Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Grotesque Portrait of Power in Ferguson, Missouri: A Heavily Armed S.W.A.T. Team is "Threatened" by an Unarmed Black Man Walking Down the Street



The protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the murder of Michael Brown by a local police officer continued last night. The police are fully militarized and are shooting at, harassing, bullying, and acting like thugs against an entire community whose "crime" is being black and outraged that a young person was shot, and the State has (so far) acted in an irresponsible way as they work to conceal the crime.

According to news reports, the FAA has declared Ferguson a "no-fly zone", police are removing their ID and name tags, and have systematically been harassing and chasing out the news media so that they can fully engage in counter-insurgency military tactics and run amok in violation of the civil rights of the people of Ferguson, Missouri. This is not taking place in some "Third World" country; it is taking place now, here, in the United States when a black man is President, and another is the Attorney General.

[Obama, he who happens to be black and the President of the United States, several hours ago finally found time to issue a comment about the murder of Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson.

Apparently, the suicide of Robin Williams was a more important matter and thus took precedence.]

Despite the local thug police department's efforts to censor and suppress media coverage, there are brave people who are sharing photos and information about the on-going events in Ferguson.

This photo of a police tactical squad facing down an unarmed black man is one of the most powerful depictions of the grotesque nature of power that I have seen in many years.

Readers of WARN know that I am very interested in visual semiotics. The position of the bodies, the N.W.A. "fuck the police" lyric on the mailbox, and how those camouflaged men in fully body armor, wearing surplus boots from the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq, are facing down an unarmed black man walking in public space in an American community is a profound commentary on power and race.

State power works by maintaining a pretense of its own vulnerability all the while possessing the capacity to exert its will--here a monopoly on violence--over others.

Power also exists in a hyper-aware paradoxical state of authority and legitimacy which is plagued by a fear that it must reassert itself in order to not be made to appear vulnerable.

Moreover, power and race are perverse in Ferguson, Missouri, where the police continue to conceal the identity of the cop who killed Michael Brown for reasons of protecting the former's safety.

Question. Who was protecting Michael Brown from the police?

There is a no-fly zone to "protect" the police and "the residents".

Second question. Do the black people in Ferguson have a secret air force that I am unaware of?

How do you "read" the image of the police military tactical team that is confronting an unarmed black man walking down the street in Ferguson, Missouri? I see overwhelming armed masculine force made to look impotent and weak by the presence of an unarmed black person who they could kill with ease. The police are the cowards; the unarmed black man has the power to provoke, arouse, and anger White Authority by virtue of his mere existence in public space.

White racial paranoiacs (a condition of the white racial frame and the White Gaze that was discussed here) will somehow see an unarmed black person as a threat, and one who is somehow "provoking" the police into shooting or arresting him.

What do you see?

17 comments:

KissedByTheSun said...

I don't know if I should laugh or cry. This image is both infuriating and utterly ridiculous to the point of comical. What do I see? A man who clearly must have super powers in an image that is begging to used in a caption contest. What do I see? My brother, my nephew, my cousins, my uncle, my father, my neighbor, myself, my tears welling up.

chauncey devega said...

Or are you seeing a past that remains in the present?

chauncey devega said...

Isn't that a odd feeling, the absurdity of the whole affair?

Stephen Kearse said...

Both, I think. There's a good passage in John Gray's book Black Mass where he argues that social progress is highly contingent and that time guarantees nothing but more opportunities for things to degrade. His bigger point is that leftists and liberals should never retreat from the battlefield, no matter the gains, but that smaller point always sticks with me, especially after seeing how quickly the right made its moves after SCOTUS made its terrible judgments regarding Hobby Lobby and the Voting Rights Act.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I just want to cuss and throw my hands up... I don't even know. What can I do?


I see the culmination of everything especially over the last twenty years. The NWA lyric, the hyper militarized police state, NSA money, I see Boston during martial law, but instead of treating residents like they're citizens they're treated like insurgents.


I see that comic you posted waay back about the vampire, "What are you? Some kind of super n**r?"

Paul Willis said...

I see an award winning photo capturing a desperate time in America. I also see a bunch of amped up goons wearing the wrong type of camo for an urban environment. But then I realize it's not meant to make them blend in with the surroundings. Oh no, those uniforms are meant to trigger sympathetic feelings from those inclined to see our military as good ol boys.

Gable1111 said...

Its a perfect depiction in microcosm of what black folk are up against in America. Notice the body language of the brother; he's not intimidated but does what he has to do to get on with his day. And its a great depiction of the cowardice and fear at the root of white supremacy.

skilletblonde said...

