Home > Communication, Family, Safety > Kill first, ask questions later: Ferguson protests explained 140 characters at a time

Kill first, ask questions later: Ferguson protests explained 140 characters at a time

Many people seem to think in 140- (or fewer) character bites these days.

It’s hard to break complex news into 140-character bursts. Much is lost. But I’ll try. I want people to understand. Lives count on it.

Michael Brown and Ferguson are about more than Michael Brown or Ferguson. They are about every black man in every town in the United States.

Months of protesting have followed Michael Brown’s death. But why? He was a “thug.”

Beside, a grand jury found his killer innocent? Strange, since grand juries decide whether charges should be brought, not give verdicts.

Much was terribly wrong with this peculiar grand jury. Prosecutor McCulloch counted on the public not caring about the differences.

McCulloch seems to have counted correctly. The public largely accepted his press conference narrative as truth, then marveled at protestors’ rage. And ignorance.

Many peaceful protests occurred around the country. All were lumped together under the header of the most shocking post-presser pictures.

People assumed shocking recycled pics represented every protest everywhere. People castigated all protestors for the actions of a few.

But national protestors kept on, mostly peacefully. They protested not only for Mike Brown and Ferguson, but Every Black Man, Everywhere.

Everywhere? Really? Yes. NBC’s Melissa-Harris Perry named many unarmed black men (of hundreds) killed by police. At least twice weekly.

In 2014, there have been many like deaths. Ferguson protestors protest ALL such deaths, and those to come if reforms aren’t made.

(They just wanted a trial. That’s it. A proper trial subject to all the rules and laws of trial.)

Eric Garner was choked to death by police for potential sale of untaxed cigarettes.

John Crawford III was fatally shot by police after picking up a for-sale BB gun in Wal-Mart in (open-carry) Utah.

Ezell Ford was shot by two veteran gang officers after they saw him walking and stopped him. Because.

Dante Parker was stopped while riding his bike; police tased him to death under suspicion of burglary.

Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was shot by police while playing with a toy gun. Tamir died after police failed to provide aid.

Darrien Hunt carried a fake sword for his samurai costume. He was shot by police while running for his life.

Michael Brown was shot by police after not moving to the sidewalk when asked. Trial would’ve allowed careful assessment what happened next.

People call Brown et al “thugs” as if any indiscretion found before or after killing justifies that killing. Another thug dead. So what?

(I ache as I wonder, Can people really believe lethal force is justifiable for every alleged infraction?)

Michael Brown is no longer only Michael Brown. He is every U.S. black man killed by police needlessly or in questionable circumstances.

Michael Brown is now symbolic. Protesting his death is protesting kill-first-ask-questions-later/KFAQL police violence against black people.

Even a trip to the corner market is cause for fear when you are a black man, especially a Big Black Man. Black women are not exempt.

Protesting Ferguson is protesting more than Ferguson. Protesting Ferguson is protesting a system enabling KFAQL violence.

If you are black in the U.S., police may kill you first and search out your crimes later.
The public will likely support the ex post facto findings based on a tweet’s worth of data.

Ferguson protestors reject KFAQL violence. Not just for Mike Brown, but for their sons. For all sons. For the future.

An important thing you can do to understand current protests is spend one hour reading not news articles, but tweets.

Don’t stop. Don’t talk to others. Don’t tweet your thoughts. Spend one hour or more reading:

Cars on fire are not representative. See for yourself by perusing countless pictures of peaceful protest at #FergusonProtests.

Listen to the protestors, not media characterization of protestors, nor mine. Listen to them. More than that, hear them. Please hear.

“Racism is there and it is constant. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.”

  1. nicciattfield
    November 30, 2014 at 10:32 am

    So beautifully explained, Deborah. And the final quote is so appropriate too.

    • November 30, 2014 at 10:39 am

      Thank you. I know I JUST said I was going to try listening more than speaking, but some of the things I hear make me feel desperate to find some way to explain so that even one person understands a little better.

      • nicciattfield
        November 30, 2014 at 10:40 am

        I think that is the real work…dialogue…it’s such a heartbreaking situation, and worse when you hear the commentary. It made me feel as though I was in pain too. If people don’t speak out, how can the commentary change? All voices matter when it comes to speaking out against injustice.

      • nicciattfield
        November 30, 2014 at 10:57 am

        This is an interesting quote to explain the riots. You may have seen it…by Jay Smooth.

