I also have a featured story on Alternet (with a second one that is the lede story on the site
The Michael Brown-Darren Wilson saga becomes even more absurd as a tale of corruption, fantastical white racism, conflicts of interest, and now a planted witness who was on a "spirit walk" of sorts to overcome his hatred of "niggers" and just happened to be at the scene and subsequently described Brown as attacking the thug cop Wilson. You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. Unbelievable.
If these events took place in another country the American press would have a field day; thankfully, there are some folks who are reversing the gaze in order to do some truth telling about America's habitual miscarriages of justice when police and other white identified vigilantes kill black people.
As is my habit, I would like to share a recent essay by friend of WARN, Mr. Werner Herzog's Bear.
Over at his site Notes From the Ironbound--which folks should be reading and sharing as it is very sharp and smart; truly, an under-appreciated gem)--Werner penned a very insightful and honest essay about his feelings about Ferguson and the historical amnesia of too many white Americans.
Once again, Werner is on point.
Instead of doing the impossible, I'd rather make an observation. Ferguson, more than anything else in recent years, has convinced me of the importance of history. Michael Brown's death, Darren Wilson's acquittal, and even the very residential space of Ferguson only make sense when viewed in historical context. There is a very long, very bloody, and absolutely horrific history of men of color being killed in public by white men without punishment. That awful history is tied to another history of turning black men into superhuman creatures in need of destruction, or "demons" in the words of Wilson. There is a similar history, specifically, of police brutality and police violence and a jury rigged to prevent African Americans from getting justice. There is another history, of redlining, white flight, and disenfranchisement. There is also a history of urban unrest protesting injustice and brutality. If you try to understand Ferguson as an isolated event, detached from these histories, you will be woefully misled.
But that's what our news media and conventional wisdom does. That fits the general tenor of white American life, which refuses to grapple with the past unless it is the usual patriotic narrative of freedom triumphant. The main paradigm of American society sees individuals as the complete masters of their fate, never beholden to larger social and historical structures. It is a paradigm born out of our vulgar consumer society, where we are constantly reminded of our choices. That consumerism does political work too, in that encourages colorblind racism, and the inability for so many white people to understand where inequality comes from, among other blindnesses. Most white Americans look at the nation's urban landscape and seem to think that the black and brown ghettoes, white subdivisions, and gentrified chic neighborhoods are somehow natural occurrences, like the hills and the rivers.
A lot of the ignorance and foolishness I have seen and heard by those unable to comprehend the reaction to Wilson's acquittal is based around seeing the events in Ferguson outside of any historical context. "Why are "they" so angry?" is what I keep hearing. Michael Brown's death and Darren Wilson's apparent profiting from that death with contributions and TV interviews ought to be reason enough, but context also really matters.
My fellow historians, your society needs you. We need to go out and set things straight. We need to go out in public and interpret the wonderful if obscure academic histories for the masses, who need to know the context of what they are seeing. We need to do it because no one else will do it. The price of inaction is too high.