Ferguson Riots and Black Stigma

Rather than waiting until the specific details concerning the #MichaelBrown case were released- like the specifics of the autopsy, the detailed officers report, the toxicology report or the result of an investigation into Brown’s death- Ferguson residents decided to act. Not having learned anything from the media circus that accompanied and manipulated the previously exploited racial cause celebre, Trayvon Martin, locals took to the streets with retread chants of “justice,” homemade signs of protest, and a willing media hoping to exploit Brown’s death at the hands of- at that time- an unknown but racist, white officer.

The ensuing nights brought out the worst- looted and burned businesses, vandalized property; so-called civic leaders looking to “organize” and protest- the most awful and self-serving of which are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Regardless of the feelings one may have about the case- the details of which are still forthcoming, we’re in need of some honest reflection about the behavior of people assembling in Ferguson.

The self-destructive, self-defeating behavior on display in Ferguson is inexcusable, unjustifiable and unbecoming of people who are obligated to comport themselves in a manner expected from their racial counterparts. We do a disservice to the residents of Ferguson by taking a sympathetic and accommodating view of these anti-social, regressive behaviors- the majority of which are committed by blacks. Sympathizing with these behaviors- the looting, vandalizing, personal violence, confronting and provoking law enforcement- is the equivalent of excusing them, which emboldens the participants. Further, these acts are committed at the expense of law-abiding residents whose lives have been disrupted by this turmoil – the majority of those lives being black.

This dysfunction- aside from being disgraceful- presents severe economic consequences for the residents of Ferguson. While these vandals have looted and destroyed property while reveling in their own self-created chaos, they proved to many why opening businesses in these areas simply isn’t worth the risk. The violent social disorder sends the message to would be proprietors that attempts to locate businesses in these neighborhoods isn’t worth it because the economic and physical risks are too great.

What the country has witnessed during these pathetic events stems from a moral decay. There is a noticeable absence of moral values and ethical virtues in the country as a whole, but this deficiency is concentrated in the inner cities/poor neighborhoods, which unfortunately are disproportionately populated by blacks. Here, American values are rejected and the church has flunked its mission. The optics are devastating; the stigma associated with these sorts of incidents and behaviors, characterized by a subculture represented by a certain and distinguishable element, are projected onto blacks as a whole, seemingly and unfairly defining an entire race by the negative behaviors and cultural influence of a relative few.

Whether the disruptive behaviors the country has witnessed in Ferguson are from Ferguson residents or are from self-seeking opportunists bussed in from other areas is really of no consequence. Yes, outside influences may have tarnished Ferguson’s reputation, but bad values – just like good values – are transported by the very individuals who embrace and personify them. People, regardless of race, shouldn’t hesitate to condemn and shun these behaviors out of fear of- or allegiance to- political correctness. I don’t expect many whites to publicly condemn this condemnable behavior, though many earnestly desire to do so. Whites have been culturally conditioned into silence- withholding honest commentary and astute observations on race, particularly when those commentaries include blacks, because such common sense has been labeled “racist,” by the racial gatekeepers/racial grievance industry, regardless of how benign- or true- the explanations may be.

But the realization is that the stigmas of these disgraceful activities and the inverted morality behind them, are projected onto blacks as a whole, and are extremely difficult to overcome.

The point is- to use a sports metaphor, blacks have swallowed their whistle. We’ve forfeited our obligation of self-policing our own community when it comes to condemning self-destructive behavior. We’re far too hesitant to publicly confront conduct that undermines our reputation and which stunts our socio-economic growth and progress. Blacks are guilty of engaging in the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ when we refuse to denounce disruptive behaviors of members of our own community. We don’t rightfully confront those who, in the words of Bill Cosby, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Instead, we excuse detrimental behavior. We’ve destigmatized behavior, minimizing the shame that used to accompany dysfunctional, destructive activity. We justify our excuses of counterproductive behavior- and the actual behaviors themselves- as a result of the “legacy of slavery and discrimination.” We believe we’re entitled to behave in ways that are above reproach. We act as if we have– or are– a standard unto ourselves, separate and apart from- and unaccountable to- the standard society expects- demands– from our racial counterparts. By continuing to excuse behavior that’s inexcusable for the rest of society, we’ve sullied our reputation, proving in the eyes of many that we’ve spent our currency as a moral, cultural and political force. The bar has been set so low that many don’t expect anything more than what’s on display in Ferguson (or Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Oakland…).

Yet when we are called out on this truth, we predictably and reflexively react, claiming that s/he that offers the critique, is “racist.”  As a result, the behaviors of a disproportionate few have come to define blacks as a whole in the eyes of wider society. In other words, blacks perpetuate the very stereotypes used against us.

People don’t do blacks any favors when the behavior we’ve seen in Ferguson and elsewhere are excused by white enablers or black defenders. Blacks must realize that racial solidarity and racial empathy is much less important than dealing with the Sisyphean task of overcoming the stigma associated with undistinguished behaviors.

Blacks have a moral obligation to reclaim the values and dignity that are worthy of respect and admiration.  It is incumbent upon blacks, particularly the black middle class, to forthrightly and aggressively condemn the attitudes and behaviors that thwart our progress and impugn our individual and collective character.

And it begins with condemnation of stigma-creating behaviors.

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