Like many Americans I am outraged by the Grand Jury decision in Missouri not to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. But I was not surprised. What is surprising is how inhumanely Prosecutor McCulloch mishandled this. From his announcement alone it is clear he saw Darren Wilson as the victim, not Michael Brown. From a quick search of his professional record it is clear McCulloch never should have been anywhere near this case. He never wanted an indictment and all but said so. Beyond the fact that nothing will be done about Michael Brown’s death, the way the state of Missouri has handled it is nothing short of disgusting.
But what happens now? What is going on in Ferguson is just a microcosm for very real issues in America: racism and inequality–the assumption made in this country that one’s right to live is determined by skin color. It is an issue that goes all the way back to before America’s birth. Americans of all races are slowly waking up to this fact–and are angry. But what do we do about it? Ferguson has captured the world’s attention. Within the United States people have taken to the streets all across the country including mine, stopping freeways and causing disruption.
Acclaimed professor and intellectual Dr. Marc Lamont Hill said on CNN that “this is what democracy looks like.” With all due respect, I disagree. I’m glad people especially in my generation are so motivated but protests on their own will not change anything. Real change will come when power is in the hands of people truly committed to change. That is what democracy is. People only protest when they are unhappy with the way things are. Yet there is a burgeoning awareness that many in power are not about the people, but their own interests. Americans are slowly realizing the country is divided and governed by a political elite that is not concerned with the best interest of the country but overpowering the other and their own self-interest. Earlier this year MSNBC discussed a study by professors at Northwestern and Princeton universities that found that policy decision-making is in the hands of the wealthy and business elite, backed by the US Supreme Court in recent decisions allowing easier political spending, translating to increased political influence of the most affluent at the expense of the majority. It then follows that the US is not a democracy but an oligarchy–power by the few.
Thus, people protesting in the streets is a demand for democracy. It is not democracy in itself. At this point the government does not need the consent of the governed to govern. Policy-makers are not accountable to the people. As long as this remains the case, the situation will remain the same and nothing will change. The militarization of the police will continue and black and brown Americans will be treated as second-class citizens.
Ironically, American leaders and citizens alike tout our country as “greatest on the face of the earth” and praise American democracy for championing the principle that every individual is “equal under the law.” But is America really the greatest? Racism and disenfranchisement were the genesis of America’s founding. The land we live on was taken away from the Native Americans and our economic success came on the backs of American slaves–my ancestors. Hundreds of years removed from these atrocities, the status quo remains the same. Clearly the American government does not practice what it preaches. My final question then, is how long will we, the American nation, the people, tolerate being governed by a oligarchy in democracy’s clothing?