Ferguson, Missouri: Any Town, USA

By Imam Khalid Griggs

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Fannie Lou Hamer, iconic Mississippi civil rights activist and organizer, uttered her now transcendent words on August 22, 1964, testifying before the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention.

After being nearly beaten to death in a Mississippi jail for simply trying to register to vote, Hamer eloquently captured the frustration, disappointment, and anger that she felt. People of conscience must feel after the Ferguson grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson earlier this week for killing Michael Brown, an 18 year-old, unarmed Black man, on August 9.

A Black male is killed by a law enforcement officer in this country every 28 hours. Most are unarmed teenagers. Rarely does the officer(s) get either indicted or convicted of any crime. Arguably, if males from any other racial or ethnic group were being choked, shot, or tasered to death at the alarming rate that Black males are, police departments nationwide would be revamped and a state of national emergency would have long been declared.

The corporate media characterizes young Black men as menacing and dangerous. This fuels incendiary statements, such as Officer Wilson’s, when he said, “…he (Michael Brown) looked up at me like a demon.” It is pathetic that murderers are given immunity because they express fear at the presence of large, and, or, hooded Black males.

The grand jury process in state and federal courts routinely provides a rubber stamp for prosecutors to indict suspects, even if evidence is flimsy, except when the police are involved. As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that out of 162,000 federal cases, only 11 cases received a “no true” bill from the grand jury. Although statistics are unavailable for state cases, the outcomes are similar.

It was clearly apparent that Ferguson prosecutor Robert McCollough went to extraordinary lengths to act as a defense attorney. He presented evidence that would cast reasonable doubt as to Officer Wilson’s guilt, rather than provide, as is the prosecutor’s job, evidence of probable cause to why he should be indicted. In light of the immediate public outcry after Michael Brown’s murder, the judicial system and McCollough should have felt acutely obligated, legally, morally, and socially, to be as transparent as possible and maintain at least the appearance of justice.

The murder of Black males by police officers must be understood from the broader perspective of structural racism in the United States. Structural, or institutional, racism permeates multiple layers of society, including the courts, the police, and the prison-industrial complex. The American population constitutes approximately five percent of the world’s population, yet it incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s population. That is 2.4 million people – a majority of whom are Black and Hispanic.

Officials calculate future prison growth by examining third-grade behavior patterns in urban school districts. In a repulsive arrangement, private prisons provide corporations with cheap manufacturing options by insourcing jobs to low paid, non-union prisoners. A motive for increasing profit thus further incentivizes the incarceration of Black youth.

When it comes to issues of legality, a blind eye is turned to the security establishment. It is legally inexcusable for protestors in Ferguson to commit crimes against property or persons. It is also unacceptable for police, National Guard, and sheriff departments to employ military-grade weapons against peaceful protestors. Yet that is exactly what happened following Brown’s murder.

Commenting on a similar situation in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

When will we raise our collective voice and say, “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired” of the murder of Black youth by law enforcement with seeming impunity; of Black males being sent to prison for extremely lengthy sentences for non-violent and first-time offender crimes; of institutionalized racism in our society? The time is now.

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Comment on “Ferguson, Missouri: Any Town, USA”

  1. This is an excellent article. I think many are sick of tired of being sick and tired but are uncertain of what steps to take to truly rectify things. Racism is a disease of the heart and soul. Racism is a topic many do not wish to discuss nor admit too. There has to be an open dialogue amongst black and whites in churches as well as Muslim communities (racism dwells highly in Muslim communities too) in addition to some positive actions taken place. The reality of the matter is no one is going to truly change unless they find it in their spirit to do so (Qur’an 13:11), however, many races who are not Black have been mentally programmed to believe nothing is wrong when often unarmed and innocent Black males are shot and killed in the streets by a white cop. They immediately join forces with the cop because they have been programmed by the media to believe when you see a Black person especially a Black male – he/she is a criminal. They have been taught hatred by their forefathers that their race is superior over Blacks. So, many do not see the turmoil going on with Blacks and white citizens (cops) being a problem i.e. “white privilege”… they see it as justice. There are many cultures who are ignorant to the history of Blacks in America as well as the rich heritage of Blacks in this world. This society makes an effort to focus on the negative aspects of Black culture and they make M.L. King Jr. and Rosa Parks seem as the only part of Black history worth speaking of when there were so many prominent Black leaders in this world who built America. Many daily factors contribute to programming the minds of people in this world to believe Black lives do not matter — from the curriculum implemented at schools to the various forms of media. Racism is a propaganda for this country. When you hear the Pledge of Allegiance “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” the words are so beautiful but the action demonstrated amongst the citizens and amongst those in power in this country is far from practicing what they so call proudly recite at schools and sports events — instead its a cover up and I imagine the more you recite it — one may program themselves to believe that we are one nation under God…that we are indivisible….that there is liberty and justice for all — when the reality is that the allegiance is a lie.

