— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) November 25, 2014
Many readers comment on the story of the week:
After reading some of Darren Wilson’s testimony, I couldn’t help but automatically think of two separate posts I have read on the Dish before – this one, which talks about a study that finds how whites think black people are magical/supernatural, and this one, about how whites, and especially the police, overestimate the ages of black kids. Both of these studies could have some insight into Wilson’s thinking as he unloaded his clip into an unarmed black teenager, whom he described as looking like a “demon” and able to charge through bullets.
Another continues along those lines:
The rhetoric Wilson used may or may not have been “dehumanizing”, but those were the words of a police officer who was so terrified that he didn’t employ any other means of defusing the situation other than with deadly force, and he came to that conclusion in less than 90 seconds. If Wilson truly believed Brown was a “demon”, he had no business wearing a badge or carrying a gun, just based on the complete panic conveyed in his own words. The conduct of the entire Ferguson PD this whole time was that of a police force that held the citizens of the community with deep contempt, so it’s not surprising that Wilson approached this situation immediately as a worst-case scenario. It’s not even a racial reaction in my opinion; it’s a systemic failure of community policing and police training. Given Wilson’s previous run-in with the community where he displayed neither judgement or emotional control, what happened with Brown looks inevitable in hindsight.
Andrew, I’m begging you for the second time, please don’t make comments about firearms anymore. How can you say Wilson had “no need” to shoot Brown that many times? The reason law enforcement went to high-capacity handguns and dumped the six shooters is because of the ability of people to withstand multiple gunshot wounds and continue fighting (or shooting.) The catalyst for this approach was the 1986 Miami shooting in which to FBI officers were killed AFTER they had shot two bank robbers multiple times. The robbers eventually died of their wounds, but in the meantime, they kept firing and killed the agents. Officer Wilson adhered to his training: shoot until the suspect is on the ground.
Another makes the same argument and adds:
I consider myself a leftist in good standing, but frankly, Mike Brown is to the Left what Benghazi is to the Right.
Preconceptions are everything. Facts don’t matter. Logic doesn’t matter. There’s a narrative of racist-white-cop-kills-harmless-black-kid, and no matter what uncomfortable fact intrudes, like that so many “witnesses” admitted they didn’t actually see what they told the media they saw, the narrative must go on. Because racism.
Another is roughly on the same page:
Maybe lethal force wasn’t necessary, but science has proven that Brown turned and moved back toward Wilson (at least 20 feet) and was not shot from behind. There was undeniably an altercation at/inside the police cruiser. Does the fact that one man is alive and one is dead skew the way those facts are interpreted? Absolutely. But there exist certain physical certainties that strongly suggest this was not cold-blooded murder.
I agree entirely that this should have gone to trial and realize that, statistically, nearly everything reviewed by a grand jury does. I agree that the fact Wilson will never even face charges is a mark of shame on the legal system. But I don’t get the sense that the people who are furious about this, whatever their race, are clamoring for a trial they’ll never see; it seems to me they’re clamoring for a conviction they feel they’ve been cheated out of. To the detriment of all of us, that belief is yet one more fault line that fractures and splinters us and renders impossible the hard, uncomfortable discussions we still need to have about race in this country.
Some strong pushback from an African-American woman:
While I appreciate your always-nuanced analysis, a few points of dissent: First, Michael Brown was not a “criminal”, as he had not been charged and convicted of anything. He was accused of petty theft, which is a misdemeanor. But alas, your facile use of the word speaks to the ease with which Black men are labeled as such, so as to be quickly demonized.
Secondly, you seemingly contradict yourself, because Balko’s article makes clear that this is not an environment where the police are protecting and serving but instead harassing and self-serving. I am in no way justifying assailing a police officer (or anyone for that matter), verbally or physically, but you are not a young Black man living in what is still ostensibly the South and facing harassment for just being. I challenge you to invite Black males to tell you their stories of police harassment. How many times they have been detained, cuffed, kicked and threatened with death because they fit a profile, looked suspicious or were just somewhere some cop didn’t think they belonged? Yes, this is in America.
Thirdly, seriously: “And yes, primordial racial feelings may well have been part of the mix.”? He described him as a “demon”, “Hulk Hogan” even. Have you not seen the recent study that shows that White people in fact do see Blacks as super-human?
You are surely not ignorant, Andrew, but there is an interminable, sometimes slight, sometimes massive burden that comes with Blackness that you seem wholly oblivious to. That 12 year old that was shot in Cleveland was sitting on a swing playing with a fake gun. Two things happened due purely to his Blackness: police were called and he was murdered. Full stop. The Black man shot in the stairwell of his building in NYC for just existing while Black because a cop got scared. And that’s just since Monday.
Clive Bundy assails and threatens federal officers and gets invited on Fox News. Eric Frein plans and carries out an attack on state trooper barracks, killing one and seriously wounding another – again brought in alive. Ted Nugent scares the shit out of me with his racism, misogyny, anti-government and gun-humping ways, but yet he’s a hero to many White people and no one seems to have shot him yet either. White people have feared, reviled and vilified Blackness since they first laid eyes upon us. The codification and justification of our enslavement, disenfranchisement and murder is beyond primordial; it is part and parcel of what has made America and the Western world. Ferguson is just another eruption in this racist legacy and reality.
Update from a reader:
I agree with those who are stating that Officer Wilson was, at least, poorly trained and may not have been fit to be an officer in the first place. Like many justifiable police shootings, it didn’t have to go that way.
But on of your readers claimed that, at most, Brown was guilty of petit theft, which is a misdemeanor. This is incorrect. Brown not only stole from the convenience store, he assaulted the business owner who tried to stop him from stealing. This assault escalated Brown’s theft to a strong-arm robbery, which is a second-degree felony in the State of Missouri. And it was Brown’s commission of this felony that began the chain of events that led to his death. He had nobody but himself to blame for that – not Officer Wilson, not the prosecutor, and not racism.