Calling Bullshit On ‘Outside Agitators’ in Ferguson

A few days ago, a friend on Facebook posted the following as his status:

Would any of you be down to help me organize a march on Ferguson, MO? Dead serious. It’s something I hope would send a powerful message to the powers that be, but I’d need help getting it all together. I mean, like a grassroots thing via Facebook to organize a march on Ferguson and get people from here in NYC and possibly the entire country to descend and march on Ferguson. A march to show solidarity. A march to show that we will not sit idly by and ignore human/civil rights violations at the hands of police against anyone, but most specifically to say that we will absolutely not ignore the deliberate genocide of black boys and black men in the United States.

If my friend does manage–beginning with this powerful and passionate call to action–to organize this march,  and is able to bring to Ferguson other concerned citizens to participate in protests and rallies, and perhaps even get in the face of overzealous police to remind them loudly and verbally that they might be overstepping the bounds of reasonable policing, that the murder of Michael Brown will not be allowed to just pass idly into history, he will be regarded as a provocateur of sorts, an outside agitator, one meddling in affairs best left to locals, to the local community and their police, who can, and should, work out by themselves, a response to a highly particular, specific, local, problem, using highly particular, local, specific tactics to devise a highly particular…you where this is going.

It’s a road to unmitigated bullshit, toward the worst kind of self-serving political delusion.

For as long as the cry of ‘outside agitator’ has been made–most notably, in the sad history of racist Southern resistance to the nationalization of civil rights–it has always been code for ‘butt out, and let us continue to address a political problem in familiar dead-end ways.’ In the South, the cry of ‘outside agitator’ was simply a euphemism for ‘we know how to deal with our blacks and we’ve been doing damn good job at it when no attention was paid us.’ The light often sends many scurrying for cover.

What is happening in Ferguson is not a local affair. It never was and never will be. The shooting of Michael Brown was a national phenomenon, temporarily resident in a new setting. That circus will soon move elsewhere, to some other urban killing ground, where soon enough, some other young man of color will fall to a policeman’s bullets. The police in Ferguson are not a local problem; the response to the demonstrations in Ferguson–indicative of a dangerous militarization of the police–is not a local problem. These are American problems, of interest to all Americans.

There are no ‘outside agitators’ in Ferguson. There is no arbitrary boundary that can be drawn around the problems of racism and police brutality; the stench of those wafts easily across one county line to the next.

2 thoughts on “Calling Bullshit On ‘Outside Agitators’ in Ferguson

  1. Great post, Samir. I agree that Ferguson, and the scourge of police murder of unarmed black men, is a national issue. We all need to be involved in getting justice for Michael Brown. However, I am also concerned with some outside groups, especially far-left wackos like the Revolutionary Communist Party, attempting to use the plight of Ferguson’s citizens for their own ends. To me, it seems like another instance of old white guys attempting to hijack a movement.

    For more on the RCP in Ferguson, see this Gawker article:

    1. Sean,

      Thanks for the comment and the warning about the RCP. I did see that; in fact, I wrote this post to address what I thought would be a hijacking of a hijacking i.e., tarring all and any who plan to participate in the protests at Ferguson with the agent-provocateur tag.

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