The Ferguson Report: It’s Never About Race


By

Esquire

ferguson-policeThis may not be a reign of terror, but it damn sure is a reign of unaccountable authoritarian power

Dear Ferguson — While clearing out his office, Attorney General Eric Holder found eric holdersomething that belongs to you. If you don’t mind, he’d like to hand you your ass.

Among the findings, reviewed by CNN: from 2012 to 2014, 85% of people subject to vehicle stops by Ferguson police were African-American; 90% of those who received citations were black; and 93% of people arrested were black. This while 67% of the Ferguson population is black. In 88% of the cases in which the Ferguson police reported using force, it was against African-Americans. traffic stopDuring the period 2012-2014 black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during traffic stops, but 26% less likely to be found in possession of contraband. Blacks were disproportionately more likely to be cited for minor infractions: 95% of tickets for “manner of walking in roadway,” essentially jaywalking, were against African-Americans. Also, 94% of all “failure to comply” charges were filed against black people.

 I remember thinking, back when Mark Fuhrman helped blow up the O.J. trial, that if you allow racist goons to populate your police force, sooner or later, you’re going to bust somebody who’s rich enough to afford a lawyer to ensure that this practice bites you in a big way. The Fuhrman Reckoning has come to Ferguson. Which ought to surprise approximately nobody.

The investigators found evidence of racist jokes being sent around by Ferguson police and court officials. One November 2008 email read in part that President Barack Obama wouldn’t likely be President for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” Another joke that made the rounds on Ferguson government email in May 2011 said: “An African American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $3,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said: ‘Crimestoppers.'”

(Before we go on, we should note that this humorous anecdote has a proud history in the polite precincts of the conservative intelligentsia. Here, for example, we see it in the comedy stylings of Bill “Sportin’ Life” Bennett.)

Let’s leave aside for a moment the obvious racial profiling inherent in these findings, the statistics on traffic-stop searches, for example. Imagine, for a moment, your daily life. jaywalkingDo you jaywalk? Do you walk in the street? Ever? Imagine that, two or three times a week, an armed police officer decides to involve himself in your life just because you jaywalk, or because you’re walking in the street. Imagine this happening, over and over again, for a decade. Or two. Or five. Imagine that the simple act of asking, “What’s the problem, officer?” is 94 percent more likely to wind up with you in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car. Imagine that the simple act of then asking, “Can you tell me what the problem is, officer?” is 88 percent more likely to get your head cracked, or worse? Imagine this happening in front of your kids, three or four times. Imagine this happening in front of your mother, your preacher, your girlfriend, your wife. Is this a life? Are you free? This may not be a reign of terror, but it damn sure is a reign of unaccountable authoritarian power.

Of course, there are the voices explaining that the facts in the Justice Department’s report are not About Race, because it’s never About Race.

“This is not the full report, and we need to be careful not to rush to judgment as we saw

 Jeff Roorda
Jeff Roorda

in August,” said Jeff Roorda, a former Missouri state representative and a spokesman for the St. Louis Police Officers Association. “We owe it, not just to law enforcement, but to Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner to figure out what’s really going on here so it can be addressed,” he said, referring to others killed by police officers in Cleveland and New York. “Reaching conclusions from statistics about traffic stops I don’t think draws the whole picture.”

Yeah, that’s the same Roorda who became famous as Darren Wilson’s most conspicuous knight errant after Wilson shot Michael Brown to death last summer. He’s a real sweetheart. And he has his own problems right now. But he’s not alone. Over at Breitbart’s Mausoleum For Sad Unemployables, they got a quote off Fox News out of extremely credible Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

Eric Holder is using traffic stops, Megyn, simply because he can exploit that data. That’s the first thing that race hustlers jump to, is looking at traffic stops to make some sort of determination that some sort of racial impropriety’s going on here. If you’re a cop and you’re working in an area that is predominantly black, most of your field interview stops, most of your police contacts, your calls for service, and most of your traffic stops are going to involve black individuals. Officers don’t target, they don’t racially profile, they criminally profile.”

