Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 20th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps

It is not often that the hypocrisy of the dominant stories and scripts of our country line up so perfectly for all to see the racial concerns that drive black protest. However, in this one moment it has:

1. The Pew Research Center released a poll on Monday, 18 August 2014, noting the stark racial divisions in reactions to the Ferguson Police shooting of Michael Brown.

Pew goes on to draw several conclusions from the data, including comparing reactions from now to those that accompanied the slaying of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquital of Trayvon’s killer George Zimmerman.

2. Consider the anguish, anger and resolve expressed in the following report on the killing of James Foley, a white American journalist abroad. Replace every use of the word “ISIS” with “Ferguson authorities” or “American authorities;” replace every use of the name “James Foley” with “Mike Brown” or “Eric Garner” or… “Martin Luther King”…; now read the transcript of the segment again with these replacements as though you feel every word, and you may begin to understand how black people feel about these ongoing losses, even as we grieve the loss of our countryman James Foley too.


3. Consider also the almost satirical irony of the following story of the shooting of a dog by a police officer that shows the shooting officer and victim family expressing strikingly similar reactions to those seen in the Michael Brown tragedy. Outrage over the dog shooting comes at the same time a third of white Americans or an overwhelming majority of Republicans are saying too much is being made of race in the Michael Brown case. Note that the officer who shot the dog was immediately fired, even though the “Justice for Apollo” Facebook page (which already has 14k followers and counting) reports that Apollo did not indeed die. Don’t human beings, no matter who they are, deserve at least a commensurate amount of respect?


CONCLUSION: For certain, what is happening in Ferguson is about justice for Michael Brown and his family. But it is also about Ferguson citizens’ desire for freedom from aggressive police tactics. And it’s also about American citizens of color’s desire to no longer be targeted by an often fatal, frequently unresponsive power structure.

This isn’t about ridicule or condemnation of white Americans who just don’t get it. This is a goodwill attempt to help you get it. Black people in particular in America (and I imagine people of color in general) just want the dominant story and script of our country to cease to be what the US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney declared in 1857 in a court opinion: That African-Americans (and by extension, all people of color) had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

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