If nothing else, the protestors in Ferguson should be acknowledged for their sheer resilience. Most of the demonstrators have been in action on Florrissant Street since August 10th, eleven days ago. Just one day of the chaotic environment full of tear gas, rubber bullets, rain, and militarized police left me and the crew absolutely exhausted. Eleven days is unimaginable. So, why the hell are they still out there?
In contrast to the media’s fabricated illusion of bloodthirsty gangs craving only the destruction and looting of everything in sight, the demonstrators in Ferguson have one very simple, very pure desire: they want to be treated fairly. Equality was the message written on every cardboard sign we saw. Justice was the soul of every chant we heard. And they won’t stop until they get it.
The entire press corps was set up on the North End of the “QuikTrip People’s Park” and all but ignored by the protestors. There was a mutual disinterest in each others activities. While CNN was putting makeup on “local eyewitnesses” and having them memorize scripts about the incessant violence in Ferguson, just ten feet behind them were hundreds of people in drum circles, Quran readings, and silent protest.
The media at large is doing a terrible job of relaying the pertinent information to the American public. Instead of leading an in depth discussion on the Pentagon’s program of distributing militarized vehicles to states like CNN did today for about an hour, aren’t there other more pressing and immediate issues that they should be discussing? How about reforming the structure of law-enforcing authority to better suit their respective communities? How about how racism has become institutionalized in our schools, workplaces, and prisons? How about rampant police brutality and the reality that Americans are more likely to be killed by a police officer than in combat? The media have resorted to reporting on the sexy aspects of the story, the confrontations, the looting, and the tear gas to altogether avoid the difficulty of actually encouraging a fundamental change in a broken system.
The reason that this occurs is very simple. It is to maintain the status quo. After the mid 60’s, the Civil Rights Act denied the ability for racism to exist in plain sight. Did it reduce the amount of prejudice in the “land of the free”? Absolutely not.
Today, racism lives on when inner-city schools receive less funding than suburban ones. It lives in the statistics that being black increases your chance to get stopped or even violently assaulted by a police officer, even when doing nothing wrong. Racism today is the reality that a white man with a criminal record is still more likely to get a job than a black man without one.
In no way am I trying to undermine the significance of the trial at hand. Mike Brown’s murder is absolutely the catalyst for these protests, but I feel responsible to steer the focus of the coverage back to its rightful place. The facts are that Ferguson’s police force is 94% white while the city is 65% black, Mike Brown was unarmed and shot 6 times from a distance that does not appear to be close range. It is a well-known, well-studied statistical fact that police officers in our country target African Americans at a much higher rate than other races.
Institutionalized racism and the epidemic of police brutality is the reason the protest began. The unwillingness of American communities to promote equality is the reason the protest continues.