When the people who live Ferguson first reacted to Michael Brown’s death by protesting against the police action that resulted in his death, and, demanded accountability, in my opinion the Ferguson Police immediately starting violating the Constitutional protections afforded to those Ferguson residents and anyone else is in this country. As an activist and citizen/journalist with a relationship with a number of activist organizations, media outlets and other activists I wanted to help the people of Ferguson and to also shine a light on how the Ferguson Police were treating those who were protesting. Fellow activist and friend, Dan Johnson who I have worked with these past few years, decided to go to Ferguson to offer organization assistance and to also video record his entire time there. I planned on going myself but could not get away.
As an advocate for Liberty and for a government that behaves Constitutionally I was first dumbfounded that would escalate to annoyance and then, anger, due to the lack of a response from those Liberty and Constitutional Organizations I had grown to respect, interact and work with. Where were they? Why weren’t those who openly advocate that when they see the “state” behave the way it was in Ferguson, would stand with the people whose rights were being trampled on openly?
I discussed it as much as possible. I went on many broadcasts including my own show and called them out. Asked where they were. Only a few would actually wind up going to Ferguson. During the post Grand Jury Decision Protests they were virtually non existent and it turned my stomach. Dan decided to write an article about it and presented to the Voices of Liberty Media Outlet. He has a relationship with them and he was invited to present his article to them. After presenting it the article was never published. No communication. Only silence.
I was not happy. I continue to call out these so called Advocates of Liberty and anyone else who fails to speak up when rights are being violated. The only requirement anyone has to have in order to make me speak up and stand up with them when their rights are being trampled on is to be a human being. With these thoughts in mind I decided to share this article written by my friend and fellow activist Dan Johnson.
“Three Skype conversations. Numerous Facebook messages. Some shouting, even. These were all hallmarks of the heated arguments I had with a good friend about the release of his video “Economic Collapse and the Rise of Fascist and Racist Elements,” a video diving into the virulent strain of racism taking over corners of the liberty movement, last year.
I argued that it wasn’t necessary. Why bring up the topic of race? We want to unite, not divide, and that topic divides as easily as gay marriage and abortion. In the video he argues, not censorship, but complete disassociation from anyone spouting racism. Further, that we should actively fight it and the people who spout it, publicly, at every turn, and refuse to allow the word liberty to be even loosely associated with a racist element. Respectfully but fiercely, we argued over several weeks. In the end, he decided to release it, and I cringed.
But I was wrong.
Experts say something about internet comments brings a sense of anonymity, and something about that anonymity causes us to leave our filters behind and say what we really feel. With the inhibitions of our real life no longer in effect, the boundary of civility between the mind and the written word is cast off. The thousands of comments on his video spewing hate, for jews, for blacks, for Arabs, yet flying the colors of popular liberty symbols, at once shocked, stunned, and saddened me. With over 4,000 comments within 24 hours, comments were closed.
The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, showcased this hatred more than ever before. Just look at the front cover of the Missouri State University Student Newspaper in October:
If you need more, look here, here, here, here, here, and here. Look in the comment sections of any story about Ferguson, even this well-written piece by one of the few liberty leaders to address the race issue.
“Mobs.” “Animals.” “Thugs.” ”Get a job.” “Dogs.” If you dare, look at the comments on any live-stream of the grand jury verdict and the ensuing chaos. It’s even expanded beyond Ferguson and Michael brown. Look at the comments when a car runs over protesters at a march, or look at this guy bragging about running them over himself. Look at the smear campaign on the family of Tamir Rice, a black 12-year old in Cleveland killed by police in a drive-up shooting .
One comment does not make a trend. A hundred isn’t even close. A thousand is getting there. But go ahead and look at hundreds of thousands until you’re sick. Pull up any major story until you see them, until the screen names start to blend together, find a mainstream story where they don’t grace among the top rated.
And then ask yourself why we are so scared to talk about race.
Facts don’t have a race. 86% of traffic stops made around Ferguson involved African Americans. Stop and frisk targets blacks and latinos. A black man is 21 times more likely to be killed by police than a white man. Someone who is convicted of killing a white female is 14x more likely to be sentenced to death than someone convicted of killing a black male. Around 13% of the U.S. population is African-American, yet they make up over 40% of the prison population, mostly for victimless crimes.
The three biggest stories of police abuse, stories that captured the corporate media (and thus, the nation) have all had a racial element to them: Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and Tamir Rice. The police response in Ferguson, not the police response in the Boston Bombing, brought an anti-militarization bill to the floor of the U.S. Congress, and conversations about over militarization to the living rooms of America. #blacklivesmatter and the focused oppression of minorities got America talking about police brutality.
Yet few liberty advocates want to talk about it.
In fact, no one has been more disenfranchised by the state than African-Americans. Nowhere has big government’s destructive force been seen easier than in the inner cities, and nowhere are its effects more felt than in its war on drugs in those communities. This group shares a place with Muslim-Americans as few other groups have had massive 4th amendment violations, such as stop and frisk, targeted towards them.
African American, Arab-American, and political minorities, those who already feel the boot of the system on their backs, can use liberty the most, and yet the response they’ve seen is as simple as the liberty movement’s response to the Bundy Ranch v. that in Ferguson. In the first, backing a wealthy, white, ranch owner against Federal tyranny, and in the second, a predominantly black city placed under militarized police occupation, occupation bad enough to cause the Huffington Post and Washington Post to condemn treating journalists as “enemy combatants,” refusing to show up.
If liberty is important to all, where were the liberty advocates in Ferguson? If liberty is important to all, where were the nationwide Revolution protests over the deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice? Why can armed white Americans face off against a Federal bureau unscathed, while black Americans can’t so much as carry a airsoft gun without getting killed? How come a white man who merely vowed to stand off against a rogue Federal government gets outpourings of support, while a black community that had live rifles pointed at them in broad daylight can find nothing but whispers?
These aren’t hypothetical questions. They were all, in different ways, questions asked of me over the two weeks I spent in Ferguson, and they are the same questions in the hearts, minds, and twitter feeds of African-Americans across the country.
It matters little how the majority of us feel. Liberty advocates have no answer to these questions, right now, because we cut out the race piece of the puzzle as if we could wish the tensions away. As if we just ignore the issue enough, it will disappear. As if the state treats all its subjects equally.
Yet the longer we stay silent, the more our position is defined for us by the only groups willing to have the conversation: hardline racists and white supremacists.
Freedom and liberty is what Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of protesters marched for in Selma, AL at the height of the civil rights movement. Freedom and liberty were in the writings of northern abolitionists, and emblazoned on signs urging escaped slaves to avoid the police. Freedom is at the heart of humanity’s struggle against oppression. We must not allow the racists, bigots, and white supremacists to redefine it.
Racism is divisive. As are all social issues. But if liberty advocates don’t start looking at the roots of racial oppression in America, the group that needs liberty the most will be the same group that trusts it the least.
It’s time to join the conversation.” Dan Johnson is President and Founder of the Solutions Institute and adviser and Founder of People Against the NDAA.