Like most people, I was surprised by the Grand Jury decision to not move forward with any indictment of Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. The death of Michael Brown seemed unnecessary. I don’t believe Brown was some sort of sacrificial angel for the plight of African-Americans. Let’s not forget. Brown stole from a small business and when you look at the video of Brown, the guy does not come across as some sort of peace-loving hippie. In the video, he comes across as a 6+ towering thug.
What disturbs me most about this tragic loss of life is the forever uncertainty of what actually happened when Wilson shot Brown. We know Wilson’s version of events. Brown approached him while he was still inside his vehicle and Brown put his hands on his gun, in addition to hitting him. Why would anyone believe they have the right to do this? Think about it. If an officer tells you to do something and you don’t, you’ve already violated the law. Why tempt fate by challenging the dictum of a police offer? This first argument between Wilson and Brown while Wilson was inside his vehicle is what led to his ultimate demise.
Did that justify Wilson killing Brown? Even the Grand Jury could not come to a conclusive determination in order to indict Wilson. Witnesses gave confusing, often conflicting testimony. We know Brown was unarmed but he was also a BIG MAN, well-over 6 feet. Review the video of him leaving the small business store and see how he towers over the owner/seller. Brown was more than confident in his ability to intimidate anyone with his height and build and certainly was not intimidated by a police officer.
What irks anyone who has followed this story is all we have is the account given by Wilson. He pulled his gun out and shot Brown six times. We don’t have any other substantiated version of what Wilson did and why he did it. Also, keep in mind that any police officer who believes their life is in danger, shoots to kill, not injure.
Another thing to remember is social media tried this murder case.
As soon as an altercation or loss of life generates a tsunami of social media coverage then the public at large generates a verdict almost instantaneously, preventing any objective account of the actual events that transpired. People get upset when justice isn’t served. In this case, however, to the extent that a Grand Jury can embody justice (three of the members were black, FYI), the decision rendered did not please those who felt (without having access to the evidence presented to the Grand Jury) Wilson murdered Brown in cold blood.
Justice is relative. The only certainty we can aspire towards is asking a jury to review the evidence and arrive at a verdict. That doesn’t justify Brown’s death. Was Brown’s death entirely preventable? Of course it was. Brown could have acknowledged to Officer Wilson that yes, he did rob a liquor store. Why did Brown initially confront Officer Wilson inside his own vehicle? I can’t think of a more stupid stunt to pull that wouldn’t instigate the eventual violent downfall of Brown.
Did Brown deserve to be shot 6 times? Including two shots to the head? I don’t know. I wasn’t there and you who are reading this weren’t either. We just don’t know. Was Officer Wilson trigger-happy? Was he racist? Was he legitimately frightened of the six-foot behemoth raging uncontrollably at him? Or did he misread the arms and hands of Brown who was actually acknowledging his own misbehavior and didn’t want to get shot?
What this sad story dramatizes is just how divided we remain in America over how blacks and whites are treated by law enforcement. Black men were more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and local jails in 2010, the last year complete data are available, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Many agree that blacks receive unequal treatment when dealing with the criminal justice system. Former Mayor Rudy Guliani said on a “Meet the Press” segment that “we are not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks.” Giuliani cited a statistic from a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, which did, indeed, conclude that black offenders killed 93 percent of black homicide victims from 1980 through 2008. Giuliani omitted the comparable statistic in the report for white homicide victims: white offenders killed 84 percent of white victims.
I urge my readers to review the findings of the Kerner Commission. The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, established in 1967 by then President Lyndon Baines Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots. The report warned that if structural changes weren’t made, our nation would continue to move toward “two societies, one black, and one white—separate and unequal.” The lack of economic opportunity for African-Americans was a major cause of concern and today still is not being sufficiently addressed.
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Final thoughts on Ferguson
Op/ed on the fall-out in Ferguson.