And the Wall Street Journal‘s Jason Riley stops by to explain that Holder wants to hamstring honest cops who are just trying to do the right thing, and maybe make Al Sharpton some money, and to placate the angry black people of the NAACP who can’t understand that black people who encounter Ferguson’s men in blue are 88 percent more likely to deserve to be roughed up. He calls on an expert on how things are never About Race for some learned counsel.

“This is about expanding federal power in the police departments,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney, in an interview. “The lawyers at Justice believe they are the ones who should be promulgating national standards of how cops should behave. And police departments are so afraid of bad publicity that they agree to settle the case with all kinds of rules that Justice wants to impose.”

Mr. von Spakovsky’s usual field of expertise in how things are never About Race concerns his expertise in developing voter-suppression techniques to suit the new Jim Crow in conjunction with John Roberts’ declaration of the Day Of Jubilee. Maybe Hans is branching out into criminal justice. In any case, “former Justice Department attorney” hardly suffices as a description of his career in the burgeoning field of how things are never About Race.

And, inevitably, there is the longtime white-supremacist journal, National Review, the pioneer in explaining how things are never About Race, not even racism.

The New York Times also notes that black drivers in Ferguson were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband. Again, such a statistic is meaningless unless one knows the underlying rate at which black and white drivers had outstanding warrants – which will trigger a search – and what their behavior was upon being stopped.

Black people are basically de facto criminals, and the police are simply doing the best they can. And, dammit, that joke about abortions being Crimestoppers is funny, amirite?

right leaning mediaThere is a growing industry in explaining to America how nothing ever is About Race. People get wealthy doing it. People get famous doing it. There are entire news channels and publications dedicating a great deal of time and effort in proving the case that it’s never About Race. And, somewhere in the country, someone is crossing against the light, and the odds that this person will wind up dead on the street are not anywhere near equal. If that’s not About Race, then it’s about an ungovernable country.

What goes around comes around


Robert P. McCulloch the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri,
Robert P. McCulloch the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri,

Sometimes things have a way of coming out and it’s never too late when they do.  It’s finally starting to come out that Bob McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis who was responsible for presenting the Grand Jury with information regarding the murder of Mike Brown and whether Darren Wilson should be indicted for it was grossly negligent in his duties.  As a result a juror on that panel has filed a law suit against McCulloch alleging

the prosecutor knowingly and deliberately misrepresented to the public how the grand jury felt about the evidence and whether or not Darren Wilson should have been charged. In the lawsuit the juror, suing in part for the opportunity to speak openly about the case without harm of criminal penalty, claims that she/he did indeed feel that Darren Wilson should’ve been charged with crimes, but that McCulloch, in his public statements about the case, suggested otherwise. The lawsuit also alleges that the entire grand jury process was prejudicially managed by McCulloch and that it often felt like slain Ferguson teenager Mike Brown was on trial instead of Darren Wilson.

Sandra McElroy Witness #40
Sandra McElroy
Witness #40

I wonder whether it was the fact that he allowed a witness,the one notably quoted by FoxNews repeatedly who said Mike Brown charged at Wilson before he was fatally shot, to testify before the grand jury even though he, McCulloch knew she was lying and wasn’t even there to witness the shooting.  Fortunately, the charges against McCulloch, some 58 of them are even more pointed than that.

 

An eleven page complaint was filed with the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel as well claiming that the district attorney’s office among other things presented the grand jury with a legal instruction ruled unconstitutional for decades misplaced evidence related to key witness Dorian Johnson and failed to provide specific charges to the jury after ‘dumping’ on them thousands of pages of interviews and evidence the complainants cite as going above gross negligence.

McCulloch on the other hand seems unbowed even though he’s being served with the  federal lawsuit (brought by the juror) and the state bar complaint.  Maybe he’s just as confident as Darren Wilson that #whiteprivilege will allow him to get away with murder, too!