Well...we can compare and contrast the siege going on in Clark County, Nevada at the Cliven Bundy Ranch. What you have there are gangs of heavily armed white men, with histories documented by the Southern law Poverty Center. They are not innocent protestors by any measure. Yet, law enforcement, as it always does, when it comes to the humanity of white men, will exercise restraint.

I was disappointed that the reaction by some has been to rebel with looting and violence. If we haven't learned that those images will be used to further justify our abuse, then we are still under the illusion, that media is our friend. It is not. We cannot do what whites do and expect to be treated the same. When has that been the case? In Ohio where I live, when Ohio State would play Michigan, and win, a riot would ensue. For years, hoards of drunken white men would crowd the campus streets and break windows, start fires, and overturn cars. It's perfectly justifiable in Whiteman World to excuse the millions if not billions lost, for sports rioting. Yet to rebel for civil rights is treated as inexcusable.

My response to this tragedy would be a million United Nations March. That's right. It is long overdue for African Americans to let the world know what life has been like in the so called greatest democracy in the world. As I've said before on this blog, I never expected much from the Obama Presidency. The Democratic Party, more than the Left or Right, would be his major obstacle. Never mind he had revived it from its near death state; the unforgiving Clinton Democrats, would be just as obstructing. Nevertheless, his presidency does offer us a minute to organize. That's about it. Furthermore, the Obama presidency has confirmed that the same ugly, vicious character that lynched black people as a mode of entertainment, is still present. This is why Macolm X's goal to have an audience before the United Nations is something we should do. And we'd better do it now!
.
Back in the 1990's , Michael Novick, author of White Lies White Power was on Cspan. He warned that the conservative movement goal was to repeal all of the constitutional amendments except the first 10. They are considered to be by the Right-Wing as the original intent. You've heard Uncle Clarence Thomas use the term "original intent." I gather this shape-shifting, butt-licking, Surpreme Court Sambo wants to be a slave again. in the 1990's there were several books warning us about the solidifying of Right-Wing power. It was Russell Belant's "Old Nazis The New Right And The Republican Party." Martin Lee's "The Beast Reawakens". Russell Bellant's, the "Coors Connection", and Christopher Simpson's, "Blowback."

I've listed these books because when they were written, it was still shocking that the Heritage Foundation was created by white supremacist Paul Weyrich, and was staffed with Nazis. Some like Laszlo Pasztor, a convicted Nazi War Collaborator. Now the Heritage Foundation is viewed by Mainstream Media and the Republican Party as a respectable think-thank. These characters are now firmly entrenched in government. In 2010, the Republican Tea Party victories marked the culmination of a facist takeover of the U,S. Government. These are very dangerous times, folks.

Of course, as I always say, the indignities that our people continue to suffer, as well as the racist politics of the Republican Party, would not be possible, without the validation and encouragement of the Mainstream Media. In 1893, the lynching of Henry Smith was the first time Lynching became a commercially promoted spectacle. That is the way America to this day, covers the issue of race, as a entertainment spectacle. With the technology of cable and satellite it's an ongoing nightmare.

skilletblonde said...

Only if we let it be the future.

skilletblonde said...

Here is another example of what black people endure in America. It has been taken down on Youtube, but Raw Story posted this video of a white gut riding through Ferguson telling black people to go back to Africa.

Scan down for video.
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/12/go-back-to-africa-man-yells-as-he-films-his-own-drive-by-racist-tirade-in-ferguson/

kokanee said...

Same photo except different (and scarier) angle:
https://twitter.com/Suntimes/status/499051240526192640/photo/1

Kameshwari Kate said...

What do I see? Depending on context and framing of the day, I might see:
1) A "Colored Boy" who just got off the bus after snatching a purse. Now I feel safer using public transportation since there is a competent police department providing for my safety.
2) A scene from a t.v. drama depicting something out of my paradigm.
3) A local police department practicing for the complete militarization of all U.S. communities.
4) Something that would never happen in my neighborhood, so I don't need to be alarmed.

Southern Girl said...

This photo gave me chills....the "fuck the police" on the mailbox in a scene like this....divine!...a wake up call...

BobbyV said...

I believe this iconic photo will join those other photos that marked a turning point in public opinion on racial justice. Think of the images of nonviolent black citizens being attacked by the police in Southern cities during the 1964 Freedom Summer. Americans of all colors will join in condemning racism within our public services. The militarization of our police, a clear and present danger to people of color today, will eventually threaten the rights of all citizens.

chauncey devega said...

I definitely think you are right. Disgusting and disturbing those images are. Sensible people across the divides of politics can come together on this issue. I hope...

chauncey devega said...

Number 4 sister. How do we get past that?

E.C.2. said...

Mega-armed S.W.A.T. cops are all afraid of us unarmed black people! What an assembly of ammosexual wimpmobiles!