“Takin’ It To The Streets” In Ferguson, Missouri?

“There was an eerie flashback to 1965 in parts of the St. Louis region Sunday. Riot gear. Tear gas. German shepherds. Looting. Stores on fire. Dozens arrested.”

—Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Today, eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was supposed to start classes at Vatterott College, presumably to pursue his version of the vanishing American Dream. According to a childhood friend, he wanted to start his own business, “make something out of nothing.” But Michael BrownMichael Brown is dead. On Saturday, in the early afternoon, a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, shot him multiple times and killed him, even though he was not armed. Reportedly, his uncovered corpse was left in the street for four hours. There are conflicting versions of what happened, with the police saying there was a struggle for an officer’s weapon and witnesses saying the black teenager was shot while he was running away, frightened, with his hands in the air.

Senator Claire McCaskill said she was praying that the “God-loving people of Ferguson will find peace and patience as we wait for the results of what will be numerous and thorough investigations of what happened.” Senator Roy Blunt said that Michael Brown’s “recent high school graduation should have been a beginning of better things. 

Ferguson, population 21,000, is part of greater St. Louis, and advertises that it is, “Proud to be a Playful City USA community!” Last night there was nothing playful about the rioting and looting that went on during what was supposed to be a consciousness-raising vigil for the dead young man, who was on his way to his grandmother’s house when he was killed. During tFerguson QuickTrip lootedhe mayhem, a couple of policemen were injured, one after a brick was thrown at him, and many police cars were damaged. Shots were fired at officers and at a police helicopter, though apparently all missed their targets. There have been 32 arrests so far, with more on the way, according to police.

The mayor of Ferguson and its police chief said they were sure the rioters and looters were not from Ferguson, but came from other communities just to take advantage of the situation. Many local residents who were there said the same thing, and most of those interviewed by reporters were appalled at how the night developed, as USA Today reported:

 “Most came here for a peaceful protest but it takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch,” said Deanel Trout, 53, who has lived in Ferguson for 14 years. “I can understand the anger and unrest, but I can’t understand the violence and looting.”

And that is exactly right. Anger and unrest may be appropriate, but violence and looting never is. And that is the problem with this situation. People will tend to focus on the latter as an excuse to ignore the underlying causes of the former. In so many communities, black people have a sense that the lives of their children don’t matter all that much to the aRiot breaks out, store looteduthorities, whether those authorities be police officers or politicians. And in some more dire situations, the children themselves don’t see much point in participating in a civilization that they believe not only ignores their interests, but is outright hostile to them. CNN caught a local cop on camera yelling at protesters in Ferguson: “Bring it, you fucking animals! Bring it!”

According to the Aisha Sultan of the St. Louis Post Dispatch,

Ferguson…is an inner-ring suburb, a place where it’s easy for the economic recovery to bypass the poor. It’s a city of 6 square miles, about 10 miles north of downtown. About two-thirds of the residents are African-American. The median income is $37,000, roughly $10,000 less than the state average. Nearly a quarter of residents live below the poverty level, compared with 15 percent statewide.

It’s part of north St. Louis county, where whites left en masse beginning in the 1960s, creating one of the most extreme cases of “white flight” in the country. But many who remained in power are still white, including much of the law enforcement. A local lawyer said whenever she goes into the North County courthouse all the defendants are always black, the cops always white.

Sultan claims that,

The most economically depressed and violence-torn parts of the city and county, predominantly black neighborhoods, are largely ignored by the civic establishment, unless to explain why the city’s high rank in violent crime isn’t an accurate depiction of the region.

Until we can tell our children — and ourselves — a more honest story about race in this region, we will be left with far worse tragedies to explain.

Hopefully, we will soon find out whether this killing was justified. For now, as Aisha Sultan points out,

For those who have been on the receiving end of disrespect, mistrust, suspicion or brutality, the impulse is to believe Brown was brutally gunned down.

For those who are fearful anytime they cross into the city limits, most likely only for a sporting event, the young man must have done something to “deserve” his fate. 