#Mike Brown a case study in institutional racism


mike brownSince 2008 when he was only 12 years old, Mike Brown was doomed to his fate of lying in the middle of a Ferguson, Missouri road with his brains leaking out of his head  for four and half hours while his parents wailed nearby powerless to help him. His journey towards this rather ignoble end began in 2008 when Barack Hussein Obama was elected president and white people the country over who were against the notion that an African-American should be president decided to take matters into their own hands and mete out punishment on any black male they could. Mike Brown Slain 2As a result Mike Brown didn’t stand a chance that day in August, 2014 when he entered Darren Wilson’s world and that brief encounter which ended with his murder would set the wheels in motion of  institution racism  whereby it was absolutely not possible for him or his family to receive justice. Every institution that is supposed to be responsible for justice in American society was irrevocably stacked against him and every one would collude to make sure his rights would forever be trampled upon and would not see the light of day.

darren wilsonDarren Wilson shot Brown because he refused to be intimidated by a white police officer and Wilson seeing his authority being challenged by a disobedient black boy snapped and gave into a centuries old rage of  the authoritarian class driven by the idea that no black man should ever refuse to do what a white man tells him to do. As a policeman Wilson knew he could set the rules and everything else that followed from his interaction with Brown would naturally go the way he wanted because that’s the way it always has been; there are no repercussions to come from a policeman killing a black man, none.  Wilson’s department rallied around him initially refusing even to give his name to the press corp that gathered to cover this storm; Wilson himself did not write a police report for weeks after the shooting, giving him and his department and the country time to concoct a counter narrative to the one being given by the many witnesses who actually saw the execution.

The media and especially FoxNews and talk radio were willing accomplices in exonerating Wilson of Mike Brown’s murder repeating the now discredited stories first offered up by Wilson himself and eventually by others who were persuaded to give credibility to the lie through sworn grand jury testimony. (More on that in a moment.) This is the same media that has taken every chance to discredit the country’s first black president even if it meant practically swearing allegiance to an adversary.  The

FPD chief Thomas Jackson
FPD chief Thomas Jackson

Ferguson police were openly scornful of the Brown family, the media who they were uncertain of would spin their lies and even the federal government, taking great pains to do any and everything they could to show their contempt for whatever it is they were asked to do or provide. In many cases they gave what was not asked, the video of Brown strong arming the items he stole from the convenience store or withheld items they were asked like information on the shooter or Brown’s autopsy.  All of these machinations were done merely to allow the other parts of the white justice system to gear up and pick up where the FPD left off.

Robert P. McCulloch the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri,
Robert P. McCulloch the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri,

When it was finally announced there would be grand jury proceedings the prosecutor responsible for conducting it, Bob McCulloch whose police officer father was killed by an African-American refused to recuse himself from the role instead insisting he be removed by the governor of Missouri who insisted it was McCulloch’s call whether to step down. A better dance of abdication could not be choreographed and with that spectacle came the coup de grace, the complete and utter exoneration of Wilson set up by  McCulloch who presented testimony from witnesses he himself said he knew they were lying and were not even present at the shooting they claimed to have seen.  Instead what these witnesses did was regurgitate the story initially put out by Wilson and the press in the days immediately following Brown’s murder. To the institutions of racism, fairness is allowing known liars to lie about an event in the name of full disclosure before a court of law.  So it should come as no surprise that Wilson would not be indicted but rather be sent away with a rather large sum of money….bounty money as it were, for killing an unarmed, surrendering boy. And because he wasn’t charged with a crime and resigned instead of being fired, although I doubt that would make any difference, it’s quite conceivable he could go on to find employment in another police department…possibly Cleveland, Ohio where an

Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann
Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann in the middle

officer with an equally disastrous record as Wilson was hired after being FIRED from a police department and went on to kill a 12 year old Tamer Rice……and continue his killing spree unabated.

This is how racism works in the criminal justice system…..it is systemic and widespread.  Black men are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites and in almost all cases police are not indicted for these at times public executions of citizens. Fix this America!

This is Darren Wilson and where he comes from


A lot has been said about the grand jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson many saying because of the thuggish reputation of Mike Brown.  However, Wilson has a history of thug like behavior with the civilian population of Ferguson that his supporters conveniently forget.  For them I post this video

Darren Wilson worked for the Ferguson police for six years and he worked with colleagues who were as brutal and negligent of citizenship rights as he was.  The story of Henry Davis  and its aftermath is one Darren Wilson was aware since he was working at the FPD during that time.

