There is hope that the people of this country are finally rebelling against the corruption in our economic and political systems. The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, ignited a community to action. They demanded nothing more than justice and predictably did not get it.
What was not predictable was the expansion of the rebellion beyond Michael Brown and Ferguson. It is now a national rebellion demanding that we, as a society, deal with the ramifications of racism. People from coast to coast are taking to the streets and highways and saying, no more business as usual until we deal with and resolve the issue of racism in this country.
It is the racism which permeates our society that has led to the preemptive, arbitrary killing of black men by members of the police force in cities and towns throughout this nation. We can no longer get away with explaining that these were accidents or it was rogue cops that caused the death of innocent unarmed men. Black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than are their white counterparts.
Our communities promote many stereotypical labels for the black man. If you watch television or go to the movie theater, you are likely to see black men portrayed as the biggest, meanest, most criminal element in our society. So, when a member of any of our police forces confronts a black man, he, too, will be influenced by these stereotypes and experience being in a dangerous situation. A wallet or cell phone can and has been mistaken for a gun.
Professor James Peterson, Director of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University, while being a guest on Democracy Now stated, “When you have Darren Wilson referring to Michael Brown as a demon or referring to him as feeling like he was Hulk Hogan, or if you think about the reporting around the shooting of Tamir Rice where they felt that he was a 20-year-old and he was a 12-year-old kid, that is what we might refer to a super-humanization bias. Where whites see black people as literally being superhuman, as being able to endure more pain as being older than they are, stronger than they are, faster than they are, in some instances even as evil or demonic. . And, unfortunately, that kind of bias has had some awful consequences once it’s really present in an interface between a law enforcement officer and an unarmed civilian.”
The people have decided that they will not passively accept Mr. Obama’s “rule of law” comments. When the law does not provide justice, it is time to change the law. If the process is corrupt, it is time to change the process.
What the people in the streets have clearly stated is they are tired of commissions, committees, studies, etc. Until we deal with racism as a cold, hard reality and work to change the perception we have and promote of people of color, these incidents will continue. It goes beyond better training for the police or the use of body cameras on police. Many confrontations between the police and citizens are already being videoed. Evidently, it hasn’t stopped the police from brutalizing or killing unarmed black men.
When asked about the use of cameras, Dr. Peterson had an interesting response. He stated, “It’s an interesting step. And I know a lot of people are calling for body cameras, and I think in some of these cases, body cameras would help. I would point out two things, though. Number one, just because a law enforcement officer has on a body camera does not mean that it will immediately erases their biases. We have seen it in some communities where it’s sort of reduced police brutality and reduced some of these incidents, and that’s all well and good. But, I would say, first, that we still need the long, hard work of changing the culture of the United States around race and racial bias.
“But then, Number two, I’m deeply concerned about the surveillance issues that go along with this. Remember, so these body cameras, I’m assuming, are going to go to the communities with the highest crime rates, which are communities that also have the highest concentrations of poverty and communities that also have the highest incidences of police brutality and police misconduct. Now we’re adding an additional layer of surveillance in those communities. I’ve often already spoken about the ways in which we talk about the kind of NSA surveillance, but people in these communities have been dealing with physical surveillance; the stop tactics—the stop-and-frisk and things of that nature.
“To add body cameras, I’m not sure if we’re having the right conversations about that extra layer of surveillance for communities that are already, in some ways, under siege by law enforcement. And so, I think we need to have that conversation and to understand what the consequences are of adding a layer of surveillance on top of an already explosive situation where you’re thinking about this interface between law enforcement and the people they’re charged to protect.”
What has been very heartening are the large number of white men and women joining the action and participating in civil disobedience.
It is time to recognize that the white working class has more in common with the black working class than they do with the white managerial class.
The power elite will not sit idly and allow the merging of these two forces. They have invested a great deal, historically, in maintaining a competitiveness and separation between the white, black, and Latino workers. The greatest threat to their economic and political dominance is the merging of the working class to demand living wages, affordable housing, health care for all, etc.
That is why it’s important to recognize that the struggle for an increased minimum wage runs parallel to the goals of the groups fighting to end police brutality. Most minimum wage earners are people of color and Latinos. The cry for serious dialogue and action to end racist myths must also include the availability for workers to live with dignity. The government’s response is to offer $10.10 per hour which will not help families lift themselves out of poverty. But, the beauty of our capitalist system is the push of private industry to keep the cost of labor as low as possible and raise the potential profits as high as possible. That means that in 5-10 years from now, we will once again be struggling to convince those in power to agree to raising the minimum wage.
The nature of capitalism is to push against the welfare of the working class who are there only to be used and exploited by the ruling class. Under this system, we are doomed to repeat the same struggles for a decent life over and over again because the capitalists and their lackeys in political office will not concede anything without a struggle.
As an example: Conservatives do not hesitate to point to the importance of family and family values. Do they not see a contradiction when they refuse to support a livable wage which would allow family members to work one job rather than two or three jobs and spend valuable time with their children?
We must assume and accept a revolutionary stance and fight to remove the tyranny in which we now live. We are taught to have hope and when we have the next election, vote for the Democrats. We have been voting for the Democrats for many decades and many elections. But, not only has there been little improvement in the lives of working people, much has gotten worse. There is nothing in our present political system which allows for anyone representing the interests of the 90% to run for office, much less actually be elected.
If we continue to accept this system, there is no hope. Do not listen to what our elected officials say, watch what they do. Do not believe all you hear from our corporate controlled mainstream media. Their job is to support the agenda of corporate America and not to present you with the real news. This includes the New York Times that usually does not print “all the news that’s fit to print.”
The two struggles that are going on at this moment, minimum wage and police brutality, have opened the door for all of us. We can join them and take to the streets and insist there will be no business as usual until we’re heard and changes are made in the way things are done. It will not be easy or quick but the door is now open. Just look at how the last week has prompted all sorts of meetings among those in power. They’re very concerned but they will attempt to put Band-Aids on the bleeding and ultimately everything will remain the same for the 90%.
Workers World reports, “The fighting, angry spirit of the people of Ferguson, Mo., following the decision not to prosecute racist killer-cop Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown seems to have carried into many of the more than 2,250 reported strikes at Walmart stores around the United States from Nov. 26 through Nov. 28, ‘Black Friday.’
“Originally planned as a one-day strike at some 1,600 Walmart stores, the action turned into three days of sit-downs and other protests.
“The Boycott Black Friday or #BlackoutBlackFriday movement in solidarity with Ferguson and against racism coincided with the largest strike yet against the giant retailer and its poverty wages. In several locations, the protests merged as participants rallied in solidarity with both struggles.”
The Occupy Movement was a great beginning but, other than highlighting the true enemy of the people (Wall Street), it had little direction. Today, we have several organizations coordinating their efforts nationally with specific goals. The most important variable in creating change is to organize into a united front. They have the money but we have the people.
As you can see in the mainstream media, they cannot ignore what is happening. The demonstrations go beyond the casual marching in a space designated by the police, singing, chanting, carrying signs. The people are taking direct action and making it difficult to carry on and not notice their presence. They are blocking traffic on highways, interrupting the Macy’s Day Parade, leaving their schools and businesses and going into the streets.
Let’s organize and join the fight and make this a country, not of laws, but of justice and fairness where everyone’s life is meaningful and respected.
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.