Ferguson Is Burning » VSB

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Ferguson Is Burning

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I spent a couple hours this evening at a friend’s going away party. He recently accepted a job overseas, and 50 or so people gathered at SAVOY — a Black-owned restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Strip District — to see him off. The crowd was predominately male; (mostly) Black men ranging from the early 20s to the mid 60s. Some I knew pretty well, a few I knew moderately well, and a couple I met for the first time tonight.

As expected, Ferguson was a popular topic of conversation. There wasn’t much variance, though. At least not with the conversations I was involved in and the ones I overheard. All (myself included) spoke of Darren Wilson not being charged as a foregone conclusion. An inevitability. It wasn’t a hopelessness, though. More just a sober recognition of how things have worked here and how things will continue to work here. We didn’t all know each other. But we all know America.

My wife and I left a little after 8. We got home 20 minutes later. I walked our dog, took out the garbage, turned on the TV to watch the press conference, and started writing this.

I expected to be done writing before the decision was announced. But as it neared closer to — and eventually past — 9pm, I couldn’t continue. As certain as I was that the man who killed Michael Brown would not be indicted, I was anxious. My heart began to race. I couldn’t put any sentences together. At least not the type of sentences I wanted to publish.

The anxiety turned to anger when Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch came to the podium with what looked to be a smirk. (Seriously. Watch the video again. That motherfucker was smirking.) And, as he droned on and on — blaming everything from Twitter to bad eyewitnesses for how many of us feel about this case — the anger turned to rage. It crescendoed when the decision was announced, and peaked when President Obama spoke. His words were sober and presidential, as usual. But his eyes and countenance said something else. He was exasperated. Exhausted. Enraged. It was a familiar sight. They were the same words I had earlier this evening, and the same eyes I have right now.

These feelings — all of which I’m still experiencing as I write this sentence, at 10:52pm — were unexpected. I honestly did think I was too much of a pragmatist about America and race to really feel much of anything aside from resignation. An acknowledgement of shit happening the way it always happens. I did not expect to be this angry. I did not expect this rage. I did not expect these tears.

But they’re all here now. Evidence that as sober and practical as my public face was, the core of me remained invested. Because I have no choice but to be. Tonight, we learned that the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown will not face any criminal charges. A couple months ago, we learned that the police officers who shot and killed John Crawford III would not face any criminal charges. A year and a half ago, we learned that the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin would be a free man. A week, or a month, or a year from now, we’ll learn that another yet-to-be-named White police officer or self-appointed officer of the law who shot and killed another yet-to-be-named Black male will go free. And that yet-to-be-named Black male could be me.

Tonight, Ferguson, Missouri is burning. And so am I.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • F*ck Darren Wilson
    F*ck Bob McCulloch
    F*ck white people
    F*ck this country

    I don’t care if you’re white and you feel like I’m being irrational, f*ck you.

    • Epsilonicus

      My thoughts exactly

      • You know what’s truly got me livid? Darren Wilson got married on October 24th, 2014, he received $400K in donations and he’s STILL, I repeat, HE IS STILL ON PAID LEAVE.

        • BeautifullyHuman

          The donations alone are a counter to anyone who says this is not about race. It’s disgusting a rogue cop can receive that type of financial support from members of a supposed “civilized” society.

          • He has already done multiple interviews with various news stations to present “his side of the story”. He and his wife can drive straight off a cliff.

            • BeautifullyHuman

              That’s what I read. Supposedly he vetted his interviewers which already lets you know he bout that bullshyt. But I couldn’t agree more with you…fukc him and everyone complicit in this egregious miscarriage of justice.

              I’m so tired of folks refusing to see our humanity.

              • I’m exhausted as well. I can’t even sleep right now because I’m so angry and anxious. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.

                • Meridian

                  You too? I’m so wired right now.

              • ALM247

                Wow, so he got the chance to choose who interviewed him? Wow, catch all interviews on Fox News…..

              • LeeLee

                “I’m so tired of folks refusing to see our humanity.”

                Agreed. Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

              • Folasade

                “I’m so tired of folks refusing to see our humanity”

                This is what gets me more than anything in this country. Why are we treated as less than human? What is the difference between us other than our skin? Do we not love our kids the same? Care about their futures any more or less?

                • Beauty In Truth

                  Blacks just have to let that go. You will literally kill yourself trying to be understood and accepted by these caucasians who pretend to be so above race but show you on the job, at school, and out in public just how they feel about our people.