Henry Davis made a wrong turn from a road leading into Ferguson and his life was changed for the worse. Henry Davis has a first and last name only like someone who is wanted by the FPD but nothing else in common and despite evidence and his own protestations that he was NOT the man FPD was looking for he was arrested and put in a cell late at night where he was brutally assaulted unprovoked by members of the Ferguson police department.

Henry Davis
Henry Davis

He had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for the injuries you see in the photo but to add insult to these injuries the police charged Davis with four counts of “destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him”. Davis spent several days in jail and was released after spending $1,500 for basically doing…………………..nothing but driving down a Ferguson city street, much like Mike Brown was walking down one and all this happened while Darren Wilson was employed by the FPD.  He had nothing to do with this episode of police brutality but he was certainly aware of it.  Why?  Mr. Davis decided to sue the police in a civil case and one of the defendants Police Officer John Beaird testified thusly

“After Mr. Davis was detained, did you have any blood on you?” asked Davis’ lawyer, James Schottel.

“No, sir,” Beaird replied.

Schottel showed Beaird a copy of the “property damage” complaint.

“Is that your signature as complainant?” the lawyer asked.

“It is, sir,” the cop said.

“And what do you allege that Mr. Davis did unlawfully in this one?” the lawyer asked.

“Transferred blood to my uniform while Davis was resisting,” the cop said.

“And didn’t I ask you earlier in this deposition if Mr. Davis got blood on your uniform?”

“You did, sir.”

“And didn’t you respond no?”

“Correct. I did.”

In other words the officer(s) committed perjury, a punishable offense, although he had no problem lying on the stand and directly contradicting his own official police report. This is Darren Wilson’s world; this is where he worked and this is how he expected to be treated and how he expected to treat others and you call Mike Brown a thug?

An American Muslim speaks on Ferguson


I’m glad to see that some in the Muslim community in America are engaged with what’s going on in Ferguson and have been since day one.  One prominent Muslim American who lives in the Ferguson, Missouri area has been writing and chronicling what’s going on there since the days after Mike Brown was gunned down.  You can read what he has written on his blog, here. There is also a facebook page “Muslims for Ferguson” where you can catch some snippets on Ferguson and its daily struggles.

The one item that caught my eye was this piece from American Muslim, Linda Sarsour who speaks very poignantly about the responsibility of people of Deen to what goes on around them.

I do not come as a preacher. I come to you as a mother of a 16 year old boy. I come to you as a Muslim. As a New Yorker. More importantly I come to you as a human. I also come angry and frustrated. I went to Ferguson. Ferguson taught me that it is OKAY to be angry. That anger is not something we should be ashamed of when we are working against injustice. Injustice, sisters and brothers is supposed to make us angry. It reminds us of our humanity. And that anger can be translated into systemic change. I was PROUD to be angry — which is something we are told not to be. But in Ferguson it felt good to be angry and we were alongside people who were angry but showed us so much LOVE. It was something I never felt before in my life.

Sisters and brothers, I ask of you today to focus on the real injustices. Don’t condemn and chastise those that chose to channel their anger in ways you deem unproductive. Pray for them. Love them. We may not condone their actions but I am not ready to discard them, disassociate with them — society has already done that to them. Ask more questions, what must happen to a human being for them to behave in certain ways?

Malcolm-KingWhat examples of Black American non-violent heroes has our country produced for them? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Reverend George Lee, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X in his later years — what do they all have in common — MURDERED.

They called for non-violence, they marched, they organized their people and they were SHOT. Understand history — Black American history is your history. American History is YOUR history and it hasn’t always been a history you can be proud of. Pastor Willie from First Corinthian Baptist Church broke it down. He said America was born with a birth defect. We have never truly dealt with it so it continues to be there. I will add that because we haven’t dealt with it we have exported this birth defect to other lands where we kill innocent people in the thousands through unjust wars or target civilians some of whom are Americans, through our drone policies. ‪#‎WAKEUP‬

This sisters and brothers is not just about #MikeBrown

This is about black men/boys/women/girls across the country including right here in our own backyard. Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Eric Garner, Tim Stansbury, Mohamed Bah, Nicholas Heyward, Jr, and the list goes on and on and on. This is about police officers who walk free as if the people they murdered were cattle in the street. This is not just about police violence. This is about an education system that is set up to fail children of color. An education system that has been called a monopoly. An education system in which it’s quality is based on the neighborhood you live in. It’s about a justice system that takes you in as a young person, follows you around as an adult — stunts your progress. You can’t get away from it. Its about lack of opportunity. Its about a system that doesn’t believe in your potential and operates that way.

