It’s easy to blame Darren Wilson for the death of an unarmed black man named Michael Brown – because it happened.
What seems to be more difficult for everyone – from the media to the violent demonstrators – is to hold Michael Brown accountable for his own death. As stated in last night’s decision, evidence shows (and a jury agreed) that Michael Brown had committed a crime prior to his encounter with Darren Wilson. Brown is also believed to have assaulted Wilson upon their initial encounter.
This is not a case of an unarmed black man being shot because he wouldn’t move out of the road – as was an early media narrative. Nor is this a case of an innocent black man’s death. Michael Brown is not the victim of a hate crime – nor is he the face an equality movement deserves.
Certainly, my opinion will be unpopular – but how much commentary have we seen about “the age of entitlement?” Apply that to this situation. Michael Brown doesn’t get a pass because he was black and the officer is white. He committed a robbery and assaulted a police officer. Those two criminal acts have nothing to do with the color of his skin. He is responsible for his poor decision-making prior to – and during – his death. He is not a martyr and might still be alive today if he’d thought about his actions.
The media, whom I believe have acted irresponsibly, have fed people a sympathetic narrative. They’ve run front-page stories about racial disparities in law enforcement (in predominantly black communities) and have provided editorial upon editorial about Michael Brown and what it means to be black in the United States. The media – and many people on social media – have spent too much time being politically correct instead of accurate.
For example, when the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran the front-page story about racial disparities in law enforcement, they highlighted the percentages of the forces that were black and white. One predominantly black community’s police force was 93% white and 7% black. Instead of investigating the story further – the Post ran with it, in timely fashion. As a reader, I found that article frustrating because, yes, it says there is a huge disparity in that force, but it never explores why. I want to know what percentage of applicants were black and what percentage of black applicants were hired (relative to whites). I want a complete story – not a propaganda piece.
In fact, I’m sure there could be a discussion of the media’s influence in the Michael Brown narrative since August. A sympathetic attitude has evolved in the media, yet people seem split on the issue – and the only community that will suffer is the black community. Time and time again, we’ve seen “peaceful” protests – but on the next page, or in the next clip, we see footage or read stories of burning buildings and cars, shot officers and looting.
Such violent demonstration will not advance the cause – it will only further the divide. From these incidents, stereotypes will be reinforced and new racists will emerge – from both communities (white and black).
I was reading an article in the Post Dispatch yesterday (from Nov. 22) titled, “Coffee, reality TV and Michael Brown.” In the article, entrepreneur Jason Wilson discusses his failed attempt to open a coffee shop (Chronicle Coffee) in a black community and the cancelation of a reality TV show by Lifetime. Wilson said he “envisioned a space for civil discourse and community engagement.”
Wilson also stated that had the coffee shop remained open, he could have hosted forums discussing Michael Brown – and had the reality TV series not been cancelled, he could have had a national platform to discuss the issue. I found these notions frustrating. To think that an entrepreneur, like the media and many of the violent demonstrators, would use Michael Brown’s name to boost a business – a TV program – or a message. Where’s the outrage for that? There’s outrage because Michael Brown is dead; but not because people want to profit from his death?
In that same article, Jason Wilson said he had plans to re-open Chronicle Coffee, closer to St. Louis University (a predominantly white university) because, “The reality is we need white people for this to be a success.”
This was frustrating because that statement alone presents a double-standard. Is race not what the past three months have been about? Is it not why people are being killed and businesses being burned down? Why is it acceptable for a black entrepreneur to “realize” he needs white people? For a business to operate successfully, you need people. Stop thinking in terms of if you’re going to serve whites or blacks – and start thinking in terms of people in general.
If we did this more often, this race discussion would eventually become obsolete.
For some reason though, we don’t – and this Michael Brown case is one of many reasons why we don’t. When we look at this case, over and over we see that a white cop shot an unarmed black teenager. That’s the face value of it – and that superficiality is used to justify violent demonstration.
Following the Grand Jury’s decision last night I read reports of – and saw images of – domestic terrorism. I condemn these actions – in fact, did we, as a nation, not involve ourselves in a decade-long war in the Middle East because of similar actions? We did. Yet, where was this loud outcry for the innocent men, women and children who died then? Where was the outcry for the discrimination against Muslims and Arab-Americans? This is no different. Burning buildings and cars – the destruction of life and property. Terror is running rampant in and around Ferguson. People are being shot and dying. Livelihood is being taken away. This is not progress.
Again, Michael Brown is not the face an equality movement deserves. He is not a civil rights leader or activist that belongs in a discussion with names like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. He was not persecuted because of his skin color – that’s something that’s evolved to be the issue for this case.
I’m frustrated – because this situation’s being presented as black against white – not as a situation of people. Jason Wilson was right in his assertion that “we need white people.” I believe that. I believe that for racial disparities to disappear blacks need whites and whites need blacks. We need to stop seeing color – and start seeing people. It’s never been totally white against black – look to the abolitionists in the 1700-1800s – or to the activists of the 1950-1960s – we accomplish more together.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.