This is our Home: Ferguson and America
On Saturday, August 9th, Michael Brown was murdered in cold blood by the police in his town of Ferguson, MO. This is what happened. Whether you believe that he stole something or that he tried to wrestle a cop for his gun or whether you believe actual facts; the truth remains that at
some point he stopped running, put his hands in the air and was promptly shot multiple times by a police officer.
The murder of Mike Brown prompted a justifiably angry response from the townspeople of Ferguson. The mostly African American population of Ferguson protested and demonstrated; a small riot occurred on Sunday night by a few outliers and the police used this as an excuse to bombard unarmed crowds of protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets from Monday to Wednesday night.
A multitude of various police forces around St. Louis were called in, fully stocked with military grade equipment and attack dogs for the crowd: calling for a “suggested” dispersal of all protesters at dark and refusing to punish and release any information about Mike Brown’s killer.
As tear gas was thrown into people’s lawns and rubber bullets pelted the crown and people were blocked from going to their homes: the people remained steadfast and focused, proclaiming “This is our home.”
Strained feels like a colossally insignificant word to use to describe the black person’s relationship with America. Black people were property; they were free labor and disposable bodies to be used however by white people with regularity. Whether they owned slaves or not, black people were battered, harassed, murdered, raped and despised. The thinking went black people were animals meant to be domesticated and the abuse of their bodies was perfectly fine because they weren’t real peoplethey don’t even feel. They’re not capable of being humans that can uphold the white standard: the invisible social currency that says whiteness is pure, holy, good and right. This line of thinking pervaded even as blacks were freed: Blacks cannot be
trusted, they are savages and they are to be kept in their place.
To understand what happened to Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin or Renisha McBryde or Oscar Grant etc, you should understand that last paragraph. In all of these situations a black person was killed either by police or white citizens, all under the guise of fear. They “knew” that black people are naturally savages and beasts, they had to “protect” themselves and others from these “thugs”, “vandals” and “drunks”. They had to assert their white dominance and take these inferior humans down a peg for not making them comfortable. They were “justified” in killing these people because they’re “scary” and that’s a good enough reason. White rage and white fear pumps in the blood of anyone of any color that upholds white supremacy and they are bombs ready to be thrown and set off on the next targeted black terror.
And yet, this is our home. It’s the only home a lot of us have known. It’s hard for some to separate living here and knowing the truth about this country; knowing that white fear is a tax on your black life. It’s enough to make you move into denial and hatred of who you are because it’s
easier to believe that there’s something wrong with you then believe that there’s something wrong with society.
Stockholm syndrome is defined as a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with them. If America has defined itself based on a white standard then the thinking for most non-white people goes that if they can achieve this standard then they can be accepted. They begin to believe their blackness is the problem and turn their backs on it in favor of white acceptance; “Maybe we are savages, maybe we do deserve this, maybe we should’ve made white people more comfortable”.
The job of a black person in America is to be neither seen nor heard: you walk with catlike delicateness, you voice is shallow and timid, you’re friendly, entertaining and helpful but at best, you’re to never make an impression. This is our role and enough people have bought into it that when situations like this occur, the question is never about why the police would commit murder but instead it’s about what Mike did to step out of line. What kind of person was he? What crime did he commit? What did Michael Brown do to justify his own murder.
This is an awful truth, but again this is our home. It’s not perfect and it mistreats us, but it’s ours. We are entitled to the rights guaranteed to us whether my skin is a problem or not. Enough people understood this that when the news media and the majority of local and state officials fell
silent, social media was loud. Black voices and those standing in solidarity upheld Ferguson as their own and demanded the same justice they wanted. Black people mobilized against a murder because we know and we understand the fate that can befall any of us.
This is our reality.This is the pain of having black skin. Black peoplethe same ones called savages, monkeys and apathetic beastspoured into the streets of Ferguson every night from Sunday to Wednesday in search of justice for one of their fallen sons. They took on tear gas, threats, wooden and rubber bullets; they had sniper rifles pointed at them, but they stayed on the streets. They were prepared for the worst but it didn’t matter, this was their home and they had
to reclaim it and get their justice.
To be black also means knowing that this will happen again. It’s depressing and it’s a bleak outlook on life. My heart is heavy and there’s a lump in my throat, I am tired. But the fire will erupt again and we will run right back into it because we have to. This is our home.