People call us loud and rightfully so. History teaches us that we must seize the opportunity to channel national attention toward the injustices we face. We are a loud people with voices that carry and at times we get caught in the emotion and don’t demonstrate proper restraint (I’m not talking about looting and the destruction of property. I’ll never give the criminal opportunists in our community the same standing as our sages and upstanding folks.). Wisdom provides restraint. This essay is an attempt to bring clarity to the events in Ferguson, Mo. It is an attempt to wrest the narrative away from all of the negative things perpetuated about our community and shine a light on how codified social stereotypes continue to be used against us in the media. The Black victim or the Black victimizer seems to be the only choice offered. I believe Black Angst and anger and how these cousins are handled by us and law enforcement should be given equal time.
Angst is essentially the feeling of being told you are free to choose, but it’s accompanied by a perpetual anxiety about the outcomes of your choices. You believe your options are restricted to limited, insignificant rewards or heavy consequences. Anger at the injustice limited access to the American dream is the internal response. Authority is external imposition; leadership is internal elicitation. Authority is the art and science of imposing limits upon people and their actions, whereas leadership is the art and science of eliciting or drawing out the best in people’s decisions. Ferguson’s initial reaction was authority and the militarization of the city after the event. Its second response was leadership—drawing out the internal elements of trust, justice and responsible advocacy from the citizenry through the appointment of Captain Ronald Brown.
Society has progressed for us as a people, but for many financially struggling or impoverished Blacks, they don’t see it and are stuck. Ferguson has its own economic setting events. Alex Tabarrok is an internationally recognized economist and he has taken Ferguson to task based on his own research and a white paper by the ArchCity Defenders. What we are seeing is how cash-strapped local criminal justice systems in need of money use the law to secure resources. Citations of all types spiked. There are some glaring statistics.
Here’s the data: Ferguson has 21,203 residents living in 8,192 homes. It’s 67% black and has violent crime rates consistent with the national average. However, its second largest source of revenue is court fines and fees: $2,635,400. That averages to three warrants and 1.5 case loads per home. Approximately 22% of the people are in poverty. If that’s not a powder keg, I’m not sure what is.
Now for us to continue to be proactive we must remember there are four things you can do with Angst and Anger as a Black person when it comes to dealing with our government:
1. Stay passive and submit to injustice and grow bitter.
2. Fight for reform, constructively, to better your situation and others.
3. Seek an occupation with the government apparatus and fight for change.
4. Become a token and profit from a system entrenched in ostensible narratives.
We really only have two legitimate options and I have done both: number (3) as an educator and correction specialist, and (2) now as a consultant. I’m most concerned about the narratives taking place on both sides. People use ostensible language narratives and theories that appear to be true, but in reality simply act as a cover for furthering misinformation—to create plausibility and then push their agenda ahead. As Black folks, we still need to hear the facts before making up our minds. And as far as the people perpetually against us, they will continue to recruit and place their mouthpieces in our community. I’ll also say this: we need to seek out new voices to address these crises that emerge in our community. We need nuanced, dexterous leaders who are focused on the future and securing the promises still afforded to us by a Creator who has not forgotten His covenant. Deal with the government, but put your faith in God folks. We know the epidemic of death among Black men through Black on Black crime and law enforcement sends the message that our lives have no value. I utterly reject this. Let’s love them before and after tragedy.