Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Verdict, The Truth and the Murky Middle

Back in August, Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, MO shot an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown. 

What followed were weeks of racial tensions that flared into protests; the police brought out their heavy duty Army surplus stuff, totally tone deaf to the message they were sending.  Whatever the facts of the case, African Americans saw one more young black man gunned down by the police.  One more in a long line of black men shot by police. And entire force geared up to stop them.

And the details that emerged after the incident did not help matters. Accounts that Michael Brown had his hands up as Officer Wilson shot him added fuel to the fire of mistrust that African Americans all across America have of police. 

But there were hints and allegations that this accepted narrative, of a young man shot down by the police officer he was surrendering to, may not be as it seemed. 

So the case was brought before a grand jury who reviewed lots of evidence, heard lots of testimonies from witnesses and experts. And after diligently examining every part of this tragedy, the grand jury gave its verdict.

Darren Wilson would not be charged with a crime.  

I watched CNN as prosecutor Robert McCullough given a long (and I do mean LONG) preamble of describing just how tireless and meticulous the grand jury was before announcing their decision, 

I sat there, a white man comfortable on his sofa in the middle of suburbia, catching myself nodding at all this. thinking, "Well, that makes sense. Sounds like everybody did their job. I feel bad for Michael Brown's parents but it looks like there was a lot more going on than a policeman shooting an unarmed black teenager. 

Meanwhile, in Ferguson and indeed across the country, other people, a lot of them with skin of another color than mine, had a different view.  

The thing is, I was perfectly OK thinking justice was served. Men and women came together to review the facts of the case and came to a reasonable conclusion that the death of Michael Brown was not murder at all but a tragic end to a confrontation between police and civilian. It ran counter to what I thought the narrative was before last night but hey, facts are facts, right? 

And on the other side were people who had a strong desire for the narrative to be true because too many black men have taken too many police bullets and it has to stop somewhere. If Michael Brown had to die, it would not be in vain in stopping the bloodshed and the distrust. 

The grand jury concluded Michael Brown did not have his hands in the air when he died.

African Americans in Ferguson said he did. 

As I've read various articles and reports after the fact, it seems that solidity of fact by way of the grand jury may not be as solid as it seems. Or maybe Micheal Brown did not have his hands in the air. 

I just don't know. I don't feel any more assured now than I did while listening to Robert McCullough's long press briefing. Yes we have a verdict but truth still seems frustratingly unknown and we're left in the murky middle between the two. 

But I do know two things happened that didn't help anyone. 

As someone posted on Twitter Tuesday, the verdict of the grand jury basically tells cops its OK to shoot black people. If that's the message that black men and women across America have heard, then the distrust and the bloodshed will go on.

And there were the looters and rioters who did nothing to support the cause of true protesters and lends credence to the view of the police that maybe they need to have and use that Army surplus stuff. 

It's still a state of war. 

Everyone, try to be extra good to one another, okay? 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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