By Meg Langford
(caution; links in the article contain graphic images and may be upsetting to viewers)
Can you really blame them?
All they want is to be treated equally, and to have the same rights as white men. They have waited for decades. For decades they have petitioned and protested peacefully. No change.
Let’s look at some of the more memorable and controversial actions.
There were the declarations that they would create their own mini-government, an alter-nation if you will, to deal with the fact that they had been denied a true voice in government. On that famous Black Friday, when they showed up three hundred strong, they were naturally met by an army of cops, and for hours—hours—they were “batoned, beaten, punched, thrown to the ground, kicked on the floor, and had their faces rubbed against the railings”. One martyr in the making, determined to bring publicity to the cause, purposely stepped in front of charging horses and died of injuries after being rushed to the hospital. There were also “widespread reports of police sexually abusing the demonstrators. They repeatedly pinched and twisted their breasts, lifted their skirts, groping and assaulting the women for hours.”
Some of the protesters died after these attacks.
It all culminated in a conscious decision on the part of the protesters to break hundreds of windows throughout the city. Beyond civil disobedience, yes. But they had a “method to their madness”, to quote “Hamlet”. By committing the crime of vandalism, they would get arrested and taken to jail sooner, thereby avoiding the extreme physical abuse and torture heaped upon them, for the mere legal act of engaging in public protest. And they would bring much needed national and international publicity to their cause.
And it worked. On this day in history, February 27th, 1922, women in all 50 states got the vote.
(Niggling detail: these Black Friday riots took place in England, while the Nineteenth Amendment, passed on this day, took place in the United States—but the momentum was there. It was international, it was unstoppable, it was a tsunami of petticoats and estrogen and adrenalin and big rocks being pelted through the windows of stodgy white businessmen.)
Now, with the wisdom of hindsight, the Suffragettes seem noble, endearing, even cute when Disney portrays them in “Mary Poppins”. But make no mistake: they were the terrorists of their times, according to some. Viewed with the same suspicion and vitriol that “Black Lives Matter” activists are so often viewed with today.
Yes, there are those who may say that the analogy does not hold, because Black Friday was about women fighting for the right to vote, and blacks have the right to vote. But for that, I have three words: “argumenta ex analogia”. And all that those words imply. But what binds these two movements together, what is fundamentally important here, is that both groups were simply demanding that they be treated equally, as promised by the Constitution.
The legacy of women’s rights and the struggle for civil rights are, upon closer examination, eerily similar: when someone who is not a “white male in power” gets uppity, and starts making demands, they WILL be put in their place. And if not, punishment will ensue. The severest of measures will be taken. (Look how well that exact same set of sexist strictures is working out when extremist imams condone the rape of infidel women, for going out sans hijab. For the sin against Allah of wearing perfume. The Cologne Rapes is not a bad pun. It is now terrifying history.)
It is time to finally begin marshaling arguments and engaging in debates that are based on sound, calm logic, not name calling, Sophistry, and the ridiculously vincible voices of the playground set and pointy-hood hat society. Is black-on-black crime more prevalent than white-on-black crime? Sure it is. More whites are killed by other whites than by black people. It is largely a matter of socio-cultural proxemics. But what does that have to do with the fact that in far too many cases, white police officers trample the civil rights of black men, show absolutely no regard for the policing procedures in which they are trained, and demonstrate a proven statistical propensity for treating blacks differently—and worse—than whites. Because, flawed though the movement may be, that is what “Black Lives Matter” is about. And that is unquestionably what the philosophy, without the capitalization, that “black lives matter”, is about.
And for those who would snark or screech, in response to “Black Lives Matter”, that “All Lives Matter”, I would simply ask you this: would you run into a Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser full of survivors and people fighting the disease, and yell that “All Cancers Matter!” Anyone who is not a total racist or clodpate knows that the meaning of the phrase “black lives matter” is not to minimize the significance of other lives, groups, cultures, or nations, but merely to point out that which is an undeniable fact: in far too many situations involving the police, Afro-Americans are treated as though their lives simply do not matter.
The facts lie in the NYPD “Stop and Frisk” statistics. The facts lie in the D.O.J. Reports on Ferguson and Cleveland. And these are just the first three that come to mind.
And then there are the personal stories. Human stories, where the dead body has a face and a name and a family and friends. More importantly, regardless of what you think of these human stories, your opinion of the dead is quite possibly irrelevant. What is painfully relevant are the actions of the police. Police are violating procedures, breaking the law, and basically creating their own police state, and that is what has so many blacks, and Americans of good conscience, so incensed. In a word, they are acting like Nazi Storm Troopers. Ordnungspolizei. Kriminalpolizei. Sicherheitpolizei.
Eric Garner had a previous record for the non-violent crime of selling loosies; how does that give Officer Daniel Pantaleo authorization to engage in illegal behavior? He is a police officer. And Garner was certainly posing no threat to him.
When 17 year old Lennon Lacy, a young black man, was found hanging in an all-white trailer park, in a position that the medical examiner said would not have been possible to achieve by suicide, the police threatened the county coroner when he tried to take pictures, saying they would confiscate his camera if he documented the crime scene. Would those police have said that, if it was a white person hanging there?
