Glen Ford: Ferguson and the War on Black America

“Clearly, the U.S. is at war with Black America.”

Glen Ford

 By Glen Ford   The Progressive   August 21, 2014

The corporate media, reflecting their owners’ anxiety at the failure of Black people to revert to a state of passivity in Ferguson, Missouri, have arrived at a general consensus on two counts: the need to “demilitarize” the police (fewer bullets, smaller armored vehicles?) and, more immediately, to re-establish some semblance of “calm” (as in comatose) in the neighborhood and beyond.

Corporate-attuned Black powerbrokers and politicians deliver essentially the same message, counseling (quiet) introspection and a search for “solutions” (diversions) to the historical oppression in which they are deeply complicit.

But first, tensions must be reduced, to diffuse the confrontation – which, we are told, serves no one’s interests but the “agitators and instigators” (who, apparently, have millions of dollars in derivatives wagers riding on urban chaos).

Fortunately, the “street” ignores the misleaders. If Ferguson had remained “calm” in the face of Michael Brown’s murder, nobody outside greater St. Louis would know the place existed.

De-militarize the police? After 50 years of seamlessly integrating the local constabulary into the National Security State and its War on Drugs, War on Terror, myriad and unending foreign wars, and of funneling millions of Black prisoners into the world’s largest system of incarceration, where would the process of demilitarization begin?

What, exactly, does it mean to be militarized?

Is it defined by the equipment the troops/cops carry?

Or, by the mission they are assigned?

If the mission of police forces in the United States is to contain, suppress, hyper-surveil and incarcerate huge numbers of Black people as a matter of policy, then police departments require all the tools the federal government has been giving them since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 – a cornerstone in the construction of a truly national, integrated gendarmerie, which is defined as “a military force charged with police duties among civilian populations.”

SWAT teams, first formed in Philadelphia in 1964 and Los Angeles in 1967 as unabashed counter-Black insurgency units, have proliferated to the far corners of the land, and are now standard drill for warrant-serving cops.

The domestic counterinsurgency army has been methodically expanded by each successive President, first through the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, and ultimately drawing on the stocks of, not only the Pentagon, but virtually every armed agency of the federal government.

President Obama, to whom idiots appeal to scale back police militarization, is as hawkish as any of his predecessors in about keeping America safe from Black-inner city insurgency.

The lead sentence in an item the New York Times blandly titled “Data on Transfer of Military Gear to Police Departments,” tells the tale, succinctly: “Since President Obama took office, the Pentagon has transferred to police departments tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”

Clearly, the U.S. is at war with Black America.

All the nation’s police departments are following the same drill, with the same tools and weapons, under the same mandate: keep the Blacks in check; terrorize them as a matter of policy; provoke them, when it is politically convenient; and keep them imprisoned at rates never experienced over time by any group that was not formally enslaved.

This is not “mission creep,” but the logical fulfillment of the mandate handed down by the collective political leadership of the United States in response to the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties – a movement whose most militant sector was “militarily defeated,” as Black Is Back Coalition chairman Omali Yeshitela points out, by the U.S. gendarmerie’s counterinsurgency campaign of assassination, disruption and mass arrests.

The U.S. government was not content to simply crush the organized activists, but opted to put Black Americans as a group under a militarized regime of mass incarceration. That’s the regime that shot Michael Brown six times, two Saturdays ago, and which has since sent reinforcements in various uniforms to bolster the state’s longstanding policy of Black containment.

That’s why Al Sharpton statements on Ferguson are diversionary, at best:

“America as a nation, Missouri as a state, Ferguson as a city, is at a defining moment on whether or not we know and are mature enough to handle policing — whether it goes over the line or not…. All policemen are not bad; most policemen are not bad. But all of them are not right all the time. And when they’re wrong, they must pay for being wrong just like citizens pay when they’re wrong…. Looting is wrong. We condemn the looters. But when will law enforcement condemn police who shoot and kill our young people? We got to be honest on both sides of this discussion.”

We only quote Sharpton because his views are essentially representative of the Black Misleadership Class, which has presided over nearly half a century of mass Black incarceration and containment, yet continues to counsel that African Americans are only a reform or two away from true “freedom.” Sharpton wants Black people and the police to understand each other’s perspectives, which is the common refrain of corporate media, as well.

Fortunately, the defiant activists in Ferguson understand all too well where the police are coming from. This is not about bad, rogue cops, but an entrenched system of Black oppression that the cops are paid and trained to enforce.

It was understandable that previous generations of Black people, who came to political consciousness in the late Fifties and Sixties, could believe that growing police repression would surely be overcome by what seemed like the inexorable rise of Black majorities and decisive voting pluralities in the cities.

But the election of Black city councilpersons and mayors did not transform the fundamental relationship between the community and the police, who were even more quickly being integrated into a national gendarmerie that was sworn to impose what Michelle Alexander calls The New Jim Crow.