        Riots are things that human beings do because human beings have limits. We don’t all have the same limits. For some of us, our human limit is when our favorite team loses a game. For some of us, it’s when our favorite team wins a game. The people of Ferguson had a different limit than that. For the people of Ferguson, a lifetime of neglect and defacto segregation and incompetence and mistreatment by every level of government was not their limit. When that malign neglect set the stage for one of their children to be shot down and left in the street like a piece of trash… that was not their limit. For the people of Ferguson, spending one hundred days almost entirely peacefully protesting for some measure of justice for that child and having their desire for justice treated like a joke by every local authority… was not their limit. And then after those 100 days, when the so-called prosecutor waited till the dead of night to twist that knife one last time. When he came out and confirmed once and for all that Michael Brown’s life didn’t matter… Only then did the people of Ferguson reach their limit. So when you look at what happened Monday night, the question you should be asking is how did these human beings last that long before they reached their human limit? How do black people in America retain such a deep well of humanity that they can be pushed so far again and again without reaching their human limit? That is what happens when you treat human beings that way

        • November 30, 2014 at 11:12 am

          I had goosebumps reading this. So powerful, and powerfully expressed. Thank you so much for sharing it … and all your thoughtful, compassionate words.

          • nicciattfield
            December 5, 2014 at 7:40 am

            HI Deborah, I nominated your blog for sisterhood of the bloggers award. I don’t know if you accept awards, and there is no pressure. But I thought you should know I nominated you anyway, because I enjoy your blog. Nicci

  2. November 30, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Powerful. Well said.

  3. November 30, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Reblogged this on MrMilitantNegro™.

  4. November 30, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Now imagine how many more might get shot in the future because they might be afraid to stop…

    • November 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      Indeed. It’s a sad world where entire groups of people legitimately fear what will happen to them if they stop … not, experience is teaching, that they fare better (=live longer) by running. 😦

  5. November 30, 2014 at 11:31 am

    And a strong and beautiful last paragraph!

    • November 30, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      That one’s straight from BuzzFeed! That’s the quote closing a thought-provoking segment by Jon Stewart. His delivery is … something I will remember for a long time.

  6. November 30, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Reblogged this on American Soustannie and commented:
    Yes, I know this is my second repost in a week, and I apologize. But … there is so much here that I want to share. Not the post itself – although that is hard-hitting, as most are on Deborah’s blog – but the links. Please, guys, take a look at the links.

    Here’s the thing about Ferguson – one of the many things, as I see it – and the same thing applies to many of the other cases cited in the links: We allow ourselves to be side-tracked. We hear that police shot an unarmed (black) person, and we think “That’s terrible.” Five minutes later we hear that he had a criminal history, or was running away, or was resisting arrest, or was being black in the vicinity of a crime … and we think, “Well, the cops are only human. It sucks, but mistakes happen.”

    This is the same thinking that shrugs off the deaths of a busload or a building or a school full of unarmed civilians as “collateral damage”. It’s thinking governed by the idea that the victim was not “one of us” and therefore their death matters less.

    It does not matter less. They Do Not Matter Less Than You Do.

    It is not okay that communities are setting inadequately trained, ill-prepared armed men loose on civilians in the name of service and protection. (Note: I’m giving the cops the benefit of the doubt here. I’m assuming that they’re not bullies with shiny buttons, but rather that they simply don’t know how to handle conflict effectively, they’re scared, and they panic.)

    And then they get away with it, because grand juries refuse to indict. Again and again and again, grand juries shut down due process and refuse to let the legal system of this country do its job.

    I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t have any plans to take to the streets in protest myself, any time soon. But I do know this is wrong. And it needs to stop.

    • November 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      I love this comment. Every single bit of it.

      I wish I had a solution. All I know for sure is that ignoring the problem and hoping peace will eventually come to all members of the public is a certain path to continued suffering.

      I did read the sheriff’s video comment on your repost. I started watching the video but stopped pretty quickly after realizing it was a rehash of many ideas I’ve already seen in my constant content perusing the last week or so. The idea that “the Administration” prompted this outrage–focusing again on a specific instance instead of the totality–also steered me away as this was an organic response (from virtually the first minute after Brown’s death) to enduring injustice.

      Even a week ago I felt like I had to respond to everyone. Now I see there are too many to whom to respond, and that it’s not my responsibility to engage with or educate everyone/anyone who’s starting with the premise Ferguson protests are wrong and the protesters stupid, deluded, or crazy instead of terrified for their lives.

      It’s like a much more terrifying version of explaining why I’d finish law school despite having no desire to actually practice law. After trying to explain to at least a dozen people and finding myself perplexed why they’d ask the question and then ignore my answer, I realized that it not only wasn’t my responsibility to make them understand, I didn’t even have to sink my time into filling the space between their identical follow-up questions always geared to highlighting how ridiculous my decision was.

      Not everyone took this tack, of course. There was another group of people who would say, “I guess there’s always merit in education, huh?!” or similar. Those were the conversations that flourished: the ones where people were open to hear what really, truly inspired another person to do or see something differently, rather than simply establishing “different from me” is wrong. That’s where I’ll engage.

