Powder Keg Nation

There’s a mess in Missouri.

This nation has no shortage of armchair generals; I have no intention of enlisting. The only thing I know for sure about the events in Ferguson, MO on August 9th is that an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was killed by police officer Darren Wilson.

There are conflicting stories surrounding the circumstances and a grand jury has the difficult job of sorting it out.

I do know a couple of other things. This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, it happened in my city in the spring of 2001.

And I know that these events are sparks in a powder keg.

And that’s because we have problems in this country. Deep, complex, historical problems that have never been addressed adequately.

One more fact in evidence: I am a white female living in a pretty affluent suburb. I listen to stories, I empathize, but I cannot fully understand what it is like to be black in this country, nor what it is like to be a police officer.

What I can do is to pay attention to the reactions of the media and on social media outlets. All this talk of thuggery and rioting doesn’t square with other reports about peaceful protests and overly aggressive police response.

For example, CBS reported, and it has been widely re-reported, that two New Black Panthers were arrested for buying explosive they planned to use to make bombs in Ferguson. Turns out that’s not true. They were buying pistols at Cabela’s, gave false answers, and were arrested on outstanding warrants. But the damage is already done because the image of the New Black Panthers blowing things up plays right into people’s racial stereotypes.

Someone sent me to Twitter the other day in search of shenanigans. Some KKK groups have been threatening protesters in Missouri and Anonymous hacked the KKK Twitter account. They launched a campaign to publicly identify KKK members, #OpKKK and #HoodsOff. There is some serious business going on there, like the KKK Grand Poobah threatening to shoot anyone wearing Anonymous’ signature Guy Fawkes mask and Anonymous investigating the links between the KKK and police.

But here has also been humor. The best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet was Anonymous, from the hacked KKK account, posting this.

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Truly outstanding.

But then I started delving into the tweets about Ferguson and just ended up depressed and disgusted.

There is subtle racism baked into our culture, the kind expressed by President Obama’s example of people locking car doors as he walked down the street. But on Twitter, racists let their freak flags fly. I won’t repeat any of it here, but it is the same garbage that sent me running from Twitter the first time.

Last week, an article from the New York Times reported on a new study showing how social media increases partisan divides. Yes. The Twitter Echo Chamber, where people tweet and read information that confirms their own existing suspicions and hunches. Where people can tweet 140 characters of profundity then when all their like-minded followers retweet it, they feel like they are making a difference.

If this is how we communicate, civil unrest will continue as frustrations grow; factions feel justified and emboldened. None of these deeper wounds will be addressed in any real way.

In fact, I use the word communicate loosely here, because the word implies a two-way process. There’s no listening here. No engagement.

Just more sparks in the powder keg.

8 thoughts on “Powder Keg Nation”

  1. It’s frustrating when you have to root about to find any media coverage that is accurate, amid a sea of social media hyperbole. Not to mention how frustrating the situation itself is. And none of this, as you thoughtfully point out, addresses the real issues. Thanks, Katie

  2. I’m starting to believe more and more people LOVE being ignorant and nothing more. They also Love the negativity and feed off of it like parasites. Here’s a article I read on the AfroPunk blog who have been following the events in Ferguson closely with the people being there IN THE STREETS making firsthand reports:


    the dialogue between the Minister and a old White Woman put everything in perspective. 1nce you hit someone with the realness they don’t have a answer and retreat into the Darkness of their own Ignorance and Denial. Thanks for this thread in your blog, I didn’t know the media was up to their typical Tricknology lying about the BPP purchasing bombs and such. I’m not surprised in the least.

    1. BOOTCHEESE! Thanks for weighing in. That was a great link too. I totally agree that too many people want to change the subject to anything except the actual incident. Did you see Guiliani yesterday say that the white cops wouldn’t be needed in Ferguson if the black people weren’t always killing each other?

      My question is this – why is it that people only bring up black on black crime when something like this happens? They don’t talk about it in their daily lives. They don’t care about protecting black lives, they only care about protecting the institutional status quo.

      1. *sigh* Giuliani is an idiot. His remark is EXACTLY the reason why New York was screwed up even more for YEARS. All those rappers that bashed him back during the Golden Age of Hip-Hop (mid-80s to mid-90s) had a point about how he just divided the city and basically alienated EVERY ethnic person that wasn’t a wealthy WASP. He made a complete mess out of New York City and when the Twin Towers crumbled he jumped ship like the coward that he is. The Capt is supposed to GO DOWN with his ship, not bail before the Women and Children, and Time magazine names him “Man Of The Year”?!?!??!??

        Personally I find it funny when White people bring that up time and time again when Black-on-Black crime doesn’t NOR affects them in the least. It’s just another thing for them to use against us to justify their bigoted views of the World. Maybe they should concentrate on the crimes in their OWN communities like Serial/Spree Killers or Child Molesters or something and allow us to clean up our own mess. It’s just more deflecting the REAL issue at hand instead of addressing it. But my statement about “you worry about your problems and we worry about ours” doesn’t help either, we all gotta live in this Country and World together, but if idiots are going to make ignorant remarks like that you gotta slap them in the face with a taste of their own medicine and see how they react.

  3. Sadly, I woke up this morning to learn of a 12-year-old black male being shot by police after reports he was carrying a gun — which turned out the be a BB Gun. We need to have a conversation about race in this country without accusations that the race card is being played.

    1. I read a story about that months ago but it was about a Black Male being shot in a Wal-Mart or Target for holding a toy gun. Apparently some jerk called the Police saying there was a Black Man running around the store with a gun and as always they shot 1st and asked questions later. Some people felt like because he had a White Girlfriend is what prompted this jerk to make a false accusation and call the Police. Whatever the reason it was completely uncalled for to do such a thing.

      When it comes down to it all these shootings are nothing but modern-day lynchings.

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