What Ferguson Protesters Are Really Protesting

Joe Wolf
Joe Wolf

Minorities have been silenced for millennia. Christians in Rome. The Native Americans in the New World. African slaves in Europe and the colonies. The Japanese during World War II. Women in the Middle East.

It is a common occurrence, Thrasymachian justice. Social Darwinism. It is a very real injustice that has been ameliorated over the centuries. And before we disagree let us remember that we are no longer burning minorities at stakes and feeding them to the lions.

This improvement does not come without a price. Like a legislator slipping in a controversial clause into an otherwise beneficial bill, the amelioration of oppression in America specifically has allowed a subtler, less recognizable form of oppression to creep into our social contract.

There is no more Grandfather clause, but there is still stereotyping. There is no more Japanese internment camps, but there is still racial profiling. And because it has transitioned from the flamboyant to the clandestine, it is now harder than ever to combat. We are not fighting actions but undercurrents, not people and movements but underground sentiments that have been shaped to form the norm.

Minorities everywhere have experienced this unsettling notion. A double take by a police officer. A fellow commuter moving seats because of the color of your skin. A parent telling her child to stay away from the man with the turban. The look of surprise by your superior when you actually say something intelligent.

It is a force you cannot fight against because it does not have a face. You cannot fight the system you fight the men behind the system. So it is when a face is put to the feeling, when a uniting incident occurs…it is then that the minorities band together under one banner and raise it above the rest.

Ferguson is no longer about the shooting of an 18-year-old boy. It has been elevated beyond that to represent the constant subtle discrimination black people around America have felt for years.

I was in Portland yesterday and a stream of protestors walked by me as I ate my ice cream. Their posters read “Justice for blacks” and “Justice to Ferguson.” Their cries rang through the streets. “Ferguson is us! Michael Brown is us!”

I tentatively asked a protestor today what he was protesting. He looked at me incredulously and said, “Has your head been in a hole? A white cop shot a black kid and he was let go!” I continued to pursue the matter. “Why did he shoot him?” I waited as the man responded to one of the calls. Then he turned back and said, “Because he’s black!”

He turned away and continued walking before I could pull out the hundreds of pages I had read from the official reports that would invalidate his argument.

The testimonies are distorted. The evidence is suggestive of Wilson’s innocence but it is only that – suggestive. If we are all going to be honest with each other, none of us knows what exactly happened that fateful night.

What I do know, however, is that the grand jury spent 3 months scrutinizing every piece of evidence remotely related. They spent 70 hours listening to 60 different testimonies including a 4 hour interrogation of Wilson himself. They released all of their findings to the public in an attempt to be transparent. And then they said that the accumulated evidence and contradicting testimonies have not given them enough cause to indict police officer Wilson.

In any other case their scrutiny would have been considered thorough, unbiased, and perhaps overkill.

The thousands of protestors around the world are not protesting the death of an 18-year-old boy who was controversially shot by a police officer. They are protesting the decades of subtle discrimination they have been subjected to. And in the process they are throwing Darren Wilson under a bus.

As my interaction with the protestor suggests, not many of them know many if any at all of the facts of the case. The substantiated facts that have been agreed on by both sides of the aisle. No witness disagreed that Brown was seen at the door of the police officer. No one disagreed that a tussle ensued. In fact, Michael Brown probably would have been charged with thievery had none of these events occurred. After the autopsy, no one who read the report and listened to the professional reviews disagreed that none of the bullets entered his back.

And the majority of them probably don’t care.

A writer on Tumblr I follow posted a Ferguson response. At the end she said she couldn’t attend a protest but her sign would have read:

“FERGUSON YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.
YOUNG BLACK MEN YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.
BLACK BOYS AND GIRLS YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.
YOU ARE FELT. #BLACKLIVESMATTER”

I am inclined to agree with her.

Yet in my humble opinion, Justice was done in Ferguson. If you have a video of the event please step forward and cling on to your belief. If not, I would suggest that you have the decency to admit that you, yes you, not even you know what happened that night. You don’t know any more than the jury who dedicated three months of their life to this event. And neither do I.

So I’ll stand by their decision. But I will also say that discrimination is real in America and it needs to be addressed. TC mark

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