Ferguson, Missouri looks like Charleston, South Carolina on the eve of secession. When the town police grab at the press badges of national reporters and charge them with crimes for doing their jobs, we have crossed the police state Rubicon. What we see in the streets of this Missouri town is the system of white supremacy acting out in its terror of black bodies, of free black crowds raising their voices, by allowing a display of armed white privilege. The proper word for this is ‘fascism.’
When the same law enforcement officers who let white-skinned Oath Keeper militia goons walk around with combat firearms simultaneously gun down any armed black man, arrest any black people who they even suspect of being armed, and then arrest and pepper-spray the unarmed black people just to make their point about who is really in charge, it is more than a double-standard. It is the very picture of slavery, when blacks were forbidden to own weapons while white gun clubs sprang up everywhere in anticipation of the Civil War. Do not discount the cross-pollination of white supremacist and nativist elements within the Oath Keepers, or the creeping authoritarianism that masquerades as armed freedom within the conspiracy-addled universe of Alex Jones, whose Sandy Hook-denying ‘reporters’ the “mulatto president”-hating Oath Keepers were allegedly escorting through Ferguson.
The desperation to control black people, to marginalize their presence and silence their uppity talk, is palpable in white denunciations of the movement. It is implicit in the “state of emergency” for St. Louis County. This atmosphere is brought to you in part by the Columbia Police Officers’ Association, which declared ‘Darren Wilson Day‘ to celebrate the police officer who got away with gunning down Michael Brown — an unarmed man who was running away from Wilson, who in fact was 148 feet from Wilson’s police vehicle when he died — with the amazing excuse that his victim suddenly stopped when shot, “bulked up against the bullets” like the Incredible Hulk, and came after him in a deathless rage. As Jake Halpern’s interview with Wilson in The New Yorker makes clear, Brown’s life was sacrificed to his fear.
That is the unreasoning, racist-nightmare terror of black bodies expressing itself as a fictional narrative to salve Wilson’s underdeveloped conscience. The CPOA has sanctified his falsehood; the confederate flag-waving white supremacist crowd enthusiastically endorses and repeats it ad nauseum. The same (white) people who decry government, who claim that it cannot deliver any service or program efficiently, who agitate for armed expositions of discontent if a (white) millionaire rancher stands to lose his cattle for non-payment of taxes, also give the police categorical and unqualified support for violence against black and brown people. They are the popular (white) stamp of approval on state-sanctioned brutality against non-whites, keeping the myths of black pathology alive to excuse their hypocrisy. Most of them watch Fox news, but some of them are actually on the screen perpetuating myths and rationalizing paranoid blood-lust for their viewers.
Am I being divisive? Of course! I’m dividing the enemies of an unjust, unfair system from those who work hard to preserve the status quo and its racist outcomes. Which side are you on? Sure, you can be on the side of police using violence to intimidate and control people — but if that describes you, then just stop pretending you ‘love freedom,’ and don’t think it will only ever happen to The Other. The American Civil War is proof-positive that when these issues resolve in violence, white people kill and destroy each other, too. Do not ask for whom the police bell tolls; it tolls for thee.