe it or not, you don’t have to save the world. And you sure as hell ain’t going to do it on Twitter. Just step back with the riot shaming, and work on your perspective.

Paladin1

I've given a lot of thought on whether or not I should post about this article.

 

While I consider myself always on guard near people I've actually noticed I was more on guard when passing a group of black teenagers.   I noticed the feeling right away and it bothered me quite a bit, both that I would expect more trouble from black teenagers than their white counter parts and that I couldn't explain where those feelings come from- I spent a lot of time thinking about it.

I've never had a "bad experience" with a black person. I've never had one single confrontation. I have reason to react that way to a group of black people due to personal experience.  I can only guess that the feelings/reaction stems from what I may have subconsciously picked up in the media? I still have no idea what caused or causes it.

 

6079_Smith_W

Somehow I don't think any overpowered cops will show up to this demonstration:

http://www.forwardprogressives.com/open-carry-texas-plans-armed-demonstr...

 

Bacchus

If I move to the States, I would definitely make sure I had guns. Wouldnt want to be the only one without one

Maysie Maysie's picture

Hi Webgear and onlinediscount! Thanks for your links and comments.

When the Media Treats Whie Suspects and Killers Better than Black Victims

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headlines seem to suggest that black victims are to blame for their own deaths, engaging in what critics sometimes allege is a form of character assassination. When contrasted with media portrayal of white suspects and accused murderers, the differences are more striking. News outlets often choose to run headlines that exhibit an air of disbelief at an alleged white killer's supposed actions.

Quote:

WHITE SUSPECT

"Ala. Suspect brilliant, but social misfit"

That's how the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal chose to present the story of Amy Bishop, a former college professor who eventually pleaded guilty to killing three colleagues and wounding three others at a faculty meeting in 2010.

 

BLACK VICTIM

"Montgomery’s latest homicide had history of narcotics abuse, tangles with the law."

And that's the headline AL.com ran about the shooting death of a 25-year-old black man in Alabama earlier this year.

NDPP

Israel-Trained Police 'Occupy' Missouri After Killing of Black Youth  - by Rania Khalek

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israel-trained-police-o...

"Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States, has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, a phenomenon that journalist Max Blumenthal dubbed 'the Israelification of America's security apparatus.' Israeli forces and US police departments are so entrenched that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has opened a branch in Tel Aviv.

At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening - the St Louis Country Police Department and the St Louis Police Department - received training from Israeli security forces in recent years..."

as do Canadian police under formal agreement between Israel and Canada via a Public Safety and Security Agreement, negotiated between Israel's Avi Dichter and Stockwell Day, who now sits on the board of CIJA, a national Canadian zio lobby group whose security chief, a still serving Israeli Border officer, also regularly instructs police here.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Here is similar comparison. I know the "f" word is not favoured on this site so I'll just say Amerika is a racist totalitarian state.

Quote:

Few have looked at images coming out of Ferguson and not been tempted to draw the same allusions between the 2/3 Black suburb policed by a nearly all-white police force, and Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. It would be difficult not to draw that comparison at the moment given the spectacle of the massive armory gifted to the FPD by the federal government in the name of stopping “terror”–which has so often been given a Palestinian face in the US–and the revelation that the former police chief of Ferguson studied “counter-terror” measures in Israel in 2011. Ironically, it seems Black Americans are now the target of anti-terror funding and training, which was ostensibly meant to target those from the Muslim and Arab world.

While there is nothing happening within the US anything like the now-cyclical Israeli slaughter of thousands of Gazans, the reality is that life for Black Americans in places like Ferguson does not vary in much from blockaded Gaza, and West Bank Bantustans in off-attack times . The similarities are not just coincidental in terms of the timing of the events–they are in fact, concurrent and historical.

Ferguson is a majority Black, segregated community, run almost entirely by white people. Almost all of its political representatives, and all but 3 of it’s 53 person police force, are white. Such areas, populated by the disenfranchised, are growing throughout the US, as the white and associated enfranchised classes move back to the cities and to ex-urbs or new white suburbs, leaving geographically isolated and service-poor communities behind. The result has been, as is on display in Ferguson, an easy to lock-down community full of people the mainstream has forgotten–policed by an authority trained from birth to distrust and marginalize Black people with the full backing of the Federal government. Unbelievably, the FAA declared a no-fly zone over Ferguson and FPD mounted roadblocks at its city limits as it began its peace-keeping operation of its own citizens–chillingly reminiscent of the media-blockade conducted during Cast Lead and during other Israeli operations.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/15/the-shortest-distance-between-pal...

