living #ferguson
August 10, 2019 2:04 AM   Subscribe

Five years ago, yesterday, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, was fatally shot by 28-year-old Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. from MeFi Projects
posted by otherchaz (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
posted by fairmettle at 3:35 AM on August 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

hoo boy, where to even start.

At the time I lived close enough to be terrified, especially when they started marching down the street military occupation style and firing gas canisters into nice, clean (but still black) homes. Any possibility of me feeling safe even for a second in this nightmare of a country died that day.

Oh, but, as 500* messages on twitter reminded me: I guess he wasn't a 100% law-abiding, nice person so none of this matters, none of it counts. Maybe someday they'll execute, in the street and on his knees, a perfect victim and we can finally have this conversation.

I live in an ~80% black neighbourhood and have called the police twice without anyone showing up. Once after hearing a rape and once after seeing a woman being dragged and beaten with a brick. WITH A BRICK. Cops (and near everyone else) don't care because they are conditioned to not care. These areas and the people in them are a write-off, a lost cause.

I am at a loss to believe progress is possible let alone gather the strength to pursue it. I don't know what I was supposed to say here, but I guess maybe not this. Good luck?

(*not even an exaggeration)
posted by seraphine at 5:02 AM on August 10, 2019 [19 favorites]

Five years on, no one can deny the power of the movement this travesty of justice helped spur, along with Black Lives Matter. We are a long long way from equal justice, but a week of night protests in Ferguson and the activists who helped build on those have at the very least shifted the language of how the media and the white public at large talks about police violence against black men.
posted by sallybrown at 6:34 AM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

NYMag: 5 Years After Ferguson, Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops Have Gotten Worse: “[B]lack motorists in Missouri were even more likely to be pulled over by police in 2018, relative to their white counterparts, than they were in 2013. The gap was wider in Ferguson. Despite the aim of recent reforms in this arena, the outcome in practice has been a white populace reaping the benefits of laws meant to disincentivize racist traffic stops for revenue, while black people continue to suffer.”

Relatedly from the Young Turks: Leaked FBI Documents Reveal Bureau’s Priorities Under Trump “Under President Trump, the FBI’s official counterterrorism priorities have included “Black Identity Extremists,” “anti-authority” extremists, and “animal rights/environmental extremists,” according to leaked Bureau documents obtained exclusively by The Young Turks. […] The 2018 threat guidance strongly suggests that the “Black Identity Extremist” term emerged from the Black Lives Matter movement — specifically, the 2014 shooting of black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and its aftermath.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:30 AM on August 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

I lived about 12 miles from where Michael Brown was killed, when this happened. Had moved back to Missouri after about eleven years away, and had friends from high school and college about forty-five minutes away (around Washington, MO and Union, MO) that I had re-connected with on Facebook.

Friends in St. Louis were going to Ferguson protests and getting tear gassed in a coffee shop for the temerity of protesting a young black man being killed. Friends in the sticks were making excuses for the police and finding every excuse under the sun to not even think about the kind of police practices that people in Ferguson and St. Louis were subject to if they weren't white.

The over-response to protests was ridiculous. I recall coming home one night and the off-ramp to Grand was blocked off by police cars and vans, staged about four blocks away from the protest so they could go in and bust heads.

After a while I had to cut ties with the people who think this is acceptable because Michael Brown might not have been a perfect human being. There was always some reason why the police were justified and it was black folks' fault. Somehow. There was always some reason why you could find fault with any means of protest, but never actually discuss what people were protesting.
posted by jzb at 8:27 AM on August 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

NYMag: 5 Years After Ferguson, Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops Have Gotten Worse

Original link to NYTimes article here.

The difficulty here: using racial demographic percentages as a baseline for how many people should be getting pulled over suggests equal rates of traffic offenses amongst those demographics, and equal rates of policing where people of different races tend to drive. The article quotes a "racial disparity index" to compare the rates and links to Missouri's official statistics, without regard to these two most probable causes.

Fairness would suggest that a people be pulled over by police only if they're actually offending, or there's non-racist reasonable suspicion that they are, and this will be against the backdrop of a road's rate of policing. It seems to me that none of these articles are actually trying to work out what the actual offense rates are, and instead implicitly assuming that racial groups offend at equal rates. In my view, the rhetorical angle ought to be framed this way, so we can better discuss the true complexities at work.

It's obvious to all that racial profiling is something our police force simply must not do, and there's been enormous effort to ensure policing is fair and legitimate. A good summary from the National Institute of Justice helps provide context.

Separately, though, it's probably true that high-crime neighborhoods are more heavily policed, and that traffic stops are obviously correlated with police levels in the geographic area in which they occur. This opens a conversation about what's the best solution to solving challenges with community structure and poverty / crime in general. To me, this seems like the more productive conversation to be having.

I wouldn't say I have all the answers, just an earnest interest in solving problems.
posted by phenylphenol at 8:51 AM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that none of these articles are actually trying to work out what the actual offense rates are, and instead implicitly assuming that racial groups offend at equal rates.

Do we have any reason at all not to assume that racial groups commit minor traffic violations at equal rates?
posted by hydropsyche at 9:28 AM on August 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

so i was reading a trashy scifi novel a while back and one of the characters living on a pretty rough planetoid observed that "here we don't have laws. we have cops."

and it's stuck with me, y'know? we don't actually have laws here. instead, we have cops.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you haven’t clicked the Whelk’s link — those are six black Ferguson activists found dead under suspicious circumstances. Suspicious “suicides,” a few straight up murdered and then burned, and an overdose with a drug that police have easy access to.

I’m genuinely not trying to inflammatory, but this is a police department known for its white supremacy. And that is a lot of deaths.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:27 AM on August 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

It feels like a bit of a trick, you know? That we have to keep politely debating which parts of which cities are policed in which ways and under the assumption of which crimes, when it has been demonstrated not only that ethnic minorities live under de facto military occupation but that this is on the whole an acceptable price to pay to the American people. I mean, I know that the grim spectre of "black-on-black crime" is a favourite dogwhistle of the right but how bad do you have to believe it is to accept tanks, assault rifles, and fully armoured suppression squads marching down American streets?

And I don't use these terms lightly. I came here from a city that was occupied by the military after terrorist bombings and the assassination of government officials and in some ways it looks the same but here domestic terrorism is, what, chanting "hands up, don't shoot" or wearing a shirt that says "black lives matter"? I don't know what else to call it when it is just a fact of life that if you look a certain way, you will be stopped by police and be made to explain your movements and justify your presence. You will be "randomly selected" for additional screening everywhere every time. And calling the police for protection is a roll of the dice because they might just show up and arrest or kill YOU on sight. And there is no where you can protest this because you know they won't stop at putting just you down, they will chase you into residential areas screaming at you to go inside while gassing the houses you are meant to cower in. And everywhere you go white men who are free to carry guns unmolested, and certainly without fear of being executed by police while sitting in their cars, eye you with suspicion and a hunger to be that mythical "good guy with a gun" should you step out of line, and that thin blue line patch on their jacket and sticker on their car making sure you never forget which of you is the problem because it is just a Confederate Flag without the baggage.

And, yeah yeah, this isn't everywhere but it all happened and was streamed live on the internet for the world to see, and an awful lot of Americans gazed directly into the abyss and saw nothing at all. So, maybe not the best word, but it just all feels a little occupation-y.

(I tried to clean this up, and I'm sorry if it still falls a little too far in the direction of incoherent ranting.)
posted by seraphine at 11:11 AM on August 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

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