Let us come to a place where we recognize that there is structural racism in our country AND that we all do not have to experience it to believe it exists. IT EXISTS. Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, prominent Black American Imam and a mentor said yesterday that immigrant Muslims generally speaking had it good in America benefitting from artificial white privilege prior to 9/11, but on 9/11 and the subsequent years after they realized they were just another n*gger. This may be a hard statement for folks to swallow. Reflect. Breathe.

We have Muslim brothers and sisters withering away in Communication Management Units in places like Indiana — many of whom convicted on “secret evidence” (no one knows why they were convicted, not them, not their lawyers) or under the ambiguous “material support” laws stripped of every right they have, some have never had trouble with the law up until that dreaded day, never were a harm to our society — no access to family, media, television — they languish in small cells for 23 hours a day. Muslims make up over 85% of the CMUs and we are less than 1% of the population. Who marches for them? Is the system working for them and their families?

Don’t tell me about a justice system that doesn’t work in the same way for everyone. A justice system that protects celebrities and law enforcement and too often turns its back on the ordinary person.

Racism is REAL. It doesn’t have to be REAL for you for it to be REAL.

Don’t treat everything as an isolated incident or case. Use your intellect. Analyze. Ask questions. The justice system isn’t a robot or a calculator that always gives the right answers. The justice system is made up of people. People sometimes make mistakes. Humans make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

For some of you its a story of one unarmed Black boy shot on the streets of Ferguson. For others its one small drop in an ocean of dehumanization, discrimination, demoralization that has been passed on from one generation to the next. For some — this is what it is. Some have given up.

I am exhausted hearing people say we are all playing the race card

Sisters and brothers these are the cards the system has dealt. Trust me, deal a new set, a set with equality, justice, liberty and pursuit for happiness FOR ALL, a set that values all human life the same, a set that sees the potential in ALL of our children and we’ll gladly accept it and play those cards.

Clergy Protest in Ferguson leading to 20 arrests — October, 2014 — Photo Credit Associated Press
Clergy Protest in Ferguson leading to 20 arrests — October, 2014 — Photo Credit Associated Press

I am not asking you to feel sympathy for Black and brown people, they definitely don’t want your sympathy, I just want you to believe in your hearts that ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ and stop expecting for Black and brown people to prove their humanity to you. They are EXHAUSTED. Reverend Chloe Breyer, a White Episcopalian priest said what makes her aware of her white privilege is that she doesn’t feel exhausted, she sleeps well at night. That sisters and brothers is courage and honesty. Acknowledge your privilege and use it to help uplift others.

By no means should anyone feel guilty about their privilege — I have plenty but I can not in good conscience walk around in this world with the fallacy that we live in an equitable and just world just because that’s how its working out for me. I ask for some selflessness for a moment. Just imagine for ONE MINUTE that #MikeBrown was your son in all his complexities yet all his simplicities and the SYSTEM didn’t think your child was worth a trial. It was never about guilty or innocent for Darren Wilson — it was about his day in court. The system didn’t think it was worth their time. Would you have sat back with the memory of your slain child and took it? Unless you experience the murder of your child in this same vain — you again are speaking from a place of privilege and I will continue to say CHECK IT.

If we do not see ourselves in each other — if we do not believe that we each deserve freedom, equality — if we do not believe that we are brothers and sisters and ALL the children of GOD — then it is we that are failing our children, our future, humanity.

I have been saddened by the responses I have been seeing from “friends”. Diverting from the true injustices once again. This is not about Black and White. This is not about us vs. law enforcement. I am not anti-law enforcement, I am anti-law enforcement misconduct and so should everyone else. We should be against misconduct where ever it is happening.

What’s interesting is that people will support the plight of Palestinians or Syrians or Egyptians to resist by any means necessary but won’t afford that right to others. Not taking a side either way just asking for some consistency for your own credibility.

