Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Sort of White Person Do You Want to Be? The Cowardly Police Shot and Killed an Unarmed Black Teenager Named Michael Brown Eight Times Yesterday in Ferguson, Missouri

The police have killed another unarmed black person whose supposed "crime" was walking in the middle of the street. Eric Garner was choked to death several weeks ago by the NYPD. On Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri, an 18-year-old college-bound teenager named Michael Brown was shot at least 8 times by a local police officer.

Of course, the police have offered up a narrative in which Brown attacked their officer (a basic question: who jumps inside of a police car and attacks a heavily armed cop?).

Witnesses offer a very different version of events: they claim that the police officer in question shot Michael Brown, the latter collapsed, and the cop then proceeded to shoot him multiple times. The African-American community in Ferguson Missouri is justifiably upset and protests soon began out of the Ferguson police department.

The white racial frame deems that black and brown people are not allowed the right of righteous anger. When black and brown people protest--using their Constitutional right to assemble, airing grievances in the public sphere, and exercising free speech--they are somehow "rioting".

Angry white men, the most privileged group of people in the United States, are feted by the mass media and courted by America's political system; angry black people, who have suffered under power and have legitimate justice claims, are criminalized, slurred, imprisoned, and shot by police.

As I shared on Twitter, to fully understand the shooting of Michael Brown and other incidents of police violence, abuse, and tyranny, one must have an expansive understanding of power and white supremacy.

Individual tragedies are important. However, once we see power as a type of interlocking relationships, it is far easier to contextualize them. Most importantly, because white racial paranoia and the defenders of white supremacy are so adept at denying and reframing reality (see the virulently racist comments on CNN's story about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri), a systematic understanding of racism helps to keep good and decent people who want to fight those evil social forces both grounded and sane.

As I wrote here, white supremacy is a social, cultural, and political force that is reflected in all of areas of American life. The violence against black and brown people visited upon them by police and other state actors must be situated within the proper historical, local, national, and global context.

The murders of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and many others by police (and other white-identified state actors) are part of a historic and ongoing continuum of racial terror and terrorism.

What David Theo Goldberg brilliantly described as "the racial state" has committed genocide against First Nations and other people of color, and used (and continues to use) imperialism and war to exploit the resources of the "Third World". The wealth and power of the United States was built upon the forced enslavement and murder of millions of black people during chattel slavery--with a condition of de facto servitude, imprisonment, and debt peonage continuing for decades after the formal end of slavery via Jim and Jane Crow.

The police are the armed domestic wing of the racial state: their purpose is to control, monitor, and terrorize black and brown people, the poor, and the working classes. The police and their allies who abuse black and brown communities can trace their lineage directly back to the paddy rollers and patrollers of the American slaveocracy and Jim and Jane Crow.

To reiterate. One of the dominant and primary powers of white privilege and white supremacy in post civil rights America is their capacity to reframe reality, to cause frustration, mental and physical stress, as well as exhaustion by denying basic facts about the enduring power of the color line and how racism over determines the life chances of people of color in a negative way.

Conversely, one of the dominant and primary powers of white privilege and white supremacy in post civil rights America is their capacity to empower and give advantages to undeserving and mediocre white people by virtue of their skin color and social location as determined by luck and fortune of birth in a racially ordered society.

The righteous anger of black and brown people in response to incidents such as the murder of Eric Garner by the NYPD, and the shooting death of Michael Brown by St. Louis police, is understanding and reasonable: our safety and security is threatened, as is that of our friends, families, and communities.

But, where is the anger of white folks en masse at such horrific incidents? This is one of the essential questions if we are to move towards a more just and good society. A sense of shared humanity across the color line is a bulwark against the same forces who terrorize black and brown people, spy on the American people, have created a culture of cruelty, empowered gangster capitalists, destroyed the social safety net, and are stealing wealth and resources from the middle and working classes to enrich the parasitic 1% and other plutocrats.

