When I first wrote about Ferguson back in August I would have that the sheer outpouring of disgust with the behavior of local law enforcement would have created immediate and profound change within the Ferguson community in very short order.
That hasn’t happened.
It has been over two months now and nothing substantial has changed. Darren Wilson, the cop who shot Mike Brown, is still on paid administrative leave. It seems increasingly likely that his shooting of an unarmed young black man will wind up being rubberstamped as “reasonable force” given multiple press conferences and statements that attempt to depict Brown as the instigator rather than the victim.
Equally reprehensible though is the shooting of Vonderrit Deondre Myers in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis, reminding us that the issue with how law enforcement reacts and responds to young black men isn’t limited to Ferguson. The fact he was shot by an off-duty officer moonlighting as a security guard in a convenience store makes the fact he discharged his weapon a highly questionable act – unlike Darren Wilson the “line of duty” argument can be thrown out. And of course the police have again thrown up the blue wall, claiming Myers was “no stranger to law enforcement,” making him the one to blame for the fact he was shot at 17 times (struck 8).
The most striking absurdity of the month though is that Dr. Cornel West was arrested for joining the protests in Ferguson. A distinguished graduate of both Harvard and Princeton, West has been writing and teaching about racial issues in America for decades, and is well enough admired in the hip-hop community to have made multiple cameo appearances in videos and on albums. The idea that Dr. West was “pushing through a police line” or (I always love this one) “disturbing the peace” while standing there in a suit and tie and expressing the same outrage Ferguson residents feel toward their law enforcement is inherently ludicrous.
I don’t want to presume every cop in the St. Louis area is inherently prone to abusing their power, but pictures are definitely worth a thousand words, and the fact that sharpshooters on the roof are a response to people protesting the violation of their civil rights is offensive in and of itself. Blaming the victims is offensive too. I’m sure that someone would make the argument I’m “no stranger to law enforcement” if I was shot by a cop. I drank too much as a young man. I’ve gotten pulled over for multiple speeding tickets in the same day. I’m sure someone could make a convincing argument that I’m not a saint. I’m not sure anybody is – black, white, brown or other.
We’re flawed human beings who live in a flawed world. We all make mistakes – some make more, some make less. Blaming the victims is not the way to resolve the police victimizing the people they are supposed to serve and protect, let alone harassing the journalists who show up to cover it, and arresting the distinguished scholars who take part in the community protests. I’ve been hoping that people on all sides of this issue would learn from their mistakes, but all I see right now is people repeating the same mistakes over and over again, PARTICULARLY the law enforcement officers who already have a tarnished image. They should be setting a higher standard – I’d like to know if they’re even trying in Ferguson or St. Louis.