Meanwhile, the Black Misleadership Class – the beneficiaries of the limited, civil rights gains of the Sixties – spent most of their energies integrating themselves into the Democratic Party and affiliated corporate structures, while accepting every gift of guns and gear from the feds.

Black majority rule does not automatically transform the relationship between cops and citizens. Newark, New Jersey, for example, has had Black mayors since 1970. Yet, a U.S. Justice Department review shows that cops violate the rights of residents in 75 percent of pedestrian stops. There is nothing atypical about Newark among largely Black cities.

Back in the late Sixties, many believed that an influx of new, Black and brown police would compel local departments to “protect and serve” the people, rather than protect white privilege and serve the rich and powerful. It does generally appear that Black cops are somewhat less likely to kill or maim Black residents, but the repressive relationship is not fundamentally altered by their increased presence on the force.

In New Orleans, which has had a number of Black police chiefs, about 40 percent of the department is Black. Nevertheless, the department’s conduct in Black neighborhoods is as savage and predatory as in any city in the nation.

Back in 1969, it was not hopelessly naïve to believe that the establishment of civilian review boards to oversee police departments would make a huge difference in the lives of people at the other end of the nightstick. Today, there are plenty of such boards, with varied levels of independence and power, but nowhere can it be said that review boards have fundamentally altered Black-police relationships in statistically significant ways.

If the people of Ferguson or anyplace else demand more Black police officers or a civilian police review board, we should all support them. But we have the benefit of history to inform us that such reforms will have only marginal impact on community-police relations as long as the police mission is to contain and incarcerate Black people – which is the root of the militarized police state. The same “army/police” rules everywhere in America.

There is no liberated territory – not yet. But, that must be the goal.


Glen Ford is the executive editor of Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Reprinted with permission of Black Agenda Report, blackagendareport.com.

– See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2014/08/187830/ferguson-and-war-black-america#sthash.Nkrl6Tf6.dpuf

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Kevin Gosztola: Ferguson’s Municipal Court System Makes Millions Off Targeting Black and Poor People  firedoglake.com

It highlights how fines issued by the Ferguson municipal court earned the small suburb of St. Louis $2.6 million in revenue in 2013. Ferguson was also one of three municipal courts in the county that were chronic offenders when it came to violating the fundamental rights of the poor.

 How the Defense Industry Convinced Congress to Militarize Local Cops   Mother Jones

Medea Benjamin: Beware of Exploding Gifts From Uncle Sam   Huffington Post

 The acquisitions under the Department of Defense (DOD) program since its inception in 1991 are valued at $5.1 billion, with $449.3 million given out in fiscal year 2013 alone. In just the past 5 years, as part of Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997, the Pentagon has given away “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft” to counties in every state throughout the country.   

FERGUSON MISSOURI POLICE RIOT                       Anadolu Agency via Getty Image
FERGUSON MISSOURI POLICE RIOT Anadolu Agency via Getty Image

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 Being the object of unwarranted deadly force by police officers is part of what it means to be black and poor in America. But, as Hamm said, no matter how much blacks raise their voices against indiscriminate police violence “the killings keep coming.”

HENRY A. GIROUX: THE MILITARIZATION OF RACISM AND NEOLIBERAL VIOLENCE  August 19, 2014 ·  

“But I want to introduce a caveat. I think it is a mistake to simply focus on the militarization of the police and their racist actions in addressing the killing of Michael Brown. What we are witnessing in this brutal killing and mobilization of state violence is symptomatic of the neoliberal, racist, punishing state emerging […]

Ferguson and the War on Black America | The Progressive.

2 comments

  1. investorsowngov · · Reply

    Dear Glen,

    There is at best a disconnect between the thousands of children shot and killed by Americans, including by African Americans in uniform criminally carrying out criminal orders in other peoples countries,

    and yet another African American youngster shot dead by a white police officer.

    How on earth can we fight oppression and murder at home while so many that DO fight oppression at home care and not see it as King did, namely, that the homicide is coming from same source as the genocide that has gone on in colonialism-neocolonialism during  nearly five centuries of speculative investment banking controlling society?

    How can those participating in US NATO genocide be guaranteed civil rights when they come back home (if they come back). Glen, I know that you know both these crimes are rooted where King identified them and NOT in ‘our’ government, but, well as King said:

    “Look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the country. This is a role our nation has taken, … refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. This is not just.”

