Op-eds untitled-article-1408396418

Published on August 19th, 2014

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Michael Brown, Ferguson, and Black Attitudes to Policing

The angry protests in Ferguson are the natural consequence of decades of frustration that black communities across America have been harboring due to abusive policing. It is intellectually dishonest to try to address the issue of negative attitudes among blacks towards the police without first addressing the underlying concerns black citizens have about law enforcement.

Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who was a few days away from starting college, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri—a region with a prominent African-American population. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear; however, eyewitnesses have said that Michael Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot dead. As a result of the killing of Michael Brown, the city of Ferguson has been in uproar, and the anti-police sentiment is palpable. While most of the protesters have been peaceful, there have been some opportunists who used the disarray as an opportunity to steal from stores throughout the neighborhood. Of course, those who revel in presenting the worst images of black America have obsessively focused on the looting—as if the looting by some makes Brown’s death justifiable.

The angry protests in Ferguson are the natural consequence of decades of frustration that black communities across America have been harboring due to abusive policing. It is intellectually dishonest to try to address the issue of negative attitudes among blacks towards the police without first addressing the underlying concerns black citizens have about law enforcement. Fundamentally, the reason why negative attitudes about police exist is precisely because of policing practices and policies that fail to recognize and respect the humanity of black citizens. It is nonsensical to continue a policy like stop-and-frisk that casually violates the Fourth Amendment rights of young black citizens of the United States—and then wonder why many young black citizens have a negative view of the police. Moreover, keeping violent and heartless officers on the streets and trusting them to ethically police communities that they are culturally disconnected from is a recipe for disastrous social conflict.

While many are quick to point out the moral reprehensibility of supporting cop killers, those same people are reluctant to repudiate the actions of even the most corrupt and violent police officers. Support for cop killers and support for corrupt, murderous officers are both morally reprehensible actions; however, it is indisputably true that the culture of loathing law enforcement—which, in its most vicious form, is evidenced by killing police officers—is an outgrowth of the years of brutality that black people have experienced at the hands of violent police officers. Again, although both are unmistakably evil, it is important to acknowledge that one evil precipitates the other.

One of the most popular refrains whenever a black man is unjustly killed by a white police officer is, “Most murders of black people are committed by other blacks. Why do we only care when it’s a white-on-black murder?” One cannot help but notice that the intent of this line is not to demonstrate any concern for the loss of black life. The fundamental concern of those who gleefully repeat this incantation is the exoneration of whites who kill blacks. Those who repeat this line demonstrate a deep sociopathic callousness that only a thorough dehumanization of blacks can engender. Imagine if blacks routinely responded to the deaths of white police officers at the hands of black cop killers by saying, “Most murders of white people are committed by other whites. Why do we only care when it’s black-on-white murder?” If that rhetorical question sounds weird to you, but the former rhetorical question about black-on-black crime is simply an inoffensive run-of-the-mill comment, perhaps you need to check your soul.

It is not only black people who should engage in vociferous protestations against police brutality and extrajudicial killings of young black men, but it should also be true believers in the rule of law. Even if it turns out that Michael Brown was guilty of a robbery, as some suggest, by what logic can believers in the rule of law argue that he deserved to be assassinated in the middle of the street without being afforded his constitutional right to a trial by jury? Are we now supposed to believe that the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution does not apply to young black males in 21st century America? It is either one supports the rule of law or one does not. The fact that the majority of mainstream conservatives could not care less about the glaring constitutional issues vis-à-vis the shooting death of Michael Brown demonstrates the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the mainstream conservative movement.

The black disdain for the police is an outgrowth of the abuse of blacks by the police. Policing is both important and necessary, but when evil police officers abuse their positions of power and victimize black people, it leads to a segment of the population having distrust and hatred for a vital institution that, when properly utilized, should lead to improved lived experiences of African Americans. Those who believe in the inextricably important role that judicious police officers play in maintaining a peaceful society should be most perturbed and outraged whenever any police officer acts in manifestly extrajudicial and terroristic fashions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chidike Okeem is a writer. Born in Nigeria, raised in London, England, and now living in California, he writes about race, culture, religion, and politics. You can follow him on Twitter @VOICEOFCHID and read the rest of his writings on his website at www.voiceofchid.com.

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3 Responses to Michael Brown, Ferguson, and Black Attitudes to Policing

  1. John says:

    We Blacks really need to wake up! We are being lead by some very evil people and most of these evil people are in the Democratic Party. Whenever you listen to Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, Barry Obama and Eric Holder you are being told a bunch of lies. Do not listen to these men – They are no good!!!!!! I have not heard anything about the condition of the police officer.
    This article is stupid. And the article is hoping that you are stupid also. This young man was not going to college! He is getting high and robbing stores. Beating up smaller people!
    Tell Al, Barry, Jessie and eric to go to Chicago and reverse their backward policies so that we can save some of those Black younger people. We do not have a problem with White police killing Blacks – We have a problem with Blacks killing Blacks. Look at the facts! and stop listening to these fools.

  2. MacG says:

    “One of the most popular refrains whenever a black man is unjustly killed by a white police officer is, “Most murders of black people are committed by other blacks. Why do we only care when it’s a white-on-black murder?” One cannot help but notice that the intent of this line is not to demonstrate any concern for the loss of black life.”

    First off how many are ‘unjust’?

    The point of this from my pov is not about exoneration of whites but hypocrisy of the black ‘community’ why should anyone care when there is no black outrage over blacks killed by blacks. Show your outrage at every black killed and maybe others will as well. The sheer volume of such killings makes it a ho-hum statistic. Maybe that’s the source of the rage living in the Hood – Victim-Hood by blacks, snitches get stitches and all can’t even persue justice without risking life and limb, then there is finally the white bogey man to release all of that pent up grief and communal self imposed injustice. Why so many? I notice that you rounded blacks down to 12% of the population so answer me why blacks account for committing 37% of all of the murders in the United States in 2012 http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_3_murder_offenders_by_age_sex_and_race_2012.xls. Any wonder why when Cops deal with bad guys day in and day out, 37% percent of the murders they deal with are committed by just 12% of the population, their frame of reference may be skewed?

  3. Darnell says:

    There are several issues surrounding the Michael Brown case that need to be address. I will attempt to take a look at a few.

    First, I feel for the parents of Mike Brown for the lost of their child.

    Second, the black community need to stop acting like Mike Brown was a good guy. The store video proves that. For the record, I don’t believe that was the first time he had stolen from a store in that neighborhood. I can only imagine what his state of mind was when he was confronted by the police officer just 10 minutes later after intimidating the clerk at the store. My guess is he was combative which led to his death. Although the cop may have knew nothing about the crime he committed.

    However, should he have been shot six times….absolutely not. A good butt whipping may have been in order though. This bring me to my next point. There are many police officers especially white officers that are scared to death of black people especially big black guys. Many of these officers could not whip a flee if they life depended on it…. less known handle the high volume of crime within these low income black communities that requires confrontation with criminals on a regular basis. The last thing they need is a badge and a gun. They only become police officers just to have a job.

    My last point is this. I believe if this would have happen a few generations ago, Mike Brown would have made it home alive at some point. Police officers back in the day were tough and carried night sticks and would literally beat the crap out of you in a confrontation. Liberalism along with the ACLU with all of their brutality claims help reduce this kind of law enforcement. This has hurt the black community. Now a cop can’t reach for a night stick…only a gun.

    Crime is out of control within the black community and we wonder why there are no jobs. The burning and looting of businesses within your own community do not make sense. All it does is create more unemployment which is high enough already.

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