Oh gosh, another pointless commission, this time in Missouri, which will proclaim that racism, poverty, and political powerlessness are indeed underlying causes for protests over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. It will recommend the same things that previous commissions on race and unrest did and the result will be the same. The Kerner Commission in 1967 concluded “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Most everyone agreed this was true. The report was then almost completely ignored. Riots broke out nationwide shortly thereafter when Martin Luther King was murdered.
Most people believe that mass incarceration and police brutality is wrong. We can all see how chronic unemployment or voter discrimination is problematic, and maybe even a few of us will even concede that such marginalization among communities of color is profitable. But understanding that something is wrong is the easy part. By now, we know that deciding to make structural changes to the system is not a matter of resources, but of will.
For effective change to occur, Americans are going to have to reimagine how they foresee the world they want to live in—not just examine its problems. Today, I find myself even questioning the method of marches and protests. We can no longer recycle the old troupes of commissions or marches. And no, the revolution will not be tweeted.
I agree that marches and protests are little more than symbolic. The problem is protests have no political power and can’t force change, especially when the power elites are studiously and steadfastly deaf. They don’t want change. So, instead, when unrest gets dicey, another toothless commission reports what we already know. The media sighs about how deeply tragic is all is, Then, the event and conclusions of the report are forgotten.
This is far from hopeless. History shows that corrupt, comatose ruling classes can and do fall.It happens all the time, usually by a seemingly spontaneous uprising of the people against a government that ignores or brutalizes them. In the end, apartheid fell in South Africa without a shot being fired. The USSR collapsed under its own dead weight. Sure, beware of the new boss who may be the same (or worse) than the old boss. However, problems in the US are so ingrained and the political class so remote from the citizenry, that when real change comes to the US (and it will), it will no doubt be sudden and jolting. And will not be the result of yet another commission.
“When you see the kind of force that’s been used in Ferguson, it really does make it appear that the police department there is an occupying army in a hostile territory and that is absolutely not what we want to see in the United States,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Monday. “We’ve got to rethink a lot of this heavy equipment that police departments around the country are utilizing.”