    If King had NOT been betrayed by his church congregations, but especially even the very friends that held the dying King in his arms, and civil rights leaders, King’s condemnation of US wars as atrocities along with covert genocide on three continents to maintain unjust predatory investments would have been kept alive, especially in African American communities and thus in Africa and beyond in spite of criminal media blackout and a Rockefeller African American as Commander-in-Chief of bank profitable genocide. See articles all aiming with Ramsey Clark’s support to seed in the public world wide a call for Nuremberg Principles Court to prosecute with compensation, indemnification, reparations lawsuits the neocolonial genocide of citizens of US and NATO nations, that will make genocide more than just unprofitable:

    January – July , 2014       Arundhati Roy: ‘Civil Rights Movement in US Has Become a War Supporting Movement’ http://www.opednews.com/articles/Arundhait-Roy–Civil-Righ-by-Jay-Janson-Civil-Rights-Violations_World-140731-459.html Article bemoans how selective it is to bemoan the lack of civil rights, but only in America, and even for those Americans who return from willingly denying the very right to remain alive in their own beloved countries overseas.

    PHOTO OF KING with quote: It is not possible to be for justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.

    Left Forum Conference Betrays MLKjr, Ignores US-NATO Genocide … http://www.countercurrents.org/janson040614.htm  Left Forum 2014 was a truly an ‘America First’ proposition. ..This year’s theme seems to have been: MLK was Wrong!:  Americans CAN make a better USA, WHILE continuing to kill the poor overseas in spite of cost in human and financial resources. Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Cornel West, others focused on injustice to Americans, ignored US-NATO genocide

    America Betrayed Rev. Dr. King Gagged His Condemning US Wars for Predatory InvestmentsOpEdNews Article: America Betrayed Rev. Dr. King Gagged His Condemning US Wars for Predatory Investments On TV, the week-end of the MKJjr’ birthday holiday, see all the celebrities, black, white, Asian, Latino. They will come to praise King and bury again King’s condemnation of US atrocity “wars meant to maintain unjust predatory investments on three continents.” They will hail King to heaven, loudly, to drown out anyone whispering that King called their dirty government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”    

    Majority Mankind Lives the Racial Profiling Feared in Trayvon’s Death Every Day Inescapable historic connection between the fear that racial profiling led to Trayvon’s being killed by an overly zealous volunteer law enforcer and two centuries of racially profiled genocide within non-white Majority Mankind constantly under attack for economic plunder by US firepower and covert homicide. Needed: International non-white solidarity! Stoping America’s overseas crimes against humanity will end those at home. OpEdNews Article: Majority Mankind Lives the Racial Profiling Feared in Trayvon’s Death Every Day 

    Honored CarlosSantana HerbieHancock MartinaArroyo! Honor King’s Condemnation of US Wars   Black celebrities cooperate by their silence with America’s total blackout of King’s condemnation of US wars for predatory investments while brothers kill innocent non-whites abroad. Needed: a great artist and composer like Herbie Hancock or Carlos Santana write a floor-under-your-feet-moving smash hit recording with lines from Martin Luther King Jr.‘ awesomely important sermon Beyond Vietnam – a Time to Break Silence

    OpEdNews Article: Honored CarlosSantana HerbieHancock MartinaArroyo! Honor King’s Condemnation of US Wars!  

    Obama War Criminal? What About Investors, CNN, Clergy, Soldiers, You & I? David Swanson,of War Is A Crime.org, although endorsing, along with almost every serious antiwar journalist and organization, the King Condemned US Wars International Awareness Campaign, wrote recently: US Presidents Should Be Prosecuted for War Crimes and Military Aggressions” Readers in nations bombed, invaded and murderously occupied by America and Americans will sense or suspect a “fall guy’ trick to absolve everyone else

    Few American Progressives Joining Ramsey Clark’s Call for Prosecution of US Genocide! OpEdNews Article: Few American Progressives Joining Ramsey Clark’s Call for Prosecution of US Genocide! Survivors of heartless bombings, invasions, occupations, and covert violence ware aware that US antiwar intellectuals never seem to say or write that America should be brought to justice. What is now unthinkable and unimaginable in majority mankind, will become first plausible, then possible, then expected, then inevitable and necessary in a sane and just world, able to deal with the problems that affect survival.

    This “war on Black America” wont be so strong as to lose the African American community’s acquiescence, even support and participation in America’s war on Majority Humanity, which include a near billion Blacks overseas.

    Glen, have tried over the years to connect with you, but well, you are after all too busy to consider what jay janson has been writing. But Black Agenda Report did publish: Unveiling The Monument But NOT King’s Condemnation Of U.S … blackagendareport.com/ by jay janson. So we might do a hell of a lot of ass-kicking if we teamed up. Me, I’m pretty lonely in the USA in terms of people supporting my Ramsey Clark supported drive for intention, intention to stop the bastards not just point a finger at them. All colleagues working with me are overseas.

    love, jay

    P.S.

    Part of the reason to write to you is possibly making an article out of this email. jj

    and support of other Americans even African Americans, a powerful minority on ONE issue that of civil rights, but selectively AT HOME and freedom of economic oppression  and its leadership betraying the last Martin Luther King Jr., who was belatedly but determined to have civil rights for all in the whole world long set upon by genocidal capitalism, colonialism, neocolWall Street dominated world

    ________________________________

    Like

  2. Glen Ford and Al Sharpton look nothing alike.

    Like

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