One Year From Ferguson

One Year From Ferguson
Officers and protesters face off along West Florissant Avenue, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson was a community on edge again Monday, a day after a protest marking the anniversary of Michael Brown's death was punctuated with gunshots. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Officers and protesters face off along West Florissant Avenue, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson was a community on edge again Monday, a day after a protest marking the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death was punctuated with gunshots. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

It’s been a year now since Michael Brown was shot during an altercation with police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. A year since “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” became a rallying cry for African-Americans across the country, a year since peaceful protests descended into militarized police and rioting.

So how are we doing, America? By my count? Terribly.

A year? It’s seriously only been a year? With as many of the protests and riots that we saw, and what’s more, with as many people we’ve seen killed, I had mistakenly let myself believe it had been a lot longer than that.

In the days since I last touched on this subject, it was proven that Michael Brown did not have his hands up, and was involved in an altercation with the officer in question. It has also been proven, equally beyond any shadow of doubt, that the police in Ferguson were heinously racist, and that race definitely factored into the death of Michael Brown. So it doesn’t really matter what he was doing because he’d likely have lived if his skin had been a different color.

Ferguson’s police department saw firings and resignations in droves, and diversity became the priority for new hires. Will this fix the problem? Honestly, probably not. While racism is an issue on the police force, any police force really, classism is how people stay in the system for years with little to no ability to get themselves out, many times for things as small as a traffic ticket. The poor pay the most in this country when it comes to engaging with the system.

Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Darrien Hunt, John Crawford III, along with new names like Eric Harris, killed by a reserve deputy who fired his pistol instead of his taser; Walter Scott, who was shot in the back while fleeing; Samuel Dubose, who was shot by an officer through his car window, and who is an example of how body cams can work for the people, as the officer in question was swiftly proven to have lied and was brought up on charges.

These names, and too many others, not just of unarmed black men, but of unarmed white kids like Zachary Hammond, who is dead because of a joint; unarmed black women like Sandra Bland, wrongfully arrested and dying in her jail cell under suspicious circumstances, and more and more. Every day, it’s something new, and often it’s hiding behind a badge.

I have respect for the police, I really do. When they do their jobs.

I’ve said before, it’s “protect and serve,” not “punish and slay.” Often, I’m told that “Comply and Complain” is the only option with the police, that doing that will ensure everything turns out fine and no harm comes to you. The thing many of these people fail to realize though, is that not every single officer of the law is there to do their jobs and serve the people.

Some people seem to take the job of a law enforcement officer because of the power it affords them over others, and abusing that power is the only thing they’re concerned about. All one need do is look to find hundreds of thousands of stories of officers out of control.

So it’s time for the good officers on every police force to stop hiding behind the thin blue line. Stop protecting these people, who actively use their badges to hurt and harm the disenfranchised. Stop protecting the ones that take it to such an extreme that they’ve murdered someone. It’s ridiculous that all you need in order to get away with such violence is a badge. It’s ridiculous that so many people take that badge to mean there is no possible way the person holding it can be bad. We’re taught for so long that police are our friends and protectors that the notion that they are people, as equally flawed and capable of stupidity as any other person in the world, seems entirely lost on so many.

Last year at this time I was calling for accountability in police departments across the nation. I’ve had to make that call so many times since then that my throat is raw. I hate that this is the world we live in, where we can’t trust someone we should rightfully be able to. So it’s time for the cry to get louder, because it’s not just one race that’s being affected by this lack of accountability, it’s everyone. #BlackLivesMatter opened this door because it’s African-Americans being affected at higher rates, but have no doubt, this is a problem that effects us all.

Categories: Commentary