I’m starting with this meme because some of you may be tired of the conversation about Ferguson. You may feel like you know enough and you’re ready to move on. You don’t quite see why everyone is upset and acting crazy over the verdict. Stop. Learn. React.
Let’s begin with the basics: the no indictment. An indictment is not a guilty verdict. It’s admission of probable cause of a crime and the charges to press. With this case the grand jury believed that there was no possibility of a crime, despite conflicting testimonies. To put it into perspective, .007% of federal cases didn’t receive an indictment from juries in 2010, which puts the Ferguson case in an extreme minority. Why was this specific verdict so important? Why was the entire world at a standstill at 8pm last night? Because this indictment was going to cement our belief of whether black lives matter in the eyes of the justice system. Michael Brown and the Ferguson community grew to represent something so much bigger than this case. Michael grew to represent all of the black lives lost in questionable circumstances, while Darren Wilson grew to represent any individual of power that seemed to unjustly oppress a person of color. It wasn’t fair to this community or either of their families, but this response was built up from years and years of distrust, unrest and the seemingly endless systematic disadvantages placed on black America.
It is not the concrete evidence we are questioning. We are questioning how this entire case was dealt with. The case began with obscurity from the police department rather than transparency. Michael’s body was left on the street for four hours after the incident. It took an entire week to release Darren Wilson’s name. Wilson did not file his own police report of the incident. During Michael’s medical examination no photos were taken because according to the examiner “my battery in my camera died”. Only 3 black people were on the jury while Ferguson has a 67% black population (the other 9 were white). Wilson had never been involved in a violent altercation before his confrontation with Michael, but he previously worked in a police unit that was disbanded for racial tensions.
Michael Brown was shot six times (3 of these shots were to the face, head, and chest). Darren Wilson states that he felt his life was threatened, which means he had the right to self defense, but were that many shots necessary? During his testimony Wilson describes Michael as “it” and “devil”. He describes feeling like a five year old in front of Michael. Nobody was asking for Darren Wilson to be harmed, but simply to be charged for a crime. If Michael was a suspected robber or was showing extreme hostility towards an officer, he deserved to state his case in court not to be buried by his parents. Like many cases involving black males, it’s as if we have to prove Michael Brown’s humanity before we can prove Darren Wilson’s crime. I refuse to give an opinion on Michael’s actions, because the reports differ and the fact is it doesn’t matter. He didn’t deserve to be killed.
During his paid leave of absence Wilson got married and was able to live his life relatively freely (although in obscurity). A fund was created in support of Darren Wilson that raised over $500,000 before being shut down. These are individuals openly supporting his actions. What kind of message does that send to the community? That Wilson should be rewarded for his actions? Believing his actions were justified is different from openly supporting his hand at killing an unarmed man, and the fact that so many people supported his actions shows how Ferguson is relevant at a national level. Even members of the KKK showed support for Darren Wilson.
For those who look at some of the violent responses and automatically assume black rage- look more closely. Most protests were peaceful and respected the wishes of Michael Brown’s family. Some turned violent out of passion because people are tired of not being heard and tired of being over looked. The rioting does not just represent the killing of an unarmed black man- the rioting represents years of the systematic dislocation of black America. The violence does not, however, represent the fight for equality. Also have you seen what ridiculous things people in this country riot over? We riot (as in vandalize and set things on fire) over sports team victories. Or remember the riots that seemed to have absolutely no cause at a pumpkin festival in October? Put in perspective, rioting for basic human rights seems pretty reasonable.
People are upset because they’ve lost faith in a system that is meant to protect all individuals. For those who believe this is an isolated incident- it’s not. There were plenty of cases before Michael and even after Michael’s death there have been black men and children killed by police officers in extremely questionable circumstances:
- John Crawford shot in Walmart for holding a toy gun while talking to his mom on the phone: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/09/25/mass-shooting-hysteria-and-the-death-of-john-crawford/
- Tamir Rice: A 12 year old boy shot twice in a play ground for having an airsoft gun. The responder asked twice if the boy was black or white before dispatching officers. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/cleveland-police-shooting-boy-with-fake-gun-dies-after-being-shot-by-ohio-officer-9878700.html
Yes if a police officer feels his life is at risk he has the right to defend himself. But is it necessary to fatally shoot the alleged criminal? If the questionable individual was white would the police officer have fired? Psychological studies show that in simulations, people are much more likely to pull the trigger on a black individual. That’s scientific proof that we are racist. There are plenty of examples of white shooters who were brought into custody, so why is it so hard for a black man who hasn’t committed a murder to be peacefully taken into custody?
In the minds of many, this is the current perception of the justice system:
*If you are interested in learning more about this case here is a compilation of all the documents submitted to the Grand Jury: http://apps.stlpublicradio.org/ferguson-project/evidence.html