Special Report

Ferguson on Fire

Can we add "Don't loot!" to "Don't Shoot"?

By 8.14.14

As the suicide of Robin Williams — one of the few self-inflicted deaths of a public figure which truly saddened me; the man made me laugh since my teenage years — grabs the headlines, Ferguson, Missouri is literally and figuratively on fire.

On Saturday in the majority-black suburb of St. Louis, 18-year old African-American Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white policeman. Details of the encounter between Brown and the as yet unnamed officer remain sketchy but it is undisputed that Brown was unarmed. A friend of Brown’s who witnessed the shooting claims that the officer shot Brown in the back and then shot him again repeatedly after Brown was attempting to surrender. He also claims that the entire horrible event was caused by the officer being angry that Brown wasn't walking on the sidewalk. Local and county police say that Brown struggled with the officer, perhaps in the police car itself, suggesting a struggle for the policeman's weapon prior to the first shot. 

Urban legend — and requisite accompanying celebrity-promoted hashtag — has already been made regarding Mr. Brown putting up his hands and calling out “Don’t shoot!”

We don’t have enough information to fairly discuss just what happened and why. But some of the immediate reactions to the shooting are now making as much news as the terrible event itself.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigation into the killing of Mr. Brown: “The shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri, this weekend deserves a fulsome review,” said Mr. Holder whose itchy trigger finger for any race-related case is in perfect keeping with his own intensely race-focused approach to law and life.

Much like his boss, President Barack Obama, Eric Holder is not a man to be taken seriously in terms of his commitment to uphold the law if it does not comport with his particular agenda, an agenda that seems more of vengeance against a country he perceives as racist than of enforcing a system of laws — and reinforcing a way of understanding them — on which civil society itself rests.

Holder’s ridiculous involvement in the Trayvon Martin case — public pronouncements stoking anger and division but eventually coming to nothing — should give him pause here.

But it doesn’t.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Obama took a few moments between the 13th green and the 14th tee (those numbers not being official) to approve a statement which begins, “The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time.” The president also acknowledged the DOJ’s investigation and called for Americans to “comfort each other in and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

It was a much better statement (which is why I believe he approved it rather than wrote it) than in past situations when his race-based approach made problems worse rather than better such as his 2009 shoot-from-the-hip insult to Cambridge, Massachusetts police (which resulted in the ridiculous “Beer Summit” spectacle) and his boneheaded “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” remark in 2012, which turned a tragic situation into a national racial divide.

Over the past few days while Barack “I won’t take vacations” Obama fiddled around on Martha’s Vineyard, attending his 401st fundraiser and playing the 187th round of golf of his presidency, Ferguson burned. Mobs of people rioted and robbed, smashing windows and setting fires. (Frightening video and photos here; language not suitable for children.)

In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Brown’s death, a QuikTrip convenience store was looted and partially burned. According to local NewsChannel 5, as two dozen Walmart employees hid in fear, thieves “smashed glass cases containing electronics, and stole all of the televisions.” A beauty supply store was looted of hair extensions and other products with one reporter noting that “children as young as probably 10 years old” were participating in the criminality. Many more local stores were pillaged while vandals damaged police vehicles and even a TV station van. Mysteriously, a local Christian bookstore was unscathed. WWJD indeed.

Two other stores remained untouched: St. Louis Ink Tattoo Studio and County Guns, which are next to each other in a local strip mall a few miles from Ferguson. The store owners got together, brought friends, and — weapons in hand — made sure their businesses were safe. Other shops in the same shopping center were not so lucky. Score one for the Second Amendment.

Since none of the ravaged businesses were owned by the police officer who shot Mr. Brown, I assume the looters must have been receiving bad information. After all, only a sociopath would rob Mrs. Jones because of a misdeed committed by Mr. Smith, right?

On Tuesday, the FAA imposed a no-fly zone over Ferguson because a St. Louis County Police Department helicopter was fired upon “multiple times” on Sunday.

On Wednesday, a policeman shot and critically wounded a masked protester/looter who allegedly pointed a handgun at him while, nearby, potato chip-carrying protesters threw tear gas canisters back at police.

The FBI reports that a New Black Panther leader has come to Ferguson and is calling for violence against the police. Chawn Saddam Kweli’s Facebook page identifies him as the “National Chief of Staff” for the organization and is full of “battle reports” from Ferguson, including “There were a number of selected non Black business ‘ran in’ and expropriated from .... goods passed out and taken to the people.”

Somebody has to say it: These rampaging thugs and criminals are neither white nor Asian nor Eskimo nor American Indian. They are, as far as one can discern from news footage, roughly 100 percent black.

Black commentator LZ Granderson says he’s “tired” of the repetition of similar stories as Michael Brown’s. In a piece for CNN entitled “How many unarmed people have to die?” Granderson offers some legitimate perspective that many whites and many politicians (of any race) could benefit from, including: “I am tired of having to march to have murderers arrested. Tired of worrying about my 17-year-old being gunned down by some random white guy who thinks his music is too loud. Tired of knowing the same could happen to me.”

I do not deny the existence of pockets of individual and institutional racism in America, and they — particularly the latter — need to be rooted out. I believe there is inherent racism in the “War on Drugs” — though Jason Riley and Heather Mac Donald disagree — or at least terrible unintended consequences for blacks. (Sen. Rand Paul is making a political issue of reducing criminal penalties for non-violent drug crimes, saying, “The war on drugs has had a racial outcome, unintentionally, but it has a racial outcome.”)

