A look at Ferguson, Missouri through the eyes of Edward & Verna Kendrick
Edward Kendrick and wife Verna have lived most of their lives in St. Louis, Missouri, which is not far from the town of Ferguson. Kendrick is a former St. Louis Police officer who knows firsthand some of the challenges facing that community. The couple agreed to share their thoughts on the subject.
By Charles Moseley
Historically there has been an adversarial relationship between White men in positions of authority and Blacks which dates back to the days of the Founding Fathers. Violence against Blacks has come in a variety of forms ranging from public lynchings during the antebellum South, to the use of dogs and high powered water hoses by police throughout the civil rights era, and recent use of military weaponry to quell peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Today, with the advent of the “Stand Your Ground” Law legislation, Blacks across America view these laws as a personal affront and simply a contemporary form of legal lynchings in the 21st century.
Racial profiling, and the so-called “War on Drugs,” have resulted in disproportionate percentage of people of color being incarcerated throughout America’s prison populations.
The issue of unarmed Blacks killed by the hands of white police officers is certainly nothing new. However ever so often, a particular incident will attract widespread media attention. A police shooting that occurred a little over a month ago drew a great deal of public outcry and scrutiny at the highest levels of law enforcement.
The incident occurred on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, when Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old Black man was shot six times by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Mo. police officer. Brown died on the scene after receiving six gunshot wounds.
This incident catapulted Ferguson into the national spotlight overnight after a week of pro-test marked by clashes between local law enforcement and Blacks living in Ferguson.
Black Ferguson, Mo. residents have raised concerns amidst cries of racial profiling at the hands of Ferguson police for quite some time now. And although Ferguson is 67 percent Black, there are only two Blacks out of a 54 member police force. The shooting death of Brown sparked a week of nationwide protest and civil unrest in Ferguson. The U. S. Justice Department launched an investigation under the direct orders of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) followed suit with an investigation of its own.
Edward Kendrick grew up in St. Louis, Mo. during the Great Depression and lived near Ferguson, Missouri for over 75 years. He raised a family there. He also had the distinction of being a Black police officer on the St. Louis Police Force during the mid 1950’s. Kendrick and his wife Verna, who moved to the area from her native New York, are very familiar with Ferguson. Ferguson is one of several small suburban towns located in St. Louis County. The Kendricks recently agreed to share some of their thoughts on what life was like living near Ferguson for most of their lives.
Westside Gazette (WG): Explain the racial dynamics which exist between the predominantly Black town of Ferguson and its predominantly white police force.
Kendrick: “At one time St. Louis was just a large city. I think it was number seven in population. After political reasons I guess it was divided and broken up into small townships having their own local governments, Ferguson being one of those. They had others such as Jennings, Wellston, and St. Ann’s, which some of them became mostly Black and some mostly white. At one time Ferguson was a decent place to live. What happened in St. was that Louis Blacks started moving from the city into the county? Whites began moving back into the city.
Mrs. Kendrick: “In the last election in Ferguson for the State Attorney’s office the white incumbent Robert McCulloch got 71 percent of the vote while his opponent a Black woman named Leslie Broadnax, got 27 percent of the vote. Blacks don’t have the push politically there.
W.G.: Is Ferguson an anomaly with respect to Blacks who live there not taking responsibility for their own communities?
Mr. Kendrick: I would say yes. In the city of St. Louis they have had Black mayors and City Council members. There was a big change in St. Louis as far as the police force because they had had a Black police chief, too.”
W.G.: So there is a difference between the city of St. Louis and Ferguson with respect to Blacks politically?
Mrs. Kendrick (A.)”Not just in Ferguson but all those little towns are the same. Blacks don’t vote. I blame the politicians for not pushing the people to get out and vote. It takes the politicians to get out and push people to vote.
W.G.: Were you ever a victim of racial profiling?
Mr. Kendrick: “We were visiting a friend at night in Jennings, Missouri. When we got into Jennings she said there was a police car behind us. This was during the mid 1990’s. So he got behind us and followed us. I started driving slower and slower. As we passed through the town of Jennings, my top speed was about 25 miles per hour. He followed us all the way to the house that we were visiting. When I turned into the drive way he stopped. As we got out of the car I watched him as he was watching us. After we rang the door bell and were let in, he drove away.”
W.G.: What is your take on the way things have unfolded recently in Ferguson between police authorities and the Black community?
Mr. Kendrick: I expected this to happen there one day including St. Louis proper, the way that the entire racial atmosphere is in the country, since the election of President Obama. I think change depends on the Black population in Ferguson. How far are they willing to go? They can bring about a change or they can bring about a riot. The way that the police force is arming themselves they are preparing to go to war on this Black population in that area. Thats’ why they’re getting all these military weapons.
W.G.: If the police officer responsible for the death of Michael Brown is formally charged, tried, and acquitted what do you think the outcome will be in the Black community in Ferguson?
Mr. Kendrick: I think there will be another explosion. There’ll be a racial explosion. I believe that the Black people will rise up. We have so many young Black people who don’t mind dying even. They feel that they don’t have anything to lose and will fight. And you have some whites feel the same way.”(As of press time no decision by the Ferguson Grand Jury to indict Wilson on criminal charges relating to the shooting death of Michael Brown.)
W.G.: As a former police officer what are your thoughts regarding the incidents we see of unarmed Black males being killed by white police officers?
Mr. Kendrick: I think it needs to be addressed. It’s something that’s continuing and I think the tension is beginning to mount. If we really look at the situation thoroughly when white people claim or say they are in fear of Black people. What do they really fear about Black people? I think that hatred is Black people and to cover that hatred they calling it fear. Racism is at the bottom of it. It’s a hatred for Black people rather than a fear of Black people. Black people do not kill white people. How many times do you hear about a Black person murdering a white person? You don’t hear of it. Even if a white man has a record of being dangerous, if he can be taken captive without any deadly force he will be taken captive with deadly force. If a Black man is considered dangerous he will be killed. So it’s not the fear factor, it’s the hatred factor.”