On this day, the nation and perhaps the world is waiting to see if Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in August of this year, will be indicted.
The media has concentrated most on its fear that if there is no indictment, that Ferguson will erupt in violence. In every interview they have done, the presiding reporter and/or anchor person has eventually, somewhat uneasily, asked the question, “What do you think will happen if Wilson is not indicted? Will people go to the streets?”
The question is maddening and insulting, for at least two reasons. First, the people have already taken to the streets. Peacefully. People have been protesting …peacefully …for over 100 days, and the media has not chosen to highlight that. Innocent people have been manhandled by police and thrown into jail for protesting …peacefully. The media does not seem to get it: the people are not looking for violence. They are looking for justice. They want Darren Wilson to at least have to go to trial for killing Mike Brown. That really is not asking much.
The second reason the question is maddening is because the issue of justice for black, brown and poor people is almost never covered by the media. The media are largely responsible for the images and perceptions America and the world have for black people. What the media does is portray black people as animals, non-humans, who cause trouble. Not too often does the media seek to get into the hearts and souls of the people, the parents, the friends, who are left behind after one of their loved ones has been killed by a law enforcement officer. No. The attention is given to the few people in mass demonstrations who loot and throw things at police.
The media could do much in letting America and the world know that this thing with Michael Brown …and Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis …is not a new thing. The media could let people know that police have been killing black people for literally years and have been allowed to get away with it. The cases are there, the stories, of black people, most often black men but black women as well, being pulled over for a “routine traffic stop” and somehow ending up dead. These are not criminals, many to most of them. They are guilty of one thing: being black in a country which does not regard black people as humans. These cases happen, the people are gunned down, and the offending police officers are allowed to get back on the streets after an “internal investigation” which almost never finds them guilty of wrongdoing.
The media doesn’t cover the disparate ways police relate to and with black people. Police don’t come into black neighborhoods to see what good they can do. No, police come into our neighborhoods, by and large, and harass young black men. They do it because they know they can …and can get away with it.
Police are no different from the masses; many to most of them are white, and have never known a black person. All they have known is what the media and our schools have taught them: black people were slaves. Black people do bad things. If a black person gets shot by police, that black person deserved it, plain and simple.
Those types of pronouncements lets America and its officers off the hook. America is filled with white people, primarily from the South but certainly not confined to that area, who are angry. Many to most white people think that black people do not belong here; that America was created to be a “white man’s country,” and that black people are out-of-place. They conveniently forget that white people, in search for big bucks, brought black people over, who really did build this country. They forget that had it not been for black people, America would never have become the economic powerhouse it has been for a long time.
I listened to a white attorney say that God meant for America to be for black people, and he said that God sanctions and approves of violence against black people. (see “The Last White Knight”) For whites in this country, blacks are, simply, a problem. Blacks are blamed for their poverty. Blacks are considered to be lazy and therefore, unemployed and unemployable. Whites conveniently forget that too often, now and in our history, white employers have refused to hire black people, some even putting signs up that say “Whites need only to apply.” (see, The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson). Whites conveniently forget that black men have stood out in lines waiting to be hired when jobs were scarce and that they were always the last hired, if at all. Whites do not know the extremes black people have had to go through in order to survive and make it in America.
Because white people do not see black people as human but, rather, as subhuman (per our description in the U.S. Constitution), they have not really been able to care, to feel, to understand what it is black people are wanting. Black people do not want hand-outs. Black people want what white people have without thinking about it: black people want justice.
I don’t imagine that many white people understand that the parents of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis and so many others …are aching….not just because their sons have been murdered by people who are supposed to protect us …but because they have had to fight to even get authorities to see that it is important that they get justice. Yes, there is black-on-black violence, which is horrible, but that is a different kind of situation than the one I am referring to. Black-on-black crime happens, many times, because poverty and joblessness breeds that kind of behavior; crime is high in any ethnic group or neighborhood where the poverty is rampant and the opportunities lacking. Those parents are grieving, too…but in many cases, they see the assailants of their children put into jail. Not so when police kill our children. Black people cry because the governments – state and local – not only get away with killing black people, but many of them in government and law enforcement agencies are participants in the violence.
Black people are not protected in this country. Black people are disposable. Black people are objects, and therefore, black people can be killed and nobody will have to answer for it.
This way of looking at black people is an illness. It is America’s illness, and it is cancerous. It is killing us as a nation. No nation can call itself “great” or “exceptional” that treats its own citizens this way. America is rotted in its center, but will not address or do the work to scrape the rot out. America’s political system is based largely upon feeding racist language to a base of white people who are afraid of black people, who think black people are America’s problem, and who want black people out of here.
Can America heal? Can the pus that is oozing from America’s sores and infecting more and more of this nation stop, a sign that the illness has been treated and cured?
I don’t think so, not unless and until it decides to treat the rot. And I just don’t see that happening, not any time soon.
A candid observation…