White privilege creates social distance, which in turn frees white people from an obligatory sense of moral and ethical outrage, as well as a feeling of responsibility, for the systematic mistreatment of black and brown people in American society. "Colorblindness" is one of the many white lies which is used to further that cognitive state.

Instead of looking way or surrendering to the just-world fallacy, white folks need to look directly at events such as the killing of Eric Garner and Michael Brown by the police, and ask themselves "what sort of white person do I want to be?"

How white Americans answer that question will hold the key to salvaging their collective souls, and may even help to save the republic by seeing the Common Good as a shared state of affairs across the color line where injustice done to one community will inevitably be visited upon others as well.


Wavenstein said...

Overseer=Officer. How far have we really come?

chauncey devega said...

Not very so it seems on these occasions. Exhausting to have to keep on talking about it.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

To back up your point, when I first saw talk of Brown's killing on Twitter, I put "Ferguson Missouri Shooting" into Google, and almost every result was headlined something to the effect of "Angry Crowd Chants "Kill the Police"." The story was immediately made to be about a "mob" and not an unarmed person being shot to death by the police.

Lkeke said...

That last point you made , I've been making to people for a couple of decades now. It's the very foundation of the statement attributed to
Martin Niemoller.

"What kind of White person do you want to be?" is an excellent question that puts the onus squarely on that person who can acknowledge their privilege and then use that privilege to make life better for other human beings, instead of making it solely the problem of Black And Brown people to try to overcome someone else's asshattery

Guilt, handwringing, and defensiveness are completely useless activities that only result in self involved navel gazing. This is a question that asks a person to get up off their ass and try to make the world a better place and not just for yourself or people you personally like.

"What kind of Human Being do I want to be" has been the guiding principle of my life since I was old enough to ask the question.

The cops, the apologists for them on CNN , they're doing humanity the wrong way. Theirs is the way NOT to be.

BJ said...

You ask "what kind of white person do you want to be?" but the question is the same "what kind of BLACK/BROWN person do you want to be?" or just in general "what kidn of person do you want to be?" Your title alone is racist. Racism goes all directions. And this comment is coming from a Mexican- American not a "White" person before you use that excuse on me. This situation is out of control. Attacking news journalists, news personel, and looting numberous stores while burning them down in the process. This is not the way to mourn the loss of a young life nor a criminal way the law enforcement handle a situation. The people of Ferguson are now just as much criminals and the corrupted law there.

joe manning said...

The sacrificial caste is the basis of white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and othering. Humanity must get over its elitism, caste-ism, and classism by recognizing that invidious discrimination of the one demoralizes the many thereby preventing the development of an exalted, genuine, and self actualizing universal way of life for our species.

DanF said...

"Conversely, one of the dominant and primary powers of white privilege and white supremacy in post civil rights America is their capacity to empower and give advantages to undeserving and mediocre white people by virtue of their skin color and social location as determined by luck and fortune of birth in a racially ordered society."

If we solve this, we can address many problems. There is a perception that America is a meritocracy, which is mostly bullshit. I've seen some pretty smart people advance in corporate America and I've seem some complete dumb-asses. The only common thread is that they were born into the right social circle ("Hey Dave, my boy just started working in your accounts department. Oh you know? Great! Thanks for keeping an eye on him. I owe you big.") But it's the same on every economic level. The vast majority of people hired into a position are in there because of who they know, not what they know. Yes. There are exceptions, but it's a pretty solid rule and I've seen it played out over, and over, and over. It effectively creates an economic caste system. Race becomes a marker for "poor" which also equals "undeserving."

CNN threads, YouTube threads, [MSM] threads - that stuff is toxic and hard to know how representative it is of actual attitudes as it's self-selecting data. Rich ground for doctoral research, but it will come with a mental cost and perhaps a bout with alcoholism.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I missed all the news on Sunday. When I saw the news this morning I was sickened. The police are out of control. They quickly escalate any encounter with a black or brown person into a deadly conflict. The police need to be brought under community and democratic control.

nicoleandmaggie said...

This, "But what about brown on brown violence?" in comment sections is just like the "But what about the mens?" whenever someone writes about women being raped. Irrelevant. A distraction. A problem, but a separate problem.