And I know that most middle class whites, including me, do not come close to understanding the struggles of daily life in some of America’s worst neighborhoods no matter how many Chicago shootings I hear about on the TV news.

But I do deny that it’s all my fault, or all the fault of whites or conservatives or any other group that certain blacks and their non-black liberal apologists might point to as if a mirror had never been invented.

While Mr. Granderson occasionally recognizes that black culture contributes to blacks’ problems such as acknowledging the harm done by so many dropping out of high school, he — like many unwitting defenders of bad behavior — offers little in the way of solutions. And those he does mention seem to miss the fact that “Progressive” policies such as the War on Poverty have decimated black America.

As Project 21 spokesman Derryck Green put it, federal anti-poverty programs “effectively subsidized the dissolution of the black family by rendering the black man's role as a husband and a father irrelevant, invisible and — more specifically — disposable. The result has been several generations of blacks born into broken homes and broken communities experiencing social, moral and economic chaos. It fosters an inescapable dependency that primarily, and oftentimes solely, relies on government to sustain livelihoods.”

Still, I commend Granderson for wanting to find something, anything, to improve this unsustainable and unacceptable situation.

But perhaps more typical of the young black males who live in low-income areas with failing public schools and little sense of opportunity is a remarkable video (again, NSFW and not for kids) by a young man about whom I know nothing other than that he goes by the names of Mr. A.B.E. (for All Black Everything) and Daze Abe (on social media).

Consider some of A.B.E.’s comments and the confused and wicked mindset that they represent. His words are a powerful if unwanted antidote to hope:

  • “Y’all talking about this gas station and people burning it down like we own that. That ain’t ours.” Umm, isn’t that the point? It ain’t yours. So you can’t burn it down.
  • “There’s only so much talking you can do before some action need to be shown.” So if one of your kids does something bad, and talking with him doesn’t seem to be helping, are you going to go out and bash someone else’s child in order to “show some action”?
  • “Sometimes… with great change comes great sacrifice.” Doesn’t this sort of language normally imply that those who want great change must often suffer to get it? The twisted mentality that innocent people must “sacrifice” — such as having their businesses destroyed — so that some other group can pretend that theft is a political statement is beyond insane.

But it gets worse:

  • “We not takin’ each other out because we don’t see value. It might just be a simple (beat down). I gotta take care of him before he take care of me.” Seems to me you don’t see much “value” in people exactly like you, sir, which means you don’t see much value in yourself either — which in turn explains so much about your views and your life and black America’s intractable problems.
  • “We marched for Trayvon. We march for about every f__ing thing that goes on in this world, without violence. And where the f__k do that get us?” Frankly, I understand some of this frustration but that doesn’t justify violence against innocent third parties.
  • “That gas station can be replaced. That life can’t.” What a remarkable piece of rationalization of rampant criminality.
  • “Most of the time when we killin’ each other we probably doin’ something wrong. I’m not sayin’ that that’s right, but it’s probably us livin’ a certain lifestyle so we know what to expect when one of our homies passes away.” How does one constructively react to, much less change, this heinous and barbaric view?

“Daze Abe” (who I’ll be interviewing on my Saturday morning radio show) offers a meaningless “these are just my opinions” caveat. But for anyone who didn’t already understand, we now know what to expect from you, Daze, and the tragically large number of young black men who share your point of view and the hopelessness and evil it engenders.

And it is indeed a tragedy — not just for blacks but for a whole country whose slowly-healing racial wounds seem routinely torn open again, salt poured into them by a lazy commentariat mindlessly parroting race hustlers, whether named Jackson or Sharpton or Holder or Obama, who are all too willing to profit financially or politically from the suffering of others and the dividing of our nation.

All Americans — blacks, whites, and everyone else — would greatly benefit from a black community that doesn’t produce so many dropouts whether through their own lack of interest in school, or the absence of parents who can help by action or example, or the refusal of Democratic politicians to support school choice despite public education failing the people who need it most desperately.

The nation needs a black community that doesn’t constantly offer misogyny as “culture” and gangsters as role models, that doesn’t guarantee poverty by producing nearly three quarters of its children outside of marriage, and that somehow finds a way to “see value” in themselves and others.

A vibrant and economically successful black community would lower crime rates, welfare costs, and unemployment rolls. It would allow people of all creeds to mix and experience different approaches to life and food and music and culture. It would create friendships and bring the nation closer to being the color-blind place that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Americans of goodwill regardless of race believe it can be — and know it should be.

But no progress will be made — no matter how many DOJ “investigations” — in improving race relations and the lives of black Americans as long as so many of them believe with certainty that “the gas station can be replaced” and yet aren’t entirely sure whether murdering a “homie” is wrong or just an expression of their “certain lifestyle.”

And perhaps most tragically given the healing potential in the election of our first black president, no progress will be made until we no longer have an administration and an entire political party that feed, leech-like, on the dripping wounds of a racially divided America.

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About the Author
After years as a self-employed trader and investor, Ross is now the host of “The Ross Kaminsky Show” on Denver's TalkRadio 630 KHOW, weekday mornings from 6 AM to 10 AM. He's a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute and an Objectivist/libertarian so you can't offend him by saying he's not sufficiently conservative. You can reach Ross by e-mail at rossputin(at)rossputin(dot)com.