The FBI is opening an investigation of the shooting. Senator McCaskill said that Missourians “will not be satisfied until we have a complete and transparent understanding of all the facts and circumstances that led to this young man’s death.” Along with that, we need some kind of understanding of why it is that there exists in some American communities, whether it be Ferguson or elsewhere, a group of people who think that violence and looting are acceptable responses to real or perceived injustices. We need to figure out if listening to grievances and addressing the injustices will help reduce the violent responses.

We also need to know why it is, as American Progress points out, that, “1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.” Or why it is that one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime,” and “African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.”

And on and on. There is much to know and understand. Including why it is that a lot of Americans think angry blacks protesting the killing of a teenager in Missouri are thugs and angry whites threatening federal officers on a ranch in Nevada are patriots.

You have probably heard of one of Ferguson’s most famous citizens, Grammy Award winner Michael McDonald, who was born and raised there. McDonald sang a lot of hits for The Doobie Brothers, and, ironically, the first hit he had with that band was one he wrote, Takin’ It To The Streets:

You don’t know me but I’m your brother
I was raised here in this living Hell
You don’t know my kind in your world
Fairly soon, the time will tell

You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Take this message to my brother
You will find him everywhere
Wherever people live together
Tied in poverty’s despair

You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see

Takin’ it to the streets

[Photos: top, from a posting on Facebook; riot photos, from stltoday.com; Doobies, Warner Brothers]

12 Comments

  1. ansonburlingame

     /  August 12, 2014

    Does this “incident” in Ferguson really surprise anyone? This country has been enduring such episodes since the eary 1960’s and we have yet to find solutions.

    OK, I agree that before Civil Rights legislation, it was lynching of blacks by whites that we rarely saw spread across headlines. But you must admit that when law enforcement actions are now exposed it is almost always a black mob that reacts in today’s world. I am speaking of riots in DC in the late 60’s, Watts riots, Oakland riots, Rodney King reactions, and the list goes on and on, today. At least during the Travon Martin episode, incident or whatever word you care to describe such reactions, the county avoided a bloodbath of looting, criminal behavior on the part of protestors, etc, but we came close in that situation it seems to me.

    America continues to walk a narrow edge, right beside a racial cliff if you will, ready at any moment to go right over the cliff into some form of mob violence. Katrina comes to mind as well, but certainly not Joplin.

    Your views in this blog were balanced, Duane, as they should usual be to avoid racial stereotyping in the opposite direction, against supposed racist cops, etc. As well, you and Claire both say “we don’t yet know the facts” surrounding this killing of a black man by a white (probably) cop. But you know as well as I do that the simple fact that a cop killed an unarmed (other than fists and strength) black man, young man at that, raises the underlying distrust, anger, resentment of black societies against ………. And when black societies react by grossly breaking criminal laws with rioting, looting, etc., well you are certainly going to hear verbal and written reaction against such societies as well.

    The vast majority of white America today does NOT want to “keep the nego down”, in some modern sort of “chains”, etc. Most white Americans want such black (or Hispanic, or Asian, or Native American, or ……) men, women and children to have the chance to prosper.

    But other than throwing unbelievable amounts of money at the problem, demanding the government to “do something”, etc. the solutions have yet to be found to at least allow some of those people the chance to prosper. Our laws certainly allow such to happen today but those societies within the larger American society have yet to achieve prosperity. Detroit of course comes to mind.

    Avoiding the racial perspective, this incident is again one of have’s versus have not’s, it seems to me. That is the divide that weakens America today and President Obama has fueled more flames of anger, distrust and resentment by the have not’s, with the unwanted but “normal” reaction from the have’s in an attempt to protect their own way of life.

    Underlying all the claims of great harm and disregard for blacks by whites in Ferguson is one simple observation. When any cop in any form confronts a citizen, the citizen, like it or not had better just “do what the cop says” or ……… A given cop may well be wrong, racist, whatever. But not following a cops orders in a given circumstance and reacting with the threat of anger, resentment, or even a hint of physical violence is just wrong, the wrong thing to do, and usually it is illegal to do so as well.

