Let's be specific about what's going down.
While the stores being burned are mostly national chain stores like Walgreen's, McDonald's, Auto Zone, Dollar Store, local car dealerships, and so on, they are locally owned branches or franchises in most cases. There are also some independent small businesses being torched, like Ferguson Market and Liquor. These are the places that the black residents of Ferguson shop, eat, and hopefully work at as well. At least one local businesss that was looted was clearly owned by a black couple.
And yet these local shops have promptly gone up in roaring anger and flames tonight, and probably will for nights to come.
Why do these stores attract such anger and direct action?
Yes, I know that it is probably only a few hundred mostly young black men who are making their way from store to store to pillage and burn, while 20,000 other black residents if Ferguson are protesting peacefully, or are at home, not destroying local stores. They may be at home, but trust me, there's real satisfaction being felt across the entire community at this hitting back that's going on. It's widely seen as something well deserved and a long time in coming.
'If this is what it takes to get some help for our community, to get some attention and some justice for what goes on around here, then so be it.'
So why loot stores. Why burn them to the ground?
You'd have to grow up a young black male in a place like Ferguson to grasp why these stores are the immediate, prime targets for looting and flames. There are 365 days in every year, and on every day of every year of your life you've had to walk past these cathedrals of consumer culture and see things you don't have and can't get because you have no money, no real education, and very little hope of ever being employed.
Or you grew up seeing your mother, father, sisters or brother slaving away behind the counter in one of these stores for minimum wage or less, part time workers so no health benefits could be earned, and bringing home a pittance for their family to subsist on. Maybe you've been behind the counter at Mickey D's yourself, and it did wonders for your self esteem because you did that instead of going to school, you did that to bring home a few dollars for food and rent. Dead end jobs for dead end, unwanted lives. In the land of the free.
You grew up tagging along with your mother or aunt to shop in these stores using food stamps, coupons, buying only things on sale, and putting up with the stares of the people around you who have real jobs, and can afford to shop without government assistance. And when you go alone into one of these stores, you are immediately followed to see if you're going to steal anything. If you linger or look around at all, pretty soon some bastard of a white cop will show up to take you outside and check out who you are and what you're doing in the store, boy.
This is normal times for a brother. And it wears on you, it really does. It gets bleak.
Before you're ten years old you know right down to your bones that you don't belong to the America of white people. That your black life is not valued at all. The America you read about in the papers or view on television is not for you. It's not ever to be yours. You're permanently shut out of that world. What you experience is quite the opposite. You come to see that it's there to feed on you. So the local car dealership or chain restaurant or chain drug store is not "my neighborhood store." It is instead the most visible symbol of your impoverished options and status that you see every day as you go without in white America, all because you decided to be black.
Now, that's a lifestyle choice that can eff up your whole life.
As a young black male, your future is statistically going to be chronic unemployment and a fair chance of going to prison. That's just going by the numbers. Those are your odds.
As a young black male, your future is to be stopped and frisked frequently for walking while black, driving while black, or being black in a white neighborhood. A life of petty crime will be forced on you, the same way going to bed hungry was forced on you, the same way dressing in hand-me-down clothes at school was forced on you, the same way high odds of being shot down on the street might suddenly be forced on you.
"Why burn down your own neighborhood?" Are you getting a glimpse into why that is the stupidest of questions? Do you understand that that is not what's happening in Ferguson?
You loot because you don't care for these local businesses any more than they care about you. You burn them down to exact revenge for not having a fair chance in the richest country in the history of mankind. It's not your local store. It's not your country. Loyalty works both ways, and it doesn't work at all for most young black American males.
Let's be perfectly clear about this. What's being burned down in Ferguson tonight is not the homes of black families, it's the consumer stores that feed off the black families of this ghetto neighborhood. What's being methodically burned are the local businesses that pay the taxes to hire the racist white police who stop and frisk blacks in Feguson relentlessly right around the year, who take young black males to prison at six times the rate that they do with white offenders for the same crimes.
It's a stupid question because the answer is so obvious: to a young black male these stores are not in any sense "my neighborhood." These stores represent a crushing economic system set in place to hold you down and crush you in place. It's American consumer culture behind plate glass, with consumer goods lining the shelves, and you are not welcome in these stores even when you pay cash.
The hatred and distrust you feel when you enter these places is often palpable. You probably first felt the urge to hand some of that hatred back when you were still a boy. Now you're an uneducated, unemployed, and unemployable young black man with little hope of changing your circumstances -- not in a country with a real unemployment rate for young black men of over 50%. You'd actually be better off financially with forty raw acres and a mule out in Nebraska or Montana than trying to pick up honest odd jobs in run down segregated neighborhoods like Ferguson, MO.
But then, no. The good white folks of Nebraska and Montana don't want you around any more than these Ferguson merchants do. They'll accept your money, sure, but they won't help with the endless desperation you live with because of your poverty. Not their problem. They won't do a damn thing about the shithole schools provided for your community, nor let you into their lily white suburban schools. Not their problem.
They won't do anything more than board up their plate glass windows when yet another one of you is shot down in the street by one of the white cops sent to stop and frisk you, sent to keep you in your place. Saving their store is their problem. You are their problem.
So there's your answer, white America. If you lived 365 days a year for some 20 or so years as these young black men are forced to live, under constant racial and economic oppression, with all the nifty consumer products of white America just out of reach, for life, you'd be burning these businesses down tonight yourself. First order of business is to get back at, to get rid of, your immediate oppressors.
They aren't burning down their own neighborhood. They're burning down the palaces of white consumer culture shoved into their neighborhood to suck away their money and labor while leaving them with nothing. No future, no safety, no life.
As in, dead on the asphalt from ten bullets. For jaywalking.
Shall we pretend that is justice, as the fathers of St. Louis do, as the governor of Missouri does? As the media will, starting early this morning?
Michael Brown was not an isolated death-by-cop in Ferguson, in St. Louis, in Missouri or in America. It happens every day. He was just one more dead black male, on one more day in the ghetto. He was just an animal, as the Ferguson cops are fond of saying. Michael is only a national name because he just happened to be the one too many, the final straw that the camel just couldn't carry. And when justice was called for, by the entire black community, it was yet again harshly refused.
So this time the shit hit the fan.
His murder was egregious, it was racially motivated, and it was clearly police road rage. But the blue line of police gangsters, and the property-minded lily white rulers of the city and county and state immediatley locked arms and said, "Tough. This is the way it's got to be." And they have conspired from the first to shove the murder of Michael Brown down the throats of the Ferguson community. They are out to protect commerce and private property above all else. Above any black human being, for damn sure.
Now, with what else than fire do you fight back against that kind of racism and economic oppression?
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