If people were not aware that the mainstream media presents a biased view of current events, the events that unfolded in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death have revealed the bias to the masses. Many of the images of protesters and the portrayal of the type of community Ferguson is have not told the whole story. During my visit to Ferguson, I have witnessed multiple things that the mainstream media has hidden from the world.
The first thing the mainstream media has skewed is the diversity of those who have taken to the streets of Ferguson to protest police brutality, the militarization of the police force, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. People all over the world have been outraged by the fact that journalists and peaceful protesters have been arrested, that police have not provided a transparent investigation, and that peaceful protesters have faced snipers, rubber bullets, tear gas, LRAD sound canons, and flash bang grenades. While the media has reported on this, many news stations have focused more on the looting and unrest and many of the images of protesters have been of young, black people, giving the impression that those protesting have just been an unruly group of young black people. However, as I visited Canfield Drive, the dead end street where Brown was gunned down, I was taken aback not just by how peaceful and unified people were but also by the number of white people walking to and from the memorial site, paying their respects and carrying signs. The ages of those protesting and paying their respects also varied greatly.
There were local residents who came out as well as people from across the country to stand in solidarity with Ferguson residents, who are majority black, to demand a more transparent and just investigation into Michael Brown’s death, accountability of the officer who used fatal force against an unarmed teenager, and a criminal justice system and government that does not perpetuate injustice and racism. Mainstream media has done a great job at turning the national conversation about Ferguson and police brutality into a racially divisive issue. However, the people in Ferguson are setting an example of how Americans of all races can stand up together against an unjust criminal justice system.
The woman pictured above was marching along W. Florissant Avenue with her husband. West Florissant has repeatedly been shown on mainstream media as the battleground where militarized police face off with protesters who loot and cause disturbances, but during my time in Ferguson, the people I ran into were peacefully making their voices heard, no matter what particular aspect of events they were protesting.
This woman was marching with her daughters, one of whom was bi-racial. As a woman who is also bi-racial, I was moved to see the diversity of America reflected in the people walking the streets of Ferguson to support the city’s black residents who have faced years of racist policy and policing.
Police brutality and the militarization of the police force that has been brought to the forefront of the national conscious by the recent events in Ferguson is not just an issue that affects black people. A system that perpetrates injustice against people of color and allows what amounts to genocide to continue to be carried out against them makes white people who choose not to stand up against that injustice unconscious collaborators in that system. I was moved to see so many Americans of all races choose to stand up to the injustice that is the American criminal justice system.
While the mainstream media may do an effective job of framing the events in Ferguson in a way that minimizes how important it is for people all over the country to stand up against police brutality and mass incarceration, social media and other technologies have allowed more people to get unfiltered accounts of what is actually happening in Ferguson and across the country. Robyn Urback summed it up well in a column for Canada’s National Post, stating, “Ferguson proves there is no monopoly on information…Ferguson is a good reminder that when the whole world watches now, it is looking through a seemingly infinite number of lenses.” Urback suggests that it is these new technologies that allow for multiple, diverse perspectives that will circumvent the ability of those in power to force a particular viewpoint to be accepted.
Nearly every person I interviewed in Ferguson, whether they were a local resident or had traveled from another state, voiced the longing they have to live in a country where equality and fairness is a reality for all Americans. A criminal justice system that imprisons more people than any other country in the world means that all Americans are affected by mass incarceration, police brutality, and criminalization. While the mainstream media focuses on divisive racial aspects of the events in Ferguson, people on the ground are mobilizing and uniting to change a system that allows so many people to lose their lives and/or their freedom in the name of policing and criminal justice.
One of the groups working to help end the inequality and injustice of the criminal justice system is the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN). SMIN c0-founder Carl Dix has been on the ground in Ferguson reaching out to protestors to unite them in the October month of resistance focusing on ending mass incarceration, police brutality, the racially biased policies and practices of police and legal systems, and the criminalization of a generation of American youth. To learn more about starting an SMIN chapter or becoming an SMIN affiliate and join the diverse national movement against the brutality and inequality of mass incarceration and the criminal justice system, visit the SMIN website.