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By Stephane Dunn | @DrStephaneDunn |with thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)


Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

 Editor's note: The Grand Jury sitting in Ferguson, Missouri,  refused to indict Darren Wilson for the cold-blooded murder of Michael Brown!

I realized something today. Grand Jury and verdict watches really have been like pulse and pause beats of our lives. There was the one back in ‘92. LA erupted and the lasting tag of the moment became the late Rodney King’s simple, poignant plea – ‘Can we all just get along?” And last year in 2013 we waited it out, again, warning ourselves inwardly and aloud to each other not to expect the best from the justice system – though inside we hoped for that best. We braced ourselves with this feigned pessimism so that when the decision came and George Zimmerman was not indicted for killing young Trayvon Martin, we wouldn’t feel the indignation and pain of it at such a deep gut and heart level.


And now we stop here again, waiting for days now and counting, for the word – will the Grand Jury indict police officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri?

We are holding our collective breath, staying tuned to social media so we can exhale with the announcement. At the same time, the protesters in Missouri, indeed the community of people who want justice for Michael Brown, are being handily policed through a relentless national PSA campaign before the Grand Jury announcement.


The ‘be cool’ media onslaught intends to ensure we accept the decision [read no acquittal very possibly], nicely and quietly and go on our way back to somewhere before the killing. News broadcasts keep playing calls for calm, reporting on property owners’ fears that they will be victimized by angry rioters, and reminding us that the National Guard is on alert and that the city and state are prepared to police the streets of Ferguson to keep the peace.


Athletes, celebrities, and community leaders, some never seen before in support of justice for Michael Brown throughout the whole of the matter are taking to TV, twitter, and radio to plead the case – be calm; keep cool no matter what the decision. We’ve gotten that a lot over many years, before Trayvon and Michael, long before the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April of ’68. Just be cool.

The peaceful protesting in and beyond Ferguson is still needed and will be no matter the decision and especially if Wilson is not indicted though this is the less saleable story. An imagined dark mass of riotous, violent lawbreakers poised to overtake Ferguson the minute the decision is announced is spinning on the news as a given.


The words of Michael Brown, Sr., ‘Hurting Others Is Not The Answer' and President Obama’s seconds long call for calm have become useful sound bytes, helping to cement the spectre of a violence scarier than the murderous violence that brought us here. It has overtaken the real story about social injustice and something very refreshing in response – sustained protest even when public attention and the media turned elsewhere for pressing news until the Grand Jury watch began. SWAT teams, the FBI, and ATF are hovering over Ferguson and for what? Peace? No, for a war but not one for social justice.


All of this demeans civil rights protest in the same way that mass media in this country has historically criminalized and demonized black protest against the oppressive status quo. It demeans the peaceful protesting of Ferguson and Missouri residents especially and the case that brought them into the streets in the first place - the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer, the killing of yet another young black man by a white police officer. The students sitting in at lunch counters and the marchers who came into Mississippi, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee in the ‘60s to join with black people who lived there got the same media reception. The local and state government tagged them as trouble making, dangerous outsiders. It happened in Memphis in the last few days of Dr. King’s life as he attempted to march in solidarity with black sanitation workers.


We should vehemently resist a media onslaught that plays upon our fear that a few ill behaving folk might transform us into that scary, mythic riotous mob that lives in the mainstream imagination and which then can be justifiably subdued by tear gas. The peaceful protesters of Ferguson, the residents and those who have traveled there in solidarity before this latest pause, are and have been the truest reality. All hell already broke loose in Ferguson the moment Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown to death and the people’s dignity has already proven itself and held.




Stephane Dunn, PhD, is a writer who directs the Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies program at Morehouse College. She teaches film, creative writing, and literature. She is the author of the 2008 book, Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films (U of Illinois Press). Her writings have appeared in Ms., The Chronicle of Higher Education, TheRoot.com, AJC, CNN.com, and Best African American Essays, among others. Her recent work includes the Bronze Lens-Georgia Lottery Lights, Camera Georgia winning short film Fight for Hope and book chapters exploring representation in Tyler Perry's films. Follow her on Twitter: @DrStephaneDunn


'Don’t Be Cool': Ferguson on Watch

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