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Chaos and tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri: symptomatic of systemic problem

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(Author’s note: my intent is to keep this very important event in Ferguson, MO before the eyes of our readership; with this intent, my goal is to write one blog per week on this topic, at least for a while. Immediacy is a very important strategy, because more people may tend to read, wanting a more accurate understanding of these issues, in line with how long the devastation has sizzled in Ferguson and the written or videotaped content that is being put up on websites).

For the last nine days, Ferguson, MO has erupted into violence & militarism due to shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, African-American adolescent, by a white Ferguson Police Officer. The streets have been occupied by rioters, on-lookers, and camouflage-wearing officers (City of Ferguson, MO, state (the Missouri State Troopers) & the National Guard). The use of tear gas and tanks has been one of the protests of the residents. Consequently, the city is under a veil of mistrust & threat.

This blogger offers his condolences to Michael Brown’s family & friends, as well as solidarity to others who’ve been injured, killed and/or arrested. When Nathaniel Sanders was gunned down by the Austin, Texas Police Department on May 11, 2009, the community rallied around the Sander’s family. This blogger (I’m a white male) had the opportunity to offer an invocation at an informal vigil for the Sander’s family. It was indeed an honor to be asked to support the Sander’s family in that way.

A major piece of resolving the conflict in Ferguson, is the amount of information that either has or has not been released; the information has been disseminated in a “piece meal” fashion, making it difficult to get a read on what’s actually happening on the ground; accountability by those in leadership must be owned, because Democracies run on information that is easily accessed by community members, and others. The timing, as well as conflicting information, have also served to keep the pictures of Ferguson sizzling on our TV & Monitors.

What needs to be noted is that both in Austin, Texas & Ferguson, Missouri the symptoms are rife due to a long-standing problem that has existed, in various forms, in many U.S. cities; that is, the huge gulf between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color. Additionally, if we take a brief look at how African-Americans have been treated in this country (Black/White relationships have symbolized the major, national divide of racism, but many of the same concepts, dynamics & facts could be applied to other ethnicities of color).

Africans were bought & brought by slave traders to America, and became the center point of the economic fabric of the U.S. at that time; this was true of the North & South regions. Many of us have seen the horrendous photos of African-Americans who were punished with whips unmercifully, and many were lynched. The atmosphere created by whites as they gathered to lynch an African American, was one of “Hey, we’re having a party,” but hate was behind the fake, pasted-on smiles of European-Americans who perpetrated the lynching.

In the revolutionary Sixties, J. Edgar Hoover began spying on both individuals & groups whom he considered radicals; eventually CoIntelPro was begun and this militaristic & intelligence plan actively sought ways to go after groups such as the Black Panthers & others who they perceived were a threat to U.S. security; phones were tapped, files were constructed, undercover plants were in attendance at many group meetings, stings & attacks on revolutionary groups were set up by Law Enforcement, that resulted in many murders & lives lost.

During the time of major resistance by Native Americans in this country, many whites agreed with Andrew Jackson’s degenerate saying that ‘the only good Indian is a dead one,’ so perhaps next we’ll hear that ‘the only good, teen-aged male n_____ is a dead one.’ As I hope this blog shows, this is rapidly becoming the reality in our cities.

Bringing us to the present & where we now live, play, interact, fight, work, love, and do family, here are more current stats of how many persons of color are finding themselves dead or alive at the end of gun barrel, a night stick, a hard, steel-toed boot, and many other ordinary means that can take human life.

As reported Mr.DaveyD in HipHopPolitics

First thing that needs to be noted is that we just had another police shooting of an unarmed man in Austin, Texas on Thursday night. This happened after the report was compiled, so add another name to this grisly toll.
Second, folks have got to understand this is not coincident, it’s quite deliberate. Police have moved from a point of trying to de-escalate or prevention to a shoot first ask questions later policy. A low wage war with Law Enforcement runs rampage in our communities.

Twenty-eight Black People (27 Men and 1 Female) Killed by Police Officials, Security
Guards, and Self-Appointed “Keepers of the Peace” between January 1, 2012 and March, 31, 2012
28 cases of state sanctioned or justified murder of Black people in the first 3
months of 2012. The list below are just noting the deaths at hands of the police, it’s not highlighting the enormous amounts of brutality and outright disrespect many in the Black community have to endure on a daily basis.. The report below is to say the least disturbing and underscores alone what has been found in the statistics (due to under reporting and discriminatory methods of documentation, it is likely that there are more that our research has yet to uncover).

Of the 28 killed people, 18 were definitely unarmed. 2 probably had firearms, 8
were alleged to have non-lethal weapons.

Of the 28 killed people:
11 were innocent of any illegal behavior or behavior that involved a
threat to anyone (although the shooters claimed they looked “suspicious”);
7 were emotionally disturbed and/or displaying strange behavior.
The remaining 10 were either engaged in illegal or potentially illegal
activity, or there was too little info to determine circumstances of their
killing. It appears that in all but two of these cases, illegal and/or harmful
behavior could have been stopped without the use of lethal force (2012 Daily News / 29 Black People Have Been Killed by Police/Security Since Jan 2012: 16 Since Trayvon APRIL 6, 2012 BY MRDAVEYD),

The problem of Law Enforcement applying lethal force tactics, is that it’s their tactic, not ours. Police brutality, especially directed towards young men of color, is a systemic problem that really involves an entire community. Clearly, if there is an extreme amount of all kinds of racism in any given community, then it will require all levels within the system needing to be changed; Law Enforcement, the Criminal Justice System, Education, Faith Tradition groups, Health Care, Civic & Community groups, the Economic System, etc.

Systems Theory (using behavioral interventions) suggests that all the systems within a larger one exponentially equate to more than the sum of its parts. When these various systems denote a common problem, after becoming aware of it in a way that moves them to activism, they have amazing resources and power within the entire constellation of that system to bring wellness to a community. This is why racism is an obstacle to transformation & empowerment, and the only catalyst for healing this kind of racism is to see it for what it is, and not deny the problem.

Police departments must have clear, life-protecting values & Use of Force procedures, as well as easily accessed Use of Force policies that are opened to view to the community, again especially as it is appropriate to young people. Here are some suggestions: attend your City Council meetings, and other forums directed perhaps by the Chief of Police, and to voice your opinions about what you observe happening around you, as it relates to Police-Residents interactions. Another next step that can be taken is for citizens to see if your police department has a ride-along-program where citizens can ride with the police and see what’s going on at the “grass roots” level within a given community. Here in Austin our ad hoc group of collaborators met with Chief Acevedo, and advocated for better, more systematic training in Cultural Competency skills for all personnel in the Austin Police Department. To my knowledge, I’m not aware of the kind of training program that we suggested has yet been initiated.

When Nathaniel Sanders was killed on May 11, 2009 by an Austin Police Department Officer, many individuals and groups collaborated so that the incident would not be forgotten or become a sound bite in a storage room somewhere. In time, the Department of Justice opened an investigation of city leaders and the Austin Police Department; they made recommendations to the City of Austin, while some facets were required to be examined and changed, others were recommended by the DOJ team.

©Christopher Bear-Beam August 19, 2014

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