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Bastard Logic has a similar round up:

 

[url=http://bastardlogic.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/white-suspects-black-victim... Suspects>Black Victims[/url]

 

ETA: fix typo

Sean in Ottawa

Sad that this "rage" even must be defended as it is very predictable when you have a crime characterized by racism in the context of a society that is not addressing racism.

I think anger can serve a purpose. It can be destructive but it can also focus resolve for change. I hope that is what happens now.

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

From Kim Katrin Milan:

Quote:

Dear young Black men.

Sag your pants if you want to. Wear super tight skinny jeans if you want to. Wear hoodies if you want to. Wear your long locks, your dashiki, cover yourself in tattoos - yes even on your face. Wear all white. It is not true that if you dress the way that whiteness determines is the most 'professional' that you will be granted more freedom, more jobs, better salaries or will it keep you out of prison.

The prison is full of generations of Black men who never sagged their pants at all. Black men have never made more than .74 for every dollar a white man makes extending as far back to 1970, when it was .69 and I imagine these men were not sagging their pants either.

When white people went all the way to the African continent to get out of doing work (only to turn around and call us lazy after African enslaved people have literally done all the work) and they saw us as kings, queens, farmers, artists, weavers and we were also not sagging our pants, they still began a genocide whose effects persist even today. If that was all it took, just to dress like they say, or speak like they say and only when spoken to, then don't you think our ancestors would have tried that? And in fact many of them did, tried very hard to meet all the standards that were established, assimilated into their schools, adopted their religion, speaking their language and we still are not free. Black men get shot and murdered in suits, and sweaters, black boys in tshirts and hoodies. The way that they dress has NOTHING to do with the war that has been declared on their bodies. I applaud every Black man trying to stay alive, saying fuck you to ‪#‎respectabilitypolitics‬ with your braidup tight and the ones who hold their own in a suit and those wearing long robes. I will always fight for your right to wear whatever you please, and to have the self-determination to make your own choices about your bodies.

NDPP

Indefinite Curfew: Ferguson Police Deploy Tear Gas Against Protesters (and vid)

http://rt.com/usa/180940-curfew-extended-ferguson-protests/

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

America's race problems are far from over.

In fact,racism is becoming worse than when the civil rights movement began.

The fact that this pig unloaded his gun,shooting Brown in the head TWICE,it's murder and the officer should be charged.

Ofcourse that's not going to happen.

The militarization of America's police forces should alarm anyone who fears fascism.

Let's call out the US for what it truly is...A racist,fascist amoral wasteland of intolerance.

It's a cancer and like any cancer it will inevitably spread and Canada is conjoined to this cancerous tumour.

6079_Smith_W

alan smithee wrote:

It's a cancer and like any cancer it will inevitably spread and Canada is conjoined to this cancerous tumour.

All true, but it is hardly a case of something spreading from there to here. It has always been here, and it has always been as bad, even if there are other aggravating factors in the U.S.

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The police state is the cancerous tumour he is talking about not the racism. The totalitarian state to our south is way further down that line than in Canada.

6079_Smith_W

Yes, I read the post.  And yes, I was talking about the racism (that is the forum we are in; the militarism was one of the "aggravating factors" I was taking about ), but I don't think we have anything to crow about in either case. We have plenty of hatred, racism and genocide to answer for all on our own; to imply that something is spreading here from there is flies in the face of our own terrible history. Remember that the South Africans got some of the technical points from us.

Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but even if we are talking state police powers I don't think there is anything in the U.S. to compare with the imposition of the War Measures Act, or our current state of affairs, where the only real check on the prime minister is our court system.

6079_Smith_W

CBC The Current:

http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2492302512#

White guy wants to bring a different perspective, and learn what it is like.

The lesson begins around the 14 minute mark.

Maysie Maysie's picture

I listened to that this morning, Smith. Wow! The two black activists from Missouri really spoke truth to power. It was amazing to hear, especially because the CBC had in their news segment just prior to this interview, had mouthed the fucked-up MSM party line in reporting on the curfew in Ferguson.