Brown on brown violence has NOTHING to do with an unarmed black kid getting shot by a vigilante or police officer while seeking help after a car accident or carrying a bag of skittles or holding a toy. All that bringing these distractions up does is to say, "I don't think this problem is as important as this other problem that benefits/doesn't hurt white men, because all I really care about are white men." Because in the end, that's how the patriarchy works.

KissedByTheSun said...

Ok I'll bite.

I'm always suspicious of online commentators who preface their racist screeds with "I am black". As though skin color protects one from being labeled a racist and a defender of white privilege. Being black, a male, and a cop is about as significant as being green, asexual, and a pony. Anyone can find themselves in full support of white supremacy no matter who they are.
The problem I have with your comparison of so called "black on black" violence is that there are a lot of false assumptions embedded in your statements. For instance your statement that "...murder is no big deal when a brother does it..." is false. Arguing that all black people everywhere never say a word in protest of the violence they see amongst their own is racist. The problem with you, and many others who wear the white racial frame over their eyes is that you believe that if it's not happening on the national media, or within earshot, then it's not happening. But let's assume that what you say is true and black people the world over say nothing to blacks who kill blacks. My question is why do they have too? Why does a community have to protest when a man kills another man, gets arrested, and goes to jail for life in order to justifiably protest when a policeman kills an innocent, unarmed man, and gets off free? How are the two related? When the system works and black criminals are brought to justice what exactly is there to protest? When the system doesn't work and white criminals are set free why should the black community stay quiet until they publicly chastise the black criminals who are already going to jail? I could go on and on but I think that the answers to these questions will reveal that you were previously speaking, perhaps unbeknownst to yourself, from a very white supremacist view point.

Wild Cat said...

Can one imagine what this "society" will be like when all the PTSD veterans, the "White Supremacist" veterans, the "Christianist" veterans, and the "Ultra-Nationalist" veterans come home if we ever do end our wars and dirty tricks overseas? It will be even more insane. Our police forces and security firms will be full up with these psychotics. Much more innocent blood will be shed on our shore. Incidents like this will be even more common than the present.

One man who is well known to this blog took a very smart last-minute 'vacation' to France with his family. The rag he writes for is full up with neocon warmongers and sociopathic readers, and I think he's finally woken up to what dogs he's been sleeping with. I think he entered his 'blue period' when he saw the white-supremacist joy at the Martin verdicts and other atrocities celebrated on that site.

Godspeed to him, albeit there's no god. And may we all be able to escape. This mess is not correctable, and pretending so is absurd at this stage. (look at the Kahanite's interview with necrophilliac presidential front runner HCH.) The US is a greedy, psychotic, racist, and dangerously religious nation with enough weapons to destroy everything---and madmen nearing the helm.

Wild Cat said...

Correct. But there's no one to police the police.

chauncey devega said...

I will leave the comment up as a teachable moment. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the fact of race. One of the typical and tired lies of white racism and white supremacist logic--even as applied by "hispanics" and other "people of color"--is that black anger and rage is somehow equivalent to white racism.

I love how white racists and their excuse-makers and enablers so blatantly confuse cause and effect.

And I love this foolishness--

"The people of Ferguson are now just as much criminals and the corrupted law there."

chauncey devega said...

I would usually delete such talking point perfectly setup cyber racism mess--"Let me begin with disclosure. I am black, male and a cop. I and get frustrated and perhaps a little infuriated at the insistence the black community voices and leaders to pick easy targets and do no introspection of the clear and greater problems of our own self destruction."

This a great tell. Folks need to be aware of this new swerve. Be mindful of it.

Others will offer up a corrective here. As a long-time reader, as you claim to be, you would know that I am hard on the ign'ts. There is a link on the sidebar to "black respectability politics" do read some of those posts.

chauncey devega said...

