The Ballot Should Become the Language of the Unheard


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. always preached nonviolence and passive resistance but he understood the psyche of those who believed violence was the only way to be heard by a country, city or community that ignored them.

On a “60 Minutes” segment on Sept. 27, 1966, King stated that, “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

He told Mike Wallace that White America had failed to listen to the economic plight of poor African-Americans.  Therefore, the cry for Black Power was in reaction to the reluctance of White Power to make the kind of changes that would make justice a reality for African-Americans.

While the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Mo. were just as self-defeating and socially destructive as the race riots of 1966, they were a direct result of mainstream American ignoring the plight of African-Americans as it pertains to police brutality and racial profiling.

And while African-Americans in Missouri and across this great nation have to use the ballot box and jury duty as a means of voicing their frustrations, the recent findings of the Department of Justice makes one empathize with the citizens of Ferguson.  

It also may shed light on why Michael Brown reacted the way he did when former Officer Darren Wilson approached him for jaywalking.

The incidents of racial profiling and abuse of power from Ferguson, Mo. police are startling and should not be accepted in a country that boasts about liberty and justice for all, not liberty and justice for all that look like the majority of the officers in the St. Louis suburb.

According to Attorney General Eric Holder, “During the summer of 2012, one Ferguson police officer detained a 32-year-old African American man who had just finished playing basketball at a park.  The officer approached while the man was sitting in his car and resting.

“The car’s windows appeared to be more heavily tinted than Ferguson’s code allowed, so the officer did have legitimate grounds to question him.  But, with no apparent justification, the officer proceeded to accuse the man of being a pedophile.  

“He prohibited the man from using his cell phone and ordered him out of his car for a pat-down search, even though he had no reason to suspect that the man was armed.  And when the man objected—citing his constitutional rights—the police officer drew his service weapon, pointed it at the man’s head, and arrested him on eight different counts.  The arrest caused the man to lose his job.”

Holder also spoke on the numerous citations people of color receive in Ferguson, which seem excessive and unjustifiable.

“For example, in 2007, one woman received two parking tickets that—together—totaled $152.  To date, she has paid $550 in fines and fees to the city of Ferguson.  She’s been arrested twice for having unpaid tickets, and spent six days in jail.  Yet she still—inexplicably—owes Ferguson $541.  And her story is only one of dozens of similar accounts that our investigation uncovered.”

Simply put, Ferguson, Mo. was a ticking time bomb ready to explode.  The death of the unarmed Brown was just the final blow that pulled the switch.

According to the Associated Press, “Federal officials found that Black motorists from 2012 to 2014 were more than twice as likely as Whites to be searched in traffic stops, even though they were 26 percent less likely to be found carrying contraband…

“The review also found that Blacks were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge.”

While King’s message of passive resistance, turning the other cheek and nonviolence is still the only way to achieve justice, any child that is bullied at school will tell you there are only so many times you can turn the other cheek before you explode on your adversaries and get violent.

The riots and violence we saw in 2014 was a result of African-Americans being bullied by the police and being ignored by the politicians and the judges for years.

But unlike the African-Americans in 1966 who were just beginning to enjoy voting rights, the people in Ferguson, Mo. have enjoyed voting rights for decades and that is the voice that the powers that be cannot help but hear.

If they refuse to hear your plight, vote them out of office.   Use your vote to be heard and use your right to participate as jurors to speak even louder.

If the police chief does not care about the African-American community, vote him out of office.

If the mayor and city council do not care about the African-American community, vote them out of office.

If the superintendent and school board do not care about African-American students vote them out of office.

And if judges are perverting justice and discriminating against African-Americans, vote them off of the bench.

When people begin losing their jobs like the 32-year-old African-American man playing basketball, then I am pretty sure that those ignoring us will begin to hear us loud and clear.  But that will only happen, if the ballot box and the jury box becomes the language of the unheard, and not the riot.

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