Tag Archives: Ferguson

Six Thoughts on the Ferguson Uprising

1) I honor, respect and admire those participating in the Ferguson uprising. All of them: not just those engaging in what the bien pensant have designated as acceptably “non-violent” forms of protest.

2) As I have written about here, Ferguson is unusual in having an overwhelmingly majority white city council and police force presiding over a majority black population. This imbalance is likely to be corrected sooner or later with the result that African American local officials and police will be in charge.

3) As a consequence of 2), one of the protestors’ main demands will be met, namely there will be an end to “racist” police murder. What will replace it will be black on black police murder–by definition, not “racist”.

On this basis, the black misleadership class, the community and the left will be mollified.

4) We know this because of recent history in which the devastation of African American communities was almost total-the wars on drugs and crime continuing to take their toll and now compounded by their having suffered the largest loss in their aggregate wealth in their history due to the banking and foreclosure crisis.

As this was presided over by an African American president and attorney general, there was almost no protest, as there will be when “black faces in high places” in Ferguson institute similarly repressive policies locally.

5) This provides the grounds for why I don’t think it’s correct to view Ferguson as within the same trajectory as OWS, as Francis Piven has remarked.

While the uprising is entirely righteous, 2) suggests that it is ultimately about unfinished business of the civil rights movement, necessary but which should have been completed years ago.

In contrast, OWS was, as Piven notes, “something new” and different in that it put on the agenda precisely that which was taboo during the 60s: the 1% vs. the 99%. In a word capitalism, or in two words, class struggle.

6) The behavior and expressed attitudes of the white population around Ferguson make inevitable the view expressed by a facebook commenter: “The problem is that the majority of whites are racist and class unconscious — they are essentially counter-revolutionary at the core of their existential being.”

While there is plenty of reason to assume that this is the case, a movement which takes the vast majority of the population as “essentially counter-revolutionary” and unreformable is one which is by definition incapable of uniting the majority against elite power and privilege.

The new movement which OWS presaged will need to move far beyond Ferguson. In short, what Ferguson has to teach us will need to be learned and forgotten for our real work to begin.

A New Long Hot Summer: Is Ferguson the American Spring?

Some on the leftare viewing the Ferguson uprising as the the long awaited American Springin which resistance to the routine murder of black youth becomes the wedge cracking open the system revealing itself to be rotten to the core.

It may become that. What happened to Michael Brown was all too typical and while his life was cut short by real bullets, so too does an entire generation see its prospects figuratively murdered as Wall Street consigns it to a future of permanent debt slavery abetted by militarized police forces crushing any attempts at mobilizing in opposition to it.

If a movement can connect the dots then it has a chance to galvanize a movement of the 99% back into the streets.

But there will be a lot of opposition and much of it will come from those who Brittany Cooper referred toas “figureheads of the movement” now claiming to speak for Michael Brown and the Ferguson protesters.  Among those having shown themselves as “friends of those with political power rather than fighters for real change” has been Reverend Al Sharpton who, according to Cooper, presided over the Brown funeral by

“stick(ing) to safe truths, convenient ones, about the problem of militarized policing, particularly in black communities.  Sharpton chose not to be a prophetic voice for the people of Ferguson but rather to do the work that the Obama administration sent him to do. That work entailed the placating of the people by ostensibly affirming their sense of injustice, while disaffirming their right to a kind of righteous rage in the face of such injustice.”

More troubling was Sharpton’s appearance at the funeral for Eric Garner the day before where, according to Byron York in the Washington Examiner,  pro forma criticisms of the NYPD functioned as an introduction to hectoring his audience with the “bootstraps” line associated with Bill Cosby and Sharpton’s increasingly close confidant President Obama.

“We’ve got to be straight up in our community, too,” he said. “We have to be outraged at a 9-year-old girl killed in Chicago. We have got to be outraged by our disrespect for each other, our disregard for each other, our killing and shooting and running around gun-toting each other, so that they’re justified in trying to come at us because some of us act like the definition of blackness is how low you can go.”

