We’ve been here before.
The reoccurring nightmare of tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades and unlawful arrests that held a small Missouri town hostage for six days may be receding, but we must remain aware in this moment, present and fully engaged.
Because we’ve been here before.
We, who are witnesses and participants in the 2014 Ferguson Uprising in response to the public, police execution of 18-year-old Michael Brown, are simultaneously reliving and creating history. Black bodies falling lifeless to the ground, detached from their humanity and treated like trash. The screams of the grieving piercing our hearts, just as the bullets pierced the flesh of their loved ones.
Chaos, confusion, anger, pain, fear, resolve. Rage.
We’ve been here before.
We remember the bloody streets of Selma, Alabama. We remember the 1965 Watts Rebellion that occurred during this very week 49 years ago. We remember burning crosses and strange fruit hanging from the Poplar trees.
We remember Rekia and Oscar, Wendall and Jonathan, Sean and Eric, John and Amadou, Kimani and Aiyana, Ramarley and Tarika, and so many others who fell victim to the domestic, state-sanctioned terrorism of police officers sworn to protect and serve.
If we have learned anything, it is this: There exists in this country officers—those who fear us and those who hate us—who will gladly kill us and our children. And they are emboldened by a racist judicial system that will tell them they’re justified.
We know this as sure as our skin is brown and our neighborhoods are Black.
President Barack Obama, who has frequently said that “no country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” in defense of Israel’s massacre of the Palestinian people, stood silently by as police infiltrated the residential neighborhoods of Ferguson, MO, assaulting citizens with a legal right to peaceful assembly with military weapons.
Though Obama did finally address the murder of Michael Brown and the subsequent uprising in Ferguson, calling for peace, calm and reflection, there was no statement on why Ferguson citizens were supposed to tolerate police brutality without fighting back. This glaring lack of outrage on behalf of citizens in his own country once again proves Obama’s willingness, indeed, his preference, to distance himself from the simmering Black rage that got him elected.
His very job description puts him at odds with justice and equality for Black people because this nation does not prioritize justice and equality for Black people. So we can expect nothing but the empty promises of the same justice department who has yet to announce any forward movement in the investigation into the murder of Trayvon Martin.
There is no justice. Just us.
Then there are mainstream media outlets “reporting” on how difficult it is to be Black in America, capitalizing on the police murders in the last month for page views.
Be clear: If you’re not actually reporting on the issues that fuel this White supremacist system—lack of food safety, poverty, inadequate healthcare, Prison Industrial Complex, war on drugs, sub-par wages and unemployment—and the criminals in power who perpetuate it, while also pointing to the system as the foundation of the devaluation of Black lives, then you are not reporters. You are voyeurs, vultures salivating over the desecration of Black flesh.
And the rage rages on.
“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
“Pigs go home. You’re blocking the street.”
“Fuck tha police!”
This is the language of the oppressed, of the weary, of the strong, of the brave. Of the furious.
And as so many have said before me: Time is up.
The revolutionaries in Ferguson—and they are revolutionaries—are not just fighting for their lives and the lives of their children. They are fighting for their humanity. They are putting the world on notice that peace is secondary to justice and the world is listening.
Make no mistake: this is war. Police departments across this country, from Ohio to L.A. to New York City to Ferguson, are committing crimes against humanity and are not being held responsible. And they are allowed to commit these crimes under the cloak of anonymity so that they’re lives are protected while they kill with impunity.
Do not doubt that our collective rage is justified. We should not be made to feel like savages. The savages are the police officers hiding behind their badges to commit murder. We should not be made to feel embarrassed. A president who vacations while martial law is declared in a US town after days of citizens being under relentless attack should be embarrassed.
Though the Missouri Highway Patrol has seized control of Ferguson from its police department, effectively halting their GI Joe role-playing, there has been no victory. We still do not know the name of the officer who killed Mike Brown, nor has he been held accountable for the murder of the unarmed teen. The rights of the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri elected officials and visiting reporters were still willfully violated.
Yes, we are weary of watching our children slain in the streets by those sworn to protect them, but not too weary to mistake the positioning of a Black officer in front of the cameras, nor the convenient video of police officers dancing with Black children, for justice.
We stay woke.
Our right to life is something worth fighting for and it must be protected at all costs. A Black person being killed in the United States every 28 hours by law enforcement officials is something to be enraged about, not something to reflect upon in silence.
We’ve been here before.
James Baldwin wrote in 1965: “If we–and I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious black, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of others–do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.”
No more water the fire next time.
Ferguson is the fire. Our rage is the fire.
And we don’t need no water, let it burn.
Kirsten West Savali, a cultural critic and writer based in Mississippi, is a columnist for DAME Magazine and contributing editor for NewsOne.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KWestSavali.