To get some insight into the happenings in Ferguson, St. Louis, from an African American perspective, one should to listen to Val Coleman speak on the issue. Coleman is a rapper and music producer who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri.
Ferguson has been in the news after a white policeman, from a predominantly white police force, killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. The photos show him as having his hands raised while being shot; the autopsy exhibits he was shot at least six times, twice in the head.
Violence erupted. Protests, riots, and looting followed. Curfew was imposed—though lifted today; gas stations and stores were closed, and people were unable to leave their neighbourhoods.
For ten straight nights, protests continued. The police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades on protestors as protestors threw bottles and Molotov cocktails. In a mirror image of what happens everyday around the world, protestors were teargased, stomped upon, hurled, and dragged on the ground. This energized the protestors even further. Finally, the National Guard was brought in.
According to Coleman, what happened to Brown is not a one-off incident. In fact, Coleman considers St. Louis one of the most diverse yet most segregated cities in the US. Racial tension has always been high there, and people stick to their sides of the city not mingling. But that’s not all.
Racism, discrimination, and segregation run rampant in Ferguson. A Ferguson coined acronym “DWB,” “Driving While Black,” entails being pulled up and questioned, simply because of one’s colour.
Coleman was taught as a child to expect to be treated discriminately because of his colour, and he was. Four cop cars once pulled up from behind and asked him and even the passenger next to him for their licenses. The cop’s hand, ready to shoot, was on her gun all through the incident. He thinks he got off lightly as many others get beaten up and end up framed.
The scene and the happenings in Ferguson are reminiscent of other locations around the world, which the US often criticizes harshly and admonishes profusely. Photographers have been arrested attempting to cover the Ferguson story. Amnesty International deployed, for the first time, to the US, said, “Amnesty International has said the US must look at its own human rights abuses before commenting on other countries, in the wake of the protests in Ferguson.” Doesn’t all this sound familiar?
The proverb “If your house is made of glass, don’t throw stones at others,” applies quite fittingly here. The US gives itself the right to rebuke Egyptians while it turns round and effectively pursues similar if not worse actions. Western media has tried its very best to portray the situation in Egypt as being undemocratic and unjust. All hell breaks loose if an Egyptian is mistreated or abused, and yet the same occurs in the US’s own backyard.
Don’t get me wrong. No one, in any country, should be abused or unjustly treated. But this is not the issue here. The issue is the privileges that the United States bestows upon itself and takes from others.
At least in Egypt we are all treated equally. Yes, Copts were dealt a hard blow by terrorists and extremists. Yes, Copts are frustrated by how far they can go up the rungs of the Egyptian work force, but they are neither segregated nor discriminated against. No one is looked upon with downright disgust. The concept does not exist.
Members of the Egyptian police force are no saints. They can be brutal and sadistic, Yes, tear gas was used in Mohammed Mahmoud and other riotous incidents, and Rabaa remains a thorn in the side of any one affiliated with the incident, but again, no one “goes to the back of the bus” in Egypt. Egyptians are treated equally.
So, let’s tell it to the US as it is. US, stop preaching; stop considering yourself above or better than the rest. Be humble because you are no better. You can easily fall into the same trap and the same entanglements, and you will be asked to use your wise judgement in such moments—something that even you may prove you are unable to do.