The events in Ferguson, Missouri set off by the death of Mike Brown created a domino effect in raising awareness on the systematic and institutional racial barriers embedded within public systems across all levels of our government.
On April 20th at 1:00 PM EST using the hashtag #FergusonHU, Howard University School of Social Work Community Administration Policy and Practice (HUSSWCAP) program will be co-hosting a live twitter chat with Social Work Helper to discuss Ferguson’s impact, the role of social media, and how to advance advocacy in the digital world.
Since Ferguson, the news media has been reporting on video after video of unarmed African-Americans and other minorities being savagely beaten or shot by white police officers across the country. Additionally, there has been have been an equal amount racist behavior, comments, or activities exposed by the media in sectors of the white community such as in police departments and fraternities which have been deemed as unrelated and isolated behavior.
Brown was an unarmed teenager shot by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, initially stopped as a result of a traffic stop for jay walking. If it had not been for the social media activity of Ferguson residents going viral, the public would not be aware of the events in Ferguson on that fateful day.
Many would equate the death of Mike Brown to Emit Till as another defining moment to spark a generational movement towards racial equality. However, others would argue that Mike Brown was a bad choice of victims in which to catapult a movement because he was “no angel” and would instead argue Tamir Rice as a better choice to be the face of a movement. However, one must ask, Would we really know about Tamir Rice without the eruption of Ferguson, Missouri?
To fully add context on the importance of the events in Ferguson, we must also examine the anxiety African-American families felt when unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed walking home by a self-appointed community watch individual who felt he did not belong in the neighbor. The acquittal of George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s murder raised some serious questions black families across the nation could not answer. If a person with no police authority can get away with murder, what will it mean for African-Americans interacting with the police?
Without citizens on social media diligently highlighting the media’s inattention and non-action in reporting on these important events, would we have any evidence to support what African-Americans have known all along? As a result of Ferguson, there has been evidence to surface on the media’s contribution to the racial bias and discrimination against African-Americans. The Huffington Post did an article on how white suspects are treated better than black victims.
The racial stereotyping of Blacks encouraged by the images and implicit comparisons to Whites on local news reduces the latter’s empathy and heightens animosity, as demonstrated empirically by several experimental studies. To the extent local television news thereby undermines the fragile foundations of racial comity, it could reduce apparent and real responsiveness of White-dominated society to the needs of poor minorities, especially Blacks. The result, in turn, is continued employment discrimination and government unresponsiveness to the urban job loss and economic dislocation that has so traumatized the inner city — and consequent breeding of crime. [The Black Image in the White Mind, University of Chicago Press, 2000] Read Full Article on Media Matters
Members of the African-American community have long been aware and felt the effects of institutional discrimination when interacting with governmental systems. Some of us adapt, avoid, and/or embrace these inequities as coping mechanisms in effort to reduce our discomfort or to get ahead. However, most African-Americans would agree that we have progressed since the Jim Crow era.
Ironically, with the election of our country’s first African-American President Barack Obama, some voices in the African-American community blame him for the resurgence of racial hatred and the regression of the black community in education and employment opportunities. Apathy for racial discrimination and institutional barriers appear to be at an all time high from whites and blacks who have achieved a certain level of success.
The self-made man who has pulled himself up by his boot straps while having access to rare opportunities still fails to see and address the institutional barriers plaguing his/her community. There is nothing new about the “New Black” phenomenon espoused by Pharrell Williams which is only an updated reflection of the competing views between Booker T. Washington and WEB DuBois.
The fracturing of the African-American community and our inability to nurture group economics within our community has been maintained by classism. We have made it too easy for those who maintain the power structure to keep us separated. During the live twitter chat, we will be discussing how to move thsi conversation forward and how do we get white allies to support our efforts?
Recommended Reading before the Live Twitter #FergusonHU
Journal Article: “Ferguson proves the United States justice systems is not broken, but working perfectly as designed” written by Deona Hooper, MSW This article will be free to download from April 17th to April 21st.
Editorial Article: “Amid tensions, Sharpton lashes out at younger activists“
Editorial Article: “African-American Spending Power Estimated at 1.1 Trillion Dollars by 2015”
Editorial Article: “Everything the Police Reported About Walter Scott’s Death before A Video Showed Up”
You can send comments and questions to @swhelpercom and @husswcapp using the hashtag #FergusonHU.