Fear and Loathing in Ferguson

I don’t normally wander into offering my opinion on current events. I hate getting into arguments with people, and I try to avoid posts that invite vitriol and threats, like one such as this might. However, a friend on Facebook mentioned that Robin Williams was getting far more press in her feed than the events in Ferguson, so I felt compelled to tip the balance in the other direction.

The Way We Were?

In my heart, I believe that many people in this country are good, decent people. Yet, as a white woman born of Italian immigrants, I have seen the worst of the worst that we do to each other, the blame we place, and the truths we deny.

And I wonder whether the brutality that African-Americans live under in this country still has roots in centuries-old WASP beliefs that races out of Africa are inferior, comprised of wild animals that were made by God for the white race to subject and use. Because, you know, God is white (that’s sarcasm, dear reader). This “fear of the black man” thing seems to be alive and well.

Slavery and the birth of this country went hand in hand. We cannot escape that this great land was partially built on the torture, abuse, and exploitation of Africans who were brought to this country as work horses. Early Americans saw them as property to be bought and sold.

Things.

They were thought of and treated as things to be used and discarded instead of living, breathing humans with hearts and love and families.

The thought makes me ill.

Fear and Loathing

I am appalled at the way some police officers treat some people in this country. Every ethnic group gets hassled, but the seemingly unbridled brutality against African-Americans by some in law enforcement shocks me. Young men seem to bear the brunt of it. Countless stories of mistreatment, unfairness, beatings, and death! I cannot imagine the kind of heartbreak that families endure in these communities.

I mean, WHO CARES if two young African-American males are walking in the street? Why hassle them? I wonder why the officer wasn’t simply concerned about their safety. If pedestrians walking in the street is a safety issue, then you should ask them to walk on the sidewalk. Is that really a reason to get your gun out, officer? It seems to me that that particular officer was looking for a fight. Oh, he got one. Not the one he expected, I’m sure.

Oh! He went for your gun? Well where the fuck was it if his hands were up in the air? Don’t get me wrong. I get the self-defense thing. But when an officer is this tightly wound, they could disintegrate a spider with a shotgun and claim it was justified. And the juries and courts just go, “Oh, yeah. Ok. No problem.” Being frightened should not be an unrestricted license to kill another person.

The Blame Game

I heard that some Ferguson rioters carried shotguns, so the police state force was justified. I hear you. I do. But, to blame the victim for everything all the damn time, is morally wrong and invites lawlessness from law enforcement. I won’t blame victims in just the same way I won’t blame rape victims for wearing a skirt too short.

Fuck that “blaming victims and absolving aggressors” shit. Aggressors of all stripes need to be reigned the EFF in, whether in law enforcement or not. Blame might be one way to identify who the involved parties are, but, after that, it’s an utterly useless tool for solving problems.

Decent People

Social standing is no indicator that you will be treated like a decent human being, either. You can still be hassled and blamed. African-American Washington Post Wesley Lowery was arrested in Ferguson, as was white colleague Ryan Reilly who reports for the Huffington Post. Both were arrested when they did not vacate the premises fast enough for the police. Did you get that?

For not moving fast enough.

Where was the life-threatening emergency that necessitated such impatience? It’s this kind of thing that makes you want to tear your hair out. At least, their lives were not endangered.

If Ferguson is in racial meltdown, don’t you, as an officer, have anything better to do than arrest two reporters simply because you wanted them to get out in 10 seconds instead of 8? It takes time to clear out a restaurant. If you are a patient cop, then give the customers time. Because the people in McDonald’s were customers before you walked in with a purpose in mind. It’s called appropriate crowd control, not how to arrest a crowd of people in one easy step. Officers: Let’s please stop treating everyone you encounter during a crisis as an enemy.

Stop Making Shit Up

Grabbing someone and yelling, “Stop resisting!” has got to cease being proof of someone resisting arrest. At the very least, please counter this with cooperating statements, such as, “Yes, officer, I am cooperating.” Do not give them the ammunition they need to blame you for your arrest by getting upset.

Besides, you only do yourself the disservice because the likelihood of a reprimand or justice through the courts is extremely low, unless you are white. Then, maybe, you might have a chance. However, being white is no guarantee of justice either. People from many backgrounds have been coerced into confessions or had evidence withheld that resulted in their convictions by conviction-happy DA’s who forgot their job is to preserve justice. And that’s just Texas.

(Sorry, Texas peeps. I’m not picking on you. The story just sticks in my mind.)

What to Do if You are Arrested

The ACLU has great online resources for you to read if you want to be educated and prepared to know what to do when you are arrested.  Remember, being arrested can happen to anyone at anytime. No one is safe, but some of us are less safe than others – sometimes remarkably less so.

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