When I first found out about Ferguson, I have to admit, I didn’t feel much. A numbness. Perhaps I am too jaded by my knowledge of history and its propensity to repeat itself. Perhaps, with all that I’d written about the unnecessary death of Trayvon Martin, I had no fury left stockpiled in reserve. I was trying to savor the bittersweet joy that comes to black folks who are surprised that a killer is found guilty for a senseless crime against one of us.
It doesn’t always happen. I am still holding my breath, waiting not-so-patiently for NYPD to collar one of its own. Reading about the young man in Ohio. And another killing of an unarmed black man that happened this week. Still wondering what happened to the woman in Brooklyn. And the other one in California.
I have other writer-friends who are all sitting at their computers like I am, trying to find something significant or enlightening or important to say in reference to what’s happening to Ferguson. Some have been successful. My page has been blank for days. As my colleague Mychal Denzel Smith said to me: “I am tired of writing obituaries.”
So instead, I, like many other people I know, am sitting watching the kinetic energy of my Twitter feed, a jumble of shock, heartache, and anger. Wondering why people hate us so much. There is little offered on my television, just stingy blips about an implosion in an American city, a country at war with its citizens. And then back to the news about Iraq, a foreign war with more precedent, alongside disgustingly invasive reports about Robin Williams’ last days, despite pleas for privacy from his family.
At the time of this writing, it has been absolutely terrifying how much information is being controlled. There has been no autopsy report released for Michael Brown, the boy who was shot. His family, distrustful of the police department (and rightfully so) has asked that a separate, objective report be completed by someone unaffiliated with the police department. Appropriately, the family has also asked that the gruesome image of the boy’s dead body be taken off-air and offline. Ferguson PD refuses to release his killer’s name; he has been placed on administrative leave.
Brown’s body laid baking in the Midwestern heat for hours on end, an ominous signal to those passersby in his community about what happens when you don’t do as you're told. About what happens when you’re black in the wrong place at the wrong time. A lesson that has been taught again and again.
His body was taken away in an unmarked truck, without indication of belonging to the EMT nor the coroner.
Ferguson, MO is a police state in the truest sense. There have been denials of peaceful protest. Journalists and government officials are being arrested and detained without cause or paperwork at the discretion of officers. Heavily armed officers point guns in the yards of homeowners. Tanks roll down city streets. German shepherds bark at peaceful protesters, in the ways of Birmingham. Cellphones, used to record the behavior of police, have been seized unlawfully. Protesters march with their hands up, both as a matter of message and of method.
While martial law terrorizes the city, the governor remains silent, while the president offers pithy condolences and encourages the public to be peaceful. Not the police. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised a review from the Justice Department. But the FBI is not on the ground.
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time,” writer James Baldwin once said. And for the first time since Brown’s death on Saturday, I am feeling that rage again. But I am also tired. And feel a real sense of fear. I have no doubt that this could happen anywhere. This is the second coming of Katrina, of Black Wall Street, of Rosewood. Ferguson has become the tipping point in what has become an open season on black life.
And for the first time in my life, my relative consciousness tells me to have no doubt that mine is in danger, too.