Great point on the militarization of police and too many vets, some who are being recruited by white supremacists or have been radicalized while in the military, that are going to be out in the streets killing and abusing people. An analyst pointed out that many of these cops may actually be on steroids or hard drugs. When they kill someone or beat them damn near to death the victim is tested for drugs, etc. but the cop isn't there needs to be reform. All police should have to wear cameras at all times with the data upload to a publicly accessible server that is monitored by a publicly appointed referee/adjudicator.

chauncey devega said...

See my above comment. Monitor, control the cops, upload the video, give citizen review boards real power, and all police should have to be from the communities which they police.

chauncey devega said...

Social networks are a huge part of this. Thus the myth of meritocracy as you pointed out.

The CNN comments on the murder of Michael Brown are virulently white supremacist. The comments are like a KKK meeting or Stormfront picnic. Yet, CNN does not monitor them. People should boycott the advertisers and sponsors of sites that do not monitor their comment sections.

Wild Cat said...

These are fine suggestions. I heard the former editor of the NY Sun lecture on this almost two decades ago, however. We were much less of a police state back then, and yet nothing was put into practice in many localities, as well as at the federal level. Now were on a stronger downward trajectory as a nation with even more Timothy McVeighs coming home. Our rightist politicians are bat guano insane, and many of our Democrats are either quasi-Republicans or need to be righter than the right to hold onto their jobs and health care.

I don't see a solution unless it's the People's Solution. And I think the people are watching too much TV.

kokanee said...

This is a hate crime and should be prosecuted as such.

I'm angry. This is not a society we should be proud of. Time for us all to get angry and do something about it.

Anonymous came out with a video response. The transcript follows:
Anonymous Full Statement

A little over 24 hours ago in Ferguson, Missouri – USA the Ferguson Police Department shot an un-armed teen 6 times and killed him. His body was left to lie in a pool of blood in the sweltering heat for hours while the police militarized the area against protesters and attempted to concoct a reasonable story as to why they snatched this innocent students life for no reason. The St. Louis County Sheriff Department even sealed the roads leading to Ferguson in a vain attempt to prevent protesters from reaching the city. His name was Mike Brown, he was 17 – and he would have started college next week. Instead, his family is struggling to come up with funeral costs.

The entire global collective of Anonymous is outraged at this cold blooded murder of a young teen. Not a week goes by that some young person, usually of minority ethnicity – is slaughtered by murderous police in the USA. For this reason Anonymous will not be satisfied this time, as we have in the past – with simply obtaining justice for this young man and his family.

Anonymous demands that the Congressional Representatives and Senators from Missouri introduce legislation entitled “Mike Brown’s Law” that will set strict national standards for police conduct in the USA. We further demand that this new law include specific language to grant the victims of police violence the same rights and prerogatives that are already enjoyed nationwide by the victims of other violent criminals. The Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution demands nothing less.

To the good people of Ferguson, take heart – and take your streets. You are not alone, we will support you in every way possible. Occupy every square inch of your city. Open your homes and help in any way you can the protesters who will come to your city from every part of Missouri and the USA. Businesses and householders that are near protest rallies, open your WiFi routers so that live streamers and other independent journalists can use the Internet connections. Feed each other, keep each other safe – and stay in the streets until we are totally victorious in all our demands.

To the Ferguson Police Department and any other jurisdictions who are deployed to the protests: we are watching you very closely. If you abuse, harass – or harm in any way the protesters in Ferguson we will take every web based asset of your departments and governments off line. That is not a threat, it is a promise. If you attack the protesters, we will attack every server and computer you have. We will dox and release the personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department, as well as any other jurisdiction that participates in the abuse. We will seize all your databases and E-Mail spools and dump them on the Internet. This is your only warning.

The time has come for more than simple justice for these atrocities. The time has come to draw a line in the sand and say “no more dead kids”, no more police killings and beatings. Anonymous is drawing a line in the sand, and that line runs right down the middle of Main Street Ferguson, Missouri. Police impunity ends with the barbaric death of Mike Brown.

We Are Anonymous – We Are Legion – We Will Not Forgive – We Will Not Forget


To help, citizens are urged to join the #Ferguson hashtag campaign.

rikyrah said...

