12 March 2015
Terror in Ferguson
Perhaps you've seen the video showing the moment someone shot two cops in Ferguson MO early this morning. If not, you can see it at the Guardian newspaper's website. It's blurry footage filmed from the protesters' side of the street during a demonstration following the resignation of the town's police chief. You hear the shots and one of the cops moaning in pain. While bystanders are mostly shocked in "Holy Shit!" fashion, one unsympathetic observer is heard saying: "Acknowledgment nine months ago would have kept that from happening!" Whether he intended a causal statement of a moral judgment is unclear. There's still a difference between, say, "You could have prevented this by..." and "You deserve this because..." In any event, though, this unseen man -- not the shooter, who is believed to have fired from higher ground -- states what everyone assumes: two police officers who themselves may have been inoffensive were shot, though both will survive, as a consequence of the killing of Michael Brown last year. Some would rather say they were shot as a consequence of the controversy over the killing of Michael Brown. The difference shifts responsibility for this morning's violence from a police department (if not a wider police culture) that brought this first reckoning on themselves (not counting last December's assassinations in Brooklyn) with their racist practices and attitudes to the activists and politicians (who were always going to be blamed once something like this happened) who allegedly inflamed passions beyond justification or without any justification depending on your opinion of Brown's culpability for his own death. Before we go off to the races, however, let's treat this as a personal responsibility moment. If those two cops, who weren't part of the Ferguson force, didn't deserve to be shot merely because they're police, then none of the activists and politicians ought to be blamed for the act of a probable lone wolf shooter. I expect Republicans and plain racists to assert collective responsibility for the shooting, with their eyes on President Obama and Attorney General Holder or else Al Sharpton first and foremost, but by collective-responsibility rules any cop might be a legitimate target if police are perceived to perpetuate intolerable racist oppression nationwide. Judge not lest ye be judged. Blaming activists changes the subject, while the real question remains how much black people and poor people in general are expected to endure from an arrogant police culture. My headline for this post is a little test of your perceptions. You may see it as an appropriate headline for today. Others might say it's old news to them. Which sounds right to you?