by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
August 29, 2014
FERGUSON IS THE REFLECTION IN THE MIRROR
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- What's been happening this month in Ferguson, Mo., has been a mirror held up to the face of America, and what's been reflected back has been ugly as hell.
We saw an unarmed black youth, Michael Brown, gunned down in broad day on the street, and his body allowed to lay there for four hours before it was removed. It took nearly 10 days for an incident report on the shooting to be filed.
We saw a hyper-militarized response to the outrage of the shooting of the unarmed black youth, and saw up close the dynamic of a town where two out three residents are black with a police department that is 95 percent white, with a white mayor, a white city council, and a mostly white power structure.
We saw tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades used against peaceful protestors, and a community treated like criminals by law enforcement officers acting like they are on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan, not in a Midwestern town of 21,000.
We saw journalists arrested for doing their job - mainly, telling the world what was happening in Ferguson. The First Amendment, and its guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, took a beating in Ferguson.
We saw an online fundraiser for Darren Wilson, the police officer accused of shooting Brown at least six times - twice in the head - come up with more than $400,000, mostly from white people overjoyed at the killing of a young black man. The chances that Wilson will be indicted and prosecuted for the shooting are slim at best.
That reflection in the mirror is that of a country that refuses to acknowledge this nation is wrapped in a cycle of violence and militarism that makes a mockery of the concept of civil and human rights.
Yes, police brutality, racial profiling, and racial inequality are nothing new in America, but the shame is that nearly 150 years after Appomattox, and 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, it is still an issue. The Civil War never ended and the Freedom Riders victories are still being challenged.
This pervasive stench of racism and fear of "the other" fuels the mindset that equates a young black man with a dangerous thug. It creates the system that sends one in eight black men in their 20s into prison, and has transformed our police departments in many cities into paramilitary forces.
We live in a country where, on average, there is one death a day from police shootings. As many people have been shot and killed by police in Ferguson over a two-week span as the police in Japan, a nation of 127 million, over the past six years.
The difference is that most first-world nations have not made a fetish out of firearm ownership. Only the United States, with more 300 million firearms floating around, has this problem.
The response to this problem has been for the Pentagon to hand out to our nation's local law enforcement agencies more than 800 armored vehicles and nearly 94,000 automatic rifles, along with millions of dollars' worth of the surplus tools of combat.
The question isn't, why there was rioting in Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot? The question should be, why there aren't more riots in more of our cities and towns?
As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1966, "Those who who make peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable."
There will be more Fergusons until we, as a nation, confront the fact that we remain two nations, separate and unequal, and take concrete steps to change that reality.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.