An Artist’s Animated Primer on How to Talk About Ferguson

Still from Molly Crabapple's How Ferguson Showed Us the Truth About the Police
Still from Molly Crabapple's How Ferguson Showed Us the Truth About the Police

As we head into the holidays, America is on edge following a Grand Jury’s failure to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Riots in Ferguson and protests across the country reflect a deep well of anger over police impunity and entrenched racism. Yet, while a broad spectrum of liberal opinion views Ferguson as evidence of a viscously biased system, the country remains bitterly divided. There is no shortage of commentators willing to take the occasion to sermonize instead about “racial hucksters and victimhood-mongers” (as the New York Post put it, in its inimitable way).

For many, this state of affairs is certain to yield up that special sort of awkwardness around the Thanksgiving dinner table—and for that situation, artist and writer Molly Crabapple has something for you.

In the lead-up to Monday’s announcement, Crabapple—perhaps best known for her graphics for Occupy Wall Street and her attention-grabbing illustrated reports for Vice—released an expertly animated stop-motion video, dubbed “How Ferguson Showed Us the Truth About the Police.” In it, Crabapple does what she does best: uses her accessible style of art to carry an unusually sharp political message. In a concise three-and-a-half minutes, she recounts the basics of the case, reels off the statistics of the horrible realities of police violence against African Americans, places the Brown case in relation to other recent cases across the country, and explains why activists have felt compelled to take a stand. All this, accompanied by some snappy watercolor animation.

It is, in other words, the perfect primer for that special in-law who just doesn’t get what people are so angry about. As Gary Younge put it in the Guardian, “[T]hose who misunderstand the verdict as an isolated incident are doomed to misunderstand everything that flows from it: from the riots, justifications, denials and rationalisations to the calls for calm and expressions of rage.” For some, then, sharing this kind of clear explanation could be the gift that keeps on giving.


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