He was murdered in cold blood. He was unarmed. He had his hands up in the air.

They shot and killed him.

And then let his body sit out there for hours.

They are soulless monsters.

chauncey devega said...

I am glad Anonymous is on this. I keep thinking in an alternate reality that Anonymous is actually the Singularity. Good to see it is on the side of truth.

Manimal said...

First of all. I agree with your article 100%. My issue is that the community voices and leaders do not take a multifaceted approach to affecting change. My point is not that we shouldn't be outraged, but we are not outraged enough. We cheery pick our outrage. It is possible to be angry about both things.

I am not deflecting away from the topic of your article. I am asserting that you disproportionately focus on one aspect of violence on the black community while ignoring one with a significant body count.

I disclosed my blackness and copness to show my perspective. Believe me or not, it doesn't change my argument.

chauncey devega said...

"I am asserting that you disproportionately focus on one aspect of violence on the black community while ignoring one with a significant body count."

I haven't written about thug ign'ts many times.

Police are representative of the state. They have the power of life and death. They are supposed to be professionals with a sacred trust. More police should be outraged by the bad behavior of their colleagues because it makes you all complicit by virtue of silence.

I don't expect thug ignt's to behave properly. I do expect police to.

Manimal said...

Our priorities are what we put our energy into. We should be demanding justice for all the slain black folks. Violence is violence. Why should we not bring more attention to our slaying each other? Because the racist right uses it as an accusation to as evidence of our inferiority without regard for historical and socioeconomic context? Screw the right wing. They are going to rationalize hate no matter what. But black people are dying and we have some things to address.

Our community can save black lives and undercut a racist talking point by collectively and publicly attending to this and protest cop slayings at the same time.

KissedByTheSun said...

"Why should we not bring more attention to our slaying each other?"

You mean like this?

Or this?

Or how about this?

Is that attention enough or do you still want to keep repeating that racist mantra that black people don't call out there own?

Lkeke said...

I hold the police to higher standards than thugs. Thugs haven't taken oaths to uphold law and order and serve and protect the public.

When a street thug kills another Black man ,he gets caught and sent to prison. Justice has been served. Justice and the protection of the public isn't served when the police can simply murder those they feel aren't being properly obeisiant to their authority.

When all white men acted like this before the Civil Rights era ,it was called Jim Crow. What's the name for it now?

Ann said...

I have only read two of your articles, but I find it interesting that you call white people names and say ugly things about us, and then ask us to take your side. That doesn't seem like it will work very well, in my opinion. And you don't seem to understand the way that most people feel, which is (I believe) that for every police officer who is a meanie, there are hundreds who are really good guys, risking their lives to protect the public. The police are all that stand between us and the criminal element, and it doesn't seem very fair to lump them all together & consider them all to be too rough. It just seems like you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Being nasty and calling names doesn't seem likely to win people over to your point of view, at least to me.

KissedByTheSun said...

Cry me a river.
Are you seriously suggesting that you will not stand up and defend an innocent person who was killed unjustifiably because one person who's defending the boy called you a name? Is your moral compass that fragile or are you that racist?

Miss Ann said...

I wasn't referring exclusively to myself, as an individual. It just seemed to me that the author was appealing for the support of white people... asking them to be persuaded to his point of view. However, at the same time, he was (it seemed to me) caught up in a great deal of negative emotion, & speaking unkindly to the very group of people he would like to win over. Personally, I don't read much about racial politics & have never been very involved in these sorts of debates. It just struck me that the tone of the article might be counterproductive when it came to garnering white support, that's all.

KissedByTheSun said...

I'd like to believe that white people are mature enough not to withdraw their support of an innocent because somebody called them names. This issue is not Chauncey's point of view or his personal cause to which he must gather support. This is a human rights issue. A genuinely loving and compassionate person would never withdraw their support of an innocent victim no matter how many insults were hurled at them. White people are better than to do something so blatantly childish.
There are plenty of white people who both frequent and comment on this blog who feel no insult but rather join hands with the righteous rage that Chauncey DeVega expresses. You would do well to listen to them and not make false assumptions of how you think all white people the world over would react.

