Now what, Ferguson? With Michael Brown’s funeral being a public spectacle in that it signals closure to another racial episode in this country, the looming questions beckons some answers. Now that we’ve seen civil unrest go on for several weeks, peaceful demonstrations being wagered, anger escalating and mistrust between community and law enforcement escalating to the point that the United States attorney general has to step into the fray to calm matters, what becomes of Ferguson, Missouri now? No one knows at this point, but here are five burning questions I have about the situation:
1. Will an arrest of Officer Darren Wilson be enough justice for Michael Brown’s parents and the residents of Ferguson?
At the end of the day, even if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is formally charged, how far would that go in stomping out the mistrust between a majority white police force and an overwhelmingly mass of African Americans, which make up the largest population in the city? How far will it go in forcing African Americans in that town to look themselves in the mirror and acknowledge they have to be more involved in the civic responsibilities and use their voices in choosing their representatives in law enforcement and within the city’s government structure. Change is not always in immediate gratification, but in a sustained journey. It’s time for citizens of Ferguson to recognize this.
2. Who is on the legal hook for all the civil rights litigation that will come down the pipeline?
My guess is the city of Ferguson, Ferguson Police Department, members of the St. Louis Police Department, Ferguson City Council, and the state of Missouri. When the dust finally settles, civil lawsuits will reign supreme and the cost will have a heavy toll on just about everything that moves in and around Ferguson and the state of Missouri. When you have civilians and children being tear-gassed, media members being arrested, businesses being destroyed by looters, and being directly affected by the civil unrest for two weeks…count on the recipe of a large amount of monetary damages being paid out. It’s the American way.
3. How much will this galvanize the black community into strategic action?
It’s hard to say right now. But the intensity of a nationwide movement has picked up. A movement doesn’t come out of a single incident. It happens after a series of incidents occur. There’s one too many of them regarding young black men and law enforcement. When any group gets sick and tired of being sick and tired…the anger, the outrage, the search for justice will not be easily quenched by some phony politician making a condescending speech. The black and brown communities are tired of the lip service about equality and justice. There will be change. Change doesn’t come from the Oval Office. It starts with a community of people forcing change through the rights we have as American citizens. It’s going to come sooner than later. You can take that to the bank.
4. How will all the commotion affect Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson and his career going forward?
Johnson is a hero. He brought calm to a hostile situation when the Ferguson Police Department and its police chief bumbled and stumbled all over the place causing demonstrations to go awry. Anyone else but Johnson would not have been able to bring the mess to a cool-headed, thoughtful process.
5. Will there be healing between the community and its law enforcement agency?
That will only happen when the police department and the Ferguson City Council become more reflective of the city it serves. With a population that is nearly 70 percent black and a police department that is overwhelmingly white, the recipe for disaster becomes imminent. Healing comes about when there is legitimate change. Change will only happen when the people of Ferguson and the rest of the nation decide to take their communities back through the power of voting and other legalized measures.