By Tony Roshan Samara
The decision by the grand jury in St. Louis County to not bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown is a grave injustice that upholds a shameful tradition of impunity when it comes to police violence in black and brown communities. In a tragic coincidence, the decision was handed down just two days after the police killing of Tamor Rice, a 12 year old African American boy shot in a Cleveland park for “brandishing” a toy gun. It seems rarely a week passes without a reminder of the extent to which our cities remain divided into separate and unequal worlds, and of the violence associated with this urban apartheid. But these incidents are also reminders that the need to fight for race and class justice has never been greater.
The growing wealth gap in this country is well known but there is a large and willful blind spot in our understanding of how maintaining this gap depends upon the ruthless policing of the centuries-old color line. In cities across the nation, decades of deindustrialization, disinvestment, and market-driven financialization of urban real estate have created chronic instability and insecurity for low-income communities and communities of color. But even as economic resources and social support were being withdrawn from the hardest hit communities, increasingly militarized police flooded in to fill the vacuum and contain the fallout.
In gentrifying communities and abandoned neighborhoods, in the urban core and suburban fringe, this has led to the normalization of everyday state violence, from “stop and frisk” to deadly encounters like the one that ended the life of Michael Brown. Residents of these communities endure systematic violation of their rights and an unresponsive, unaccountable, and often hostile political system.
Over the coming days the media will remain focused on sensationalist images of civil unrest that frame the protest movement as chaotic, aimless, and dangerous. It will ignore or downplay the fact that Ferguson is part of a long history of urban rebellions against a rule of law that too often provides impunity for police and presumes the guilt of people of color. In the wake of the grand jury decision, we must disrupt this narrative and draw attention to the everyday oppressiveness of systemic racial and economic inequality and assert the moral imperative to resist it.