“We declare our right on this earth to be a man! To be a human being! To be respected as a human being! To be given the rights of a human being! In this society! On this earth! In this day! Which we intend to bring into existence…By ANY means necessary!” – Malcolm X
Events leading to the force and anger of X’s speech from a forgotten era are all too real once again in America. Neglecting lessons from past tribulations is a self-inflicted wound and our collective revisionist history shall mark undoing in this culturally devolving society.
Progress is achieved when leaders apply principles already known while utilizing learned ideas to avoid repeating undesirable outcomes. Placing the LA Riots of the early 90s in context, it is quite clear that we are largely ignoring history for it provides inconvenient truths.
The truth is far too many white police officers abuse people of color!
The truth is 26,000 claims a year of excessive force are not fabricated and require investigation. Ignoring masses of people who are constantly the victim of brutality and oppression is unsustainable and invites riot-laden uprisings from Americans who inherently yearn to be free.
That desire, or more aptly, that demand for liberty is not exclusive to private segments of our society. Maltreatment of racial minorities by police in Ferguson was widely known and mostly swept under the rug. This demonstration throughout the streets by violent and non-violent protestors was born from that treatment.
While I cannot in good conscience support violence, I can objectively reflect on the systematic failures that caused the violence in Ferguson. Government promulgation of police brutality is the culprit of the Ferguson riots. The abysmal prosecution and frankly apathetic approach to prosecuting on the part of Robert McCulloch is reminiscent of the acquittal of the four officers directly responsible for Rodney King’s beating and the non indictment of the 17 officers who stood guard and observed the lynch mob beating.
Many forget, the King Beating was not the igniting nexus sparking the LA Riots – it was a link in the inevitable chain of destruction. After King’s beating by the LAPD, weeks later Latasha Harlins was shot dead by a storeowner over orange juice. That storeowner was later sentenced to probation and a minimal fine but no jail time.
Once the mostly white jury handed down not guilty verdicts for the obviously guilty officers, six months after Harlins death, the publics outrage was uncontainable. Feelings of distrust and despair spiraled into more than 50 deaths and one billion dollars of damage.
When there is no place to turn human nature supersedes goodwill and people resort as Thomas Hobbes professed, to violence. Do not confuse this analysis for commendation or excuse. The action of violent rioters and looters was appalling. But the actions of the Ferguson Police chief, prosecutor and Missouri’s Governor were much worse.
Fair hiring and recruiting practices that form diverse police squadrons could have helped avoid the violence in Ferguson. Not disseminating sensitive, irrelevant legal documents and videos to the public [solely intended to assassinate the character of Michael Brown] could have helped avoid the violence. Not extending the ordinary length of time to release the name of the officer responsible for Brown’s death could have helped avoid the violence. Governor Jay Nixon justifiably and rightfully appointing a special prosecutor could have helped avoid the violence.
A gambit of different procedures and decisions in Ferguson would have provided a different result. But, like the King brutalizers who were set free to savagely maim other free people just 22 years ago, Darren Wilson was not held accountable for his actions and the people of Ferguson reacted humanly.
So, just as X expressed decades ago, the people of Ferguson, Missouri have declared their right to be men, to be human beings, to be respected as human beings, to be given the rights of human beings and sadly, but understandably, By ANY means necessary!