The events in Ferguson, MO, both the killing of an unarmed teen and the aftermath of civil unrest are having a spell-binding effect on people all over the world. A column by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Time magazine describes the underlying issue that nobody on TV is talking about.
The Platform for the Conflict
We need to step back a few feet from the TV "facts", the 24 hour a day speculation about who was "right" and who was "wrong." And let's not get caught in the trap of thinking this is just a race issue. It is a class issue.
That so often working class police officers and working class (but usually unemployed young men and women) are in street confrontations is the product of a much deeper evil.
As Abdul-Jabbar said in Time, "Unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare." He continues, "Rather than uniting to face the real foe -- do-nothing politicians, legislators, and others in power -- we fall into the trap of turning against each other, expending our energy battling our allies instead of our enemies."
Unseen corporate leaders and useless politicians are draining America of our jobs, our hope and most importantly our unity. But we put the cops in the difficult position of enforcing laws while we allow poverty to swell in our communities.
Robert F. Kennedy put it eloquently during a speech at the City Club of Cleveland the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Stripped of Human Dignity
If all the senators and members of Congress who create the policies that are making our country more poor and more tense, and all the Walmart and Koch Industries executives who cripple workers, steal pensions and break unions, had to go and deal with the angry disenfranchised youth, whose lives they have ruined it would at least be a fair fight on moral grounds. But the real culprits -- the ivory towered leeches of our world -- are in hiding. They are creating the unrest by stripping working Americans of our human dignity.
The facts will eventually come out in Ferguson. We will learn more about who did what in Ferguson, and why, and what all the motives were. But, as with the Staten Island (my hometown) case of police killing a man in a choke hold because he committed a petty nuisance crime, if we are to stop injustice we have to go to the root cause. We have to demand that our politicians change the priorities of our society. We have to see through the smoke and the tear gas of Ferguson to understand that Mike Brown and Eric Garner and so many others who find themselves in conflict with "the law" are people trying to survive in a society that very wealthy people are driving into the economic stone age.
Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sums it up: "I'm not saying the protests in Ferguson aren't justified -- they are. In fact, we need more protests across the country. Where's our Kent State? What will it take to mobilize 4 million students in peaceful protest? Because that's what it will take to evoke actual change.
"The middle class has to join the poor and whites have to join African-Americans in mass demonstrations, in ousting corrupt politicians, in boycotting exploitative businesses, in passing legislation that promotes economic equality and opportunity, and in punishing those who gamble with our financial future.
"Otherwise, all we're going to get is what we got out of Ferguson: a bunch of politicians and celebrities expressing sympathy and outrage. If we don't have a specific agenda--a list of exactly what we want to change and how -- we will be gathering over and over again beside the dead bodies of our murdered children, parents, and neighbors."