The Ferguson incident: A young unarmed black man, Michael Brown, was shot several times by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Several witnesses have publicly stated that Brown had his hands up and was facing Wilson who continued to shoot him. There was an explosive reaction to this event on the part of black residents of the city, leading to a military-style police overreaction. Most of this is now accepted as true.
In the aftermath, there’s been some official effort to understand and explain why one shooting among so many shooting deaths generated such a reaction. There’s also been plenty of backlash towards those efforts to understand and deal with the anger among Ferguson residents in any way other than denial and suppression. The instinctive reaction of many in the area seems to be to “support” the police no matter what they do, as long as they’re doing it to “those people.” Consider the following when you hear anyone telling you that the Ferguson events are exceptional and folks mostly get along in St. Louis:
— An online fundraiser to cover “expenses” for the police shooter. Among the comments left by donors:
“Ofc. Wilson did his duty. Michael Brown was just a common street thug.”
“Waste of good ammo. It’s my privilege to buy you a replacement box.”
“Black people can be their own enemy and I am not white…He was shot 6 times cause the giant wouldn’t stop or die. Evil people don’t die quick”
“All self-respecting whites have a moral responsibility to support our growing number of martyrs to the failed experiment called diversity.”
“I am so sick of the blacks using every excuse in the book to loot and riot.”
“I support officer Wilson and he did a great job removing an unnecessary thing from the public!”
The fundraiser was shut down when it seemed that there might be legal, tax-related issues about how the money could be used – but not until it had raised $400,000 dollars from sympathizers for the shooter. Did you know you could shoot an unarmed boy and collect a big reward for doing it?
— Until the U.S. Justice Department stepped in, some law enforcement officers working to contain the protests in Ferguson thought it was helpful to express their opinion of the shooting by obscuring their name badges and wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets.
— Residents of Wildwood and other West County locations made it their priority to organize a food and water drive for the policemen who were moving all their heavy military surplus equipment into Ferguson to put down the protests. According to a police spokesperson, this effort to express appreciation for police efforts to shut down the turmoil as forcibly as possible rendered the police “ecstatic.”
— St. Louis Cardinals fans really showed their colors when they responded to peaceful protesters at Monday night’s game:
At one point, an older white man starts yelling at the protesters, shouting, “That’s right! If they’d be working, we wouldn’t have this problem!” Then, the Cardinals fans begin chanting “Let’s go Cardinals!” which morphs into “Let’s go Darren!” referring to Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Brown.
Later on in the video, a woman shouts, “We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” which is a tidy way of identifying with slavers and Abraham Lincoln at the same time, covered in a thick layer of modern racism.
— There have also been more refined expressions of distaste for activists’ efforts to keep the issues surrounding Michael Brown’s death alive. SMP’s Michael Bersin wrote about the events at the St. Louis symphony Saturday night when a group of symphony goers inserted a “Requium for Mike Brown” before the beginning of the second act of the Brahms Requiem. According to Bersin, “they pulled this off perfectly,” and the audience was mostly sympathetic. No doubt. However, nothing is perfect and in this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch “Letters” section, genteel disapprobation of what the letter writer evidently deemed an unseemly disruption reared its head:
Is Powell Hall a proper venue for a protest? I assume the protesters bought tickets for this opportunity to have their voices heard. What comes next? Can we expect such events to happen at the art museum? At Circus Flora? At a school graduation? The experience saddened me profoundly. Just like the Ferguson situation, I was left tensely unresolved.
Imagine. A man was murdered, his shooter is very unlikely to be punished, and this individual is horrified that he/she had to sit “rigidly for what felt like an eternity” during the brief protest. If he/she was left “tensely unresolved,” as opposed to as blandly indifferent as his letter implies he wishes to be, then it’s high time that the protest has invaded this refuge for well-off St. Louisians.
You want to know what is behind the events in Ferguson, read the list above and think about what it implies about the St. Louis zeitgeist. While folks do mostly get along, I suppose, it’s also true that things are not always just what they seem to be at the surface. The water can get mighty dirty when we start fishing in the depths.
* Last sentence of last paragraph and last sentence of 4th paragraph edited for clarity and style.