I’ve just come back from the front, Ferguson, the epicenter of civil and social unrest these days. For months now, citizens have been actively protesting the killing of unarmed Michael Brown, Jr., by then-Ferguson policeman, Darren Wilson. Lead by young gifted black women and men who have made the commitment to not be silent anymore, the protests that began as a reaction to the slaying have now sparked a global movement.
The shooting and aftermath have caused many to question the underpinnings existing in our country that lay just beneath the surface. Could something like that happen here?
I’m from St. Louis. I was born and raised there. Met and married my wife there. Our children were born there. I have family roots in Kinloch, Missouri, the oldest incorporated African American town in the state. It is a town just west of Ferguson. We still have family of kin and kind living there. So when this broke, we began receiving calls, texts and emails as the news poured out. I received several invitations to go and did in fact, fly out in October with my wife, to participate in what was called the “Weekend of Resistance,” to respond to the call that requires my faith to be embodied, to position myself alongside those who ae marginalized, dispossessed, and disrespected.
Lifeless, Michael Brown, Jr., laid in the middle of Canfield Drive for 4 1/2 hours after the shooting. Disrespect!
His remains were recovered and placed in the back of an SUV. Disrespect!
His family was not communicated with during the entire Grand Jury saga. Disrespect!
The Grand Jury announcement was rendered in an inappropriate manner. Disrespect!
My mind can’t help but hearken back to the words of then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Dred Scott case of 1857, “…they [African Americans] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” St. Louis is the land of the Dred Scott decision.
In much the same way, here in Hartford we hear very little of this region’s duplicities related to the African Slave trade, and how that wealth seeded the “Industrial Revolution” in the era of Dred Scott. I wonder: Is there a relationship to what is a reality in our time, the abject poverty of Connecticut’s urban centers surrounded by the picturesque and opulent wealth some enjoy, oblivious to the suffering of so many.
I’ve been angered by the calls for peace and an end to the “violence” reportedly produced by the protestors, while there have been very few admonishments to law enforcement regarding the continued brutal and over the top responses toward largely peaceful protests. I’ve seen those largely peaceful protests with my own eyes. Was the Boston Tea Party an actual party? Or was it a political protest by demonstrators, some disguised as American Indians, who destroyed a shipment of tea in defiance of the Tea Act of 1773.
We were on the ground when news of the Eric Garner non-indictment grand jury decision came in. I was so moved by the response here in Hartford, as hundreds march in solidarity that Saturday, December 7.
Dr. King said in 1966 that “riots are the language of the unheard.” There are many who feel the same sense of injustice here in our community that I heard in Ferguson. Some share the same sense of frustration. Is there now a non-indictment precedent being set? There are some of the same practices in large measure not reported, not interrogated, not investigated fully. Are we one more incident from devastating disruption, protest and outrage?