Ferguson Missouri: Justice or Just Us?


While incarcerated in a Birmingham Alabama jail cell, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned in a letter (Letter from a Birmingham Jail) of retort directed towards the “Fellow Clergymen” of the city who claimed that his presence in Alabama was both “unwise and untimely”, the following excerpt, stating: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Of course Dr. King’s written manifesto detailing his intent, came on the cusp of a sullied time in U.S. history when racial divisiveness was at a rampant continuum in Birmingham, Alabama. Young black youths seeking to execute their civil liberties in an effort to abolish the discriminatory practices being executed throughout the city, were met with adverse violence from white civic authorities who were opposed to integrated practices and equality. One of the many intense images captured during this era of unrest and injustice, are the pictures of protesters (children included) being sprayed with fire-hoses that were capable of ripping bark from a tree and removing bricks from their mortar, as well as, the now infamous images of Police Dogs (German Shepard) being utilized to attack non-violent participants, in an effort to thwart their peace marches thru the city of Birmingham. These inhumane practices, along with, a multitude of incarcerated protesters, prompted the empowered diatribe of Dr. King, that was directed towards the concerned families of the children that were marching in protest by stating: “Don’t worry about your children who are in jail. The eyes of the world are on Birmingham. We’re going on in spite of dogs and fire hoses. We’ve gone too far to turn back.” Such a profound declaration is that last phrase: “We’ve gone too far to turn back”. It is apropos that we somehow do find ourselves “turning back” the pages of history, as we now find the eyes of the world focused in our 2014 version of Birmingham, Alabama; Ferguson, Missouri. Although the hostility of segregation and the aborted practices aimed towards diverting civil rights are no longer the topic at the forefront of discussion, we do find ourselves however facing the still prevalent issues of questionable police tactics/practices as it relates to the black youth of the modern-day era. I am going to be careful in the schematic details of what transpired, as the facts are still unfolding, however, what has been substantiated is the fact that an unarmed, 18-year-old black male, was gunned down by an officer by the use of deadly force (six shots) while the young male held his hands up to proclaim he was unarmed. This injustice has sparked an outward protest (some violent/ some non violent) in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, whose demographic breakdown is 21,000 residents, in which 2/3 of that population is African-American. The police department of Ferguson has 53 officers, with only 3 of those officers being of African-American descent. Of course many have taken issue with the disparaging difference in the ratio of residence:officer as it pertains to racial imbalance, however, we have to ask ourselves that if “to protect and serve” is the police mantra and the sworn duty of the said “civil servant”, then should the racial makeup of the supposed constituents of justice really matter? The answer to that question is no of course, however I’m using that to springboard into a point focus in that the issue of law enforcement may be more of a systematic issue as opposed to a mathematical ratio of diversity. The questions I pose are “How thorough and continuous are the background checks to those who become police officers” and “How often are their psychological evaluations being administered”? We’ve seen instances in Florida where two members of a police force were active members of the Ku Klux Klan. We have seen the troubling footage of a California highway patrol officer brutally punching a defenseless, elderly, black woman in what appears to be an unrelenting fit of rage. In New York we have seen a detainee die by way of an apparent illegal choke hold initiated well after the suspect was cuffed and laying flat on the ground. All of these acts have been suffered by African-Americans due to what has been deemed as resisting arrest. Granted the argument stops and ends with the fact that the “resisting arrest” is already breaking the law, so one cannot argue who is at fault. I guess the greater questions is A) What is provoking the resistance? B) What is causing the officers to overreact with their measure to arrest or detain and C) Are both A and B in fact the driving elements behind unjustified homicides and an abuse of power? There is without question a race issue in America and it is safe to say there will always be one, however, we are talking about issues of two vital elements “authority” and “humanity”. I often hear police officers proclaim that their jobs are not easy and my response is why did you assume that it would be and was this not your profession of choice? To those who have been arrested and partake in unlawful activity who say that the police harass them, I ask them what kind of criminology activities are you participating in that requires police monitoring on a routine basis? Truly the blurred lines are that of what is “justice” and who is responsible for upholding it? If you are an officer of the court and this is your choice of occupation, then you should be very clear in what you are committing to. You represent the citizens of the area in which you patrol and you took a sworn oath to protect and serve those people and not an oath to protect and serve a fraternity of the shield and a blue wall. This type of mentality is no less than that of a Blood or Crip dangling his/her flag out of their back pockets putting symbolic ignorance before righteous dignity. We are having a problem identifying the police from the criminals, and herein lies a greater issue for society to deal with. And without further ado, let me address my African-American brethren/sisters by strongly stating “When are we going to utilize “education” over “excuses”? We have placed these young men and women in positions of detriment instead of prosperity. This young man’s memory is now being tainted by thoughtless images of him pointing a gun in a photo opportunity and video footage capturing him pushing a clerk in route of stealing cigars. This demoralizing reflection of “us” gives further fuel to ignorant justification to what should be a clear-cut case of homicide. When we find gun waving acceptable, stealing acceptable and resisting arrest acceptable, then “they” in turn find killing/unwarranted brutality as an acceptable means of retaliation. When these opposing forces collide, we are left with embedded scars of resentment, a fractured society and a triumphant odium that seeps into the unforgiving atmosphere of life. No one wins when a life is loss, as it ripples like a destructive tsunami throughout the streets and homes of everyone. No peace, no justice; no justice, no peace. So intertwined are both of those prolific statements. In a time marred by violence and a lack of humanity, perhaps faith is the only true tangible tool towards restitution. Let us pray for the people of Ferguson Missouri both officers and citizens alike. Their greatest obstacle is still as they seek the truth of what happened to young Mike Brown. Then perhaps we can finally conclude whether it’s “justice” or “just us”. #stop the violence

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