Charles K. Poole
I own property in Ferguson, Missouri, and lived there for a while. I left because circumstances moved my life away from the area. In the years since I left I’ve kept up with reports on the news that spoke to a clear sense of conflict between law enforcement in the area and anyone who looks like me. And I’ve watched and waited more for the purpose of determining when it was time to unload my property than for any other reasons. Until yesterday.
On August 9, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old young man, who just graduated from Normandy High School was on his way to his grandmother’s house and was killed. He wasn’t committing a robbery or even — according to witnesses — disturbing the peace. He happened upon a Ferguson Police officer who — witnesses also say — seemed intent on harassing him. Eventually, the officer forcibly attempted to put Michael in the back of a police car, he ran away with his hands in the air, and the officer shot him—striking him in the head and back and killing him. Other details vary, but there’s a consistent theme: Michael did nothing to warrant being fired upon, let alone killed.
Understandably, the community is angry responded with heightened unrest and protest to a situation in which deaths like Michael’s are considered collateral damage. New Yorkers understand this; Eric Garner’s recent death at the hands of police officers caused us all to question “How much more are we supposed to take?”
No more. That’s how much. No more lives taken because no one cares when another Black person meets an unprovoked, but violent end. No more acceptance that being young and Black makes you a target for law enforcement officers with a chip on their shoulders. Stop the killing, period.
Every police officer doesn’t abuse the privilege of wearing the badge, no more than every young Black man like Michael is a gang member, thief or murderer. I worked for several years with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department as its communications director, standing alongside officers who really believed in protecting and serving, and managing crises involving bad people who didn’t deserve to wear the badge in the first place. There is a difference.
In our anger, we feel justified in going on the attack, using violence within our very own community to bring attention to the abuses that are continually — and seemingly acceptably — perpetrated against us. I get it. I feel it. But that’s not the way to handle this business, people. It has never been.
This is a time for cooler heads to prevail to ensure our ability to demand cogent action. As much as we feel like getting turned up over this, we must be strategic, develop a plan of consistent action and be guided by the actions of Martin, Malcolm and yes, all those past and present who fought fearlessly for the community without spilling a single drop of blood, breaking a window, or burning even one building in the name of justice.
We must mourn Michael. Absolutely we must. His wrongful death defies description or explanation. But if we want to do justice to his memory we cannot — must not — engage in any form of violence that harms the community at-large, or any other person. Bureaucrats and politicians use such behavior to justify heightened police presence during what they’ll label an “unstable” situation like this. Don’t give them that right or that opportunity.
Rather, be a part of the solution by avenging Michael’s murder — and that’s what it is — in a way that ensures that all the other Michaels-to-come can walk the streets here and anywhere without fear of being harassed or killed for being young and Black by an overzealous individual who — hiding behind a badge — figures that no one cares what he/she does in the name of law and order.
I care. You care. Let’s really do something about it, once and for all.