In the musty Missouri summertime heat, chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” rang in irate unison through the warm nighttime air in a town called Ferguson. Days before, Mike Brown, an unarmed black boy, was shot to death by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. It was a breaking point for Ferguson residents, who insisted that they were fed up after years of disproportionate targeting of black citizens. Tired and frustrated, protesters voiced their grievances before a police force deemed racially biased, and a national spotlight finally being shed on a part of America that for years had been kept in the shadows of injustice.
In the following weeks, the United States was cast once more into a racial divide that seems to present itself in a new form each year. Black Americans demanded the indictment of Officer Wilson and a thorough examination and reform of police forces around the nation as well as the judicial system. The counter argument, however, contended primarily by white Americans, consisted of a defense of Officer Wilson in that he was merely defending himself from someone whom he felt threatened his life. Some even felt that the case was not about race.
After months of discussions, arguments, the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, and protests, it was decided that Officer Darren Wilson was not to be indicted. As a result, Ferguson erupted. Peaceful protesters sprinted through the streets in an attempt to flee from the tear gas canisters being fired by riot police in response to a few violent rioters flinging rocks and Molotov cocktails. Senseless looters broke through store windows in order to clear store shelves. Police cars and beauty stores erupted into flames. The St. Louis suburb burned throughout the tense November night.
The anger, though unjustifiable in certain cases such as the looting and burning of stores, came as a result of years of irrational injustice and oppression by the Ferguson Police Department. Injustice and oppression that was proven to be existent by the recently released Ferguson Reports, an investigation of the Ferguson Police Department done on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.
A scathing analysis of the Ferguson Police Department released to the public on Wednesday has revealed racist emails sent by police officers in the department (one of which depicts President Obama as a chimpanzee), but also evidence drawn out instatistics that illustrate a racial bias when it comes to arrests. For example, the report outlines that between October 2012 and October 2014, the 14 arrests that were made by FPD officers during a traffic stop due to the person in question “resisting arrest” all resulted in a black person being put in handcuffs.
Additionally, it is suggested that the Ferguson Police Department’s efforts are more focused on a means of creating revenue rather than by “public safety needs,” the report says.
These reports are justifiably damning of a fractured law enforcement department and are certainly disappointing in the sense that there could possibly be a group of individuals tasked with protecting and serving a community, yet treating them in such an offensive and manipulative manner.
But this report is bigger than just Ferguson. For it was not solely black citizens of Ferguson, Missouri that voiced their displeasure in the way in which their police department treated them, but black Americans throughout the country who had also been subjected to similar mistreatment by their own respective law enforcers. This report highlights a deeper, systemic issue in policing that can surely be seen in other parts of the country.
Certainly, it is only logical to believe that there is no shortage of counties around the United States similar to Ferguson where similar instances of mistreatment occur. There have to be parts of the U.S. where the black population is not equally represented in the ethnic make-up of the police force that protects them; where there is some form of racial bias regarding the sort of people who have direct interactions with the police; and where there are people sharing an equally frustrating struggle to the sort that the citizens of Ferguson have faced for years.
The only explicable reason for why such areas of the United States have not received such attention is because they have not had their Mike Brown moment. Yet. For so long as there are areas facing a similar plight to that which Ferguson has dealt with for so long, such a similar situation is waiting to direct national attention to another instance of mistreatment by law enforcement. Another instance of injustice. Another tragedy set to become a national debate.
Somewhere in America, there is another Ferguson, Missouri.