This is an article from the socialist blog, The Rose and Fist, written by Ryne Tipton:
“I’m sure that most of you, if not all of you, have already heard the tragic news of the death of Michael Brown. Even though I don’t know of him personally, Brown has been described as “a gentle giant” by his teachers, “a student who loomed large and didn’t cause no trouble.” At the time of his death, Brown was enrolled at Vatterot College with the intention of becoming a heating and cooling engineer- pursuing the dream of owning his own business, escaping from poverty.
From what I had first heard on the news, I had assumed that Brown was a “thug” who intended to harm the police officer who shot him dead. Subconsciously, I saw black and impoverished as a statistical equation of unbridled violence and rage. I didn’t think the police officer was justified in shooting him, but I had an automatic bourgeois liberal response to the shooting and the riots that followed… Both sides are at fault; all we need is peace and reconciliation; why can’t people just get along? The more I’ve been challenged by friends and the more I’ve pondered, the less I’ve come to hold those same reactions. And I’ve found that the stupidly naïve question: “Why can’t people just get along?” has answers that only we as socialists have the analytic means to answer.
What is happening now in Ferguson- the protests, the rioting, the obscurity surrounding Michael Brown’s death- all comprise something larger than Michael Brown, even something larger than the issue of race itself. Ferguson is a classic case study in class conflict- the reactions of an oppressed and unheard majority against the provocations of a privileged minority. Regardless of what happened concerning the shooting of Brown, what is certain is that this event has provided the impetus by which a black community, a powerless community has been able to vocalize- at times violently- against those who seek to keep them powerless. Once we delve past skin color, it’s readily apparent that the frightening battles occurring in the outskirts of St. Louis have everything to do with concentrated wealth and concentrated power. Race is only a tool (albeit an effective tool) of cultural hegemony used by the ruling class to divide and conquer.
Just ask the protesters. DeAndre Smith, a local protester who was present at the burned-down QuikTrip station in Ferguson told local news, “I believe that they’re [the business owners] much worried about what’s going on to their stores and their commerce and everything. They’re not worried about murder.” Writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kim Bell said, “This is how they [the ruling class] receive money: businesses and taxes, police stopping people and giving them tickets, taking them to court, locking them up. Everything is all about money in St. Louis.” The colors of racism aren’t black and white; there is only one color: green, the color of cold hard cash. Once I realized that the struggle in Ferguson was not simply a racial struggle, but a class struggle, I came to realize that trying to wedge myself in the middle, in a calculated position of moderation, was no longer feasible.
These protests and riots cannot best be summarized as the actions of a reckless youth, hell bent on the destruction of sanity, morality, decency. The black community in Ferguson has reasonable demands- demands for justice, equality, liberty, simple pleas to be in control of their livelihood. But, in similar fashion to the rest of American history, they are ignored because they occupy a necessary place in the underclass, cogs destined to be placed at the bottom of the capitalist machine. From the origins of American slavery in the West Indies to the present, African-Americans have been kept in a place of servitude for the benefit of capitalists. Racial prejudice has been the tool by which to disseminate justification of this inherent economic inequality and thereby prevent economic unity of the American working class. Facing consistent ignorance on the part of political authorities and employers, desperately desiring change in line with their demands, the black community in Ferguson has been left with few options. They have been caged, boxed in- and what has happened is an inevitable result of this oppression.
Do I condone violence? No, but I do recognize that riots are ‘the language of the unheard’ to quote Martin Luther King. We can’t act as if the demands of those who use violence are unjustified because of the methods they have chosen to use. To focus on violence without recognizing its underlying cause is missing the point- the point that the black community (and all those who face exploitation) deserve to have their voices heard and their demands answered. Only by building a movement for democratic change in Ferguson (and in the rest of the country), a means by which the community can be educated and motivated to achieve their own liberation, will the events in Ferguson make a positive impact on the lives of those involved. I hope that those of us in the Democratic Socialists of America will be at the forefront of the struggle for empowerment- aiding working class people in their struggle against injustice.”