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Being Black: The Real Indictment in Ferguson and the USA

The burden of what needs to be done to change this issue is not a Black problem.

Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

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Now that the grand jury has returned with their decision on the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown, we should be reminded that even though Darren Wilson was not indicted, Blackness was certainly indicted by the grand jury.

Darren Wilson is free and the police continue to be empowered to kill with impunity. Blackness was found guilty yet again, as witnessed by the many Black slain and their stories. The color some of us carry around can exact a death sentence at a moment’s notice. Ever since the formation of the world’s greatest empire, Black people have been the eternal scapegoat for all that’s been wrong. Our blood waters the roots of war.

2014.11.25.Anderson.3Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

There is nothing that can be expressed but grief, anger and frustration at the depraved patterns of this consistently immoral farce that calls itself the “criminal justice system.” Kill the Black body and then blame the corpse. This happens repeatedly. Anything is a good excuse to kill a Black person. In Michael Brown’s case, stolen cigarillos were worth his death. In 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s death this week, it was his unmarked toy gun. And recently, Tanesha Anderson’s mental illness made her death worth a violent killing in front of her own family. No matter what, the dead Black body is at fault.

The United States was born out of an incident where a Black man was victim blamed for his murder. It was the Black blood and “mad behavior” of Crispus Attucks that led founding father John Adams to defend the beguiled crown when Attucks was the first American shot down leading up to our nation’s birthing revolution. What was his defense of the British patrols overzealous policing? Adams uttered words that would cement our ever-present pattern, stating it was the fault of Attucks “whose very looks was enough to terrify any person.” Two hundred and forty-four years after the moment that sparked the fight for independence, we are still dealing with this type of thinking.

It was enslaved Africans that led to the declarations of immediate causes for Southern secession and a civil war. It’s the loss of Black labor that requires we remember the Alamo. Yet and still, it is Black blood that stirs the movements of the internal war we are facing at this very moment. Black people do not cause the conflict; we are the conflict. We ignite the grips of fear with our very presence and strike first at oppression, even with our backs turned. Our freedom, in life and death, pulls at the reins steering us into predestined Black guilt, assumed criminality. The determination to be seen as human is a never-ending struggle.

2014.11.25.Anderson.MainChicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

There is something hauntingly ironic in all of this. A grand jury whose term was set to expire on September 10, 2014, made the decision about Darren Wilson. A grand jury that is 75 percent White and made up of 12 people “selected at random from a fair cross-section of the citizens.” It seems insulting when about two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are Black. Alas, this is our system. An imposed state of emergency was declared based on the fear of protesters’ reactions to the grand jury decision. This means the National Guard was activated and police forces were operating under high alert as a precaution in preparation. The Department of Justice has expressed frustrations that this move by the governor escalated the situation unnecessarily. If anything, the only emergency is Blackness itself. The directive issued by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is also set to eventually expire. It should be clear, though, that White supremacy does not expire. That being said, we should be having conversations about how we address the new manifestations that will inevitably arise.

The police are not going to be “fixed” – and hiring Black police officers is a naive solution. We live in a time where we have a Black president, a Black attorney general and a Black head of homeland security. Their Blackness doesn’t win them respect for their dedication to the standards of the status quo, nor does it serve Black people as a means of liberation. We are still caught in the confines of permanent exile in the only place we have known as home. Discussions of historical Black struggles are presented as if the war is over. We discuss segregation and discrimination as if they are things of the past, while the present mocks us.

The police state in its current form is a protectorate of White supremacy. Black people are increasingly feeling that calling the police is never a good idea. However, this is not a new sentiment; it’s a very old one. What does it mean to us as a nation that Black people do not feel comfortable using an emergency service? At our most vulnerable and scary times, we are silenced by the fact that those who are supposed to shield us see us as targets. How is Jim Crow a thing of the past, when, still, we can never be truly safe?

2014.11.25.Anderson.4Police at the Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

Mariame Kaba recently reminded us that though the indictment of Darren Wilson was symbolically important, it would not dismantle the system. She goes on to offer her personal examples to fight oppressive policing, writing:

I vocally and actively oppose any calls for increased police presence as a response to harm in my community and in my city. At budget time, I pay attention to how much money is allocated to law enforcement. I press my local elected officials to oppose any increases in that amount and to instead advocate for a DECREASE in the police department’s budget. I support campaigns for reparations to police torture [and] violence victims. I support elected civilian police accountability councils and boards (knowing full well that they are [Band-Aids]). I believe that we need grassroots organizations in every town [and] city that document and publicize the cases of people who have suffered from police violence. These organizations should use all levers of power to seek redress for those victims and their families.

This is a bare minimum when the police are still active in hate groups as we saw in Florida earlier this year. (If Anonymous’ operation to expose the KKK reveals anything, I doubt Black America will gasp.) White supremacists are attracted to the police force and military. Those who have felt the brunt of their terror have always been aware of this. And in the Black community, police terror has always conveyed the structural oppression of White supremacy, a force that outweighs the narrative of one “bad cop.” We live the realization that “you cannot indict White supremacy” – and embody the stress that comes with that.

Black people around the country have watched as Ferguson is flooded with our emotions and frustrations, with our family and friends protesting. We have heard the lies of figureheads and politicians, lies that echo the message of the nonexistent use-of-force report on Michael Brown’s death.

Even as we awaited this indictment decision, Darren Wilson was rumored to be negotiating about resigning from the force.

Ferguson is the reminder that we will never be satisfied and many are still prepared to fight. The heart of Blackness is in this debacle, and in this spirit of resistance.

Ferguson is not about how Black people feel about Darren Wilson; it’s about how this country feels about Black people. And until this country understands what Black people are protesting regarding our dead, things will only grow worse. If the demand for our humanity continues to be unresolved, I don’t see why things should ever “quiet down.”

The burden of restoring silence and peace over the sounds of injustice this country screams in our ears is not on us. Over time, whether Black people have protested with their hands up or with their fists, the message is clear: We know you’re scared of us but we’re not going to live scared of you.

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