Head in the Sand
All of the coverage. All of the opinion. All of the rhetoric. I am done with all of the Ferguson, Missouri coverage.
I am done with the back and forth arguing about who deserved what, and how he got it. This rant is the last that I can stomach…
Some people (mostly non-media types) are using the video of MIchael Brown allegedly stealing cigars as a reason to justify his shooting, while completely missing what could be the real telling portion of the video; if he indeed stole those cigars in the manner shown, then maybe his mental state was not correct? Maybe he was on something? Who know. But if the multiple witness accounts are correct, Michael Brown was in a surrendering position. Michael Brown was murdered.
It must be stated that at least one person recorded a video of the aftermath, in which he can be clearly asking (paraphrasing) “why did he just rush that cop?” There is so much out there, yet nothing is known beyond the fact that an 18 year old is dead.
I had a whole bunch of news links that I was going to attach to this story. So many videos and articles. But then I realized, for many people (some of whom I work with), a young Black man will never get the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this. Even if there were absolutely zero accounts of Michael Brown approaching, arguing or even talking to the officer, he’d have been in the wrong. “He didn’t approach the officer correctly,” or “he should have said yes sir, no sir.” These are some of the same people who have told me personal stories of how they’ve cursed out officers, told them what they wouldn’t do. Many of them fail to realize that they are afforded opportunities and leeway that those with darker skin are not.
I have one former coworker, who once shared a story with me. In it, he brags about how after purchasing a car on Craigslist, failing to properly register or at the very least have it inspected, he was pulled over by a local (small-town) police officer. The officer asked for registration and proof of insurance, to which the coworker replied “the vehicle is not registered, but I will give you my licence.” After running his license, the officer came back and said that he needed to search the coworker’s unregistered, unlicensed vehicle and make sure everything was fine. After some back and forth about the vehicle possibly being stolen and why it wasn’t registered, the two of them walked over to the officer’s vehicle. After some more back and forth that also involved the officer running the VIN, my coworker was freed to go. As they walked back to the “illegal” vehicle, my coworker – who is every bit of 6’5″ – wrapped his arm around the officer’s shoulder (in a “hey pal” kind of way), and said “you and I need to have a chat about the US Constitution, buddy.” They bewildered officer let him drive away, in his unregistered, uninsured vehicle.
As he told me this story, I asked him in bewilderment, “but don’t you realize that you were in the wrong, since you didn’t register the car?” His reply was “yes, but I didn’t like the way the officer approached me.”
See, that is a key difference to how different people get approached by officers. I can only speculate, but I would find it very hard to believe that I could have gotten away with driving an unregistered, uninsured vehicle through the back roads of Kansas at midnight, and then follow that up by giving the officer an ear full on the Constitution. I’m only speculating, but I see that going differently in my head.
When I asked my coworker, “do you know what would have happened to me if I had done that? Do you know how this story would have ended?”
“Yea, please don’t ever do that! That would not end well.” It is not hard to see that different people get treated differently by authority. It is a fact of life. But far too often, that fact leads to the death of a Black male. It is a problem – definitely not the biggest problem facing Black people in America – but one that maybe has no solution, but one that must be addressed.