Often commenters on online news articles express their true beliefs anonymously.  During the Ferguson protests, many commenters imagined a black boogeyman.  Thus, Ferguson County, Darren Wilson and Michael Brown were catalysts for them to express their imagination.

Some of these commenters imagined that all African Americans defend criminality.  They imagined a dysfunctional, criminal culture that threatened the “true” America.  They claimed that black men kill black men all the time and African Americans accept this.  According to them, African Americans only protest when white police officers killed black men.  While some of these commenters meant that the protesters should focus on the high number on black-on-black killings in America.  Others plainly stated that since black-on-black killing is acceptable to African Americans, white officers killing African American men should be just as acceptable.

In reality, most African Americans do not accept black-on-black crime and try to avoid it. Many are working to stop it.  In addition, criminals do not have legal authority to commit murders, so their murders cannot be protested as an abuse of power. If caught, they go to jail.

Another reality is that many African Americans did not support the protests.  In fact, most of the Bay Area protesters we saw in the media were not African American.  Yet, these commenters argued that the protesters proved white people’s stereotypes about African Americans.

Perhaps in those commenters’ imagination, African American men must be controlled and contained.  It’s like the 1915 movie Birth of a Nation where out-of-control African Americans scared America by taking over the country after the Civil War.  At the end, the Ku Klux Klan rode in to save the day.

Was this the reality of Ferguson today?  Darren Brown says he was just doing his job.  Was his job, as part of Ferguson’s white police force, to protect the white establishment against out-of-control African Americans?  Was Brown’s disobedience to authority a backlash to the white police department’s controlling and containing his community?

The online commenters imagine that the “system works.”  They write that protesters should “trust the process.”  In reality, any attorney will tell them that the “system” is a game to be played.  We saw how a mainly white jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the unnecessary murder of a teenage boy.  Zimmerman saw the teenager as a threat to the white community and killed him.  The “system” portrayed Zimmerman as well-meaning; the teenager was vilified.

Even during the Zimmerman trial, many online commenters tried to downplay the role of their racial imagination.  But according to one juror, her own prejudices shaped her decision to acquit Zimmerman.  Since his acquittal, Zimmerman’s reckless, irresponsible personality makes a mockery of the judicial system and well as the jurors.

However, the online commenters may have a point: the problem is not the system, but the American image of the black boogeyman.  Protesting the system is not the same as protesting the black boogeyman of the American imagination.  No matter how the system is “fixed,” the image remains. It is just veiled behind proclamations like “post-racial America,” “We have a black president,” “progress,” “diversity,” etc.

But the realities of both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown showed us that this image is still dangerous.


Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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2 Responses

  1. Oakie


    As an anonymous commenter speaking truth to power, here are two questions:

    Why is the martyr chosen to catalyze the protesters someone who was committing a second degree felony strong arm robbery against a slight-built brown immigrant shopkeeper for the sole purpose of stealing a box of cigars of his choice? If the message of the protesters is that black men are not all violent criminals, seems like a pretty poor choice.

    Has anyone apologized to that shopkeeper for having been slammed and then intimidated by that 300 lb. “Gentle Giant?” That poor guy was working hard just to feed his family in his adopted country and bravely protecting his inventory from blatant and open thievery. He was the real victim that day, and no one has shown any empathy for him.

    The Gently Giant, by contrast, didn’t even have a job to support his own existence-just apparently stole whatever he wanted. Heck ova Martyr you guys have chosen to build a movement. Seems to me more like a bowel movement.

    • Kheven

      That does not justify the assumptions of the racially-ignorant commenters.

      Those commenters already had those attitudes. They just used Ferguson as an excuse to express them anonymously. Many of the same people who said this was not a racial issue made the most racist statements. They just would not make the statements were they would be held accountable for them.

      It’s not “truth to power.” It’s a simple case of people believing what they want to believe.


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