Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last conversation with Harry Belafonte echoed in my head as I watched the Ferguson aftermath send the country in a tailspin:
“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win. But I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
Burning house? What was the burning house Dr. King was referring to? Does the burning house resemble Ferguson, Mo.? Does it resemble Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony rationalizing why he killed Michael Brown? America is the burning house. And it’s still on fire. A negative narrative is being scripted around Black men aimed at destroying any positive perspectives of our identity as a people and how we conduct our lives. Images of professional football players punching and dragging their women, abusing their children not to mention America’s favorite Dad is being publicly crucified for allegedly drugging and sexually abusing a host of women while we see young Michael Brown viciously push a store owner moments before he is gunned down.
According to the latest count, people in 170 cities protested the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown three days before Thanksgiving. Thousands across the country took to the streets and expressed how they felt in the wake of the decision. The city of Ferguson experienced two nights of civil unrest after a nighttime grand jury announcement on Nov. 25.
I believe the announcement was unnecessarily delayed to provoke the citizens of Ferguson, providing the match to set off the fuse of violence and looting. We know the freaks come out at night. Christmas is right around the corner. Why would you bait the disenfranchised who see no reason to care about the life and well-being of others when no one seems to care about them?
Do you think there was no strategy in place when the state of Missouri deployed the National Guard? They used their manpower to protect the federal buildings and areas they deemed no looting zones. Meanwhile they sat back and watched many protesters throw a pricey tantrum in the affected community. Live on TV. This was a chance to intensify the circumstances of Darren Wilson’s experience with Michael Brown. “Look at what they are capable of. If they are doing that to their own community, what do you think they would do to you?”
Then we finally meet a calm Officer Wilson on television as he publicly shares his version of events for the first time, He was obviously coached to describe his encounter as if he were the store owner we all got a visual of Michael Brown pushing and taking cigars from. In his interview, he said he felt like a 5-year old attempting to restrain Hulk Hogan. No officer Wilson, the store owner looked like a 5-year old next to Hulk Hogan. You are 6’4, Michael Brown was also 6’4.
Darren Wilson’s legal team exploited images of Michael Brown’s altercation in the store. At the end of the day, Darren Wilson acted out of fear and cultural stereotypes that led him to believe his life was in imminent danger, if he indeed felt that. A 1985 Supreme Court decision places certain limitation on the use of deadly force. It is approved for use only when the officer reasonably believes that the action he or she is about to take is in defense of human life.
This takes us back to the burning house. Where do you think people form their opinions of us? Is it not in our music, our behavior, our way of communication, our style of dress? Is it not because of our dropout rates, Black on Black crime, images on TV? Regardless of what is fair, this is why the police are quick to pull the trigger and get away with it. Let’s come up with a pro-life strategy that protects our children and pushes our community to change those images and behaviors so we don’t always get left out and let down.
Jineea Butler founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her @flygirladyjay