                  We need to focus on our communities and loving each other period. We are a different tribe that thinks, feels, and loves differently. We don’t need their approval. The effort is in vain.

                  • BeautifullyHuman

                    I agree that we need to focus on ourselves and our community, but when our lives hang in the balance because they continually try to deprive us of our humanity, then it becomes a huge problem. Fukc white acceptance, but what they won’t be doing is invalidating my existence. We are entitled to the same human rights and the right to live without having someone else encroaching on our personhood. I think this is what causes us so much heartburn, not mufuggas not accepting us.

            • ALM247

              ABC news did a story this morning to point out his bruises…..bruises plural. The problem is….I didn’t see ONE bruise, just slight redness….the type of redness than can come from cold weather, a heat rash, a vigorous workout, etc.

              • Folasade

                I thought I was the only one. I am like what are these people taking pictures of? His skin?

                • Meridian

                  I laughed out loud when I saw those photos. How sick in the head do you have to be to actually believe there were bruises on his face? They took photos of his skin’s natural blush and called it bruising. If you don’t get the f*ck…

          • ALM247

            Civilized= Some White people judge other people all day while their own dirt is hidden

            Wilson is probably about to sign a book deal in the next couple of weeks.

            • BeautifullyHuman

              I think that’s one of the biggest ironies about white folks, if not the biggest. They stay trying to call somewhat out on being “uncivilized” or not acting with propriety when these mofos are historically the most savage brutes on this planet plundering, raping and stealing everything from land to bodies to depriving folks of their humanity.

              • Marco

                I think all of you should take a break.

          • Epsilonicus

            MSNBV said he has already been shopping around

          • Sigma_Since 93

            It should also galvanize you / us to do the same when the time comes. The question is will we put our money where our mouths are? If not we need to stop b!tching about White folks pooling their resources.

            • BeautifullyHuman

              I agree we should. Black spending power is undeniable. Sometimes I wish we knew that.

        • ALM247

          I had no idea that he got married. It’s amazing that in this world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, drones, etc. that Wilson was still somehow able to whisk himself and his fiance’ off to have a wedding in peace and quiet. Meanwhile, Michael Brown’s life has been scrutinized and Michael Brown’s mother is facing a possibie arrest.

          I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. At this point, I believe that some of these officers are doing this on purpose just to get several weeks (or a few months) paid leave. You don’t want to work anymore? Shoot a Black person and sit on the couch with your full paycheck.

          Meanwhile, while folks are protesting, Wilson is somewhere getting ready to eat turkey and shove people around in the mall on Black Friday.

          • I would doubt the latter. Do you think he wants to be in the open public right now?

            • ALM247

              I don’t know him, but I know that people who think like him tend to be very, very BOLD. Look at Zimmerman, how many times was he pulled over by the police leading up to his trial? How many times did his wife or girlfriend (I think he had both simultaneously) call the police on him?

              Remember that RubyWooWho just said that he got married. He may have done that at home, but he may have also done that in public. Don’t forget that there is a significant portion of the U.S. population that support Wilson and people who are trigger happy regarding Black people.

              It would not have been difficult for someone to rent a facility for him to get married.

              With $400k in support, I’m sure that he is eager to spend that money. A policeman doesn’t make that type of money. He’s getting ready to sit down to a nice turkey dinner somewhere. No one knows where he is, so he could do all of the shopping he wants by just pulling a baseball cap over his head. Let’s be honest, based on the pictures that have been shown of him, he has a VERY generic set of facial features. He would blend right in among a pushing and shoving Black Friday crowd.

        • Epsilonicus

          They told him not to even report to the station this weekend.

          • I don’t think I’ve ever wished for any one person to hurt so badly before. I told myself I’d sell my soul to the devil a million times over if I could make Darren Wilson’s life a fresh new hayle each day he opened his pasty eyes.

    • Not white

      You’re being irrational

      • pls

        so the officers/civilians who continue to kill unarmed black boys out of “fear” aren’t irrational?

        yyyea i don’t believe your username.

        • Jason Pritchett

          As physical evidence, and eyewitness testimony confirmed, Michael Brown was shot because he robbed a store, a police officer thought he matched the description, and he then assaulted the police officer. When you beat a cop in the face, then charge him like a bull, he has no choice.
          For what it’s worth, “unarmed” does not = “harmless”.
          These black men were “unarmed”, too:

      • h.h.h.
      • LMNOP

        Sometimes it’s more important to be human than rational.

    • Rachmo

      Yup this sounds about right. Carry on.