      Thank you so much for more good food for thought.

      • November 30, 2014 at 1:57 pm

        Thank you … and yeah, I responded to the comment re the video that was posted on my blog. I watched it and felt it was just another misdirection.

        Like you I’ve been bouncing around reading posts and news articles. frankly feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume and variety of responses. Then came Tamir Rice, and for a while I was puzzled – WHY the continued noise in Ferguson and comparative silence in Cleveland? Reading the links to your post drove home to me that it’s not about Michael Brown, it’s not about Tamir Rice, it’s about something that happens over and over and over again.

        I’m from South Africa. I grew up with apartheid. I have felt for a long time that racism in the US is as deeply entrenched as anything I ever saw growing up. And there just is no excuse for pretending it’s not so.

  7. November 30, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Well done, Deborah.

  8. November 30, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    thank you. I found this talk on TED inspiring. Because no one will ever know the whole truth of a particular incident, because the news we hear will be biased, but looking at a bigger picture, there are trends that need to change for everyones sake. http://www.ted.com/playlists/15/the_pursuit_of_justice .

    • November 30, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      I haven’t yet watched a full TED talk, but I’m excited to check this one out after my kids are asleep tonight! YES to your words. Though many individual cases’ facts will never be 100% clear, certain trends involving such cases do paint compelling pictures. I hope that by addressing the causes behind those trends (versus disputing facts in any one case, which can shift focus from broader change) we can create new and better trends.

    • November 30, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      I just watched Karen Tse’s 12-minute talk against torture while nursing. Amazing. Goosebumps on my arms, tears in my eyes, hope in my heart. I can’t wait to watch the other videos in this playlist later. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. November 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Being a non American I don’t feel it’s my right to weigh in on things like this. I do, however, like hearing about what’s happening and how people are viewing it. It felt to me very much that the protesting was about bigger, much bigger, issues than one man. People get bogged down in the detail of this one case, and while this one case is important on its own, it does seem to be highlighting a bigger issue. Like I say, I won’t weigh in, but I very much appreciate when smart, onto it people like yourself do, so I can benefit from your thoughtfulness.

  10. November 30, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you, as always you say with few words what it takes me thousands. I love and honor your heart and soul.

  11. November 30, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I don’t really know what to think about all of this. Honestly, I’m not surprised by the verdict. I’m not surprised by the media coverage. I’m not surprised by the Facebook posts and things my coworkers/friends have said. I don’t even need to repeat them because you probably know. It’s like all of this has played out according to a script. As sad as it is, these events seem like well worn territory. And that’s a damned shame, because we really know we have collectively lost something when people can see the death of a young man and immediately integrate it into a binary, political debate that has little to do with broken families and lives cut short and more to do with ego stroking and scoring points for ones own team.

    I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing. I think your assessment is reasonable. I personally think Wilson’s testimony was fishy, and the more I think about it the more I think that, even if you take what he said at face value, it doesn’t make a lick of sense and there were many ways that he could have and should have reacted as a trained professional. He should have been brought to trial and charged with SOMETHING.

    I’m saying that I am jaded with the current zeitgeist and while I hope things will change, I don’t see it happening any time soon. We can’t even agree there is a PROBLEM, much less try to find a solution.

  12. herunveiling
    November 30, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    My concern is not whether change will come, it will. But how long does it take and how many deaths will it claim? Why does the human heart cling to hate so tenuously. American has soaked up too much blood in the name of racism, it’s very foundations drown in it. Maybe it’s time to follow Rwanda and South Africa and speak truth, repenting of the unjust past and clearing the fog of unforgiveness so that American can walk in a clearer future, where none is colour blind but all are caught up in the beauty of human differences.

  13. December 1, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Great post. I keep thinking I need to get more into Twitter. I never know quite how to use it best, but you give a good idea of a way to start.

  14. December 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I don’t know why there’s so much heartache in this world and so much hatred. None of it surprised me — the shooting of another black man, the verdict, the protests. Maybe the only good to come are that so many people are saddened. This event is not blindly accepted like it would’ve been decades before. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction.

  15. December 1, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Just a quick word–keep up the good work, my friend. Bless you for it.

  16. December 1, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Yair Shalev.

  17. December 1, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    It’ll take me a few days to get through comments, but I did want to post a couple of important additional links:

    * The Ferguson Masterpost: How To Argue Eloquently & Back Yourself Up With Facts
    * Getting the Facts Right About the Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

  18. December 2, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This is why this is so important …. “it’s more than Michael Brown or Ferguson. They are about every black man in every town in the United States” ….. this has been the reality for a long time!!

  1. December 3, 2014 at 7:54 pm
  2. September 20, 2016 at 8:06 pm
  3. June 16, 2017 at 1:01 pm

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