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ARCHIVE: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride and Public Lynchings: Have Times Changed?

In case you’ve been under a rock and haven’t heard, another unarmed Black teen was shot down like a dog in the street by police for jaywalking, according to witness reports. The incident occurred Saturday on a street near an apartment complex in Ferguson, Missouri, and has sparked outrage, rebellion, and the liberation of goods in St.Louis County.

According to witnesses, 18-year-old Michael Brown was walking in the middle of the street with his friend when an officer drove up and ordered them to the sidewalk. Brown’s friend allegedly told the officer they were only minutes from their destination, and they would soon be out of the street.

A verbal altercation ensued and the officer reportedly exited his squad car and fired one shot at the teens.

What happened next is likely to cause racial debate across the nation for some time. Why the cop felt compelled to kill Brown depends on how you view Black people. Either you see Blacks as chicken munching, malt-liquor drinking, savages with a propensity towards violence and crime, or you view them as human beings.

Witnesses say Brown was shot for jaywalking and engaging in a verbal dispute with a cop. St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar paints a more sinister picture. He says Brown launched himself at the officer, attempted to steal his gun, and was fatally shot when he tried to run away.

Whatever the case, expect the media to release Brown’s wrap sheet, along with bad grades, explicit text messages, and anything else that implies he deserved to die.

Unofficially, the rule in the United States is that a person of color must earn their status as a murder victim, and even then, their halo must be brighter and whiter than a trillion suns. To make matters worse — discussion of Black victimhood is often undermined by “should’s,” that is, what Black victims should have done differently to prevent their death.

Michael Brown’s victimhood was immediately under question from the moment news hit. Several rumors and unsubstantiated reports surfaced online accusing him of being a thief.

Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was choked to death by a New York City police officer, was prosecuted almost immediately by the NYPD and news agencies. Garner was described as a 400 pound asthmatic man who was selling cigarettes illegally and resisting arrest, allegedly.

Renisha McBride, the Detroit woman who was shot to death on the porch of a suburban homeowner, was guilty of being drunk.

The list is endless.

As a Black person living in the US who is aware of history and current events, I wonder if I am indeed, America’s enemy. I wonder if the descendants of African slaves who toiled to build this country with their blood and bone are America’s enemy. Are we any different from al Qaeda, or the Islamic State in the eyes of the US?

I’m reminded of 21-year-old Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton’s lifeless body laying on the floor of his bedroom. He promoted self-defense and self-determination. I’m reminded of the Philadephia-based organization MOVE, how they took on the last name Africa and embraced a back-to-nature approach to liberation. I think about how they were bombed in the middle of a major US city. Finally, I’m reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, how he promoted peace, love and understanding.

I think of all of these things.

Tonight, the moon is full and the streets of St. Louis are rumbling with the sound of tanks. Like fluorescent lights in an empty cafeteria, social media is buzzing over the respectability of the late Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Renisha McBride. German Shepherd police dogs bark at civil rights era photos for mocking them. Rubber bullets are being fired at ‘Americans’ while the unarmed “threat” is met by a militarized police force. Once again, the war has come home.

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Ferrari Sheppard

Ferrari Sheppard is a journalist, artist and cultural critic based in Chicago. He is also co-founder of A Country Called Earth.
Ferrari Sheppard

Ferrari Sheppard is a journalist, artist and cultural critic based in Chicago. He is also co-founder of A Country Called Earth.