A few days ago, I stumbled across a very insightful blogpost titled, Six Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police. It was written by the uber talented blogger Mia McKenzie. I quoted some of it in one my diaries, but I wanted to do a full write up because of its insightfulness.
With Friday's release of the videotape by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, it's easy to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some are calling Jackson's stunt, 'The Trayvonization of Michael Brown,' which is why McKenzie's piece is so timely.
McKenzie begins by saying, "...to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.
1. Over-Simplified Talk of “Riots”What's missing in most media discussions is what led up to the rage. This is often discounted, as if people just got out of bed one morning and decided to act up for no reason. The fact that the police view their citizenry as "animals" proves that longstanding tensions exist. But when someone tells you that you're hurting them, and you say, "No, I'm not," you're not only denying their experience, you're denying their humanity.
...a community pushing back against a murderous police force that is terrorizing them is not a “riot”. It’s an uprising. It’s a rebellion….It’s people who have been dehumanized to the point of rightful rage. And it happens all over the world. Uprisings and rebellions are necessary and inevitable, locally and globally. This is not to say that actual riots don’t happen. White folks riot at sporting events, for example. Riots happen. But people rising up in righteous anger and rage in the face of oppression should not be dismissed as simply a “riot”. Don’t be distracted by terms like “rioting”. Whether you’re for or against uprising and rebellion (side-eye if you’re against it, though), it’s a tool, not the issue itself.
Be that as it may, the so-called "riots" aren't the issue. They're a distraction the media and the police use to cloud the truth.
As McKenzie writes, The issue is yet another Black teenager murdered by police. His name was Mike Brown.
2. LootingThis is significant. Notice that oftentimes much of the attention is focused on the looters, and not on the law abiding citizens or the issue. Notice also that minorities, unlike whites, are more often judged by the actions of a few rather than as individuals. So when Fox News flashes a picture of an angry black mob, they're sending a subliminal message to their viewers. "Look at those people." "Why can't those people ever get themselves together?"
Looting—stealing merchandise from vandalized businesses during a protest—happens separate from the actual protest... Looting, too, is about power. When people have nothing and something happens to remind them, in a big way, that what little they do have can be taken away in an instant, including their lives and the lives of their children, they may reach for any semblance of power or control they can get….looting as a crime is NOT on par with the taking of someone’s life. Property is not a life.
Those people are usually blacks or other minorities, and this case, "those people" invariably reflect back on Michael Brown, who happens to be a member of "those people." Forget the hundreds of law abiding citizens who are there as well. And forget the fact that an unarmed teenager was shot by a white cop. He was black. Therefore, he was guilty. Of something. And there we have it. Distraction Number 2. So the issue of the dead unarmed teenager who was shot with his hands up gets lost in the shuffle.
3. CelebritiesBill O'Reilly recently interviewed Dr. Ben Carson, a well-respected black celebrity and regular Fox Contributor. Russell Brand did an entire piece on the absurdity of the interview, which, as Brand pointed out, was done to lengthen the Us vs. Them chasm.
Please don’t get distracted by celebrities. At times like this, famous people sometimes say really important, helpful, intelligent things. Other times, they open their mouths and the most ridiculous hot ass-garbage comes pouring out….The issue is yet another unarmed Black teenager murdered by cops. His name was Mike Brown.
So what did they talk about? Those evil looters, of course. Forget about what started it all. The fact remains that before there were marchers, before their were looters, before there were militarized police shooting rubber bullets and whatnot at peaceful demonstrators, there was a young, unarmed black boy named Michael Brown who was murdered by a cop.
4. The Murder Victim’s PastThe issue is not what an unarmed Michael Brown did an hour before, six months before, or twelve years before he was stopped for j-walking. Why? Because none of that has anything to do with the obvious violation of his civil rights. What's at issue is that he was shot by a man with a badge and a gun who ignored the fact that he was holding his hands up in surrender. The minute we start interjecting hearsay and irrelevancies, we've lost the plot.