Linda Sarsour Marches in Ferguson, Missouri as a part of the #FergusonOctober protests
Linda Sarsour Marches in Ferguson, Missouri as a part of the #FergusonOctober protests

For me, I recommit to working for justice for ALL. I am keeping my eyes on Ferguson, my heart in the movement and my feet on the streets of New York City because Ferguson is everywhere. I hope you join me.

These remarks are adapted from a speech Linda Sarsour gave at an interfaith gathering on November 25th at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.

This is why African-Americans in Ferguson are upset


The video below shows how a white suspect is dealt with during a potentially life threatening situation as opposed to what would have happened had he been black.  The police didn’t just tase this man once, they tased him four times, fought with him and called for back up and fought with him some more outside before he was subdued.  He died in the hospital, but not because he was shot six times…in fact he wasn’t shot at all. I kept asking myself during this video why wasn’t the man shot? 

The KKK- at it again


kkkThey never go away…they are always lurking somewhere on America’s landscape and they’re back again with some uniquely #whiteprivilege notions of defense and Ferguson, Missouri.  Seems they’re spreading pamphlets threatening lethal force against terrorists who are or will be protesting in Ferguson.  Claiming their threats of force are self-defense in nature I’m led to ask when was any member of the KKK threatened with imminent harm during the demonstrations this past summer that took place in Ferguson? We all know the answer to that is none but what was threatened was white people’s notions of a docile, complacent black community that was willing to accept anything that happened to it or the people who lived in it. Seems the people of Ferguson were woken from their slumber with the murder of Mike Brown.

As is usually the case with rioting and mob rage, the victims of the more extreme acts of protest were the African-American citizens of the community where Michael Brown lived and was killed.  The KKK hasn’t had any publicity in some time, so perhaps their emergence in the public spotlight is an attempt to get some of that much needed fame to keep themselves relevant on the social scene but their rationale is totally irrational.

Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18, 2014. (credit: Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18, 2014. (credit: Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

The police have done a better job than even the KKK given free rein in the streets of Ferguson could ever do in suppressing and intimidating the African-American citizens of Ferguson.  Indeed, they’ve even publicly executed one of them and are about to go unscathed for it; what the KKK is angry about is that black people are upset about their oppression and have chosen to express that anger which let’s be clear peaceful expressions of anger and discontent with government are protected speech.  In these days of politicians claiming their right to bear arms as a way of protecting government assault on their freedoms or everyday citizens exercising open carry as a form of free speech, the demonstrations of Ferguson are no less a part of this social phenomenon; in fact they precede it because they belong to the civil rights era of more than half a century ago.

The KKK is a joke that needs to be taken seriously.  Citizens can change the composition of municipal government and by extension its constabulary with the vote. Just as it swung one way several weeks ago, it can decidedly swing in the opposite direction if people use it and Ferguson citizens should use it to make a full makeover of  the system there.  As for the KKK they should people in Ferguson have a right to protect themselves from KKK terror and I hope they exercise that 2nd amendment right.

America’s summer of white supremacy: A postmortem


From Salon.com, by Bridgett Davis

The summer of 2014 was a summer of protest: African-Americans took to the streets with a simple but ambitious demand: “Treat us like human beings.”

In Ferguson, Missouri, marchers held placards that reprised the 1960s slogan, “I AM a MAN” (now with the addition of “I AM a WOMAN”). In this town where police fired 10 shots at unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown and struck him six times, apparently while his hands were up, a homemade sign said, “Don’t shoot! Black men are people, too!” Others carried signs insisting that “Black life matters.”

On Staten Island, those protesting the chokehold-killing of Eric Garner by a white cop voiced the same theme. “The reason I’m marching is because it’s time for people of color to be recognized as human beings,” 63-year-old Shirley Evans told the Daily News. “For years and years, we’ve been fighting for our rights. It’s time we’re seen as equals.”

A human being has the right to not be gunned down by the police for “blocking traffic,” and then be left rotting in the sun for four hours. A human being has the right to not be choked to death for “resisting arrest” for allegedly selling loose cigarettes – despite repeated pleas that he can’t breathe.

