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What we think when we think about Ferguson, Mo.

Police and citizens in Ferguson, Mo.
Police and citizens in Ferguson, Mo.

Ferguson, Mo., and the inexplicable shooting of teenager Michael Brown, represents not only the latest episode of America’s urban war against black men—it will be far from the last.

Remaining unresolved is another horrifying racial incident in Miami Beach, Fla. Police there have still failed, ignominiously, to clear the air about the street slaying of motorist Raymond Herisse. Herisee, 22, was killed on a South Beach street in his vehicle in a barrage of firepower that entailed more than 100 rounds of ammunition. Trayvon. Raymond. Michael. People.

We white folks fear black men so we acquiesce to a gruesome cycle.

Herisse was taken out, reports the Miami Herald, “in a frightening war-like moment that his family likens to being executed by a police firing squad.” [May 25, 2013]. No less than twelve officers were involved in an assault that left the young man with sixteen bullet wounds, slumped in his seat. Four bystanders were seriously wounded.

Again, the Miami Herald: “Two years and multiple lawsuits later, Miami Beach police have yet to produce evidence that Herisse did anything to deserve a death sentence.” Police have claimed that the man was speeding recklessly and hit an officer on bike patrol. No substantiation, including any witness or video footage, has been produced.

Let’s skip past the clichés as in, “If it had been a white victim,” etc. The reality is more repetitive than any cliché. From Mississippi to Los Angeles to St. Louis to Miami, white officers beating or killing black men, in displays of force and brutality that are inconsistent with any forms of social or legal codes, has been—and remains—rampant.

From the odious gang-murder of 14 year-old Emmitt Till in 1955 (he smiled at a white woman) to the shooting of Trayvon Martin (as if we don’t know the real story here) to a million unknown victims of this American slaughter, the life of a black male has never really amounted to much. We white folks fear black men so we acquiesce to a cycle that is infinitely more gruesome than the worst notions of them that we have carried.

What of the mass carnage ongoing in Chicago and so many other urban centers, not to mention the preeminence of black-on-black crimes that plague us? Unforgivable and intolerable—these are the only answers. And shame on the African American community and its many gratuitous “leaders” who offer nothing but steam and publicity stunts while their—and our—children are perishing in our streets and prisons.

But that doesn’t obscure the reality that our police squadrons, armed with military-level arsenals, and our vigilantes, driven by hate and police-like fantasies, remain free to reduce the humanity of any given black male into road kill. You could have just asked the late Rodney King, beaten senseless by LA police in 1991. The media kept on labeling him as "motorist Rodney King.” But he—and Raymond Herisse and Michael Brown were not motorists. They were men.

See my new book, 'DANGEROUS FRIENDSHIP: Stanley Levison, Martin Luther King, and the Kennedy Brothers.'

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