The country is on edge awaiting the announcement later tonight of a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision to issue or not issue a true bill. In other words, we are waiting to find out whether 12 people–nine white and three black–thought there was probable cause to indict white Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on August 9.
Reviewing the timeline published on the Newsweek website, I am reminded that there is plenty of reason to be on edge. This case was the last straw for many people of color in the seeming war on black and brown people by various local governments at the hands of their police forces. At the same time, the worst of the worst racists crawled from under their rocks, some in the guise of “news” organizations spreading unverified supposed facts that have since turned out to be completely without merit and turning the word “thug” into code for “nigger.” The Internet, especially Twitter, was ugly, dirty and heartbreaking. I knew this country had a severe race problem. I now believe with all my heart that if the racial divide becomes any more severe, there will eventually be a race war.
People of color are sick and tired of having to justify our mere existence to stupid white people. Unfortunately, most of those who aren’t stupid, who don’t demand that we justify our every breath of life, stay silent. It is as though the racists have silenced those who had some semblance of decency by threatening to take away their “white card.” If a person of color complained about the treatment or ideas doled out by the racists, they were called racists. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. This pattern has continued in recent days as astute, experiential observations were made, albeit in extremely clumsy ways. A case in point is that of Duncanville, Texas Independent School District teacher Vinita Hegwood who, according to USA Today, tweeted,”Who the (expletive) made you dumb duck (expletive) crackers think I give a squat (expletive) about your opinions about my opinions RE: Ferguson? Kill yourselves,” from her private account. She was fired by the school board a week later.
Please, don’t misunderstand me. What Hegwood did was, when seen in a vacuum, completely unacceptable, abusive and bigoted. However, as someone who has had to walk away from Twitter for days and weeks at a time, knowing that I have a public persona, to prevent myself from expressing the utter rage I’ve felt at the continuous assaults on my own person, on other Twitter users who were either people of color or brave whites who vehemently disagreed with the racist disinformation meant to smear Brown, blacks in general and justify Wilson’s taking of his life, I get it. Boy, do I get it! Being a person of color on Twitter means that you have a target on your avatar. It doesn’t matter if you’re Palestinian, black, brown, red or some combination thereof. If you are not a white Tea Partier who believes in the bestiality of those unlike you, you are toast. Anyone who says that these racist bottom-feeders are just spouting words have no clue about the present and historic power of those words, the ideologies and the hatred behind them. No, they are not just words. They are attacks as vicious as any made with a material weapon.
Less than an hour prior to the 9 p.m. announcement of the grand jury’s decision, MSNBC.com posted a report about the racist hashtag #FergusonRiotTips floating on Twitter. Among the tweets that appeared with that hashtag are “pants up, don’t loot,” in a play on the slogan “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” popularized by protestors in support of Brown in the months following the shooting. Brown allegedly raised his hands in surrender and asked Wilson not to shoot him.
What’s happening online is simply indicative of hatreds given form and voice offline.
President Barack Obama, America’s first black president, has received more death threats than any other president. Indeed, he received Secret Service protection even before becoming the Democratic Party’s candidate in 2008 because, as a black man in a racist country, his life was in danger on a daily basis. After becoming president, the threats continued and grew to a rate 400 times that of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush. The Birther Movement asserted that Obama wasn’t even born in the U.S., but in Kenya and, therefore, not even eligible to run for president under the Article II of the U.S. Constitution which states:
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Obama, who was born in the State of Hawai’i, has produced his birth certificate time and time again. Has any other candidate ever been asked, much less required, to do so in order to try to quell the din of people with cesspools for brains? The answer is simple: No. Has any other president ever had “You lie!” shouted at him from the gallery during a joint session of Congress as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) did in 2009? No. Has any president in the modern era been as openly disrespected and abused as Obama, regardless of party? No. I freely admit that I had no respect for Sen. John McCain when he ran for president in 2008 nor do I now when as I wish he’d retire and go sit on the porch of one of his eight homes and look at the beautiful sunsets over the Sonoma Desert. Still, had he won instead of Obama, he’d be president of the United States. Period. Even if I have no respect for the person holding the office, as much as I abhor it, it is only right to respect the office. Yet, that isn’t the case with Obama. He’s a black man.
If I have heard it once I have heard it 100 times, invariably from older white people, that this isn’t the country they know. Thank God it isn’t! Then again, maybe it is. And that’s the trouble.
RIP Michael Brown. I suspect strongly that the rest of the country will not for a long, long time.