  • Kim

    We knew what the outcome would be and yet that didn’t sooth the pain, the hurt, the anger, the dissapointment nor the tears I kept trying so hard to fight back. But I will not be silenced nor docile until we affect change and I will not forget these young men names because the next could be the name of someone I know intimately or love because then…God be with us all.

  • Beauty In Truth

    “But they’re all here now. Evidence that as sober and practical as my public face was, the core of me remained invested. Because I have no choice but to be. Tonight, we learned that the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown will not face any charges. A couple months ago, we learned that the police officers who shot and killed John Crawford III would not face any charges. A year and a half ago, we learned that the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin would not face any charges. A week, or a month, or a year from now, we’ll learn that another yet-to-be-named White police officer or self-appointed officer of the law who shot and killed another yet-to-be-named Black male will go free. And that yet-to-be-named Black male could be me.”

    And what are our Black men going to do about this [THIS] time?

    • ALM247

      I am just now reading your post, but your last sentence was EXACTLY the core of my comment earlier this morning.

    • h.h.h.

      I’ll fix it.

  • Epsilonicus

    I understand the race, the anger, the violence. Its the expression of people who feel powerless to stop what seems life a juggernaut in their lives.

    I will say this. If this happened to my son, I’m not letting it get to grand jury.

    • Meridian


    • From my understanding and from what the attorneys I know conveyed to me the prosecutor took the easy way out by using the grand jury. He didn’t care enough to put in the work.

      • ALM247

        Even if they had put in the work to indict, I’m about 95% sure that Wilson would have walked just like Zimmerman did. They saved us all a lot of time by not even trying to fake. They let us know up front instead of dragging the possibility of justice out like Florida did.

        • If he was indicted they would’ve sought 1st degree murder, which they know they couldn’t prove and then it would’ve been Zimmerman again. But after all the BS the prosecutor spit out, I needed a trial man, just wanted to hear the truth

      • Andi

        The stats on people who don’t get an indictment when going to the grand jury are incredibly slim. There were legal analysts of all races on tv perplexed by the prosecutor’s process. Every legal analyst described the prosecutor as neutral and just doing a data dump on the jury without giving an sort of instruction.

        • ALM247

          Yes. The morning show on CBS news pointed this out earlier today. They stated that out of over 162,000 grand jury decisions, only 11 juries made the decision to NOT indict. That’s less that .0068%…Astonishing in a bad way.

      • MPM

        And his father had been a cop that had been killed in the line of duty. Clearly he was biased.

      • Epsilonicus

        Oh I know he did. He wanted dude to go free.

        I am in that situation, we are not using courts. God forgives. I don’t.

        • LMNOP

          That’s a “Stand Your Ground” situation if ever there was one.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        If you read all 180 pages of Dorian Johnson’s transcript, both of the prosecutors were making a case for the defense. Lots of discussion of whether weed was smoked, whether Mike Brown was sagging (so if he pulled up his pants after getting shot, Darren Wilson could argue that he was reaching for a weapon).

        The easy thing would have been to present the case most favorable to the prosecution of Darren Wilson, instead of purposefully trying to trip up what should have been the State’s star witness and sway the grand jury into not indicting.

        And you can make these observations just by reading the transcript. You don’t need legal training to see how 2 attorneys tag teamed Dorian to make his case sound as weak as possible. Yet oddly, the narrative that Dorian put together of them walking in the middle of the street, the officer telling them to get out of it, and then reversing so fast that the tires screeched..almost hitting the two of them – that shines through. How Mike tries to run away after being shot, gets shot again, and then turns around to be gunned down… I can’t even..

  • h.h.h.

    (i’m drinking, and i’ll be drinkinng until i go to work. i leave you with this)

    Everybody lookin at you crazy (crazy!)
    What you gon’ do? (What you gon’ do?)
    ..Lift up yo’ head and keep movin
    or let the paranoia haunt you
    Peace to fashion, police, I wear my heart
    on my sleeve, let the runway start
    You know the miserable do love company
    What do you want from me and my scars?
    Everybody lack confidence, everybody lack confidence
    How many times our potential was anonymous?
    How many times the city makin me promises?
    So I promise this

    I love myself!
    (The world is a ghetto with guns and picket signs)
    I love myself!
    (But it can do what it want whenever it want, I don’t mind)
    I love myself!
    (He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide)
    I love my…self!
    (One day at a time, sun gon’ shine)


  • screagle101

    That’s exactly the type of incidiary title that’s should be avoided now. People will see that and make sweeping judgements without reading and assume it’s literally true

    • justagirl

      umm, don’t project your lack of reading comprehension onto other people. it is clearly a figure of speech to anyone with a brain.

