The Racial Divide Over Ferguson

YouGov measured it recently:

Racial Divide Ferguson

Russell Moore observes that “the Ferguson situation is one of several in just the past couple of years where white and black Americans have viewed a situation in starkly different terms”:

White Americans tend, in public polling, to view the presenting situations as though they exist in isolation, dealing only with the known facts of the case at hand, of whether there is evidence of murder. Black Americans, polls show, tend to view these crises through a wider lens, the question of whether African-American youth are too often profiled and killed in America. Whatever the particulars of this case, this divergence ought to show us that we have a ways to go toward racial reconciliation.

Jelani Cobb remarks that, in Ferguson, “the great difficulty has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or incompetence”: 

Last night, McCulloch made the inscrutable choice to announce the grand jury’s decision after darkness had fallen and the crowds had amassed in the streets, factors that many felt could only increase the risk of violence. Despite the sizable police presence, few officers were positioned on the stretch of West Florissant Avenue where Brown was killed. The result was that damage to the area around the police station was sporadic and short-lived, but Brown’s neighborhood burned. This was either bad strategy or further confirmation of the unimportance of that community in the eyes of Ferguson’s authorities.

McArdle is more sympathetic to the prosecutor:

To judge by last night’s events, this attempt to split the baby between declining prosecution and putting on a full trial failed. On the other hand, to judge by the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict, putting on a full trial sometimes fails, too. If a conviction was extremely unlikely — and that seems to be the consensus of most of the experts I’ve seen — then I’m not sure there were any good options here. I’m not even sure the prosecutor chose the worst one.

Dreher asks, “What would you have done had you been the cop in that situation?”:

If you don’t want to be shot by police, don’t stick your hand into the window of an officer’s car and try to grab his weapon. Can we at least concede that this was an extraordinarily stupid thing for Michael Brown to have done? That does not mean that what followed on the street was justified (nor does it follow that it was not justified). But it does mean that both the physical evidence and eyewitness statements support the contention that the initial shot that hit Michael Brown was justified.

However, Ezra has a hard time believing Wilson’s story:

Why did Michael Brown, an 18-year-old kid headed to college, refuse to move from the middle of the street to the sidewalk? Why would he curse out a police officer? Why would he attack a police officer? Why would he dare a police officer to shoot him? Why would he charge a police officer holding a gun? Why would he put his hand in his waistband while charging, even though he was unarmed?

None of this fits with what we know of Michael Brown. … Which doesn’t mean Wilson is a liar. Unbelievable things happen every day. The fact that his story raises more questions than it answers doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

But the point of a trial would have been to try to answer these questions. We would have either found out if everything we thought we knew about Brown was wrong, or if Wilson’s story was flawed in important ways. But now we’re not going to get that chance. We’re just left with Wilson’s unbelievable story.