Miss Ann said...

Honestly, the reason that the tone of the argument caught my eye is that, for me, the shoe is often on the other foot. The cause that's near and dear to my heart is ecology, and I often find myself talking to people about recycling, alternative fuels and reducing our carbon footprints. Far too often, I am trying to persuade people who either have no interest in the topic or are actively hostile towards conservation. Sometimes I have to guard against using the tone that this author used: it's tempting for me to sound critical of the very people whom I want to persuade. I have to remind myself - and others in my group - that offending our audience is not likely to win them over. So, at least in my opinion, the manner and tone in which information is presented can often be just as important as the factual matter that we would like to share.

KissedByTheSun said...

Again I don't believe that a loving, compassionate white person would see an innocent victim bleeding on the street surrounded by people struggling to help him, and then withdraw their support because the people helping the victim didn't ask for help nice enough. An adult understands that there are some things we have to do that transcend the emotions we feel. You don't withdraw your support for justice until every black person there is talks to you nicely unless you never really cared about how those people feel in the first place.

I repeat. This is not Chauncey DeVegas personal cause that he must be extra careful in how he garners support. This is a human rights issue. A white person who judges a cause worthy to support by the tone that it's supporters use was never willing to help in the first place.

chauncey devega said...

I will leave this up only because of the white victimology on display here as well as the stupidity. Your opening is great:

" have only read two of your articles"

Well you should read more.


"The police are all that stand between us and the criminal element, and it doesn't seem very fair to lump them all together & consider them all to be too rough."

White privilege is one hell of a drug.

chauncey devega said...


I wasn't referring exclusively to myself, as an individual. It just seemed to me that the author was appealing for the support of white people... asking them to be persuaded to his point of view.

Right is right and wrong is wrong. As KBS said, if you need nice words, hand holding, and an avoidance of the raw, direct truth to do the right thing then you have some horribly corrupted ethics. I am also very curious, where did I call "white people" names. I accurately describe and discuss white supremacy, white racism, and questions of power. If I have made an error in this regard do point it out.

Miss Ann said...

I was just making an offhand comment about a more effective way to garner support for a cause; I'm not at all emotionally invested in whether or not you agree with me. We don't see eye-to-eye... it's not a big deal. I'm happy to civilly agree to disagree. I was just stating my personal opinion about the strident tone of an op-ed piece, no more, no less.

chauncey devega said...

Would you like a hug? Yup, "strident tone" is a nice way of dismissing legitimate anger and upsetness and police killing black and brown people in the street.

Again, white supremacy and the white racial frame are damn dangerous and corrupting forces to the white psyche.

KissedByTheSun said...

It's clear that you came here to speak not to listen. No need to state the obvious as if it were profound. As I said before, a person who will only stand for justice if the supporters of said justice speak nicely never was willing to take a stand in the first place. That person is you.

kokanee said...

Anonymous created a website for Operation Ferguson:

One can also watch the "We are Legion - The Story of Anonymous" documentary there. I did and it was very interesting.

Hackers seem themselves as Huckleberry Finn when he said, "All right, then, I'll GO to hell." 1:27 - 1:28 mark

James Monroe said...

Unlike Eric Garner there needs to be justice, but this guy M Brown was another reason why black americans are looked down on...He was a thug,i have no pity for people like him...He would have either have robbed or killed an innocent life or wasted more of our tax dollars....Good Riddance!

patrick santinella said...

Chauncey Devega is a communist .You should move to a communis t country with your communist ideology .You would be doing the United States a favor.

Winston Smith said...

As a white person I can't help but relate to another white person (police officer or otherwise) who claims to have been physically attacked by multiple black people explicitly because they were white. When these claims are made, true or not, I can't help but believe they are possible because I have personally had the same experience. I like the history channel too but textbooks and Hollywood can only shape a person's personal views on race to an extent, less so than life experiences.