      • screagle101

        “People will see that and make sweeping judgements without reading and assume it’s literally true”
        Your comprehension is worse than mine, apparently.

        • Fee

          LOL…good call. I totally understood your initial post.

    • ALM247

      You didn’t understand the cultural/social reference? You actually thought that the entire city of Ferguson was burning?

      • Meridian

        It…kind of is though. The title works both figuratively and literally.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s

    Using probable cause as the threshold for indictment. Damn

  • YasiinThaKilla

    Im don’t surprised of the decision..

    • Meridian

      I wonder how it’s possible to miss a man I never knew. I wish I had someone like him to rest in now. Someone to make sense of it all.

    • Shay-d-Lady

      no offense but im sick to death of this f!cking quote. I dont give a single gotdayum how the system was designed. this f!cking shyt has failed. it failed me. it failed Mike brown, it has failed his parents and numerous others. on top of the fact that the system wasn’t technically designed to keep us down because at the time of this systems development we weren’t considered human enough to even really be thought of in that sense.. which is why they are working so hard now to erode the rights initially granted when we were deemed “fully human” as it regards to the Constitution now. im off topic and ranting. and this isnt personally directed at you. im frustrated . and enraged. f!cking enraged.

      • Yet Another Lurker

        That’s the point of the quote though. The system DIDN’T fail. It worked exactly as it was suppose to. And that’s the problem.

  • Sincereluv4life

    I had a feeling he wouldn’t be indicted but I was still holding out hope. I think the pain I feel is just built up from Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Kendrec Mcdade, Sean Bell and more. My heart is just hurting right now & it goes out to all of the family’s. The situation w/ Michael Brown did not need to escalate into a death. I just wish Wilson had been indicted, at the very least the family could’ve had the satisfaction of fighting it out in a trial. There are so many questions that needed to be hashed out in a trial. The family at least deserved that.

  • Meridian

    I’m not surprised at all and I honestly wasn’t expecting anything other than no indictment. Part of me wants to be destroyed. Everyone’s crying and distraught and upset. I’m just numb. There have been moments with the black men and children around me that have been so utterly raw it’s caused me to be the sensitive person I am at heart. There’s so much love there that of course I’ve broken down and just felt this moment with everyone else. But…I’m so profoundly changed by the whole event that I don’t think it could ever be the same after this.

    We have these lives and creature comforts even though we realize we live in a country that is built to work against us, hate us, and kill us. We’ve learned to exist in such a way where whatever tiny piece of solace we’ve managed to create is what we hold on to as representation of a sound, good life. That’s okay with us. We don’t want to risk losing it just for the sake of living in a society that is fully supportive of us thriving, and doing so safely with the utmost security. I don’t have it in my spirit to experience something like this and just go back to the way things were like nothing ever happened.

    In history there are always these flashpoint events that usher in civil unrest and violence, and out of that comes a nation reborn. I recognize our society is a breeding ground for such a widescale overhaul. I know that there are visionaries out there who imagine a pro-black nation and I just feel like I’m more connected to the idealists who are willing to pioneer a new America. I can make that struggle my norm. I’m willing to make a life within that for myself. It’s something I’ve always been drawn to even though I’m just your typical person enjoying my life. It’s always been there. Hoping.

    For now? I’m watching the news seeing police cars explode. I’m watching fires burn out of control. I’m seeing these television reporters running away from gunfire live on the air. In New York, DC, Chicago, Oakland, in cities all over the world…there are thousands of people gathered in each location acting in civil disobedience. Ferguson is ground zero for us and to watch the outpouring of rage is one of the most humbling things I’ve ever seen. I wish it meant something greater because my generation absolutely needs to have its historical movement. That’s gonna be my healing.

    It’s like someone took that barely contained energy so that it’s not inside me anymore, but outside shaping the future. I’ve never had the delusion that an epiphany will be had in the white community and suddenly they’ll start behaving with more sense. A country we find worth living in is something we have to take. It’s been event after event after event and while white people make the mistake of thinking their imposing ways are a means of control, I know that the fire it’s creating is of historical proportions. No one else but me sees it that way. No one else but me feels like the unrest we’ve seen should be a normal part of our lives, but if Ferguson burns than it’s the most genuine smile I’ve ever had.


    • Chris

      “..but if Ferguson burns than it’s the most genuine smile I’ve ever had.”

      A good majority of the businesses that burned in Ferguson were minority owned. I don’t see that as something to smile about.

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