Anomie—The condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals. It is a pathological condition by which the social bonds between the community and individuals are broken down causing social disorder. In other words, the social mores used to construct right and wrong, justice and injustice, law and order are influx. This term aptly applies to the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Rioting in the city over the death Michael Brown at the hands of police officers is a result of anomic conditions caused from the social confusion created by tensions that are pervasive the criminal justice system. Routine injustices towards African Americans at the hands of police officers have contributed to the anomic state that has been expressed in the form of rioting by creating an antagonistic state in which citizens cannot trust their police force.
For those who have not heard the story Michael Brown, and 18 year old African American male and recent high school graduate, was shot dead in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday August 9th, 2014. Reports state that there is no indication that he neither provoked the officer nor was the young man armed. While at first this may seem like an isolated incident the tragic reality is that it has happened far too often. Other recent incidents include Barry Montgomery Jr. (a paranoid schizophrenic African American male, who was beaten by 20 officers on July, 14) and Eric Garner (another African American male, who was murdered by a police officer using an illegal choke hold). Perhaps one of the most famous recent examples is Oscar Grant III. The 2013 feature film Fruitvale Station, starring Michael B. Jordan as Grant, tells the story of how another unarmed African American male was shot while on his back in handcuffs. Although police brutality by no means is a new phenomenon, especially in the eyes of African American, these recent accounts have made it necessary to examine the discord created by the inconsistencies that permeate policing culture in the United States.
As recently as yesterday Fox News reporter Brian Kilmeade with the support of Alveda King condemned the civilian protesters in Ferguson as criminals who had forgotten Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of non-violence. Both claim that if King were around today the he would not engage in the forms of protests happening in Ferguson today. Who can say what King would or would not do today? For that matter is this question even relevant? What is relevant is the fact that in making such claims both King’s niece and Brian Kilmeade have overlooked the root cause of protests and it’s societal implications. They overlook the fact that continued police brutality destroys the social bonds between officers and the communities they serve. Furthermore, this bond is further weakened by the lack of consistency in within the judicial process. How does one resolve the conflict between the rules and regulations that are to be followed and the ones to be ignored. How much more so when the ones who create or enforce the laws do not follow them themselves. This is the case with pathological violence that has been perpetuated against African American males and its subsequent effect on their communities. In Les Miserable Victor Hugo writes: “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.” This statement holds true for rioters in New York, California, and Missouri. What is worse the crimes they commit or the flaws in a system that has helped to perpetuate the crimes? Before we criticize the protesters or their choice for actions we must first examine the system that has created them.