Apparently, the Missouri State Conference of NAACP Branches and whatever semblance of the organization in existence in and around Ferguson, including the nearby big city of St. Louis, has been doing a Rip Van Winkle for a long time. And while the so-called “venerable civil rights organization” has been sleeping, no other black group stepped into the breach.
Ferguson is just one of so many areas in America where the mostly black poor and near-poor eke out their lives trying desperately not to fail. They are places where joblessness is the mean and education is an also ran. They are places where infant mortality rates are highest in the nation, police profiling, brutality and arrests are ever constant and money is tight, real tight.
A persistent talent drain always marks such places as Ferguson, Missouri. Too many of the black “talented tenth” that do stick around tend to distance themselves from social problems and relocate to “better” areas, but still attend church in the inner city and socialize some.
An interesting phenomena not usually looked at is the growth of churches and/or church membership as hopelessness looms. “Tending to the flock” is paramount in preachers’ minds and, therefore, little, if any, interest is given to organizing the church neighborhood.
The absence of trained civil rights organizers and reluctant church social leadership in conjunction with an ever-fleeing talent pool exacerbates powerlessness in a milieu ripe for positive social change. No force was present in Ferguson, therefore, to focus black people on the ballot box, for example. As a result, whites went to the polls and elected white people.
In the last city election, with white people comprising just 29.3 percent of the city’s population, the city of Ferguson got a white mayor, an almost all-white city council, and a white police chief — and except for three black officers, all other police officers are white. Now the only reason why all of that is relevant is because black people comprise 67.4 percent of Ferguson’s population! (Total voter turnout was about 12 percent.)
The absence of relevant black leadership is astounding — in Ferguson and throughout black America. Remember Sanford, Florida, the Trayvon Martin killing and the subsequent debacle called justice that left shooter George Zimmerman a free man? There black people swarmed for an arrest and finally Zimmerman went in one police department door and out another. What was black leadership’s strategy?
Black leaders wanted Zimmerman indicted, and they got that. And then black leadership wanted a trial, and that, too, was granted. But from the moment rallies were quickly organized until the trial, during all that time, black leadership conducted no massive voter registration campaign so that the jury pool in Sanford would include more black people. So the final arbiter of a semblance of justice lay fallow.
August 9th was a hot summer day in Ferguson, Mo., when, according to Dr. Michael Baden, 18 year old Michael Brown was shot at least six times by police officer Darren Wilson. Brown took a fatal shot in the top of his head – the bullet exited from the front. On behalf of the Brown family, Dr. Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, performed an independent autopsy of Michael Brown’s remains. Dr. Baden also said that Brown was not shot at close range.
Michael Brown was unarmed, and according to several key witnesses, held his hands up in the universally respected surrender position. Almost everything else about the Brown killing has come from the vantage point of support for the white shooter, police officer Darren Wilson. So far, the deceased Michael Brown has been portrayed as the villain and the black community of Ferguson, Mo., as villainous.
Whites in Ferguson as well as the rest of St. Louis County and beyond are armed to the teeth, waiting to assist police and National Guard units as a citizen army. Gun shops are enjoying record sales of handguns and assault rifles and lines for shooting lessons are long, some places booked to 2016.
The final phase of the American Revolution cannot be avoided and it may start in Ferguson. If not, it will undoubtedly erupt in some other black community due to white nationalism and its understated fascistic bent.
Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He may be reached at Al_Calloway@verizon.net