    I suppose the First Amendment gives citizens the “right” to call a cop a “stupid SOB” or worse when in a confrontation. But understanding when to exercise that “right”, using the right form of verbal and other threatening retorts, is part of learning to be a “good citizen”. There are many in our society that do not accept that responsibility today. In fact we “breed them” in large numbers just in our public schools today it seems to me. In Joplin at least almost all of those “hoodlums” happen to be white today, simply because of our demographics in Joplin. But in a city with a 70% black majority well you can expect to see black hoodlums, acting the same way. In that sense such issues are not racial, they are “societal” it seems to me.

    Anson

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    • kabe

       /  August 12, 2014

      AB, Did you really start out a paragraph with “Avoiding the racial perspective…” and then name President Obama as the one fanning the flames and also saying that the “haves reacted “normally?” That paragraph says a lot in my book. Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are saying or maybe you “mistyped.”, I hope so because if you are saying Obama was welcomed into his position with open arms by the Right and then has gone on some racial/economical crusade, then I believe you have exposed yourself as someone not capable of looking at both sides as far as racial issues are concerned.
      And what the hell does “an unarmed (except fists and strength) black man” mean? Again, I hope I am interpreting this wrong.
      How would you and the rest of Joplin react if you were taking orders from black officers on a daily basis? After the Tornado? How would you react if your family members were beaten senseless for a DUI or ordered to get out of the street and then shot in the back? What if your grandson was killed by a black citizen because he looked suspicious wearing that hoodie? I will be the first to say I am disgusted by riots following the such events. The case in Ferguson only hurts this young man’s support and memory. But seriously, if things were reversed here do you think the results would be any different? I say absolutely not!
      I have to give you credit though, you covered all the bases once again! Joplin is holier than thou, a little Detroit reference always plays well here, can’t throw many at the problem, its the public schools fault , government dependence, etc. Well done.

      Kabe

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      • I’m trying to unravel this yarn: “In fact we ‘breed them’ (hoodlums) in large numbers just in our public schools today it seems to me”.

        Are hoodlums being breed just in public schools and no where else?

        Who are the “we?” I would never breed anyone in a public school. Or a Wal-Mart for that matter.

        Like

      • kabe

         /  August 13, 2014

        error: Many should be money, and I am not sure what happened to my paragraphs after sending.

        Kabe

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  2. Normal human behavior is tribal and xenophobic. The Ferguson Missouri incident is symptomatic, I submit, because the largely black population there sees itself, rightly, as different from and prejudiced by whites, including white cops. What’s unusual, I think, is that the U.S. has progressed as far as it has in race relations, given its violent and passionate history of slavery and the subsequent disgraceful period of segregation and racial oppression.

    Now we have a black president as well as blacks prominent in business, entertainment and politics. But there’s a long way to go and I think it’s possible that complete integration might never be achieved. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, but the problem is deep in our evolutionary roots.

    The same problem is at the heart of all the world’s conflicts. Jews and Arabs. Shiites, Kurds and Sunis. Russians and Ukrainians. Untouchables. Japanese and Chinese. Chinese Uighurs. The problems in Sudan. South African Boers and the black population. Republicans and Democrats. British and Irish. Catholics and Protestants. On and on.

    America is a young nation, but it is the world’s oldest democratic republic. Think about that. It’s still an open question as to whether its form of government can prevail. Come to think of it, the whole damn species is relatively new on the planet and just might go extinct in a lot less time than did the dinosaurs. We are the most dangerous creatures ever to walk the Earth, and not just to other species but to ourselves and our own environment.

    I don’t believe that there is a God, or at least one who counts the hairs on my head, because if he did create humanity in his own image so we might worship him, he would have scrapped the project a long time ago. No way this could be fun.

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  August 13, 2014

    Jim captures the frustration of which I wrote, our inability to cross the racial divide in America. A difficult effort to do so has been ongoing at least since 1965 in America and yet……..

    As for Kabe, please get off your high horse for a moment in my criticism of the President. The simple fact, shown repeatedly by Duane’s blog, is the reaction to Obama’s policies. Automatically, you assume I and others are criticizing him because he happens to be black (half black). Baloney. His policies are left wing policies, period and that is what I object, strongly, to. I could care less what his skin color might be or his background for that matter. It is the left wing approach that concerns me, gravely. It just has not worked, for decades.