When Afro-American Bernard Bailey, a guard for twenty years in the state prison system, with a flawless record, was called by his daughter because she was stopped by a policeman in the middle of the night for a faulty tail light, he went to the scene to shepherd her through it. Multiple police witnesses (also called to the scene by parties in both sides) testified that absolutely nothing significant had happened. Bernard Bailey had not raised his voice, made threats, nor had he become in any way, shape, or form physically aggressive. Weeks later, when Bailey went down to the courthouse to pay the ticket for his daughter who was in college, he was served with a felony warrant, and the cop from the traffic stop tried to put him in cuffs, telling Bailey he was on his way to jail. When Bailey waved him off and walked out to the parking lot, he was shot dead as he tried to leave in his vehicle. Is that how Officer Richard Combs (who had been fired from a previous policing job) would have treated the white mayor’s wife? Or any white woman or man, for that matter?
What about the “lie” of “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” What about the obvious compromise—that after being shot, losing blood, and being generally terrified, Michael Brown turned in a flailing position, hands sort of up, hands neither straight up in the air, nor balled up in a threatening fist. (It’s kind of hard to put your head down and charge, Darren, when you are also at the same instant going for your gun in your waistband, and, as Darren Wilson testified, you are also bent over at a 90 degree angle, which Michael was when Wilson let loose the last kill shot. I just can’t see how someone stares at the ground and gropes for a gun while charging at a cop. I kind of sort of think that is physically impossible. In fact, why don’t we all go outside and try it. Now.
I, for one, am interested in the many lies of Darren Wilson, all of which can be verified by reading the grand jury transcripts: he repeatedly told his supervisor, when asked just minutes after the shooting, that he didn’t know about the robbery. Then, he drove himself back to the station (a complete violation of protocol), spoke with his lawyer, and then announced that Oh! He did know about the robbery, after all. You see, Darren Wilson had to change his story and pretend that he knew about the robbery, because the truth was far too damning: Because if Wilson behaved, as he testified he did in front the grand jury, screeching up to a couple of mere jaywalkers and confronting them, and letting it escalate, then that would make Darren Wilson a big bully. Kind of like the footage of Darren from a year before that, where he threatens a guy for filming him, announces “I’m going to lock your ass up!” and then grabs for the guy’s camera.
But the lie that is even more disturbing is Wilson’s big lie that he shot two bullets from inside his police vehicle. Oh, make no mistake: from the very beginning, he was very clear about the fact that he shot his weapon only once in the car; he only got off one bullet that shattered the window. He told that to his supervisor, moments after the incident. Shortly after that, he spoke to detectives, and told them the same thing: he had fired just one bullet. Then, the Chief of Police of the St. Louis Count y Police Department announced it was one bullet. Then, for days and weeks after that fact, major newspapers quoted authoritative sources, claiming that Wilson had fired “one bullet inside the car”. (“Pay no attention to the fact that man behind the curtain.” “Pay no attention to the two bullet casings right next to Officer Wilson’s car.”
Then, one day, as if magic, it became two bullets! It had to become two bullets that were shot by Wilson while inside the car, because of that bullet lodged in an apartment building called 2960 Canfield Drive, which is nowhere near where the final round of ten shots were fired. The only way a bullet could be lodged in 2960 Canfield Drive is if Wilson jumped from his vehicle and shot it at a fleeing Michael Brown. It had to be two bullets shot inside the car, or Darren Wilson, like Officer Michael Slager, would be shooting at a fleeing man. So the one bullet story became two bullets, after a team of lawyers got involved.
And that leaves us with the last controversy: did Michael initiate the fight, slamming the door and reaching in, and committing Suicide By Cop? Or did Darren Wilson screech up so close that the opening door bounced off of Michael, as many witnesses attested. And did Darren Wilson then grab Michael, as many witnesses attested, and pull Michael into the car, restraining him, in a move similar to the one that had just gotten him a fancy police award a few months earlier. We have two competing narratives: the dead man’s side of the tail. And the version told by a man who, according to all the evidence and grand jury testimony, has already told two big lies?
Would Michael Slager have shot a white man or woman five times in the back as they fled?
Would Timothy Loehmann have shot a white 12 year old?
Would Brian Encinia have Tazed a cute white cheerleader? Would he have dragged her from the car, as he did Sandra Bland, and beat her down on the ground?
Heather MacDonald, a well-known conservative pundit, says in pseudo-mocking terms that the “Black Lives Matter” folks think there is some kind of “epidemic” of white cops killing black men. Well, Heather, even the august Centers for Disease Control doesn’t have a numerical or quantitative definition of “epidemic,” so let me turn the tables on you, and ask you the following poser: Just how many black men killed by the excessive force of white cops is an acceptable number. One hundred per year? Too many? How about 20? 12? How about one black man? If one black man died because white officers like Darren Wilson and Timothy Loehmann and Brian Encinia and Danny Pantaleo and Sean Williams and David Darkow and Michael Slager—hell, I have to end this sentence at some point—if these officers KNOWINGLY violated procedure and ignored protocol—are you OK with that one black man lying dead? What if it was your own son? Or are you incapable of empathizing with blacks?
Read the Department of Justice D.O.J. report. In fact, read page 31 of that report: In Ferguson, officers ordered a 150 pound police canine to attack a fourteen year old boy because he had trespassed into an abandoned house and was crouching, terrified, in a closet when they found him. Here is the question that speaks volumes about all the unrest that has transpired over the last two years: would the cops have sicced an attack dog, trained to kill, on a fourteen year old white girl cowering in a closet?
Because unless the answer is “Hell, yes!”, then this is not the America that is described in the founding documents.
This is not the America I love.
This is not the America that America must become.