Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Firestorm in Ferguson
Firestorm in Ferguson
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
August 19, 2014
Shots are fired, a young man is dead, a community reacts in a criminal and emotional manner even before either the body is cold or before any of the facts are known.
Enter Al Sharpton, race-hustler extraordinaire and agitator, to emerge on the scene and make matters worse, not quell the violence, rioting, looting, and overall thugery by criminal opportunists in the name of civil rights and justice.
Prior to casting aspersions, save for the decades-long reputation legitimately earned by Sharpton, cooler heads prevailed in an effort to sift through the chaos, then determine where guilt or innocence lies and how to proceed from there.
What we have here is a classic failure to communicate – where actions clearly have spoken louder than words in the immediacy following the death of 18 year old Michael Brown. Brown has been held up as an innocent victim assassinated because of his color by a racist police force in a town that has endured revolutionary demographic change in the past four decades.
In 1970, the population of Ferguson, MO was 99 percent white and one percent black. Fast forward to 2010, and the black community had grown to reach a majority population of 67 percent, with the white population dropping to 29 percent. During this same period, the Ferguson police department has hardly changed with the times as but three of the 53 members of the force are black.
But in spite of those changes and lack of changes, one of the community’s own, Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol said “It’s not a black or white issue, it’s a community that needs to communicate.” However, it’s hard to communicate when the two sides are speaking different languages.
But as time has passed since the August 9 shooting death of Brown, reality has unfolded – officer Darren Wilson is probably not a racist, but perhaps an overzealous officer; and Brown is not the innocent “gentle giant” as his family described him. Six bullets struck Brown at close range – not in the back as a so-called witness averred, but in the front. Whether Brown was armed or not, his size, six foot-four inches tall and 290 pounds, was certainly imposing enough to warrant fear for the officer’s safety
Regardless of the circumstances behind the shooting of Brown, an adult, not a child as some of his supporters have called him, there was no excuse for the pillaging, plundering, looting, mayhem, and overall destruction of property that has allowed Ferguson to resemble downtown Beirut, Baghdad, or Benghazi.
What goes through the minds of these miscreants that foment this kind of violent behavior – and in their own communities? There is a historic consistency with these kinds of riots perpetuated in the false name of justice – a black man is killed and a feeding frenzy is authored by other black men not actually seeking justice, but seeking merchandise from their own community almost guaranteeing that community a further economic decline. Destruction in less affluent neighborhoods by thugs living in those neighborhoods only makes them less affluent and less of a neighborhood. In some cases businesses are forced to close and/or move leaving the residents with fewer choices and fewer jobs. While these hooligans are not the majority of the black community, they are the faces of that black community seen on worldwide news reports and private video gone viral.
An overwhelming white police department, apparently not adroit enough to combat this brand of domestic terrorism – first came out in force where battle ensued, then they held back, allowing more and more protests to occur, but with fewer arrests. The problem with the paucity of arrests is not the protests, peaceful protest is part of what the United States was founded upon, but the increase in assaults on local businesses – most black owned. Many of those owners arrived at their businesses with employees and/or friends armed to protect what they had worked hard to build and what the police could apparently not protect.
Eventually, Governor Jay Nixon (D) weighed in with calls for calm, yet supportive of peaceful protesting. This was further reiterated by Barack Obama. Neither voice has helped much as community outrage still reigns even following the footage depicting Brown robbing Ferguson Market & Liquor – stealing a box of cigars and roughing up a clerk much smaller than Brown.
The attorneys for the Brown family have described the film footage as an attempt to smear and assassinate Brown’s character. How is that possible? The camera doesn’t lie.
Stepping up attempts to squelch the felonious behavior of the reprobates who have violated the imposed curfew and continued thieving rampages, the National Guard have been marshaled to Ferguson by Nixon. Perhaps they might have a better notion of control over the situation versus the police force from Ferguson at times seeming as inept as that of the fictional Mayberry. In spite of the lack of preparedness of the local police in Ferguson, there is still no excuse for the rampant violence by the protesters – there is juxtaposition between the two situations.
The shooting of Michael Brown must be properly investigated and adjudicated if Wilson used excessive force and he should be held accountable. If not, Wilson should be abrogated of any wrong doing. Regardless of the disposition of any case against Wilson, all those involved with the criminal activities following Brown’s death also need be held accountable regardless of the severity of the violation.
School officials have cancelled classes for the remainder of the week – another mistake in the handling of this ugliness, especially in light of the curfew being lifted. The decisions being made in Ferguson by those in charge seem counterintuitive at best. If anything, Ferguson’s children need to be in school with as normal an existence as possible.
Nearly 50 percent of young black males are unemployed in Ferguson and the contiguous areas. This is a product of a dearth of education, which more often than not is a byproduct of the poor choices made by young people who have little in the way of a home life, often single-parent homes. There is a definite link to the bad behavior perpetrated in Ferguson.
Regardless of the origin of the violence, rioting, and looting, this is the kind of behavior that neither encourages businesses to move to a Ferguson nor promotes job growth, both keys to an economically stable community.
Ignoring or allowing these riots to continue only sends the message that this behavior is acceptable – further sinking the United States into anarchistic chaos and a deeper racial chasm. Having the likes of Al Sharpton present only makes matters worse with his incendiary language as he has made a career of racial strife and animus for decades. Obama did not help the situation with his on the one hand, on the other hand attempt to equate the riots and connected behavior with the shooting of Brown. None of the lawlessness should be tolerated and none of the looting or rioting is defensible.
What are needed are more voices of reason. “The role of Obama should be to condemn the lawbreakers,” said Jason Riley, editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal and author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder For Blacks To Succeed.
Additionally, Kevin Jackson, founder of The Black Sphere (www.theblacksphere.net) agreed that Sharpton “does more harm than help and makes matters worse.” Jackson also does not excuse the degenerative behavior of the past week calling for personal responsibility and not the continued violence, theft, and destruction pandemic in far too many black communities.
“I am not going to let the criminals define this community,” said Captain Johnson.
There are no apologies for these statements above of fact and truth that others may deem racist. Problem is, far too many condemn truth as racist when the truth is ugly and painful. Recognize the truth and change the reality to create a new truth and a new dynamic – that of personal responsibility and pride in being able to resolve problems with brains, not belligerence or bellicosity.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.