    Look at it this way. Has the racial divide improved, gotten noticably smaller, over the last 50 years? On one hand we don’t lynch blacks anymore, but ………..

    As for “breeding” hoodlums, the clear evidence of such are right in our local high schools, all over the country today. So yes, schools allow hoodlums, created initially at home, to perpetuate such behavior. NO ONE, schools, many parents, all sorts of “groups” stop erratic and selfish behavior that becomes criminal in many cases. I challenge any of you to go into a modern classroom and take a shot at controlling behavior on the part of usually 50% of any given class in a modern high school and still TEACH them something, how to behave being a good priority.

    I submit that the first step in confrontations (by anyone) with law enforcement is to simply do what the cop tells you to do, period, like it or not. Stay calm, stay in control of your emotions, say “yes sir” even if it makes you “sick” to do so. Later on, if errant behavior on the part of law enforcement is believed to have taken place, well there are plenty of ways to take action to prevent it again, by a single cop or a whole police department.

    Just consider your own emotional response. You are a cop of any color and stop two men (of any color) for …….. You get shoved back into your police car and ……….. Do you just say “I’m sorry I stopped you” and lie quietly on the seat of your car while being ……… by the other man?

    If ANY citizen decides to take on a cop as they would in a bar fight with drunks, well, see what happens all the time in such cases. Someone usually gets physically hurt or even killed, in bar fights or confrontation of a threatening nature with cops, or soldiers on a battlefield as well.

    Any citizen that walks around this country today with a chip on his shoulder for his “race” (or socio-economic class) being mistreated, is a man (or woman) just looking for trouble. Sometimes they find it and a “Ferguson” happens, just like in a bar fight.

    I continue to be amazed by stories of restraint shown by cops in all sorts of incidents calling for police intervention. Just take the “average” domestic dispute that happens all the time. For a high school level graduate with just “police academy training” to resolve such disputes between angry (and usually intoxicated) people going at each other tooth and nail, is to me “amazing”.

    As well I am amazed that we can find soldiers to fight for this country under the sort of rules of engagement demanded today, in a war for Christ’s sake!! Would any of you volunteer to walk down a street, heavily armored and with a good weapon in hand to just “take” fire from an AK-47 (or RPG) from a house containing “women and children” and NOT return fire to save your own life or those of your fellows around you?? Most sane people would back off and mortar the house to smitherns, to save their own lives and their fellow soldiers. But do that today in a war and you might well face a courts martial!!

    Anson

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    • Anonymous

       /  August 13, 2014

      I’m sorry AB, but your comment has so many racial overtones and innuendo it is hard to reach any other conclusion. You go way beyond the economics that are at play here. ( I agree whole heartily with your economic opinion)
      However, you also said ” it is almost always a black mob that reacts” That is total b.s. Would you be ok if they stood guard like the “patriots” did with rifles for Clive Bundy and his debt to our government ? If defending his wallet is justified, then I am sure the Right would have no problem if the Black Panthers did the same in Ferguson, right? Kabe

      Like

      • King Beauregard

         /  August 13, 2014

        Anson’s argument is basically, if these black kids don’t want any trouble, they should just be white. Not that he sees it that way, of course; to him, if blacks find themselves victims of police abuse, it must be because they brought it upon themselves.

        Brittney Cooper recently wrote a pretty good article. I tend to not like her articles — on many many topics she grossly overestimates her level of insight — but this one is a keeper:

        http://www.salon.com/2014/08/12/in_defense_of_black_rage_michael_brown_police_and_the_american_dream/

        Two statements of hers are particularly insightful:

        “I believe that racism exists in the inexplicable sense of fear, unsafety and gnawing anxiety that white people, be they officers with guns or just general folks moving about their lives, have when they encounter black people.”

        and

        “But I question a society that always sees the product of the provocation and never the provocation itself.”

        Like

        • Oh, my, King B. I have almost exactly the same feelings toward Brittney Cooper. Thank you, though, for linking to that amazing article. Since I have, over the years, written a lot about white angst, here is a paragraph that I find overflows with insight:

          The irony is that black people understand this heightened anxiety. We feel it, too. We study white people. We are taught this as a tool of survival. We know when there is unrest in the souls of white folks. We know that unrest, if not assuaged quickly, will lead to black death. Our suspicions, unlike those of white people, are proven right time and time again.