But other basic rights are also required to sustain human life – like access to water. When Detroit’s Dept. of Water and Sewage systematically shut off the water of more than 125,000 of its poorest residents – some of whom owed as little as $150 on their bills – the UN found that the shutoffs were a basic violation of human rights.

“These are my fellow human beings,” Detroiter Renla Session told the Detroit News. “If they threatened to cut off water to an animal shelter, you would see thousands of people out here. It’s senseless…. They just treat people like their lives mean nothing here in Detroit, and I’m tired of it.”

The denial of black humanity takes many forms. A police officer in a nearby town declared that the Ferguson protesters “should be put down like a rabid dog.” Anothersuburban cop, on duty in Ferguson during the protests, pointed his rifle in protesters’ faces and yelled, “I will fucking kill you.” After both incidents received news coverage, the two men were obliged to leave their jobs — but these and similar incidents raise questions about the institutional culture they reflect.

Certainly in Ferguson, those protesting Brown’s killing were treated by the police as an inhuman entity, en masse. The use of armored vehicles, tear gas, plastic bullets, threatening tactics and unconstitutional arrests sent a clear message: If you express your anger and your grief, you put your freedom – and maybe your life – at risk. The freedom of speech that the Supreme Court has guaranteed to corporations and the wealthy was not extended to the protesters in Ferguson.

Ferguson’s black residents live in fear of the police in part because the police force has 50 white officers and three black ones, patrolling a community where 67 percent of the residents are black. Not surprisingly, blacks make up 86 percent of police stops, according to a racial profiling report from Missouri’s attorney general.

These inequalities highlight the fact that the Mike Brown or Eric Garner killings aren’t just caused by the individual bigotry or hot temper of one “bad apple” cop. They reflect structural inequities that run deep throughout U.S. society and history.

Four miles south of Ferguson is the burial place of Dred Scott, the slave who in 1857 sued for his freedom and lost. He lies in Calvary Cemetery on West Florissant Avenue – the same street that, up in Ferguson, has been the center of protests since Mike Brown was killed. In rejecting Scott’s claim to freedom, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice wrote, “A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a ‘citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.” Lest we forget, African-Americans’ slave ancestors were described in the U.S. Constitution as “three-fifths” of a person.

One hundred fifty-seven years after Dred Scott lost his case, and 156 years after his death, the bruising effects of the country’s racist history are evident throughout the structures of American society. That history has shaped institutions that deprive black Americans of the political power to shape their future, or the resources they need to do so.

Ferguson and Detroit are both places where a largely black community is run by a white power structure. In Detroit, Republican Governor Rick Snyder appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to replace elected officials; a new white mayor, Mike Duggan, now runs the city with an emphasis on what sociologist Thomas Sugrue calls “trickle-down urbanism,” a focus on selective gentrification that excludes jobs for working-class residents.

In Ferguson, the police chief is white, the mayor is white, and five of the six city council members are white. Moreover, the district where Michael Brown attended high school, in which almost all students are black, is controlled by a white, out-of-state Republican.

Unequal political power perpetuates unequal access to resources. The largely poor and black residents of Ferguson and Detroit both contend with shrinking city services that impede daily life, abysmal job prospects, punitive social-welfare policies, and underfunded school systems. An acute example of this phenomenon is seen in the high school from which Michael Brown graduated, which had only two cap-and-gown sets for its graduates, who had to take turns wearing them to pose for graduation pictures.

Detroit has been subject to public disinvestment for decades. The water shutoff this summer was the culmination of years of statewide cuts in public spending, a consequence of anti-tax politics that were significantly fueled by racial animus. From Reagan’s fables about “welfare queens” and Cadillacs to Lee Atwater’s infamous “Willie Horton” ad, white resentments and fear have been used for decades to consolidate a policy of shrinking the public budget. As was dramatically clear when Katrina hit New Orleans, it’s a policy that hurts African-Americans the most, even as it injures the public as a whole.

As Missouri’s public budget shrinks, the black majority in Ferguson has been obliged to pay for its own oppression. Newsweek has reported that despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, the town’s second-largest revenue source is fines and court fees. Its court issued 24,532 warrants last year, or about three warrants per household. Essentially, the town has been bankrolling itself vis-à-vis racial profiling and harassing black residents with costly tickets, warrants and court fees for such crimes as “driving while black,” so-called jaywalking (what Michael Brown was stopped for) and other trumped-up violations.

