We’re now a month out from the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and a month away from when a grand jury is likely to decide whether or not to indict him. Yet we still have no answers and no respect in the state of Missouri.
In Saint Louis County, the police have a history of racial profiling and abusing the power of the shield. Racial profiling in North County has transformed into a problem of monstrous proportions. Young black men and women have sadly realized that the police are here to do us more harm than good. We don’t drive certain places in our very own community after a certain time of night. We avoid suburban communities as much as possible because we fear being unjustifiably locked up and thrown into jail. In Saint Louis County all of the cards are stacked against young black people.
Mike Brown’s untimely demise was the tipping point in Saint Louis County. We believe he was brutally assassinated. His body lay in the streets of the Canfield Green Apartment Complex for over four hours. It was as if he was publicly lynched by the Ferguson Police Department and his body was left on display as a mechanism of fear.
The community responded to this wrongdoing with much disdain and the police launched a preemptive and massively militarized offensive. We were tear gassed and shot down in the streets by rubber and wooden bullets as if we were dogs. I woke up one morning and there were armored military vehicles stationed around the corner from my mothers house. I saw helicopters and fighter jets flying above my childhood elementary school. Palestinians tweeted advice on how to construct makeshift gas masks in St.Louis. A vast majority of the police officers who fired upon us don’t even live in or near the neighborhoods they are policing.
In the blink of an eye, I felt as if I were living in 1963. A week before all of this madness, I never thought I would see German shepherds and sniper rifles directed toward children and adults alike with my very own eyes.
The day after Mike Brown’s murder, I cried twice. The moment was so overwhelmingly massive, my mind couldn’t process all of the anguish and anger. My grandparents endured this type of treatment so we wouldn’t have to. Now, I suddenly have the same experience and first-hand connection to their struggle; something I doubt any of us ever anticipated. I want to make it clear more than anything else my emotions have grown unstable as a direct result of Mike Brown’s murder and the ensuing presence of militarized police in our neighborhood. My generation had never before had to show up for the fight in the same manner our parents and grandparents did during the civil rights movement. (It’s also important to note that we are in no way attempting to imitate the greatness of the civil rights movement. The Ferguson Police Department has a lengthy history of aggression and discrimination towards African Americans as well as poor whites.)
There’s a saying on the streets: “Mike Brown means we’ve got to fight back.” Darren Wilson shot down Mike Brown and the Ferguson Police Department attempted to vilify the victim. Young people in the city of Saint Louis viewed these reprehensible acts as a declaration of war. There was no meeting of the minds. Mike Brown sparked a universal moment of clarity for young black people. We feel as if no one in a position of power respects us. We feel as if we are not viewed as humans. Police officers blatantly referred to us as monkeys and dogs. A select few have lost their jobs as result of their actions, but a great many remain gainfully employed.
We suddenly found ourselves on the parking lot of McDonald’s surrounded by members of the National Guard with M-16’s trained on our every movement. Our behavior was completely legal and peaceful. The scene was surreal as we noticed members of the media donning gas masks and bulletproof vests, attempting to protect themselves from the highly volatile acts of violence enacted by the police which were soon to follow. There was no distinction between media and civilians. At this moment I realized it was basically all of us together versus the tyrannical order of the police and the National Guard.
This is the moment I asked myself, “Why did I vote for Barack Obama twice? Why are we being treated like this simply for demanding justice for our fallen brother?” I decided it is possible I’ll never vote for another American president for as long as I live. We live in America but we are clearly not included as Americans. Americans don’t unleash a completely militarized force upon other Americans. Americans don’t tear gas other Americans. Americans don’t drive tanks over the front yards of other Americans. By classical definition we are still poor black people who reside in America, but we are not considered equal to fellow American citizens and lawmakers. Our hopes and dreams are not valued or respected. Our worries and concerns often fall upon deaf ears.
During this time I’ve pulled children out of clouds of tear gas. I’ve witnessed white women who are members of the clergy collectively praying in front of tanks and armored vehicles. One of these women was mercilessly shot with a rubber bullet by the police while praying for peace. Our neighborhood was occupied by the police as if they were an invading army laying siege to their enemy and pillaging the remains. Our basic civil rights were stripped away as we were treated like cattle in the name of a sick, sadistic experiment in martial law. We assumed that our beloved, black president would come to our defense and speak about the perils of police brutality, racial profiling, and Mike Brown’s unfortunate demise. Instead we felt as if he co-signed this unfair treatment and endorsed the brutal show of force the police displayed towards us. We are our only allies. No one in the world will stand up with us against such tyranny.
We’re in a highly combustible powder keg that could blow at any moment. The city is overflowing with civil unrest and we simply want answers for the many wrongdoings that have been committed against us. The officers of the Ferguson Police Department continue to stand in solidarity with their brother Darren Wilson. The entire system is corrupt from top to bottom. We will not stop fighting and resisting all forms of police brutality. We are may be the minority in this country, but vocally, we will be the majority. They cannot kill us all. They can not throw us all in jail. We want justice for Michael Brown and every victim of police brutality.
Kareem Jackson, whose stage name is Tef Poe, is a rapper and activist.