A Revolt Against Violence

Jason McCuneJeffrey Q. McCune Jr., PhD​, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies and of performing arts, both in Arts & Sciences

Monday, Aug. 11, marked the 39th anniversary of the beginning of the Watts Riots (Revolt), which took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1965. This uprising was incited by a set of events, one of them being police violence against a young black man and a young black pregnant woman.

Today, we see a similar revolt taking place in Ferguson, right outside of St. Louis, where young, unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer on his way to his grandmother’s home. Michael Brown’s killing and the ensuing outrage, at the same time of this historic event, ironically pivots the question, “How can we best demonstrate our outrage about a historic violent tradition which leaves the blood of our children — young black men and women — repeatedly on the ground?” If America has not fixed its “problem with the negro,” what must African-Americans do to demand a cease-fire across the nation and a new lens through which to see black bodies as more than indicators of the propensity toward crime and violence? It requires that we do more than pray.

Read full article in St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • Elián Cabrera-Nguyen, Ph.D.

    Right on! I was beginning to think I was the only person in STL who
    holds such “radical” views. I am a postdoc at the med school, and CNN
    picked up a clip of me expressing similar sentiments and put it on the
    front of their website while airing it on CNN International.
    Unfortunately my poorly worded, heat-of-the-moment reaction could
    rightfully be called a “diatribe” and is in stark contrast to your
    well-reasoned and thoughtful analysis. This little screed has caused a
    major rift between me and members of my family…and here it is: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1163363

    • Rodney Robinson

      All valid points! All are indicative of a deeper problem and that is the inability to “Put the shoe on the other foot”. I agree the facts are still out, but the reality is all lives are important to me and others. It is extremely important that men and women sworn to uphold the law make it home safely, but on the other hand it should also be an obligation to try to preserve life(but certainly not at the expense of losing your own). There is no question that a young man may have been acting in a way that was unbecoming, but what is to much force? Police officers carry 40cal weapons with supreme knock down power designed to make a rhinoceros give in! Sure if your life is in danger certainly protect yourself, but in the process make an attempt to preserve life as well. Without all of the facts being in, an attempt to preserve life may have been overlooked. The problem is If you were to ask any local white person was it justified I believe 80% would say yes, on the other hand local blacks would say too much force was used to subdue the individual. So you see it is a question of your own personal experiences. Its all about what has happened to you when you grew up. The fact is most blacks have had an average of 3-4 run-ins with the police in which they did nothing wrong and were treated in a unprofessional way. On the other hand whites view police as a friend because even when they are doing something wrong it appears that justice was tempered with mercy. I believe that any person white, black Chinese, who lost there son in this manner would be upset and would question the amount of force used, the problem is it is not most white peoples experience. Do we believe that had the same situation happened in chesterfield that is a black officer shooting a unarmed white teen would have been different? I believe there would be equal outrage and more than likely without all facts an arrest. In fact that wont happen because most people black and white would unconsciously value the life of a white teen and act in a way to preserve life. Pay very close attention to the footage of the other black man shot that happened days after the Mike Brown case. The officers both respond to a scene in which they’ve been told of a person acting suspicious and possibly stealing. Why weren’t Tasers deployed. Police officers are trained to make sure if they use their weapons to make sure that the person dies for legal ramifications. In other words its more important that you are not sued than to preserve life. I was told the same thing qualifying for my conceal and carry permit. I personally don’t feel all people black are white are racist I believe there are different experiences in our upbringing that lead us to the conclusion as to who is friend or foe. Lets take the blinders off and try and put the shoe on the other foot folks!

      • John Reynolds

        Part of the problem Rodney is that the public has been poorly educated on the issue of deadly force. The rules of force are not determined by legislation or departmental policy, but by the decisions of YOUR United States Supreme Court. When a police officer draws his or her weapon, and they determine that deadly force is justified, then you are correct, their intent it to kill. Police officers are not trained to shoot in the legs. That will only get them and others killed. The fact is, Wilson did just the right thing. First he was right in exiting his vehicle because he had to place MB under arrest. By that point, he had committed numerous felonies. A police officer cannot turn a blind eye, especially when some of the felonies are committed against him or her. Wilson was certainly justified in shooting to kill while MB was attacking him through the window. And once outside the squad car, he was certainly justified in shooting until MB discontinued his advance. This is exactly what Wilson did. He still had six bullets left in his weapon. Please watch this video. This is an example of what happens when a police officer tries to “preserve life” by not shooting when shooting is justified. It’s interesting that this incident too involves a large black man and a white police officer.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQxzrErec8U

