Ferguson on Fire

After 30 years of having an (informed) nagging distrust of police, White people and the institutions that are supposed to serve Black, taxpaying citizens, I am not surprised by the events of the past week. I am not surprised that Mike Brown is dead. I am not surprised that the police have released information intended to sully his name. I am not surprised that peaceful protests have been met with violence and intimidation.

(And if you are surprised by any of this, let #Ferguson be the ice bucket dumped atop your head to jolt you from your slumber.) 

Yet, I didn’t go to Ferguson last weekend to break news or grab some sort of exclusive coverage or to make a name for myself as a journalist  Of course, I wanted to make sure that EBONY had boots on the ground and firsthand coverage, but telling a meaningful story wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.  

I went to bear witness. I needed to see it all for my own eyes.

It cut me to my core to see the heartbreak in the faces of older women handing out lovingly prepared peanut butter sandwiches because, “Y’all better eat something.”  There is a choking sadness in the sight of toddlers holding signs begging for the ability to grow up. Walking down the street where the manchild known as “Mike Mike” took his last, terrified steps, and seeing the place where he lay bleeding for hours like roadkill burned as much as the teargas we ingested for the simple crime of giving a f-ck.

Black people, my people, here are some things that you must know:

**Perhaps someone can share these with the countless absent celebrities, politicians, faith leaders and other people who profit from our community, but don’t have time to bring their talents to St. Louis right now—or even to send a check, tweet, Facebook post reflecting their concern. Maybe they aren’t concerned. Maybe they don’t care.**

1) The State of Missouri is willing to let Ferguson burn to the ground to protect the killer of Michael Brown, Jr.

2) The majority of the people lining the streets of Ferguson are peaceful protestors.

3) The agitation is not coming simply from a handful of ‘anarchists,’ reckless locals and out-of-towners who would rather wild out than stage a sit-in. There is also reason to speculate that government plants may be inciting some of the chaos. This is not a new phenomenon.

4) The police are the ones provoking MUCH OF the violence, 

-The presence of armed police pointing guns at unarmed people with their hands up is an act of terrorism.

-The militarization of local police forces in response to community concerns over police violence is abusive.

-A state-enforced curfew against people who are using their Constitutionally protected right to assemble against over-policing is warfare.

-The inability to arrest Darren Wilson is maddening. 

5) What is happening in Ferguson can happen anywhere. With a Black person being killed under similar circumstances every 28 hours, it is a wonder that this explosion of rage isn't seen more often. That we don't revisit Los Angeles '92 once, twice a year. 

6) WE must not allow the rioting and incidents of looting to become The Story. WE must not allow anyone to convince us that somehow, we’re simply wild, unruly people who need to be policed like—and by—dogs.

-It’s been way too easy for people----even our people---to focus attention on the proverbial bad apples who have spoiled the bunch.

- Do you really believe the police needed protestors to get violent for them to treat them like criminals?

-If you are seeing this through a completely ahistorical lens and disregard the images of peaceful Civil Rights era protests being attacked by “water cannons,” dogs and Billy clubs, then do recall that this all began because a cop killed an unarmed teenager.  

7) The people of Ferguson-our people, OUR PEOPLE!-are indefatigable. Their stamina is only heightened by the influx of people who are making their way down to Missouri every hour on the hour to help.

8) Forget manners and being polite, but do not forget the important of having an agenda. Those who can channel rage into organization and strategy must help those who struggle to do so. 

How much more do you need to see? How much more do you need to know? How long can it be expected that Black people exist in this country with the boot of White supremacy firmly on our necks? We’ve gotten comfortable with images of violence and malaise from Iraq and Palestine. Are we willing to accept war torn Ferguson as the new normal? Will we rename it “Fergustan” and get a few rappers to name check it in a song? 

The world is watching. America’s treatment of Black people is, once again, an international embarrassment. But it is important to note that society-at-large does not hear polite cries for the eradication of injustice. The Watts Riots, the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soweto uprisings...being heard often comes with a great toll and with long, sustained unrest. And we have yet to see what will come of the grand jury inquiry that is being handled by a prosecutor of questionable judgment as it relates to this case. We have yet to see how our people will react if told that Darren Wilson will not serve a day in prison for killing Mike Brown. 

As I prepare to head back to Ferguson this week, I only hope that I am able to communicate the gravity of what this moment feels like to those who aren’t able to take the pilgrimage to the new Mecca of the American Police State. Do not take your eyes off this fight, our fight, for even a minute. 

Jamilah Lemieux is EBONY.com's Senior Editor.