Bird's Eye View

Talking About a Revolution

Birdie Hall  |   Sunday Aug. 31st, 2014

There is something very important occurring right in front of our eyes, possibly one of the most significant socio-political events so far in my lifetime. About three weeks ago eighteen year old, unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down by a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer. New autopsy results confirm the black teenager was shot in the head whilst his hands were in the air. Although there are equivocal discrepancies in regards to the details of the shooting, one detail remains blatantly clear: this was a murder directly conducive to a long-standing social pandemic of racism and out-of-control police power. 240 years of slavery and a century more of segregation has bred generations of hateful and ignorant power structures. Since 2008, around 400 “justifiable police homicides” have taken place each year. Over 70% of citizens killed are black.

Stories of the riots taking place after the most recent instance of police brutality have burned themselves into America’s collective consciousness. Our media has done a seemingly atrocious job of covering protests, depicting a gross caricature of violent uprising. Huge groups of all races and social standings have flocked to Ferguson demanding justice for the slaughtered teen. We are witnessing a cultural outcry. Despite a relatively few destructive rioting events inflated by eternally unreliable news sources, the overall unrest is a more than understandable reaction to our deep-rooted history of racial hatred and forever impending class war. Citizens everywhere, especially black citizens are brutalized all over the country by our local police. According to the ACLU, the black community makes up to 93% of arrests in Ferguson alone. The US leads the entire world in incarceration, and our own people compose 25% of the entire world’s prison population. In a time where Capitalism has run rampant with no consequence for monopolies, racism, wage slavery, and total ecological destruction, our leaders obviously have no other option but to quell any scrap of resistance with total force.

Since the panic of 1870s, Americans have taken to the street in protest to our government. With the dramatic expropriation of military development within our police force since Anti-Vietnam War protests, citizens are wary of non-lethal (and lethal) weapons being used against their right to assemble. This week alone CS (tear) gas was thrown by police at peaceful protestors, a weapon deemed illegal in war by the Geneva Convention. Rubber bullets severely injured dozens, including mothers and pastors. Police with automatic weapons severely injured mass amounts of peaceful citizens who held up signs scrawled with: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” A 96 year old holocaust survivor was arrested, along with hundreds of other people for standing up against the obvious hatred toward minorities and outrageous police power. Journalists have been arrested on no legal grounds in and outside the front lines. A Policeman was caught on film threatening to violently kill citizens. The offending officer is now on paid vacation. A curfew was imposed and the National Guard was called in. Things have calmed, temporarily. This is an unsettling period in American History. Will this dramatic increase in violence against the American people lead to even more oppressive means seen in the dystopias of China, Russia, and the former Soviet Union? Maybe, if history repeats itself.   
                                                                                                                                               Amongst this mildly terrifying period of civil unrest, there is an album that has been playing on repeat in my head, vying for my attention and a call for action. Introduced to me at the ripe age of seven, Tracy Chapman’s self titled breakout into American music had me fascinated even as a first grader. As a child, her low voice and folk-like guitar parts had me smitten. As a young adult, her lyrical content exploring racial and class concerns has offered me much consolation as August comes to a volatile end. Crying out for serious social reformation, her three minute masterpiece “Talking About A Revolution” can get anyone off the couch to start a conversation. “When are people going to rise up and take what’s theirs?”. The Bob Dylan-esque chords emanate victoriously along with a demanding, yet hopeful call for social change. Peaking at Number one on the US Billboard charts at its time of release in 1988, heavy political themes trickle through pop-culture friendly musical production. Songs speaking through multiple perspectives of those subjected to racial and social prejudice lead the listener through what seems to be the changed perspective from despair to hope, “crying at the footsteps of those armies of salvation.”

There are horrible things that have happened and continue to manifest in this country, but Chapman reinforces that we have nothing to fear. We are human beings, and working together, actually working, we can implement whatever change we desire. It just takes a little more than “wasting time in the unemployment lines, sitting around waiting for a promotion”. This society thrives on fear and the “Us vs. Them” complex, when really we are all united (currently, only through our separation). Together, we have nothing to be afraid of. Fear itself is the mind killer.

Living in an insulated, relatively rural town in southern Montana, it is incredibly difficult for any of us to understand certain social structures that we feel do not affect us directly. Unfortunately, they do. The abuse of police power in post-industrial America does not stop at racism. The militarization of our police and dramatic increase in jailed citizens for non-violent crime is a direct symptom of our sick politics. Our political structure has imploded on itself, inciting fear and complacency in order to keep elderly rich and white men in power. No, I am not a writer for Alex Jones, nor am I a livid supporter of Info-Wars or Libertarian uproar. I am not a conspiracy theorist waiting for the rise of the Lizard People. It is indisputable that our economic gap is widening. The middle class is shrinking. Our future workers are doomed for insane amounts of college debt. Our leaders’ actions remained unchecked for war crimes and ecological destruction. Racial hatred runs rampant in a society built on slavery, despite Emancipation and Reconstruction over two centuries ago. Anyone with a high school education or common sense should be capable of seeing this. This injustice affects virtually everyone, save the white and incredibly wealthy.  If we don’t act soon, no one will. It is our right as Americans to peacefully assemble and protest. It is a human right to live free from fear and violence based on race, gender, or class. These rights have been heavily infringed upon, and it is time for serious reform or complete chaos.               
For anyone who wants to learn more or get involved: Go to the UCLA national website, research your local politicians, demand justice for Michael Brown, stay literate, and start talking.    

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