It's come to mind a number of times this week as I've watched events in Ferguson, Missouri, unfold. The gist of it: an unarmed, Black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot several times by a Ferguson police officer, who has not been held accountable as of this moment. Demonstrations, mostly peaceful, some violent, triggered an overwhelmingly militaristic police response. And so here we are.
I don't think I have anything useful to add to the growing and important conversation, except to say that I think what we're seeing in Ferguson is the result of more than a hundred years of evil in the form of racial oppression, and a body public that feels as if it can no longer withstand it.
Mike Brown is only the most recent name in a long list, including Trayvon Martin, including Arthur McDuffie, whose death in 1980 sparked the infamous Miami Riots. I remember crying at night, waiting for my mom to come home, and imagining that a rock thrown off an overpass had smashed her windshield. I saw my mother's death in my head a million times that week. I was five years old, and safe as houses compared to the kids in Liberty City where the protests were happening.
One of my favorite authors, Edwidge Danticat, posted this old picture of herself:
So, what to do? There are some logical things that can be done in police departments nationwide--
- cameras on all police vehicles,
- outside reviews of any deaths that happen to people in custody, as is now the law in Wisconsin,
- police outreach efforts everywhere, but especially in places where communities feel justifiably fearful of police,
- identifying the officers that have a record of outreach and humanitarian work in the communities they defend and promote those men and women to leadership positions,
- discrimination training for all police on an annual basis,
- and the demilitarization of police departments (seriously, leave the tanks to the National Guard).
Those are just my inexpert thoughts, really. There are people smarter than me who will have better solutions.
Long time Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts' thoughts on the matter are worth reading, though the headline is misleading.