By Ben Tanosborn
This Monday, November 24, the spark ignited by a 12-person grand jury’s decision in a Missourian community where black people predominate (67 percent in 2010 census) will have most white Americans confounded why blacks behave as they do, shaking their heads in disbelief. Yet, many of us, our skin color and socio-economic condition aside, see this new notch of extreme discontent and protestation by African-Americans, at the white policeman not being indicted, as another loud cry for change; a desperate clinging to primal that dignity by those who feel oppressed.
To see ourselves properly as people, as a community or as a nation, we must do so with borrowed eyes; for, unfortunately, ours likely have grown cataracts of prejudice which accumulate in the behavioral building blocks acquired during our lives. And we must trust those borrowed eyes to give us a clear vision of impartiality that will aid us attain the wisdom required to deal with our fellow-citizen brothers in a peaceful, communal way… never as an intruder or colonizer.
In a country with a diversity of roots, such as the United States of America, we are obligated to honor that diversity if we are to go forward as one society, one nation.
What is currently happening in Ferguson, a repetition of countless other racial episodes that have taken place during the last half-century after the passage of the “assumed to finally change things” Civil Rights Act of 1964, is the aftermath of an unenlightened, and continuing blind political leadership. Top to bottom… from the federal bureaucrats (elected or appointed) in Washington, D.C. to the career politicians, or civil servants, at the state, county-city level who are more interested in meeting their personal needs than those of the people they are supposed to be serving.
During this epochal time of empire, it appears almost comical – if it weren’t so sad and ignorance-driven – to find ourselves telling other nations how to govern themselves when we are incapable of governing ourselves. Americans are encircled by a double abyss, a semi-circle of an ever-growing economic inequality, and another semi-circle of social-racial prejudice. To deny the existence of either condemns us to a continuing façade of excuses and rationalizations, all combining to prevent us from acknowledging the causal variable among the myriad intervening variables, all easier to tackle with short-term band aids.
And the causal variable that creates this social-racial abyss is simply racial prejudice, and the white establishment’s unwillingness to recognize it, and deal with it.
We may not like ghettos, whether created by economic, ethnic, ideological or racial circumstances, or simply by choice. But, whether we like them or not, and until we have a better system of social and economic conviviality, we must deal with them equitably. And that entails self-governance within the workable parameters imposed by a common rule of law. Unfortunately, colonialism which had all but disappeared in much of the world during the second half of the 20th century, has found fertile ground in modern, open societies… with the United States providing the archetype model for “problem groups” that lack economic, educational and upward-mobility opportunities.
At a minimum, these ghettos which have resulted from forcibly-imposed economic and/or racial conditions should be allowed to govern themselves; but somehow our body politic, adding one more headless arrow to its undemocratic quiver, has not had the lucidity to design and execute plans transferring governance to ghetto-dwellers, a practice long in existence elsewhere in the world. Could it be that white America will conform to affirmative action for minorities, specifically blacks, but does not see them as capable of governing themselves; or, as in Ferguson’s case, of policing themselves?
Does it make any sense at all that a community with 67 percent of its population black be policed by a force 95 percent white, including the police chief? No, we are not talking about social and other city services here… but the critical section entrusted with maintaining law and order: the police department.
Black and Blue (as police is referred) in the US have yet to find common ground, one at least approaching absence of suspicion; so confronting black with Ferguson’s light blue can be truly asking for mishaps to happen. It really has less to do with Darren Wilson’s act (whether he acted appropriately in the shooting of Michael Brown… or is guilty of a crime) than with the lack of trust which exists between blacks and the power exerted by whites over their economic lives, or even their freedom.
Suspicion of misuse of power by whites over blacks is not ill-founded… and one would have to be rather naïve not to see how the black vote is decimated, purposely perhaps, by the incarceration of a disproportionate number of its population, mostly involving drug crimes; or by the also disproportionate level of unemployment shouldered by its people.
What’s happening in Ferguson and other black communities throughout this country tonight and possibly in days to follow, as a sequitur to the grand jury decision, has little to do with agitators, or socialists, or thugs, or other anti-American ill-wishers!
White Americans for the most part tend to view events happening around them as clear-cut, one-dimensional actions, such as in the Michael Brown death… only details which took place on August 9 as consequential and relevant to the case. But that’s unlikely to be the outlook with blacks whose personal experiences, certainly with the police, are multi-layered insidious past events which can easily refract how new events are seen.
Unless Political America sees merit in affording the impoverished African-American communities self-governance, to include self-policing, the black and blue confrontation will continue on… and problems, whether birthed in fact or perception, will not begin to bridge the existing social-racial abyss.
For starters, a more efficient, effective and uniform way of training and certifying those who are to be in law enforcement should be found, at either the state or federal level… perhaps a complementary accommodation of both. That would have to include a representative number of qualifiable blacks to police existing black communities, erasing the existing black-blue mistrust. Obviously, the present system of police-sheriff academies, if anything, must be given a rotund failing grade, if not in the lifelong brotherhood or camaraderie of its graduates, certainly in the way society has been served.