The Oscar Grant Effect: On Michael Brown and Institutional Racism in America

Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:30 By Max Eternity, Max Eternity | Op-Ed
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In recent days I have been one of the many writers contributing to the Wikipedia entry for the “Shooting of Michael Brown.”  Although I should say, I find myself dismayed by Wikipedia’s editorial  decision to delete most accounts from independent media, and to use  almost exclusively the mainstream corporate media’s account in tandem  with the Ferguson, Missouri Police department’s account, which paints  the 18 year-old, dead, black man as a thuggish criminal who posed a  grave threat to public safety.

Why is this worth mentioning?  Because according to the National Association of Black Journalists, of those working in newsrooms across the nation blacks make up less than 5%.

So as it happens, who’s shaping the “official” story?

Remember Oscar Grant?

With these things in mind, in the city  Michael Brown was killed, where the majority of its citizens are black,  but its police force is 93% white, the legacy of overt white supremacy  and the normalized, yet pervasive marginalization of blacks in the  United States, must be acknowledged.  For the crux of this cannot be  overstated, as at the core Brown’s death at the hands of institutional  authority figures [the police] is a centuries-long, simmering issue of  racial profiling and indiscriminate police killings that define key  aspects of the Prison Industrialist Complex, which I have, alongside  other journalists, written about in numerous well-cited articles over  the last 5 years, including my most recent article published just 3  weeks ago, entitled “The Criminalization of Black Youth.”

In a statement released on August 15th, the family of Michael Brown call the Ferguson’s police department “devious”and say that they are “beyond outraged” at how “the police chief has   chosen to disseminate piecemeal information in a manner intended to   assassinate the character of their son,” which they describe as a “a   brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight.”  And rightly so,  in their scathing critique of the Ferguson police Brown’s family goes  on  to say in their statement that there “is nothing based on the facts  that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style   murder” of Michael Brown by police officer, Darren Wilson, while “he   held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender.”

See my feature article/interview, entitled “Jim Crow 2.0: Disenfranchisement by Design,” with Michele Alexander, the New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

See also my article, entitled “The Casualties of Justice,” that covered the 2013 report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement,  which revealed amongst other things a death count at the hands of “police, security guards and vigilantes,” resulting in the fatality of  an African-American every 28 hours.

Financial injustice is at the heart of this, because with wealth comes power and respect.

African-Americans make up 13% of the US  population, and if that were  reflected in the percentage of financial  wealth, just for starters and  for instance–where the wealth held by the 400 richest Americans, who are all white except for Oprah Winfrey, equals more than the entire collective wealth of all 41 million blacks in the US–the world we’d live in would not be the world we live in.

The horrific death of Michael Brown is  now a part of American history.  Yet more profoundly, and however  unfortunate, it is represents the defining feature for  African-Americans…the glaring truth of what it means to be black in  America—that we are less than human—that we are disposable—that we are  always ripe for the killing.


This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Max Eternity

Max Eternity is a visionary, artist, writer and historian, and the founder of the Eternity Group.

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