Dirty laundry is being aired. The filth of Ferguson — grime that its citizens have suffered under the stink of for far too long — is being laid out in the sun for all to see. Some still may not look. But if you’re looking, you’re seeing what I have seen in the hundred or so pages of the Ferguson Report: the New Jim Crow, the system of white supremacist control that ruins lives and legacies, keeping nearly 1 million black Americans in prison and funneling youth from school to prison like lambs to slaughter. Often actual, literal slaughter.
It has been 209 days since Darren Wilson shot an 18-year old college-bound boy six times — once in the top of the head — and stood over his body in the street, where Brown then lay uncovered for four hours.
At the time, I remember reading peers’ thoughts on that last part: “They left him uncovered as a message,” it was said. A taunt. A reminder that in Ferguson, the police can stop black people for anything and if you do not obey their commands, you are dead. Shot in the street. Slaughtered. Many disagreed with this analysis, although I can’t see why: leaving Brown’s body uncovered seemed a clear gesture of disrespect, a symbol of distaste. A message that said, “Your lives do not matter.”
It turns out the above analysis was correct. For anyone who imagined a police force that would leave a murdered teen’s body uncovered just to be cruel and then said to themselves, “No, that’s sick. Police aren’t sick. They aren’t cruel. They aren’t hateful. They serve and protect our communities. They only punish those who deserve it. They couldn’t be that sick.”
Yes, they could.
They are that sick. They are that cruel. The Ferguson Report reveals the flagrant bias officers have toward black citizens: the numbers expose a jungle of malice, cruelty, spite, superiority. In the report, in the many anecdotes of black citizens having their IDs demanded of them, we hear echoes of boy and uppity. “Stop being a smartass and give me your ID.” Dogs turned on a 14-year old boy while the handlers laughed. “N*gger.” Beatings. Jailings. Unlawful searches. “Stop being a smartass and give me your ID.” Freedom papers. Parents brutalized in front of their small children. Déjà vu. The American echo.
“Failure to Obey.” This could mean anything. “Failure to obey” lands black civilians in jail 89% of the time. “Failure to obey” is the charge white officers slap on black bodies they want to teach a lesson. “Failure to obey” can be the modern lynch mob. But lynchings are done in the street. Freedom papers. Hound dogs. Obey. Obey. Obey.
Mike Brown was stopped for jaywalking — 95% of these stops in Ferguson target black people. The Ferguson Report shows us that black people are 2.07 times more likely to be searched during a vehicular stop but are 26% less likely to have contraband found on them during a search. Yet they are twice as likely to receive a citation and 2.37 times more likely to be arrested following a vehicular stop. Obey. Do you see now? Read the Ferguson Report and you’ll see it: a black boy living his life, white violence pulling up and demanding obey obey obey. “Get over here. Get the fuck over here. Yeah, you.”
18 years of get the fuck over here. 18 years of being twice as likely to be searched. 18 years of puncture wounds, canine bites. Maybe Mike Brown said no.
Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown. We’ve seen his pink face. We’ve seen the rosacea he called a bruise. We’ve seen the lie in his eyes. And we’ve heard the lie in his voice, the voice that called the boy he killed an “it.” “I don’t know how many times I shot, I just know I shot it.”
Darren Wilson says he saw a monster when he looked at Mike Brown. We knew the truth before, but with the release of the Ferguson Report, we know for sure. In the face of Mike Brown, maybe in his refusal to obey, Darren Wilson saw the beast he built. Not the boy. Not in the boy’s eyes. In their reflection: his own red face there in the center, reminding him of what he had to protect. Not his own life. Not even his family’s. But the system. The monster that feeds on black bodies, chewing them up in prisons and spitting them out broken and abused. Jobless. Faithless. If Mike Brown said no, what would that mean for the beast?
The Department of Justice has pulled the monsters out from under Ferguson’s bed, roaring and raging. All over the country — the world — there are gasps at the hideousness of this thing we have unearthed: its scales, its warts, its fangs that drip blood. Yet Darren Wilson — one of its keepers; one of the soulless minions who thrusts children into its cage and eventually became a monster himself — has been relieved of any responsibility. And in Joliet, in Los Angeles, all over this country, other beasts roam unchecked, fueled by the blood this system demands.
“On 14 occasions, the Ferguson Police Department listed the only reason for an arrest following a traffic stop as ‘resisting arrest.’ In all 14 of those cases, the person arrested was black.”
Read it again. Let that sink in. Obey. Do not resist. Get the fuck over here.
The monster Darren Wilson saw was his own face. The face of the beast he built, the face of the system that gets fat off of black bodies and blood. “It looks like a demon,” he said. “It looks like a demon.”
Yes, it does. And now we see it too.