† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
Dispersing the White Fog Enveloping Ferguson
by Kay Whitlock
Starting with the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown by local police on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a predictable white fog has settled in. It is a miasma, historically resonant, comprised of structural racism and denial of it, policing practices that are race-based and authoritarian, and political/cultural narratives that obfuscate rather than illuminate.
The properties of the miasma are brutally magical: they produce a triumphant white supremacist sleight of hand in which racist reality is refashioned to frame “civil order” and “law enforcement” as the perpetual victims of purportedly “out-of-control, criminal,” and pathologically violent black people – particularly young black people.
Law enforcement riots and the repressive deployment of armed force against black people are not the causes of “civil disorder;” rather the cause is located in those who have been denied social and economic justice throughout U.S. history, who are now framed as creators of violence and terror. Violent policing has vanished as the instigating factor. No one seems to be considering the idea that those who are not violent, but who defy the curfew, are registering a principled and courageous protest against repressive state power. Instead, the deployment of ever-greater force, including Missouri’s National Guard, initially sent to protect not the community, but the police command center, becomes its own surreal justification.
It has not yet been two weeks since Brown’s streetside execution, but the white fog just gets thicker, nastier, more toxic.
To help cut through the fog, CI urges you to read these pieces: