Are we on the brink of a Global Civil Rights Movement?
June 30, 2019
Elizabeth Francisco, Willemstad, Curaçao (2014)
“Ferguson is a quintessential example of social inequality in the States, but also an example of what is taking place in other nations across the planet.”
The killing of 18 year-old Michael Brown on August 9th and consequent rioting on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri has become one of the biggest racial profiling murder case in the United States since the shooting of Trayvon Martin. So far, there has been a lot of inconsistent news surrounding this case coming in from the police and eyewitness accounts. To this day, it is still unclear what happened in the final moments of Brown’s life. What we know is that there was some altercation between Brown, who was unarmed and the police officer who shot him, Darren Wilson (28).
According to the police department, Wilson feared for his life when he shot Brown six times. The police department has stated many contradictory statements regarding how the altercation started. At first, they claimed that it was related to a robbery that took place earlier that day, the next day that statement got retracted, only for the police to re-claim its veracity later on. Witness accounts on the other hand, vary a great deal with some witnesses claiming that officer Wilson was taunting and threatening Brown. According to the autopsy report, Brown’s hands were up in the air and he was on his knees surrendering when the fatal shot hit him in the head.
There is a lot of criticism in the media regarding the situation in Ferguson. According to critics, police shootings automatically become a race issue if the victim is black. Same thing happened in the Trayvon Martin case, although not a police incident. What we are seeing here is a shift in narrative. African Americans, who are customarily demonized in the media are for once, shown as victims and the viewers are connecting to their stories. Also, now that we have so much access to information, we are actually seeing what police brutality looks like. Less than a week ago, 25 year-old Kajieme Powell was shot death by the police just 4 miles away from where Michael Brown was killed. A bystander filmed the incident and the footage is chilling. We see Powell on the video holding a knife and screaming erratically at the police: “shoot me, shoot me.” It is clear that he was not in the right state of mind. As a matter of fact, from what we can see, he was moving away from the police when he was gunned down.
What about the streets of Ferguson? Journalists are out there reporting the protests and are threatened, attacked and arrested by the police with no charge. There is zero respect for the media, so we can’t even begin to imagine how residents are treated. We have read stories of people have been arrested for just standing on the sidelines. The scariest thing is that the police have armed themselves with state of the art military equipment. To top things off tear gas and rubber bullets are used everyday on unarmed protesters.
Ferguson is a small county of 21.000 people with a long history of racial tensions and police brutality. Over two-thirds of its residents are black, but its mayor and four out of its five City Council Members are white. Public schools are predominantly white and less than 5% of the town’s police officers are black. Economic conditions for the Ferguson community have been worsening for years. Between 2000 and 2010, Ferguson’s poor doubled with one in four residents living below the federal poverty line. So even though Ferguson’s blacks are living in a community where they are the majority group, they are powerless and have no voice what so ever. There is no government representation and no one to look after the black community’s interest. Whites on the other hand, are clueless about the unemployment rate of black Americans, which is twice as high than for white Americans. Studies have shown that an average white household has 22 times as much wealth as an average black one. So people are pretty much forced to organize protests. What other outlet do they have? How else will their voices be heard?
Activists Deliver Petition Calling On Justice Dept Investigation Into Mike Brown Killing Caption:WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 28: Demonstrators shout slogans as they gather in front of the White House to deliver nearly 950,000 signatures August 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. The demonstrators called on the Justice Department to fully investigate, prosecute, and fire all police officers involved in the fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Solidarity With Ferguson Protesters Demonstration Caption:LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 27: A small protest is held outside the US Embassy in a show of solidarity with Ferguson protesters in the USA, on August 27, 2014 in London, England. Michael Brown, an 18 year-old unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the nearby town of Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. His death caused several days of violent protests along with rioting and looting in Ferguson (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The Bigger picture
Because of the racism narrative, a petition is going around for congress to introduce the Mike Brown Law. The law binds the police force by law to wear lapel cameras at all times. This will help police the police and it would be interesting to see police arrests and shootings of African American males statistics within the next decade. People tend to behave differently if they know that they are being watched. It would be very interesting to conclude once and for all if social dominance and authoritarianism is at play here (disposition) rather than each situation treated unbiased.
“A Parallel With Brazil”
One thing is for sure, without some sort of civil action and organization change is not going to come. Blacks in Brazil, for instance, may be even worse off than in the States. Contrary to African Americans, Afro-Brazilians never had a national Civil Rights Movement. Killings in Favelas, by the police far exceed those in the U.S. It is common knowledge that most shootings are premeditated executions with rarely any repercussions for the police. For decades, Brazil has proudly presented itself as a racial democracy; a term coined by Gilberto Freyre in his 1933 magnum opus Casa-Grande e Senzala (The Masters and the Slaves).
Activists And Community Members Demonstrate Against Police Killings Caption:RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 22: Demonstrators march through the Manguinhos favela to protest against police killings of blacks on August 22, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Every year, Brazil’s police are responsible for around 2,000 deaths, one of the highest rates in the world. Many of the deaths in Rio involve blacks killed in favelas, also known as slums. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The idea behind this concept is that Brazil is a society without color barriers. People from all races live in harmony with one another and have equal access to wealth and power. In other words, racism does not exist. However, the reality is that blacks in Brazil have very little representation in politics, media or in white-collar jobs. Furthermore, they blindly believe that they are victim to classism, not racism, thus they remain clueless at the injustices being done to them on a daily basis. Small groups do undertake action and once in a while something like affirmative action is accomplished, but very little progress has been made in the last century. It is clear that black Brazilians have accepted their inferior position in society and live for carnival where their dreams come to life.
BRAZIL-BLACK-MARCH Caption:A protester wearing earings with the map of Africa takes part in the International March Against the Genocide of Black People in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
“The Dutch Problem”
The black communities in the Netherlands have a similar issue. Granted, compared to the States and Brazil, black men in The Netherlands have a much higher survival rate. Also, pretty much everyone has equal access to education, but that’s where it pretty much ends. Statistics show that there is a lot of workplace discrimination and the employment rate for educated non-white Dutch nationals is relatively low. Also, to complicate things even further, racism also “doesn’t exist” in the Netherlands. In Dutch rhetoric there is Allochtoon (originating from another country, even if you are second generation) and Autochtoon (Dutch nationals). It is a clever way to remain ominous about what we are actually talking about here, racial classification. Only in this situation everyone who is not white is pushed in one group. So by steering clear of official racial classifications, we in fact erase racism as an issue, it simply does not “exist” in the Netherlands.
Caption:Demonstrators hold placards as they sit inside the City Hall of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on August 28, 2014, to protest against the appeal of Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan against a court ruling in July that he must reassess the granting of a licence for the Sint Nicolaas procession last December. That ruling said he must look again at whether he should have given the go-ahead for the procession because he had not taken the European Human Rights Convention into account with regard to the figure of Zwarte Piet. AFP PHOTO / ANP / KOEN VAN WEEL **netherlands out** (Photo credit should read Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images)
The Netherlands has another variable. Blacks in the Netherlands are as disintegrated as in the Caribbean, but in this case there is an extra dose of hatred to go along with it. Surinamese and Antilleans’ generally dislike and mistrust one another, a convenient fact that halts the fight for racial equality. In this respect they are far more behind that the African Americans. Dutch Blacks could have the power to affect change, something that does happen in the U.S. In the Netherlands, members of the Caribbean Diaspora have to yet, unanimously, address the beast (racism) by its name. They still need their own Civil Rights Movement and to understand the role of blackness in the Netherlands.