The Way I See It
Published in St. Louis American, Nov. 20, 2014
In the 100-plus days since Mike Brown was gunned down by Darren Wilson, we have seen incredible incompetence and intractable racist behavior by the white power structure in the St. Louis metropolitan region. Every week since August 9 there have been acts of defiance and missed opportunities to show real leadership because of institutional racism.
As tensions mount in anticipation of the grand jury announcement, we have to ask ourselves, “Why is an entire system working so hard to protect one cop?”
We are now on the brink of the grand jury announcement with plenty of angst and fear to go around. As guns fly off the retail shelves and the mainstream media over-exaggerates the extremes on both sides, one lone fact has deliberately been clouded to divert our attention. Regardless of the circumstances (which we are still piecing together), an unarmed teen was shot down by police. Remember this.
Darren Wilson’s most devoted followers seem to be mainly white folks in the law enforcement community, their families and friends. But Wilson also has white allies in high places like Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, Gov. Jay Nixon, Senator Claire McCaskill and a host of others who refused to work to create an environment of justice in this case. This is a clue to Wilson’s importance.
Another group of white allies feel they have a dog in this fight – the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK has vowed to use “lethal force” against “terrorists masquerading as peaceful protestors” – a view apparently shared by the white decision-makers who have authorized the use of a militarized response to non-violent protesters. Frank Ancona, Imperial Wizard of Missouri’s KKK Chapter, has publicly boasted that Ferguson has been great for their recruitment efforts.
The need to maintain white supremacy and uphold the system is what is playing out in Ferguson. Police or the Klan (or a combo) have been instrumental in repressing and controlling those who dare challenge that system; their roles in propping up a racist system is indispensable. What used to be strange fruit hanging from Southern trees is now taking the modern form of black men and women being in the wrong place (Trayvon Martin) or making white people feel threatened (Renisha McBride).
As white allies for white supremacy align, many sectors of our society are joining in the chorus for much needed change in policing methods, court procedures and discriminatory laws. Documentation of police abuse and prosecutorial misconduct are rife. We are bombarded daily with videos of police brutality. Yet evidence of police raping, stealing and killing citizens is met with justification and resistance. The message is that the system must be protected at all costs – even if it means that the results are mistrust and hate of those we pay to insure the carriage of justice.
In Ferguson, the pillars of a racist institution are being shaken at its foundations. Those who’ve been allowed to use it as cover, no matter what they’ve done, are now feeling the heat and they will fight to the end to preserve it.
On one side are fair-minded citizens who want a society that guarantees the human and civil rights for all, not just those with the right skin color or the resources to pay for it. On the other side are those who feel like the status quo that upholds white rights must be protected at all costs.
Just like this fight has transcended the shooting of Mike Brown, it’s also bigger than Darren Wilson. Wilson was not some decorated hero in the Ferguson police force but he is now the symbol for white supremacy. What happens in this case will have huge implications in the future for the justice system, race relations and governance in our region. We will all have to answer the question posed to us in the old union song, “Which Side are You On?”