Here's my link for today:

Police Brutality Action Kit by SURJ: Showing Up for Racial Justice

Quote:

Showing up for Racial Justice(SURJ) was formed in 2009 by white people from across the US to respond to the significant increase of targeting and violence against people of color in the aftermath of the election of  Barack Obama.  The killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO; Eric Garner on Staten Island, NY; Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, CA; and John Crawford in Beavercreek, Ohio  are the latest in a long series of extrajudicial (outside the law) killings of people of color in the United States. 

.....

As white people, we must show up in the struggle for human rights and dignity, and demand an end to targeting people of color. This can happen in small and large ways every day.

Below are actions you can take in response to these murders and violence against people of color, ranging from one minute to a lifetime of action. Please join us in making a commitment to take one or more of these actions in this important time.

 

 

 

 

Slumberjack

Besieging the community and arresting everybody seems to be the cops way of dealing with the situation.

lagatta

Yes, they are blaming the people (of colour) of this town for the misdeed of getting a local teen shot (six times) by the police. Stands to reason...

lagatta

90-year-old Holocaust refugee Hedy Epstein arrested in protest over racist killing and the state's response:

http://www.newsweek.com/holocaust-survivor-hedy-epstein-arrested-ferguso...

Maysie Maysie's picture

Ferguson Police FAIL: Attempt to Smear Michael Brown Exposed

Quote:

[T]he attorney for the Ferguson Market, Jake Kanzler, has gone on record claiming that no one affiliated with the store called police regarding the incident, not the owner, nor any of the stores employees.

In addition the market’s attorney has stated that the police in St. Louis County didn’t issue warrants for the hard drive of the surveillance video until Friday, meaning that police hadn’t even seen the video of the alleged theft until after Michael Brown had already been gunned down in the street.

This raises serious questions about the reasoning behind the release of the theft video by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

In essence, the Chief Jackson released the video in an attempt to divert attention away from Officer Darren Wilson and his heinous actions, and shift the blame onto the murder victim Michael Brown.

 

 

Bacchus

It will still have achieved its aim though, ala 'which photo will they use of me'

 

abnormal

As the "bad guy" on this thread, what are we to make of the dozen plus witnesses that support to cop's story?  

NDPP

Ferguson Versus the Counter-Insurgency State  -  by Glen Ford

http://blackagendareport.com/node/14372

"President Obama, to whom idiots appeal to scale back police militarization, is as hawkish as any of his predecessors about keeping America safe from Black inner city insurgency...

Clearly, the US is at war with Black America."

Maysie Maysie's picture

Strange Fruit in Ferguson

Quote:

The people of Ferguson, Missouri, have rallied and marched and protested for eleven straight days and nights. They want justice for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed black boy killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. They’ve been met with tear gas, assault rifles, rubber bullets, armored police cars, dogs and the National Guard. And they show no signs of letting up.

But why?

I’ve been trying to figure out why so many people have had such a strong reaction to Brown’s killing. Because this isn’t new. His death is tragic, but fairly ordinary in the course of black people’s interactions with the police. We deal with this all the time.

.....

Of course, there are several factors to consider. That he was a young black man and not a young black woman is part of it. Black women/girls are often forgotten as victims in the discussion of police violence. That he was regarded as a “gentle giant” (Brown was 6'4" tall and close to 300 pounds) and a prospective college student are relevant. His image as “harmless” and “respectable” makes him more sympathetic to some people. That a mostly white police force routinely harasses black residents of Ferguson matters. And the fact witnesses say at the time of his shooting Brown had his hands up in the air, surrendering, also matters. It makes the six bullet wounds he suffered appear even more callous.

But for me, the detail that sticks is that Brown’s body was left in the street for at least four hours. Not only did people in the community witness the shooting, they were forced to look at the aftermath. For hours, they had to see Michael Brown’s bullet-ridden, bloody body lie rotting in the street.

It’s not unlike Henry Simmons’s bullet-filled body being hung from in tree in Palm Beach, Florida, in June of 1923. Or that of William Turner, whose body was hung, then cut down, then hung again before being burned in a bonfire in Helena, Arkansas, in November 1921. 

....

They were lynched. They were killed and displayed publicly for the amusement of the lynch mobs and other white folks, and for the further terrorization of black people.

The police didn’t hang Michael Brown, but they made a public display of his killing. They left his body lying there for all to see. 

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It is an injustice that Michael Brown was killed. But injustice alone doesn’t move people to action. His killing is one of many. But the sight of Michael Brown’s body being left in the middle of the street is the closest this generation has come to seeing, in real life, the strange fruit of which Holiday sang. That’s an image you just can’t shake.