          God, I wish white people could understand that. I wish white people would even try to understand that. Our country would be a much better place for all to live in.

          Duane

          Like

          • King Beauregard

             /  August 15, 2014

            Amen to that. It doesn’t even seem like that hard of a thing to grasp: if you’re black, you’re dealing with a very different set of rules, and you could actually die over a mere misunderstanding, or a case of mistaken identity.

            Like

  4. ansonburlingame

     /  August 14, 2014

    Any discussion related to race with lefties always results in an accusation of racism. That just closes out the discussion when you take that moral high ground or think you do.

    I was born and raised in a racist society. But never in my adult life have I acted against blacks of any sort in a racist reaction. My biggest transgression in that regard were occassionally telling “black jokes” during long submergence periods, with blacks participating in the jokes as well. I don’t even do that anymore!!

    Our great American society has turned far to far into a permissive, everyone is a vicitm (of something), government is the only solution, etc., etc. That is not racist. It is a view of how better to govern our own society to encourage free people to act like and be good citizens all the time.

    Probably the cop in Ferguson was a lousy cop. But the reaction of two black men to being stopped by a cop was not action required for good citizens, in my view. Go anywhere with a violent and angry chip on your shoulder and you will ultimately find trouble headed right at you.

    In the Martin case neither man was a good citizen by most approximations either. Good citizens don’t draw down on anyone and good citizens do not take confrontation to the racial level when views oppose one another. As for rioting, looting, you name it, black, white or otherwise, to do it or try to make an excuse for it is wrong as well. Two bads do not make goods and when one bad is worse than the other, then you still don’t get any good out of it.

    Millions of people no longer raise their kids that way in America, our schools don’t enforce such behavior, no bad, whatever, and society in general is always looking for victims without finding or even trying to find real cures for bad behavior that results in lots of “victims” simply out of making bad choices in their lives.

    That is not a racist view, it is a societal view with all colors of skin lumped together. And all the money in the world will not fix that problem, in America today.

    Anson

    Like

    • kabe

       /  August 14, 2014

      AB, You just cannot help yourself. can you? I am not saying you are a racist and I would not consider myself a “lefty”, but I have a couple questions here. If you should answer them, please stick to the specific question. Also, for the record I am comparing the Clive Bundy incident and that of Ferguson Mo. and I personally disapprove of both actions by each group as far as violence and threats of violence with weapons.

      You said “Go anywhere with a violent and angry chip and you will ultimately find trouble headed right at you” With that, I have to ask, A) do you blame the murdered victim for this mess? B) Do you think the Bundy folks had a violent and angry chip on their shoulder when they showed up in Nevada?

      The Clive Bundy incident is recent and for sure comparable to the two VASTLY different law enforcement responses. So, if the Clive Bundy folks were asked by law enforcement to clear the street and let law enforcement do their job (which was to collect a debt) do you think they (notice I do not mention what color they were?) would have cooperated like good citizens should, as you have suggested people do? (unlike the two BLACK MEN you mention)

      What do you think the reaction would have been in Nevada had police used tear gas, drove tanks, arresting journalists, and showed force by sending in riot squads instead on calmly waiting things out?

      Why didn’t law enforcement show such force in Nevada?

      You mentioned your military experience as far as your racial relation with blacks. I was in the service as well and it is the only place in which I experienced true harmony as far as various races living together. That is because we all started with nothing, no matter where you came from or your prior status. We all earned the same amount of money and we all had the same goal. We all lived by the same rules as well.

      You served as an officer in the military, that is something I hold in high regard. You are also an educated man. That is precisely why I find your comments concerning race so odd. I have lived in areas where whites were not always the predominant race, perhaps that is why my outlook may differ. I am thankful for those experiences and I would say they changed my life from that in which I was raised to think about such things. I look at both of these incidents and I see two very, very different reactions by law enforcement, I just want to know how it is possible that you or others cannot see that?

      Kabe

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