I didn’t think that I would be writing about this (“this” being the Grand Jury failing to indict Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown). Originally, I wanted to post something on Facebook. But gauging from the types of responses I was reading on my wall, I could envision myself being attacked from both sides on there. Which brings me to my more “private” blog (which doesn’t cross the eyeballs of nearly as many people as my Facebook account does). 🙂
The reason why I would incite anger from both sides is simple. I don’t think that the real injustice here is the shooting of an unarmed Black man, but rather the gross failing of the legal system in the United States. I also believe that the media has successfully morphed this entire issue into what they wanted, and we as a nation have allowed ourselves to be led like sheep to extreme conclusions.
Now, to expand on my ideas….
Racism and Rioting
Make no mistake, racism and racial profiling in this country and especially among law enforcement officers is very real. And it’s a problem. It was a problem long before Michael Brown, and while Michael Brown’s death was successful in bringing this issue to the forefront, I don’t believe that this instance is the best example to illustrate the problem (please read this post for further details as to why I feel this way).
I’ve noticed, especially over the last 20 years or so, the media is more concerned with sensationalism than accuracy, and they certainly don’t care about educating their audience. Long gone are the days of having Walter Cronkite sit in front of you on a television screen, adhering to the professional standards of journalism, and providing the necessary background to really make the “news” more relevant. There also used to be a standard where the subjects of the news were presented in a more unbiased manner (even captured criminals were shown with some thread of dignity). Instead today’s “news outlets” goes after the most shocking, eye-catching, jaw dropping soundbites and images that they can get away with. They don’t care about showing both sides of the story. They don’t care about how people will react. And they certainly don’t care that they are responsible for the delivery all of the information regarding a topic in a case where 90% of those watching will fail to do their own research (more on that below).
I’m all for non-violent protesting to voice your displeasure. But I also don’t think it goes very far (because nowadays, people a way too self-centered to give a real hoot about your opinion). However rioting is completely pointless. All it does it make the perpetrators look worse. Far more effective than any of these methods, would be to start pooling money, and start paying lobbyists to push your cause through the legislature, and get laws passed and repealed to support your cause. There are more than 42 million Black Americans. If we could all contribute $1000 annually, on average, we would have $4.2 billion available on a yearly basis. There have to be some politicians out there that would take that as a bribe to promote our causes in the legislature! And really, that’s how it’s done folks. We need to admit, as shameful as it is, that Americans no longer care about what is right. We care about money. We care about personal comfort. Police brutality is not an issue if the brutality is being wielded against others partly on your behalf. And as long almost 1/4 of Black Americans live below the poverty line, then we will continue to be “the others”.
The Real Problem is the Loss of Freedom
The other day, I came across a fascinating website that showed a ranking of the 50 states in terms of freedom. This may sound ridiculous, but the reality is, due to the United States Constitution, many liberties are given to the individual states in regards to many of the laws that affect our day to day living.
Now, if we look at what happened yesterday, basically the Grand Jury failed to indict Dennis Wilson for the crime of shooting Michael Brown. Now be honest, from a legal standpoint, do you know the ins and outs of what this means? If you don’t, Rabbi Eliyahu Fink (who is also an attorney) explained it very well here.
Also, if you also read this article as well, you can begin to see the problem. It is incredibly difficult for any organization or entity to turn against one of their own. The police and the District Attorney (the DA), the same individual responsible to getting the indictment, are on the same team. The legal system has failed, because it has allowed for this conflict of interest, and kept this case in the state courts when really, it should have been moved to a federal court (IMHO).
I don’t want to be a hypocrite in terms of defending the law. If there is not enough evidence to send someone to jail, they should not go. I don’t care if the perpetrator is White of Black. I don’t care if the victim is White or Black. I don’t care about the motive or the circumstances. Some of the greatest legal injustices that occurred in this country were ones where public opinion had a distinct pull on the execution of the law. Many times, these injustices were carried out against Black defendants. I cannot, with an honest heart, say that a White man who shot a Black man does not deserve the same level of legal protection that anyone else does.
However this goes deeper than race. It is about those in power sticking together and banding against the powerless. Two different issues really.
It is not the punishment (or lack of) of Darren Wilson that concerns me. Rather it is the legal reinforcement to the current attitudes and approach that police officers have to their jobs. That “protect & serve” slogan you see on the sides of police squad cars…is a big hunk of bullshit (pardon my French). What those cars should really say is “to enforce & judge”….because that’s exactly what 90% of them do. The problem is, most police officers have a very cursory understanding of the law (the very thing they are supposed to be enforcing). They are trained for the worst case scenarios. They have the mentality to arrest/shoot first, then ask questions later. All of this is exacerbated for Black Americans, who are seen in the worst light by American society by default.
I’m Not Saying You Should Stop Barking, Just Go to a Different Tree
I shake my head at all of this. People speaking out en-masse about racism and injustice. However there is very little discussion about personal accountability and being a smart activist as opposed to a reactionary one (who will spend their efforts in fruitless ways). I will come right out and say that I am not comfortable embracing Michael Brown as a martyr for the cause here. There are too many holes and too many opportunities for the opposition to sit back and say, “Hey, you are overreacting. You are pulling the race card.”, etc., etc. Like I said previously, racism among a militarized police force is a very real problem that we face here in the United States. Yet we risk squandering the opportunity to make a change by focusing on an event that is too far down the totem pole. I equate this to making widespread busts on street dealers as an effort to win the war on drugs. It doesn’t fix the “drug problem”. Also many of these drug dealers are in fact despicable people, making money while destroying families and futures in the process.
There seem to be no easy answers and I certainly don’t have any. But I do have a question. Why do police officers need to carry guns? Seriously. What are the chances that they will encounter someone or be in a situation that requires the use of lethal force anyway? Let’s start there.