    While I think it is imperative to have dialogue and maybe even include the police departments (work to get rid of racist cops) and mayors — I think like-minded blacks simply need to work on themselves and establish unity within their communities (like other ethnic groups do) as it relate to building better relations with one another and being more supportive of each others businesses (group economics) because this matter has been going on for centuries and it seems every generation has failed the next one. Many blacks are tired of the constant mistreatment (some are in denial) and unfairness, but what is the solution? what is the plan of action? There does not need to be any more marches / protests — those are only temporary solutions which served its purpose during its era. There has to be a different code of conduct for this generation. One that provides permanent results.

    As for Muslims, it is our duty to enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong (Qur’an 3:110) yet many cultures turn their backs on matters dealing with Muslims who are not of their culture / race. I have seen many Black and white Muslims protest and speak out against the injustice and killing of Muslims overseas but when it come to matters here in America (where you reside), particularly with the black race, all the Muslims except the black ones are silent. This is a problem in itself. What is taking place in this country amongst Blacks is a form of genocide. Many cultures are taught to stick with their kind and to support their culture so I imagine the matters of racism in this country doesn’t affect them either because its not one of their people. Yes, racism breeds in the Muslim communities in America — from brothers and sisters choosing to speak their language amongst their English speaking brother and sisters; to questioning the Islamic and Qur’anic knowledge of Black Muslims who have studied the religion in this country and overseas; to not supporting a product or service a Black Muslim business may sell simply because of the difference in race & culture; to many of the Masjids not being diversed with Black American Muslims; to not greeting your Muslim brother and sister in public because they are not your race / culture; to many cultures forbidding their daughters to marry a Muslim male that is Back; to believing that Islam did not exist in America until Arabs came to this country. Many people of Arab descent believe Black Muslims are all reverts. When they learn that many are actually born and raised in this country they find it hard to believe. Many functioning Islamic schools are not diversed with students and staff because the tuition is priced to where it attract a certain class of Muslims to the schools often not including Black Muslims. Other forms of racism is most of Arab masjids are not located in the poor parts of the cities so the poor have no access to their place of worship. Some may go to the poor parts to do community service but then they are gone until another time. However, you will find that Masjids that are predominately Black are the ones located near the poor neighborhoods to try to provide ongoing assistance and Dawah to them. Isn’t this what Islam teaches? That is why it is important for all Muslims to be knowledgeable of the history of Islam in America and make a conscious effort to know your brothers and sisters regardless of their race. It is imperative for all Muslims to truly embrace, learn and practice Islam and not culture because Islam does not teach nor promote racism but culture does.

    Prophet Muhammad (saws) last sermon stated: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood…” Yet, we divide ourselves with our language, our race, our egos and our economic statuses. There is a serious need for Muslims around the world to conduct less INTERfaith gatherings and focus more on INTRAfaith gatherings. WE are not in a condition to interact with other faiths until we are able to interact with our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Why bring other faiths into a broken community? Do you think they won’t see the varying problems that stem within the Muslim communities? Its the same concept as people whose home is in a disarray but they put so much time and energy into community service ignoring the matters at home. Charity starts at home before venturing out into other aspects of the community. Muslims need to build a more solid brotherhood and sisterhood amongst each other regardless of the many categories that divide us. Together, we can achieve so much more. I guess whether Blacks are dealing with people of other races, cultures and religions — they are simply going to get the worst end of the stick because of the disease (racism) that dwell in the heart and soul of so many. It is time to stop trying to be politically correct with race relations and have an open dialogue about it followed by implementing solutions to the problems because right now, I see people but no HUMANITY.

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