The Ferguson effect should refer to the birth of a movement, not a "ploy to reduce scrutiny of the police"

The failure of an indictment for Tamir Rice’s murder is an injustice. My mind is boggled by the fact that while Officer Loehmann’s action could have been questioned as an extrajudicial killing in some third world countries, in America he was simply not charged.

What bothers me most are those in denial who continue to believe that all people are treated equal, and that the real victims are the police. For example, Charles Payne, a Fox News business anchor said:

How can we get through these things that are going to happen – you’re simply going to have these incidents happen – and still be able to let the police do their job without any kind of real serious ridicule or things like Black Lives Matter? It feels like it’s catch-22 right now.”

These things that are going to happen. Really? Police in Norway have killed 2 people in the past 13 years, while American law enforcement kills 1,000 every year. Should we get used to the fact that these things are going to happen?

When children, grandmothers, and innocent men are killed for no reason, and the mainstream continues to do nothing about it, it is safe to say that society is losing its sense of justice and moral conscience. A society that acts in such a way has become sociopathic at least. And for far too long, police brutality and cops who operate with impunity have been a daily threat to African Americans, while the rest of America has been indifferent.

It is precisely because “these things that are going to happen,” that there is a new civil rights movement in the form of Black Lives Matter trying to bring attention to the plight of African Americans. But Payne, and other deniers of Americas racial crimes will often look at these protesters who are asking for equal treatment, and brand them as a threat to law and order. They call it “the Ferguson effect.” A theory where fear mongers envision black communities running wild, committing crime and rape, while the police don’t do anything for fear of attacking a “politically protected minority”.

But history repeats itself. This assault on the new civil rights movement is no different than the attacks on the civil rights movement of the 1960s. As Michelle Alexander explains in The New Jim Crow:

For more than a decade – from the 1950s until the late 1960s – conservatives systematically and strategically linked opposition to civil rights legislation to calls for law and order, arguing that Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy of civil disobedience was a leading cause of crime. Civil rights protests were frequently depicted as criminal rather than political in nature…”.

Unless you’re a KKK member, nobody looks at the Civil Rights Movement and calls it a cause for criminal activity. That same rhetoric from the past is now being used against Black Lives Matter to delegitimitize their actual concerns. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sean Hannity would have agreed with George Wallace.

And although the “Ferguson effect” of conservatives is a myth, I believe the term can be used to describe the new civil rights movement and its response. After all, it was the protests and civil disobedience at Ferguson that could be seen as today’s Montgomery Bus Boycott. The conversation and activism about race that followed has not made America’s wounds bigger or opened up any new ones, as many conservatives claim. It has only taken off the band aid when we need stitches.

The real Ferguson effect is the new civil rights era made up of those who voice the reality that there are two Americas. One where black children are killed for carrying toy guns. Another where white men are protected for carrying assault rifles. It is the movement that confronts the past memory of our biggest moral failure, our “Holocaust” (slavery, lynching), and its residues (mass incarceration, police brutality).

The real Ferguson effect is also the effect that the long suppressed conversation on race is having on the “happier” side of America. The effect that causes denial in Americans about our perfect little union, where everybody is supposedly treated equal.

It shows America’s insecurity in our cult of self made individual success by once again blaming black Americans for all their woes, and denying all evidence to the contrary. It is the effect that shows how racist and prejudiced conservative America really is by branding the new civil rights movement “criminal”.

The real Ferguson effect is that despite mainstream America’s indifference, the discussion on race is once again flourishing and brings us back to reality on the meaning of melanin in America.

1 COMMENT

Leave a Comment