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Ferguson Redux: The Fire This Time

The fates of Michael Brown and Eric Garner were not isolated incidents. Indeed, they represent the entire country and the near apartheid-conditions that exist in this so-called “post-racial America.”

To better understand what is happening and the role of the police in predominantly black communities, it might help to resurrect a 1967 article by sociologist Robert Blauner, “Internal Colonialism and Ghetto Revolt”. Using the concept of colonialism, Blauner makes the argument that the “internal” variety has much in common with colonialism itself: “Colonization begins with a forced, involuntary entry … there is an impact on the culture and social organization of the colonized people … There is an experience of being managed and manipulated by outsiders in terms of ethnic status. A final fundament of colonization is racism … a principle of social domination by which a group seen as inferior or different in terms of alleged biological characteristics is exploited, controlled, and oppressed socially and psychically by a superordinate group.”

I think this description describes what is happening in America today, and Ferguson is as a case in point. Looking at news coverage of the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, I was struck by the fact that just about everyone in control were white males, including the governor, the district attorney and the vast majority of the police.

Speaking of the district attorney, it seemed obvious that, unlike what most often happens, he did not really seek an indictment, but rather almost went out of his way to discourage an indictment. Indeed, as the Washington Post noted, between 2009 and 2010, U.S. prosecutors “pursued 193,000 cases” and out of “more than the 30,000 cases they didn’t prosecute, 11 cases were because a grand jury did not return an indictment.” That represents less than 0.1% of the 30,000. This jives with a report noting that grand juries refuse to indict in less than 3% of cases.

As Bob Herbert wrote, Ferguson represents “the fire this time”: “These tragedies all emerge from the same fetid source — the racism embedded in the very foundation of America. And it's that racism — stark, in-your-face, never-ending, frequently murderous — that has so many African-Americans so angry and frustrated, so furious, so enraged. Black people all across America, not just in Ferguson, are angry about the killing of Michael Brown. And they remain angry over the killing of Trayvon Martin. And many are seething over the fatal chokehold clamped on the throat of Eric Garner by a cop on Staten Island in New York.”

The fire will continue to burn until the day that true justice prevails.

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