The complexity of falsehood

So many mistakes in Ferguson, including our own

Here’s a shocker… I’m actually working on a queue of blog posts! Yes, it may actually be sleeting in hell, folks. 

But honestly, I’ve been up many late nights over the past few weeks thanks to illnesses, kid illnesses, and the like. I won’t bore you with the details here because I’m trying to enforce a “no whining” policy on my blog,* but the point is that while I wasn’t writing there was no break in world happenings to keep my brain churning.

One week ago I was stunned when I read Jonathan Capehart’s blog on The Washington Post. Unfortunately Ii was in a flurry of other things when the news reports emerged regarding the Dept. Of Justice’s report on the Ferguson Police Department. There were so many disturbing aspects to the report. First, there was the fact that the DOJ found that Officer Darren Wilson was “justified” in shooting Michael Brown. It seemed almost too much to believe. However forensic evidence indicates that Michael Brown did not surrender with his hands up and that he did put up a very strong resistance to arrest. Capehart’s poignant post is almost as striking as this evidence. An outspoken opinion writer, Capehart is often a leading voice on the topic of American culture and politics. He was quite vocal—as many of us were—throughout the proceedings and unrest in Ferguson. I can only imagine how it felt for him to write a piece  that essentially accepts that “Hands up, don’t shoot,” the phrase adopted in protests around the country seeking racial equality and justice, “was built on a lie.”

What cannot be dismissed, however, is how Ferguson got to a place where such contradictions and misinformation can become such powerful TNT. This brings me to the second shocking revelation from the DOJ report that I’ll mention here: Ferguson, MO has basically been operating as a miniature police state for decades. 

image via owning-my-truth on Instagram

image via owning-my-truth on Instagram

According to the Ferguson Municipal Court’s arrest warrant data, out of 21,000 residents living in the St. Louis suburb, 16,000 have outstanding arrest warrants. Does that sound normal to you? Does that sound like a statistic that would belong to a town whose residents are living in harmony with the government and services that have been established to support and protect them? Over the last several months we’ve been told about Ferguson’s racial makeup and it is a stark contrast to that of the police department. The DOJ report detailed the consistent mistreatment of mostly black residents, dismissing their constitutional rights, using arrests and tickets to fund the government, and more. This is the most blatant example of institutionalized oppression to be put into a report in our time. Years of such oppression will put a community out of its mind. 

Yes, it’s true that the Black Lives Matter movement was kicked off with a terrible example in Michael Brown’s apparent actions. But the fact is, America is undergoing a period of racial strife that many of us thought was behind us—or at least would be in a future that’s apparently not as near as we thought. Unarmed black children are still getting killed by police at alarming rates. Communities still segregate themselves when they get home from work. Hell, the fact that I’m writing this blog post is my own personal evidence. When I was an eager, nerdy high school student learning how to debate cultural and policy issues I never would have imagined that this would be a topic I would be discussing at age 36. It’s a sad fact that we need “Black Lives Matter” more now than ever.

Capehart writes:

Now that black lives matter to everyone, it is imperative that we continue marching for and giving voice to those killed in racially charged incidents at the hands of police and others. But we must never allow ourselves to march under the banner of a false narrative on behalf of someone who would otherwise offend our sense of right and wrong. And when we discover that we have, we must acknowledge it, admit our error and keep on marching.
— Jonathan Capehart, 'Hands up, don't shoot was built on a lie.' PostPartisan; The Washington Post

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you, Mr. Capehart.

*But if you’re dying to know, click here.