After Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon notified the National Guard that he might be calling on their services any day now and declared a state of emergency in anticipation of massive demonstrations, he appointed a 16 member commission to study the underlying social and economic causes of Black discontent in Ferguson.
At some other time and place, this development might have been highly newsworthy, and some might even think it a hopeful sign for race relations. The press would pour over the biographies of the nine Black and seven white appointees, and speculate about what the governor meant when he said the commission was “empowered.”
Empowered to do what – change the economic and social conditions in Black America? But the governor’s commission is irrelevant because the people of Ferguson are organizing to empower themselves, and that might be the beginning of the best news of the 21st century for Black America.
Whatever happens after the grand jury announces it decision on whether to indict the cop that killed Michael Brown, the people of Ferguson have already altered the political landscape. They have rejected the counsel of the local and national Black Misleadership Class, who specialize in diverting and suppressing any movement that threatens their patrons among the rich and powerful. They have seen through the con game run by the so-called Black power brokers, whose job is to head off any possibility of a rejuvenated Black mass movement.
The fact that protests in a small town outside of St. Louis have put local, state and national security forces on high alert is testament to the failure of the Black Misleadership Class to contain the growing movement. And, if Al Sharpton and his local Missouri counterparts cannot keep the Black masses under control, then the appointees to Gov. Nixon’s Ferguson study commission have been rendered redundant before they begin.
The people now know that the power is in the streets – a lesson that many had all but forgotten over the past forty years, a period in which the underlying social and economic conditions of Black life have scarcely improved in comparison with whites. This period saw the nation devolve into a Black Mass Incarceration State as methodically vicious and relentlessly racist as any regime in history.
The Black Misleadership Class sought not only to divert Black people’s attention away from the massive imprisonment of Black youth and the rapid militarization of the police, they actively abetted the Mass Black Incarceration State, funding it in Congress and collaborating in the arrest of millions on the streets of nominally Black-run cities.
The leadership of the new movement that will grow out of Ferguson is not yet known, because it must be born in struggle. But we do know that the accommodationist preachers, corporate lawyers and professional Democratic Party politicians that have neutralized Black politics for the past four decades no longer hold sway among the grassroots.
And that, alone, is a great leap forward. We can say with certainty that Michael Brown did not die in vain. His legacy is growing by the day.