On Saturday August 9th 12:01 PM, Mike Brown is shot to death by a police officer. Mike was Black, 18, and unarmed. Witnesses report that he was executed with his hands in the air.
The recent events in Ferguson are not an isolated incident of racism and unjust treatment of Black people. In fact there is a long dark history in Missouri of such incidents that have continued in present day.
Dred Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom and that of his family. The 1857 case is best known as “The Dread Scott Decision.” The basis of the case was the family being kept as slaves in a state where it was prohibited.
The Supreme Court decided in a 7-2 decision against the Scotts. The court’s findings were that a slave could not claim citizenship in the United States. Scott could not bring suit in Federal Court. Scott’s temporary residence did not equate his emancipation under the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and would deprive the Scotts owner of his legal property.
The events on August 9th 2014 are not by any means the only example of unjust policing. There are several instances of police brutality throughout Missouri’s history. In 2013 a Velda police officer faced federal charges and lying to FBI. The indictment alleges that the officer used excessive force when he struck 3 individuals with a police baton
The officer was accused of claiming that he was surrounded by 15 men and was forced to draw his weapon. The officer only encountered 4-5 people and he never drew his weapon. The victims of this officer’s brutality were already in custody at the time of the attack.
The officer was later acquitted. It is no wonder the people of Ferguson are outraged.
On Being Black and Male in Ferguson
The tension filled days following the murder of Mike Brown Jr. have been emotionally exhausting for most. The actions of the Ferguson police department are incomprehensible and have brought other precincts and departments under fire and suspicion.
It is difficult to trust an administration that would not only murder a teenager but attempt to criminalize him and then exasperate the situation by bringing in dogs, heavy military equipment, and that would justify the use of tear gas to tame a grieving, confused, outraged, and yet peaceful crowd.
It is harder still to know that the eye witness accounts of some citizens are being discounted because of the color of their skin. As of August 12, 2014 Dorian Brown, that friend that was with Mike Brown when he was murdered still had not been interviewed by police.
There can be no more talks of Twitter just being Twitter or social media when Tweeters broke the story about Mike Brown exposing the lies and half-truths that the media and the Ferguson police department would have us believe. (I have to wonder, if not for Twitter how long would it have taken for the incident to be reported by media outlets.) Mike Brown became a criminal that deserved to die. Protestors became rioters deserving of germen shepherds and tear gas.
The police department rightfully became the enemy.
I spoke to man that lives about 15 minutes from Ferguson. JPW (@dubya314) was candid about Ferguson, the surrounding areas, race relations in St. Louis, and the murder of Mike Brown JR. We started the interview with JPW giving me a live video tour of the area where the murder took place.
There were the typical businesses that only litter Black neighborhoods such as liquor stores, title loan spots, chicken and BBQ shacks, rent to own furniture stores, and tire shops. Amongst these businesses there were signs of unrest but not as the media would have you believe. The people of Ferguson aren’t animals. They aren’t downtrodden.
As JPW drove, I could feel the tension as he got closer and closer to the crime scene. Police presence was abundant and I watched more than a couple of police cars racing to the site sirens and lights on. I couldn’t help being afraid for him admonishing him to go home and stay out of the way. Now that I think about it this is what most Black males are told at an early age and it’s pathetic.
JPW and I talked about the history of St. Louis and what it means to be Black there. One thing that’s apparent is that the racial tension isn’t new.
Is there a history of police brutality and corruption in Ferguson?
You are going to have to dip into the whole white flight, red lining, gentrification, and capital expenditures to understand. Look up Pruitt Igor, even if you see the exceptions you will start to get STL, county and city.
On President Obama’s statement regarding Mike Brown;
… In all that has been going on down here, President Obama is an afterthought. I do like to know that he would weigh in but I don’t care. I looked in my rearview extra hard when I passed by a cop. I made sure to really keep my distance behind one [officer] driving around during lunch. I paid extra attention when I saw some young brother pass by a county police [officer] when was leaving work.
I don’t mean it to be so apathetic but, unless his words are going to move a mountain, change 50yrs of bullshit, or put a bunch of people at ease then his position and anything he says about this is moot. His words are nice but they aren’t moving mountains or the target that I feel on my back
Tell me what it is like to be a Black man in Missouri then and now.
For me it’s like Paul Mooney said “Everyone wants to be a nigga but no one wants to be a nigga”
You’re cool but not totally wanted, you are individually accepted but you aren’t like those others.
I don’t want to paint the picture that everyone (non Blacks) hates Black people but there is that sense of you are one of the good ones not like the others. Having lunch with co-workers we touched on the subject and when I spoke to issues I got the feeling that I have a 10 sec window to give an opinion and anything in-depth to give body to dialog gets a deaf ear. My experience and others like me is muted.
This is part of a divide that I view the St. Louis area as a whole, some aspects of it I let go and not internalize as I just want to live my life and be in the moment.
Other times it’s thrown in your face and leaves your psyche scarred to be internalized and to hate that what has been forced upon you and the person that has done it.
Yet there are times when people see past it and just want to fix that sweet tooth for some chocolate and just see you as a person, in perceiving all this you learn to cope and adapt, some don’t give a fuck and choose to be oblivious to the micro racial aggressions towards them until it’s something big, others find a way to cope and move on
When traveling in the areas I try to know my surroundings and the people that may be there, so I know what to expect, so I can plan to react accordingly. I was recently kicked out of a luxury gym and to be honest I wasn’t surprised or angered it was just expected as a matter of time.
To be Black in St. Louis is about the same as anywhere, but just like everywhere what is it to be Black everywhere is to have hope, to be resilient, to find joy
Can we really say that America is post racial? August 9th 2014 vs. August 17th 2014 may shed some light on that misconception. On August 9th Mike Brown was said to have been accused of a robbery. As a result Brown was fatally gunned down. On August 17th William Monopoli robbed a Safeway at gun point. (This crime took place outside of Missouri) Monopoli was caught on camera committing the robbery. Monopoli was apprehended without incident on September 6th, 2014. William Monopoli is a white man.