When you’re Black, you don’t always get the benefit of being seen as a human being, though. Black people are seen as ‘up to no good’ by default. The truth is that our lives, like anyone else’s, are filled with good choices as well as mistakes...Just like everyone else. But what’s also true is that we, as marginalized people, get fewer do-overs. The system is rigged to punish us at every possible opportunity. Longer prison sentences compared to whites who commit the same crimes and disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion for even Black pre-schoolers attests to this….But...We don’t need to talk about it at all. Because it is irrelevant to issue of their victimization. Just like bringing up a victim’s past to justify her rape is wrong, bringing up a victim’s past to justify his murder by police is also wrong. Yes, even when those people are Black.
5. Respectability PoliticsIt's the same as saying, if only she hadn't been wearing that mini-skirt she wouldn't have been raped. Or if only she'd had dinner on the table five minutes earlier, her husband wouldn't have slapped her. If only Michael Brown hadn't been clothed "like a thug" the cop wouldn't have shot him.
Respectability politics is ...there in the idea that protests should always be non-violent...that looting erases someone’s humanity...that the victim’s past, if not squeaky-clean by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’s standards, makes their victimization less valid. It’s always there in the way people talk about Black youth….Yesterday on Twitter, @prisonculture wrote, in response to a tweet suggesting Black people can dress better to avoid being murdered by the authorities:
…”looking the part” doesn’t help you brother…I’m so sorry. I feel so much compassion for you. How do you absorb & internalize that you are killable, always killable? You create your own fictions. To survive, to live. I understand.
These are all distractions to the issue at hand. It's not for the victim to defend themselves because they were victimized. She wasn't raped because she wore a mini skirt. She was raped because a man decided to break the law. She wasn't beat because she didn't have dinner on the table in time. She was beat because her husband decided to break the law. Michael Brown wasn't shot because he was 'clothed like a thug.' He was shot because a man decided to break the law.
Respectability politics are smoke screens designed to cloud the issue, which is, an unarmed teen is dead because a coward wearing a badge shot him.
6. Lies Mainstream Media Tells YouBe wise to the news you read and watch. Question everything. Know your sources and their biases. And if you're discussing things with others, know their sources too. Once you know this, it's easy to keep the focus on the issue at hand, whether you're speaking with a neighbor, a stranger on the street, or someone on a message board.
...Don’t be distracted by the sensationalized version, by the oppressor’s racist-colored lens that only captures nice police officers trying to do their jobs while animalistic Blacks steal TVs and burn shit down. Get your news from sources who stand in solidarity with oppressed people.
That said, the sole issue here is that Michael Brown is dead. He was shot by a cop. He was unarmed. And he had his hands up in surrender.
This is what's important. Everything else is bullshit.
And speaking of bullshit…
Finally face of monster Darren Wilson Pictured w/Chief Tom Jackson getting commendation 6 mo b4 murdering Mike Brown pic.twitter.com/ItLATDlCo1
— Gene Young (@geneyoungpics) August 17, 2014
7:59 PM PT: Amnesty International Sends Human Rights Delegation to Ferguson, Missouri
(FERGUSON, MO) - Today, Amnesty International USA announced that it has sent human rights delegation to Ferguson, MO to observe police and protester activity, gather testimony, seek meetings with officials and offer support to the community. The 12-person delegation also includes organizers who will train local activists on methods of non-violent protest.
"Law enforcement, from the FBI to state and local police, are obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities. The U.S. cannot continue to allow those obligated and duty-bound to protect to become those who their community fears most," said Amnesty International USA's executive director, Steven W. Hawkins.
"Our delegation will remain in Missouri until we have a clear picture of what is taking place on the ground, and we are able to work effectively with local activists on how to defend human rights at home."
On Wednesday, August 13, Mr. Hawkins wrote to the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri to express his deep concern over the shooting of Michael Brown and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets at a demonstration against his death.
8:03 PM PT:
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) August 17, 2014
8:17 PM PT: Michael Baden To Conduct Second Autopsy On Michael Brown
Famed pathologist Michael Baden to conduct 2nd autopsy on body of Missouri teen. http://t.co/...
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) August 16, 2014
8:26 PM PT: Ferguson Live Stream
All 3 live #Ferguson feeds that I have:August 17, 2014