I originally had written out a blog post about literary fiction and publishing that I was going to post for today’s #MondayBlogs post. But then I sat in a hot tub with four other white people while the riots in a suburb of my hometown, St. Louis, rage on. While police shoot rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters standing in solidarity with the unarmed black man, Mike Brown, who was shot and killed by a cop, I sat in a hot tub with four white people who claimed that “white privilege is not a thing”.
I kept my mouth shut. Being one against four is fucking hard. I’m not proud of it, but I did. I didn’t speak up and I didn’t speak out.
So in lieu of pointlessly arguing in a hot tub while drinking beer, I’m going to speak up now. Screw that blog post I wrote about literature and fiction – it can wait. There are more important things at stake right now.
Here are three simple reasons why we should all stand in solidarity with Ferguson:
First, one of the fundamental tenets of civil society is that every man or woman has a right to defend him or herself in court. “No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” An easier way of saying that is that we are “innocent until proven guilty.” Mike Brown and the dozens of other black men and women who are hurt before being given due process of the law are victims of an unjust system of racial discrimination wherein police are allowed to harm or kill them before formally charging them because of preconceived notions that they are “dangerous”. This is called “racial profiling,” and is a form of discrimination which is fundamentally unjust. The color of a man or woman’s skin should never, ever, determine the kind of treatment he or she is given in the course of law. Mike Brown’s death, therefore, was unjust and the officer who shot him should be investigated and, if necessary, punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Second, peaceful demonstrations are protected under the Constitution. The police response to the demonstrations in Ferguson have made it implicitly clear that there needed to be an addendum to that statement: “peaceful demonstrations are protected under the constitution if you are WHITE.” The approach to the situation in Ferguson – a predominantly black, lower-income suburb of St. Louis – has demonstrated the exact same kind of racial profiling that got Mike Brown killed. Small scale translates to large scale, individual profiling translates to profiling of an entire suburb, an entire PEOPLE, and
Third, police brutality and unnecessary use of militarized force are NEVER, ever, okay. The police are there to PROTECT citizens, NOT TO HARM THEM. This should be the most utterly obvious thing in the world, but for some reason, the PD in Ferguson seems to have forgotten this. The job of the police force is not to shoot citizens, not to throw tear gas at them, not to haze them with rubber bullets and impose curfew and military law upon them, but to PROTECT THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES. Why the fuck else would we have a police force, if not for that?
If you agree with any of these three tenets: (1) that everyone has a right to defend him/herself in court; (2) that peaceful demonstrations are protected under the Constitution of the United States of America; or (3) that police brutality and unnecessary use of force are not okay under any circumstances, then you, too, must rise up with Ferguson as we all speak out or stand up for the rights we are given as citizens of the United States of America.
I love this country. But sometimes, we are called upon to stand against it, that we may all move forward, as a country, towards a more just and secure nation. Martin Luther King wrote that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” The Declaration of Independence states that, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is [the people’s] right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Here and now, we have the opportunity to stand against great injustice and fight for the universal rights and protections of all citizens under the Constitution of the United States. This is one of those times. Stand with Ferguson.
The situation now is different from when the turmoil began. Agitators are sucking the oxygen out, and now there are multiple “citizens” groups which are guaranteed protection – those protesting peacefully for justice, those at risk from looting and harm from agitators, the reputation of the authorities, and the reputation of Ferguson, the city, and the region. It has become a media-driven tragedy, the pre-trial is now being played out through the media, and the probability of a fair outcome to all the stakeholders shrinks by the day. But the trip wire will always be that a black youth was judged in the heat of the moment to be a danger and therefore immediately guilty. While it does not appear to be a case of racial profiling per se, it certainly appears to be a use of force far in excess of what was necessary.
Hey dad, great points and thanks for commenting. The situation is changing, for sure, and it will continue to change. I think what I was trying to speak on is the diffidence of a lot of people who aren’t taking a stand – in any direction – on this issue. The intricacies of the protests are almost as strange and convoluted as they were in Occupy Wall Street, and there are a thousand forces tugging the PD and the protesters in a thousand directions at any given time.
Well said. The situation is getting complicated, there is a lot going on on both sides that makes the matter hard to resolve. But the fact that there are now “sides” just proves the point. There are sides. Racial discrimination was and continues to be a factor that is blatantly skewing the application of justice. It’s repulsive.
Thanks for the blog post and speaking out on it.
My “real” job is in an element of Public Safety. I literally work with police officers almost every single day. The vast majority of them are quite simply amazing, dedicated, underpaid, and under appreciated people. Unfortunately there are still far too many testosterone overloaded bullies in the Police Force, and even more unfortunately the powers that be repeatedly turn a blind eye to their behavior. Instead of stamping down hard on cases of very clear cut excessive use of force, the authorities literally bend over backwards in order to protect and justify the foul behavior of these rogue cops. Perhaps it is because they don’t want to open their departments to liability lawsuits, I don’t know. But what I do know is that when the authorities protect the bad apples, they cease serving the public.
The public does not need public servants who don’t serve them.
Thank you, Amira, for not posting your blog about literature and fiction. 🙂 And well said.