Sunday, November 30, 2014
Ferguson, Misery. Er, Missouri.
I'm shocked at the civil unrest which has broken out in Ferguson, Missouri. That is, I'm shocked that other people are shocked. After everything which has happened leading up to this tragic event, people actually have the nerve to look surprised! Honestly, what did you all expect?
You suburban comfort-dwellers, with your insured vehicles and your cable television, are partly to blame. You first created those slums when you fled to the suburbs when blacks dared to move into your neighborhoods, telling them with actions rather than words that you assumed they would make bad neighbors. Since then, you have been perfectly content to scold those who live in slums and are unable to get out, to chide those in the inner city for daring to ask for enough government aid to just barely have a shot at getting a better life, maybe, someday, and then to assume ghetto blacks are automatically thieves. You have prevented them from getting contraceptive care, then in the same breath accused them of being "welfare moms." You have denied them education and then called them stupid. You have smoked their weed, and then let them be thrown in jail for selling it to you. You have consistently voted for legislators who were committed to corporate welfare rather than real welfare on the misguided notion that socialism for big business was better than just plain socialism. You have pissed on them, your fellow Americans, and then held your nose at their odor. How dare you act surprised when the caged animal finally bites the hand that feeds it mere scraps! Wake up!
You law-enforcement officers, who bravely put on the uniform to protect your citizens, are also partly to blame. You all began as young idealists committed to ending crime and cleaning up the streets, perhaps even to potentially take a bullet to protect the innocent. You were committed to serve and protect. But then you saw the reality of the situation. You saw that the only two ways for young inner city black kids to escape poverty involved either a basketball career or dealing drugs, and that meant that you, the police officer, became the primary thing standing between them and a better life. You were their biggest enemy, and their number one oppressor. You resented that. You wanted to change things so that you were seen as the hero, not the enemy. But eventually, you were worn down, convinced by your captains and your elder officers that there was no real solution, and gave up. You decided at some point to side with the fatalism which has infected every urban police force in this country. And in so doing, you saw a certain wisdom in doing everything you could just to get home safely to your family after every shift. And so, instead of putting your life on the line when it came time to do what was right, you often chose to shoot first instead. You saw the greater good as protecting your fellow officers instead of protecting the people on your patrol - people who, deep down inside, you came to secretly regard as a lost cause. No, people don't understand how you put your lives on the line every day, hoping against hope that somehow, someway, things will get better without you. They never will. But that's no excuse to have allowed the mean streets to have made you jaded, and cause even the least racist among you to be racist in deed if not in word or thought. When your primary mission was to make yourselves be the friends and guardians of the inner city, you instead made it an ancillary concern - secondary or even tertiary to the higher priority of simply arresting and incarcerating those who broke the law because they were too poor to do anything else. "Let the jails fix them," you thought, as if simply shutting them away was somehow a solution. Yes, perhaps Officer Darren Wilson really did have no choice when he opened fire. And no, Michael Brown does not make the ideal martyr. But he was the victim who just happened to be the last straw in a very large bale of hay which finally broke the camel's back. How dare you foster the hatred among those you say you protect, and then try to justify shooting a kid who attacks you with the very hatred you instilled within him? If you can't give a day in court, at least give an apology! Wake up!
And finally, to my inner-city fellow humans, by brother Americans, the ones who are the same race as me but who just happen to have darker skin due to a difference in ancestry, you also are partly to blame. You have internalized the negative racist stereotypes with which you have been wrongly stained, and worn them like a macabre badge of honor. You have built statues to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., named streets after him, lionized him as a hero, and then proceeded to do the exact opposite of everything he stood for. You have shunned education when he would have embraced it. You have abandoned your self-worth when he would have told you to champion it. You have resorted to violence when he told you flat-out to turn the other cheek as Jesus and Gandhi recommended. When racists refused to see you as individuals, saying that you were all the same, you gladly accommodated them by being identity-less, acquiring new names the way some people acquire new shoes. After being wrongly being called stupid for so long, many of you decried education as a "white thing," and dropped out of high school. You have then pretended it was your cultural heritage to speak and write improperly. You have embraced being called criminals by acting and dressing like organized gang members, as if this would somehow make you appear more lawful to the cops you hate, and would rather avoid. You have even stood in solidarity with convicts by pulling down your pants below your hips - just as prison inmates do when their sodomy is spoken for - as a way of saying "I'm a jailbird, too!" You have become your own self-fulfilling prophecy. It's as if, after being pelted with pig-shit for years and years, you have collectively decided to wear your pig-shit coat as the latest fashion trend. But you're not fooling anybody but yourselves. You cannot beat poverty by wallowing in it, nor can you rise above by clipping your own wings. No, you cannot change your skin color, but you can control how you dress, how you talk, and how you live. How dare you complain about racism when you have colluded so well with your racist oppressors by confirming everything negative they've assumed about you! Wake up!
So now that I've called out the errant behaviors, what can we do about the present situation? It's a complex problem with a whole matrix of causes, and it will require a multi-layered solution with at least as many facets. But there is at least one thing we can do which will have an immediate impact: More black cops! Right now, the main problem of the inner city is a lack of good paying jobs for young people who desperately need them, and the main problem of the police force is the perception that they are racist oppressors who are not representative of the people they allegedly serve. We can solve two problems at once by putting young black men (and women) on the fast track to getting trained as police officers and patrolling their own neighborhoods. Oh, yes, these cops will be called Oreos, Uncle Toms, and sell-outs, but the one thing they won't be called is racists. That element will be cut out of the equation. For good.
I say let's give it a try: Let's ignore petty crimes in past behaviors when screening applicants. Let's even ignore jail time for non-violent offenses. If young black men are going to carry a gun in the inner city anyway (and they likely will), then let's do all we can to give them a badge to go along with that gun. After all, a white hillbilly cop patrolling a black inner city neighborhood makes about as much sense as a male gynecologist or a skinny sumo wrestler. And if we want people to feel that cops are connected to their neighborhood, let's recruit cops who are from that neighborhood. Certainly that makes more sense than some ridiculous rule requiring police officers to take up residency inside the borders of a city so ridiculously border-jumbled as Milwaukee. (Or Ferguson.)
Let's Axel Foley the police force! And then see what some suburban-level incomes can do to quell civil unrest!