Some people may suggest that the show of military might by police in Ferguson, Missouri, following the killing of a black teenager by a white police officer is a law enforcement aberration.
It is not. In one form or another, similar scenes have played out in other parts of the country, though on perhaps a smaller scale, even as observers have been warning about the danger posed by the heavy arms which some police forces have been acquiring in the so-called “war on drugs.” The further arming of the police after the terrorist attack in 2001 was a natural extension of that trend. It had to take a revolt in Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent sporadic violent protests to generate awareness of the militarized monster in our midst.
It is not surprising that the monster finally made itself known in a black neighborhood seeking justice over the killing in their town where 70 percent of the 21,000 residents are black but there are only three black police officers among the 53-member force, there is only one black on the town council and none on the school board.
It is crisis that was inevitable when those in command and control are white and those being controlled and commanded are black. It is merely history repeating itself. No police department anywhere would have dared to do what the Ferguson and St. Louis forces did if this were a white town. They would not have dared to deploy armor-plated vehicles with machine guns mounted on the top and pointed at Americans in the street. In fact, the “militias” and “patriot” groups would have been out in full force challenging the police to tread on them. It happened when federal officials tried not so long ago to force a white cattle owner to pay even the nominal fee for grazing his animals on federal lands.
And so, in Ferguson, African Americans have faced the machine guns, the assault rifles, the tear gas and the beatings from white-dominated and controlled police, as we were 50 years ago when we struggled for basic civil rights.
The struggle continues as we seek to throw off the shackles of a new oppression enforced by police equipped and armed as soldiers but who are psychologically ill-equipped to assume that role. But Ferguson is not the base of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or the Islamic State, nor is any other black community. It is now our Tiananamen Square, minus, thankfully, the massacre. And though it is almost certainly a pipe dream to hope that it will bring about change, at least the brave people of this small American suburb have exposed the raw racism that is still a hallmark of black life in America.