Not Again

by Dish Staff

Mark Berman summarizes the big news out of Ferguson, Missouri:

An unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed Saturday by a police officer in suburban St. Louis. People protested Saturday and Sunday, with large crowds of protesters and police facing off multiple times since the shooting. Some rioting and looting also broke out late Sunday night. Federal authorities are monitoring the shooting as groups and officials call for investigations.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting appear to be somewhat unclear. Police said Saturday that the shooting followed an encounter involving a police officer, Brown and another person Saturday afternoon, but additional confirmed details are scarce. Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police, said that the episode began with “a physical confrontation.” Belmar did not explain what prompted the confrontation, but he said that the officer was pushed back into his squad car during the episode and that one shot was fired from the officer’s weapon inside the car. Brown was shot multiple times – “more than just a couple,” Belmar said – on the street nearby, and all shell casings matched the officer’s gun. It’s not known yet why the officer shot him, nor why lethal force was used.

Jonathan Capehart hears echoes of the Trayvon Martin shooting:

When I wrote first wrote about Martin’s killing, I said that one of the burdens of being a black male was bearing the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. The McBride murder shows that such suspicion knows no gender. I also wrote about the lessons my mother taught me growing up. How I shouldn’t run in public, lest I arouse undue suspicion. How I most definitely should not run with anything in my hands, lest anyone think I stole something. The lesson included not talking back to the police, lest you give them a reason to take you to jail – or worse. …

When you’re black and especially male – in the United States – you have to go to these seemingly overboard, extra lengths in the off-chance they might save your life. But none of those things would have helped me if I were in the shoes of Michael Brown or Renisha McBride or Trayvon Martin. We don’t know yet if Brown was asked for identification, but we know the other two weren’t. Perhaps their assailants saw all they needed to know. What frightens me more than anything in the world is that the chances are very high that one day I might be in their shoes and might meet their tragic end. The so-called victims of the nonexistent “war on whites” have absolutely NO idea what living under that kind of siege, that kind of very real threat, is like.

Capehart also has some choice words for the looters:

This is not how you protest the shooting of an unarmed teenager. This is not how you show support for his grieving family. This is not how you make authorities understand your anger and concern. This is not how you get others to join your cause. Perhaps I’m being too generous when it comes to those knuckleheads who used a tragedy to trash businesses and scurry off with bottles of wine, among other things. Perhaps I’m giving the looters too much credit by presuming they actually care about what happened to Michael Brown and how to prevent it from happening again. But there are plenty of people who do care and want answers. The actions of selfish and opportunistic looters must not distract us from getting them.

Meanwhile, Bill Chappell examines the rise of #IfTheyGunnedMeDown:

The use of different photos to portray shooting victim Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Saturday, prompted an interesting phenomenon on Twitter Monday: Users are posting “dueling” photos of themselves – one where the subject looks wholesome, and another where the same person might look like a troublemaker – with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. Behind the trend is the question of which photo the media would seize upon, if the posters had a run-in with police. For some, it’s another way this episode calls to mind the shooting death of Trayvon Martin – and the various photos used to portray both the teenager and his killer, George Zimmerman.

James Poniewozik calls #IfTheyGunnedMeDown a “a simple, ingenious DIY form of media criticism”:

It was a brilliant media critique, and while Twitter and other platforms may have no magical power to stop shootings or catch warlords, one thing they are very good at is catching the attention of the media. Journalists pay attention to Twitter–disproportionate attention, maybe–and that makes it a very, very good place to deliver the modern version of a letter to the editor. You could say similar of #YesAllWomen, or of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag of earlier this year: no, it didn’t have the power to free the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, but it did put the story on homepages and newscasts often resistant to overseas news, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

Yesha Callahan sighs:

It’s safe to say that Brown has become a victim of what I like to refer to as the “Trayvon Martin effect” in the media. Trayvon, who was killed by George Zimmerman, was depicted as a gold-grill-wearing, weed-smoking teenager in the photos used by the media. There were no photos of Trayvon smiling with his family members or being just your average happy teen, which his family members said he was. Similarly, the photos of Brown that have been picked up by the media included him throwing up a peace sign, which conservative media has translated into a “gang sign.” You’d be hard-pressed to find mainstream media showing Brown at his high school graduation or with members of his family. … Unfortunately, because of Ferguson police, we’ll never be able to see a photo of Brown attending his first day of college today.