Michael Brown and the Contradictions of Justice in America


The six bullets fired by Ferguson police office Darren Wilson did more than terminate Michael Brown’s life with extreme prejudice.  Brown’s death and its repercussions once more demonstrate the persistence of racial injustice and the contradictions inherent in how local, state, and national authorities pursue their blinkered sense of justice.

At the local level the outrageous and arrogant behavior of the overwhelmingly white Ferguson police force and political establishment towards African-Americans is not just an egregious example of the continuing rule of white supremacy in the suburbs of St. Louis.  It is reflective of institutional and ideological patterns that inform cities and suburbs across the United States, especially when it comes to meting out “justice” to Black and Brown youth.  Whether through the operation of racial profiling in the criminal justice system or extrajudicial killings of people of color by police or white vigilantes, punitive measures disproportionately target minority communities.

As clinical professor of law and director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, Craig Futterman notes: “For all too many people out there, when people think of the words ‘criminal’, ‘drug dealer’ or ‘gangbanger’, images of Black and Brown folks come to mind and that’s equal with respect to police.”  Indeed, as Futterman’s research shows concerning police perceptions of young Black and Brown men, they see those young men as a “potential criminal or a potential danger, and that also makes that police officer far more likely to fee threatened and far more likely to shoot.”

While the exact sequence of events that led to the killing of Michael Brown is still in dispute, what is indisputable, based on the independent autopsy report by Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner of New York City, is that Brown was a defenseless victim of police violence.  Instead of immediately arresting Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police department put him on paid leave.  Even now these same police and political forces are selectively releasing information about Brown intended to cast aspersions on his innocence, as if any such information could justify his extrajudicial murder.

According to Brigitt Keller, executive director of the National Police Accountability Project, “excessive force by police…is getting worse.”  She identifies possible causes as the militarization of the police, ongoing police impunity, and an exaggerated sense of what police confront, no doubt reinforced by the spread of Homeland Security horror stories.  Yet, there remains a deep racial divide when it comes to assessing the inequities of police violence.  A recent Pew Research poll reported that 80% of blacks thought Michael Brown’s death raised “important issues about race that need to be addressed” against only 37% of whites who agreed with that sentiment.

This divide is nothing new when it comes to how justice has been meted out to people of color, those in the lower classes, and anyone deemed “dangerous” to the law and order of the land.  It was just over fifty years ago that white supremacist vigilantes aided by local police murdered civil rights workers, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.  For many whites in Mississippi these civil rights workers had it coming to them since they were disturbing the “peace” of a racially sanctioned order.  In turn, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who challenged that so-called peace by demanding justice.

Now fifty years later those in Ferguson seeking justice confront local and state police forces that curtail their civil rights and threaten them with violence.  When unarmed demonstrators marched to the command center in Ferguson on the evening of August 17th they were met with tear gas and armored vehicles.  Seeking to charge the demonstrators with provoking the violence, the police authorities made unsubstantiated claims about the use of Molotov cocktails and small arms fire.  Not unlike what happened fifty years ago in the Gulf of Tonkin when the Johnson Administration lied about North Vietnamese attacks in order to justify its own escalating aggression, the authorities will fabricate incidents to rationalize their violence.

Although state and federal authorities are deploying a variety of changing strategies and tactics to calm the situation in Ferguson, they either dither at the expense of justice or demonstrate their own hypocrisy when it comes to sanctioning extrajudicial killings.  While President Obama drones on about our “shared humanity,” his drones assassinate victims throughout the Middle East.  Even more hypocritical is the intervention of Attorney General Eric Holder who before his government role was a lead attorney in defending Chiquita against charges that their funneling money through a subsidiary to right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia had led to the murder of labor and political opponents of banana estate authoritarianism.

Whether in the past or the present, the primary directive of the power elite tends towards retaining and legitimatizing its rule.  Achieving justice, whether in Ferguson, Missouri or any other place in the US or around the globe, relies on the will of the people in confronting those in power with more than the slogan of “No justice, No peace.”  Disturbing the peace of those who perpetuate injustice is the imperative of all those who seek inclusive justice.

Fran Shor is a teacher and political activist in Michigan.


October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?