  • John Reynolds

    Jeffrey, I respect your passion, but I think we need to focus our sites on a much larger problem. Two years ago in my hometown of Chicago, nearly 700 public school students were shot. 66 of them died. In the last four years nearly 300 school students have died from gun violence. I don’t believe a single one of them died at the hands of a Chicago police officer. The vast majority of these students were black, and the vast majority of the shooters were black. Numerous times the police have disrupted potential violent encounters, and not surprisingly, the black community mostly supports the Chicago police department in their efforts. In Chicago, Ferguson, and elsewhere, the police are not the enemy. They are young men and women, no different from our military, who die in the line of duty daily protecting the rights and safety of others. I’m sorry Michael Brown died, but the fact is, we don’t have the facts. What we have on both sides of this issue at this point are agendas. We will have the facts when the results of both investigations are finally released. If the facts support Michael Brown, then Officer Wilson needs prosecuted. If the facts support Wilson, then we move on knowing that officer Wilson did his best to protect his community. This incident is not a microcosm, nor was it ever. Perhaps the response afterwards, on both sides, was and is, but the incident itself boils down to the actions and behavior of two individuals who met under very intense circumstances. Which one was in the wrong will be determined. As for the “black bodies?” No one in Chicago looks at 300 dead school children as indicators of a propensity toward violence. They are tragic young victims of those who have chosen violence as a way of life in that city. Without the police, those numbers would be so much higher. So lets focus on the larger social problems in Chicago, Ferguson, and elsewhere. It frankly is a social crisis at this point that will only get worse until we shrug off the chains of political correctness and a victim-mindset that teaches non-victims to be victims, and victims to remain so. Captain Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol isn’t a victim. Let’s make him a role model rather than the enemy.

    • Jeffrey McCune
      • John Reynolds

        I’m sorry Jeffrey, but when I see statements like “The policy of America has been, for most of its history, white supremacy. The high rates of violence in black neighborhoods do not exist outside of these facts—they evidence them,” I dismiss them and the writer outright. The high rate of violence in Chicago has nothing to do with white supremacy and everything to do with gangs and drugs, and the fact that over 50% of inner city kids will never finish high school. What I do fault white people for is not caring, and not recognizing that this problem will continue to erode the fiber of this country more than terrorism ever will. And because white people don’t care, the television cameras are nowhere to be found. And without the television cameras, people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton don’t bother to show their faces. In Chicago, everything has been tried to lessen this problem. We have had “anti-crime” programs, which is code for “money.” Unfortunately with the last such program, amounting to over $50 million, over 20 black leaders have now been indicted for basically stealing and squandering the money. What are we to do Jeffrey? Give me a single idea. God bless the police officers out there who risk their lives daily to serve as the buffer where none exists…

        • Frank Wheeler

          “The high rate of violence in Chicago has nothing to do with white supremacy and everything to do with gangs and drugs, and the fact that over 50% of inner city kids will never finish high school.”

          John, when you make statements like that, either you’re being disingenuous or you’re just ignorant about the historical background of racism and discrimination that has produced and perpetuated black ghettos in American cities. Push your claim a little further: why is it that black children face substandard educational achievement? Why do gangs and drug dealing exist in economically depressed, largely black areas?

          Dig a little deeper.

  • Will

    >we see a similar revolt taking place in Ferguson, right outside of St.
    Louis, where young, unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed by an
    officer on his way to his grandmother’s home. Michael Brown’s killing
    and the ensuing outrage, at the same time of this historic event,
    ironically pivots the question, “How can we best demonstrate our outrage
    about a historic violent tradition which leaves the blood of our
    children — young black men and women — repeatedly on the ground?”

    So here’s the thing – young, unarmed Michael Brown was a violent criminal, and based on at least the preliminary evidence that’s been released, he fought with a police officer and tried to take his gun. I’m not sure what people expected to happen in those circumstances…

    There’s dozens – hundreds – of FAR better examples of police abusing their power and targeting minorities and the poor. Oscar Grant? Kelly Thomas? Jose Guerena? Geez, I can think of a dozen examples from the past two years. I GET the outrage. Jesus christ, I can’t express to you how thoroughly I understand the outrage when the police abuse their power. I’m a vet, and watching my country turn into a police state is beyond outrageous to me. What I DON’T get is why people picked out *this particular shooting* to use as their example despite literally hundreds of better examples from around the country.

    It’s not just an idle complaint – this is really hurting the protestors’ credibility IMO; it makes it seem like they think that the cops are wrong any time they discharge their weapons no matter what. I’m sure most of them DON’T think that, but I don’t think most of them realize how championing the “young, unarmed boy on his way to grandma’s” narrative does disservice to an issue that otherwise deserves our concern and outrage. It turns the conversation into a false dichotomy where either “there’s a huge problem with the cops and this is one example” or “the shooting was justified so there’s no problem with the cops.” Well, personally, I like option C – there’s a huge problem with the cops, but this probably wasn’t an example of it. Unfortunately, that narrative doesn’t pay the bills if you’re in the media because people like simple answers even when they’re wrong.

    Hate police militarization and want to protest it? Awesome, I’ll join you. Hate the systematic oppression of poor and minority communities by a subtle, insidious system of discrimination and want to protest that? Awesome, I’ll join you. Want to protest police violence using a violent criminal’s death as your example? No thanks.

  • Elena

    I’d rather have faith that the court did the right thing than participate in a lynch-mob mentality. Unfortunately the media is blowing it up to become just that.