The reason communities like Ferguson or Detroit lack the funds to pay for basic needs is not because there is no money. Millions of dollars in federal resources have been allocated to equip local police forces across the country with military combat gear, often to police largely black communities. That reality was on ugly display during Ferguson’s street protests. Yet Detroit’s 688,000 residents have received no federal aid to avert or recover from its historic bankruptcy filing. As one man on Twitter, who identifies as@YoungMelanin95, tweeted: “They have the money to bring military-grade weapons to a civilian protest, but not enough money to give Detroit access to clean water.”

The attacks on unions in Detroit, public and private, have attacked the ability of black workers to maintain a middle-class income. When I grew up in Detroit in the 1960s and ’70s, the UAW was still a vigorous union whose strength insured robust wages and benefits for its members. As a result, my father and cousins and uncles made salaries that enabled them to live well – to own homes, support their families, send their children to college, retire without worry. Concessions demanded of the autoworkers’ union disproportionately hurt Detroit’s black residents, and more recent attacks on the wages and pensions of public workers have their own racial edge.

Nationally, black workers are 30 percent more likely to hold public-sector jobs. In majority-black Detroit, the figure is much higher. This year Detroit teachers faced a 10 percent pay cut until public outcry prompted its emergency manager to reverse course days before the start of the school year.

And so the basic rights of more than 10 million underprivileged African-Americans are undermined by the limited resources allocated to them: those deemed worthy by a racist society receive the most, those deemed unworthy receive the least – and have the most exacted from them.

That is the backdrop against which, just this summer, water was withheld in one place, and lives gunned down in many others. No wonder that out of frustration and necessity, people in both Detroit and Ferguson – and in solidarity protests across the country – have taken to the streets to demand that their humanity be recognized.

Denial of common humanity has always been fundamental to white supremacy throughout history. We can draw a direct line from the 19th-century anti-slavery slogan — “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” —  to this summer’s protests: “I AM a Man.” The pattern is clear as day.

A life can be taken by the fast, brutal violence of a police bullet or a chokehold. But there is also the slower violence that can kill you just as dead, more gradually and in pieces – through poor health care, unemployment and bad housing, through denying you the resources you need to live.

From Ferguson to Detroit to Staten Island — and now to Beavercreek – this summer’s protests have been a source of hope. But protesters know that if we are to ultimately succeed, we must attack the systemic racism that has been the feeding ground for dehumanizing black life, or we will be here again. And so, local residents in each city are fighting to challenge structural racist practices, and are inviting those who live elsewhere to act in solidarity with them.

In Ferguson, activists are building sustained campaigns on many fronts. Hundreds have packed city and county council meetings and “town hall” sessions, demanding the immediate arrest of Michael Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson, and replacement of the biased county attorney with a special prosecutor. Street protests have continued, in the face of continuing police arrests. (A local activist’s Twitter profile notes: “I spent more time in jail than Darren Wilson.”) With a voter registration drive working to empower Ferguson’s black majority, elected officials in St. Louis County have formed the Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Coalition, a new political group putting politicians on notice: If you don’t support the African-American community, we won’t support you. Broadening the struggle further, activist groups are hosting a weekend of resistance Oct. 10-13, aiming to build momentum for a national movement against police violence.

In Detroit, mass protests and direct action this summer were followed by intervention in court; over objections from the emergency financial manager, activists told the judge in Detroit’s bankruptcy case why he should consider blocking the water shutoffs. As testimony got underway, members of the Detroit Water Brigade rallied Sept. 22 on the steps of the Federal Courthouse, demanding that the court intercede. Organizers alsoannounced the start of “a citywide, escalating direct action campaign,” pledging to “defend our neighbors and our families from water shutoff trucks and water tax lien foreclosures.” A minister who spoke at the rally found water to his church shut off the next day – but grassroots pressure quickly forced the city to turn it back on.

These efforts and others are part of a new wave of activism to end inhumane treatment of the nation’s black citizens. Here’s how you can make an impact, from anywhere in the world: Join the efforts @detroitwaterbrigade.org and fergusonoctober.com.