Many in the audience were “enraged, among them Eddie S. Glaude Jr., professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton who “found the middle part of the eulogy profoundly disturbing.”

What remains to be seen is whether a new generation of black leaders will be able to step forward and not only give voice to this rage, but, to make strategic alliances with the 99% out in the streets two years before, and who were brutally suppressed creating a war zone in lower Manhattan which bore striking similarities to the that seen recently in Ferguson.

Should they do so, they will be sure to confront the full force of political and financial elites and their first lines of defense in the uniformed services.

When this potential was most actively present, nearly a half century ago, Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover made their names in infamy.

That role is sure to be adopted by Obama and Holder, who will assume the same role in blackface.

That black faces in high places now are fully capable of doing the work of elites up to and including smashing the faces of those who dare to challenge it has long since become obvious.  Ferguson, a relic of Jim Crown in its apartheid white governance of a black majority is a distraction from this reality.

The movement will need to look beyond this superficial difference between black and white servants of the plutocracy and see the naked fist which revealed itself in Ferguson and Zuccotti Park as the same one.

If it learns to do so, then we can look forward to the American Spring and many desperately needed long hot summers to follow.

Asking the Hard Questions on Ferguson

A lot of outrage now about Ferguson-all of it righteous and all of it legitimate.

But there are bigger questions which need to be asked and answered.  For example,

While I haven’t studied the voter rolls, as a former local official, I can speculate on why this might be so.

First, the rate of participation of African Americans in local elections is almost certainly pitifully low. This is not, as Democratic Party operatives would have you believe, entirely or even mainly due to voter suppression efforts by Republicans. A lot of it has to do with local machines themselves discouraging participation, failing to mount voter registration drives or get out the vote campaigns.

Their reason for not doing so, as I observed first hand in New Haven, a city which shares some similarities with Ferguson, is because it gives the constituencies which reliably support machine candidates (mainly those revolving around black churches) disproportionate influence.  They are perfectly happy when their own handpicked candidates return to office with tiny numbers of votes rather than have to deal with potentially disruptive challenges which might emerge with more participation.

A second factor has to do with what the Black Agenda Report has pegged as the black misleadership class   There is nothing in any of the previous public statements of Ferguson’s African American Mayor James Knowles III which indicate any concern with police brutality, institutional racism, or anything beyond the most bland and uncontroversial “quality of life” initiatives.  In this, he takes his cue from black misleader in chief President Barack Obama who has still, predictably, failed to make a single statement expressing concern over or even awareness of the mounting destruction.

This gets to a larger point which is that the militarization of local police forces has been proceeding for at least a decade now with virtually no opposition on a local level a process which began with the receipt of surplus military equipment made available to localities.

They, or I should say we, were not required to accept it. And knowing how the guns, stun grenades and ammo would be deployed, there should have been unanimous opposition not only from the left but from anyone who is minimally concerned with civil liberties.

As far as I know, there was no such opposition not only in Ferguson but anywhere in the country. Based on my brief tenure as a local official, I’m pretty certain that the public safety committee hearings where the acquisition of the humvees, assault weapons and kevlar vests were discussed were almost if not entirely unattended by members of the public.  I also know from my experience that just a few calls to a local official would have resulted in, at least, some of the hard questions being asked about the wisdom of putting this gear in the hands of local police and quite possibly the rejection of some of the proffered gear.

Why did the left fail to act when it could have, and almost certainly would have mattered?

The answer is that the left has long since stopped caring about local politics even though our having obtained these positions, as we have seen, could have prevented the drift towards militarized police forces and their now routine suppression of protest.

There is one point of light in this-the Seattle city council campaign of Kshama Sawant whose path to victory began with the most notorious instance-the federally coordinated destruction of the Occupy movement.

Let’s hope that the left has now recognized that local campaigns, far from being “electoral extravaganzas unworthy of the attention of serious activists” are the first line of defense against the imposition of what can only be called a police state, operated by and serving the the interests of the one percent.