Ferguson Is Taking Us Back To The Future

Image: Bloomberg
Image: Bloomberg

Far too many of the images that we have all seen countless times by now of the atrocity that took place – and continues to take place – in Ferguson, Missouri,  are images not at all unfamiliar to African American communities. Black mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and neighbors enraged and in mourning due to Senseless Killing of Black Man Number However-High-You-Can-Count. Bitter complaints of ongoing police brutality and indifference. The spontaneous combustion of riots as a misguided and self-destructive weapon used to strike out against anything and everything just to inflict the pain and rage of the afflicted on something else. Anything else.

This is nothing new at all.

Since the days of the Civil Rights Movement more than half a century ago, these images have been endlessly recycled on a looping reel. The senseless killing of black people dates back to slavery. The names and faces may change, but the atrocity remains the same. For a time it appeared that things were headed in the right direction, but today we really do have to question that assumption. Oftentimes, when community and elected African American leaders are asked to comment on the current overall condition of the black community, the reflexive  response is that we have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. And it’s true that we are no longer in chains or working on a plantation, and that is certainly a good thing. But the tireless effort by the Rabid Right to turn back the clock and disenfranchise African Americans (and anyone else who doesn’t share their views) has already begun to send America back into the moral morass from which it sprung. It is very hard for a tree to walk away from its roots, and the all-too-American roots of oppression of the ‘other’ remain anchored deep in the soil.

The vote, and the willingness to fight for it by any means necessary, is the only way we win this. The clock can’t be turned back if there are enough of us pulling even harder in the opposite direction toward progress to ensure that it keeps ticking forward. But the only way this happens is the vote. We’re not going to outspend the Koch Brothers and their posse. But we don’t have to. If money was all that mattered, then President Obama would not have won by such a large margin for the second time in 2012. Money makes a difference, most often a huge difference, but it is not the only difference. The marches and protests that have followed the horrific death-by-cop of Michael Brown are understandable, and they do help draw needed attention to the situation. The massive incompetence of the local police department is now on display for the whole world to see. And once again many are hoping that this incident will spark a necessary dialogue and be the spark for change.

But didn’t we hope that the last gun massacre would prompt enough outrage and mass mobilization to change the nation’s gun laws? Or the one before that? And the one before that?

Exactly.

We screamed, and we yelled, but in the end the other side put a chokehold on enough of our elected leaders to strangle any hope of change. So march, protest, and make noise. That’s good, and it’s needed. But the only noise that will matter enough to make the difference we need must be heard in November. Because this really is a matter of life and death.

 

 

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