Last August the death of Mike Brown and police reaction to protests in Ferguson brought the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter movement to the mainstream media foreground. In the year that followed, a slew of American states and cities have faced protest, controversy, and mass media scrutiny over the killing and policing of their citizens in similar fashion, as the overwhelming narrative became impossible to ignore:
State violence disproportionately attacks people of color, and justice is rarely served by the court system to the victims of those attacks, even when they are innocent of any crime.
Because the movement to address these wrongs is not new, organizers on the ground, cable news guests, and even individual protesters, have made the most of their time in the spotlight. (Witness Kwame Rose's viral confrontation with Geraldo Rivera, in which coverage of the "black riots" in Baltimore was pre-empted by an indictment of racial and class disparities in that city's criminal justice system.)
Through creative and adaptable acts of civil disobedience ("Black Brunch", Christmas season protests etc. etc.) organizers and activists have brought new pressure to bear on the underpinnings of inequality and racism this year.
The result has been a shameful year of White Violence, Evasiveness and Panic. From Rachel Dolezal's "transracial" sideshow, to the unmasking of White Supremacists within the ranks of multiple police departments, to the burning of black churches and the horrific massacre in Charleston, we have witnessed a wide spectrum of dysfunctional and often deadly behavior by White Americans in the 12 months since Ferguson.
There is a deadly serious problem with race in America, and it belongs to White People. Let that sink in.
White Supremacy is now at a crisis level in America. The New American Foundation released a study making it official this June; right-wing extremists have killed almost twice as many people since September 11th than self-identified jihadists, and are now the pre-eminent domestic terror threat in America.
When Dylann Roof began shooting inside a historic black church in Charleston last month, killing nine innocent people with the stated intention of "starting a race war", it's doubtful he understood the scope of the fire he was throwing fuel on. In many places, the "race war" may as well have begun long ago.
Nationwide, Black unemployment is nearly double the national rate, as is the poverty rate for black families. In 2014 about 42% of households headed by a single black woman were in poverty. Combine these lack of options with defunded education and crumbling housing and infrastructure in black neighborhoods, and a picture emerges of the quiet "Race War" that never ended. This is the more subtle violence, begun long before Dylan Roof or Darren Wilson fired a shot.
In America, Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated in prison, where their sentences are nearly 20% longer than those of white men who commit the same crime. For generations the classifications of drugs have been used (in combination with Iran Contra-backed smuggling of drugs into urban neighborhoods) to fracture families, making way for what have now become known as the "School to Prison Pipeline" and "Prison Industrial Complex". This is systemic racism.
Every 28 hours, a black person in America is killed by someone employed or protected by the US government.
Question any of the above, as activists have so courageously and tirelessly done this year, and you will face the full backlash of White Privilege, Denial, Frailty, and Supremacy. From crowdfunded campaigns for cops being charged with homicide, to Facebook trolls and militarized cops, we've witnessed the gambit this year.
A year ago this month, a 35 year veteran of the St. Louis PD was suspended for racist remarks he made on a leaked video. In his taped speech to a gathering of white supremacists, Officer Dan Page called Barack Obama an "illegal alien", and promised "There's gonna be a lot of blood folks."
What we are seemingly left with is a showdown between two populations: one who must either bring about change or be killed, and one who would rather kill than be changed.
If the year ahead is to be less violent than the one behind us, the need for dramatic intervention is clear. We who call ourselves allies and accomplices of Equality had better get to the frontline of dealing with our people. Racism must be confronted and challenged, and it is the job of white people to address other white people when they see or hear racist words and actions. Systemic racism and state violence must be challenged as well, through pressure on our elected officials and continued protest and disruption.
The deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Grey, Walter Scott and uncounted others must not continue or be in vain. The goal of Dylan Roof must be not be realized. The responsibility is ours, and the fight for justice must continue in the year to come.