This blog is normally about funny or embarrassing stories from my life. This entry won't be. I feel like it would be irresponsible for me to let another story like this one to go by without me addressing it. I've never felt that my voice was big enough or that I would be helping anything by saying anything so I just kept on with my silly stories. Don't worry, the silly stories will resume, but I needed to get this off of my chest. The Ferguson situation has moved me to do so...
Unless you've been living under a rock or something, you know about the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer named Darren Wilson. The case caught national attention due to the reported pattern of excessive force used by (mostly white) police officers against (mostly black) civilians. According to reports, Michael Brown had his hands up in a submissive posture when he was shot at least six times by Darren Wilson. According to Darren Wilson, Michael Brown struck him multiple times and was attempting to take his weapon, so he shot Brown in self defense. I don't know all of the details of the case, nor will I pretend to be an expert on the matter. The end result was the loss of life of a teenager.
After the initial shooting, it was reported that Michael Brown had stolen some items from a convenience store. Michael Brown was reported to be a large person (6'4, over 230lbs). Darren Wilson is also large at 6'4 and looks to be over 220lbs.
Late Monday evening, we were made aware that a grand jury (12 people) determined that Darren Wilson would not be going to trial for the shooting death of Michael Brown. The prosecutor that works for the state of Missouri chose not to charge Darren Wilson with anything. The charges available were 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and no charges. Darren Wilson received no charges. Following the decision, protests erupted in many cities around the US. Ferguson, Missouri (the city where the incident occurred) was the most volatile site.
Days prior to the decision being announced, Missouri ramped up security efforts in anticipation of such protests/riots. Local businesses were looted and destroyed. Protesters and rioters were tear-gassed by authorities donning riot gear.
When I initially heard about this case, I was numb. I had heard it before. I'm at the place where I start trying to find out what these black kids are doing wrong to get shot like this. I have never personally had any police try and rough me up. I've even had police officers look out for me big time. My naivete is almost embarrassing. Then upon reflection, I remember that I normally inform officers of my prior military service and then we're on the same team. I ALWAYS do this. Is this because I don't want a ticket? Or do I subconsciously want to ensure that I'm not the next victim? I really can't answer that. I can only say that I have had good experiences with the police. I've gotten so angry about the disproportionate amount of black men being beaten, shot and killed by officers of the law. The Ferguson story was too much. I didn't even want to know what was going on. I was in Sweden now.
My good friend Amat messaged me asking what I thought about Ferguson. He's Swedish. He's a journalist. He'd understand my cynicism. He sent me a quick message that I need to figure out what's going on. My best friend scolded me like a child. I was immediately embarrassed. But he was right. This was relevant to me as a black man, a father and most importantly an American. My son won't grow up in the US, but he needs to be proud of this country. How could one be proud of a country where something like this happens? I delved in and the sadness ensued.
I was under the impression that the world's fastest trial was being deliberated. I think the sentiment in Sweden as a whole was that a grand jury was determining the verdict in the case. In all actuality, the prosecutor did what's called "punting". It's an American football term for the act of kicking the ball to the other team. I had never heard of punting before this case, but apparently it's done when the prosecutor doesn't feel a case is worthy to go to trial. So the prosecutor was a coward. It may be a flaw in the system that prosecutors and law enforcement are on the "same team". This prosecutor didn't want this case to go to trial but didn't want it to be obvious. There is no reason a punt should have been utilized. I won't speak more on this, but my sentiments were expressed in this clip.
So the punt worked. The grand jury somehow found that this wasn't trial-worthy and unrest ensued. The saddest thing is, I was just about the only person who thought that the right thing would happen. I thought the amount of shots alone (at least six) would warrant some type of punishment. But nothing. I was surprised and disappointed. I could only shake my head. When will this stop?
What I Think
It's obvious that we're in a really bad place when it comes to the relationship between law enforcement and the black community. I was never a part of the anti-police crowd, but it's hard to continue to trust when so many things like this keep happening. Things will not get better until the root of the issue is addressed. Issues like this should not be divisive. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED, there is no reason for Michael Brown to be dead. He allegedly stole something from a convenience store. He allegedly punched Wilson in the face. He allegedly went after his weapon. He was never armed. He should not be dead. It is common sense that there was excessive force.
Things can't get better until it is agreed that this is a problem. I have a friend that is a member of the NYPD. No matter the case, he defends the officer. Yes, even the officers that shot a group of men over 50 times after a bachelor party. If one side thinks it can do no wrong, things can never get right. I see the arguments on social media where people take sides. There should be a common side in this. This kid should not be dead. Everyone should agree that this is a tragedy. Fellow officers should not want this officer working with them anymore. There should be no cover-ups or corroborations. That only contributes to the anti-police sentiment in the black community. Rich and poor, black and white, officer and civilian alike should rally against bad cops. Then we can trust the good cops. But when issues like these somehow become divisive, it shows how far we have to go. Sometimes things need to hit closer to home in order to find empathy. But young whites will never be automatically assumed to be threats.
That brings me to protests/riots. The main question asked by outsiders is: "Why riot?" That's easy to ask from afar. Why are these people tearing up their own community? People are acting out of frustration. I personally wouldn't riot. But I understand the rioting. I feel frustrated by the decision and if I were even closer to the city, I would likely be even more passionate about it. I would understand more if the rioters destroyed more affluent neighborhoods. That would get attention. Bring the news crews to the suburbs. I wonder how much tear gas would be sprayed upon those neighborhoods.
It was obvious that the riots were expected. The riot police were on site as the decision came out. That brings into question why the "punt" happened by that cowardly prosecutor. Let it go to trial. Let the evidence be shown to the people. It's all so stupid. It's all so frustrating.
The saddest part of it all is that I am sure this will happen again. The police think nothing was done wrong and the justice system will protect them regardless. We all need to reevaluate who is dangerous. We also need to reevaluate what we think justice is. No punch to the face or reach for a weapon or shoplifting should result in death. No reach for a wallet should result in over 40 bullets. No person acting as law enforcement should be acquitted for the murder of a kid. No vehicle should be riddled with 50 bullets EVER. These things are wrong. EVERYONE should agree on this. Until that's the case, the problem will continue.
Thank you for listening to my piece. I only hope things get better in the country that I love. Until next time...