Being Black in America: An Example from Ferguson

Real Talk SATURDAY

The events following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last week reignited a debate in this country about police brutality, civil rights, and institutional racism in America.

Michael Brown, killed by Ferguson, MO officer on Aug. 9 *New York Daily News*

 

Questions have surfaced about what exactly happened on the day Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown and why killing Brown was necessary. Early on, the Ferguson Police Department claimed that Brown attacked Officer Wilson and tried to wrestle his firearm away from him. Witnesses on the ground, however, argue that Brown was approached by Officer Wilson and when his weapon was drawn, Brown’s hands were up as he attempted to retreat away from the officer before he was fatally shot.

 

In the aftermath of this shameful incident, amid days of clashes between protesters and the Ferguson Police Department, the police chief announced on Friday claimed that Brown was involved in a robbery earlier in the day, apparently implying that this was why he was stopped by Officer Wilson. However, later that day he officer confirmed that Officer Wilson did not know that Brown was accused of this incident and that he didn’t know that he was the suspect and thus stopped Brown and a friend for entirely different reasons.

Now, the Real Talk… 

The Ferguson Police Department has been involved in a cover up for the last week. Officer Wilson knows that he killed Michael Brown who was unarmed, but so does the entire police department. The entire week they have been quiet about the details that they knew even while community members have demanded a transparent investigation. Autopsy records have not been released and the shooting officer’s name wasn’t released until a week later. In addition, a video was released by the Ferguson police chief implicating Michael Brown in a robbery at a local store, which is random since police would have done so immediately if it had anything to do with this incident.

Ferguson police chief announcing the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown *New York Times*

If Brown’s alleged involvement in a robbery had nothing to do with Officer Wilson stopping him, why would the police chief released details and a video regarding robbery? What it looks like to me is that they’re trying to steer the conversation away from Officer Wilson killing an unarmed, non-resisting Black man and instead find something that almost justifies Brown being killed.

Furthermore, this sparks more conversation about race in America due to the fact that it was another incident of a white cop killing a Black man. Many in the Black community have talked about not feeling safe due to the many instances where law enforcement ends up killing Black citizens, and in a justice system that appears to not value the life of a Black person as much as others. In addition to the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, we saw NYPD officers use a choke hold which ultimately killed Eric Garner just a couple of weeks ago. Getting less attention is the killing of Ezell Ford by LAPD officers, days after the Brown shootings. We also remember the killing of Oscar Grant in Oakland in 2009 by a transit police officer, and of course the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 by a self-proclaimed neighborhood watch guard.

Many in this country believe that these are isolated incidents only hyped up because of the media. In reality, these incidents are emblematic of a larger problem of institutional racism in law enforcement and the justice system. The fact that the media is covering this simply brings to light this problem. If they really covered every story like this, there would be no room for any other news because unfortunately these incident happen all of the time.

Student form Howard University standing in solidarity with Ferguson demonstrating the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” symbol.

But we must end the institutional racism in law enforcement, and incidents like this bring the issue to the national level. When I say institutional racism, this isn’t to say that all white cops are racists. However, there is something going on in the minds of some of these cops and it needs to stop as too many innocent Black people are dying at the hands of white cops. Cultural differences should not lead to stereotypes that say Black people are likely criminals. Because what we have seen happen is Black people, particularly men, are being unnecessarily harassed by cops and when the officers feel action is necessary they often use more force than is required and very often that unnecessary force leads to ending a life.

Must being Black in America continue to mean living in fear daily? If we can’t rely on law enforcement to “protect and serve” everyone, how can we feel safe living here? I’m not suggesting leaving, I’m demanding a change. We all deserve the same rights and protections, and value of life as we are ALL Americans.

 

Related Articles

New York Times –  Protesters and Police Face Off Again on Ferguson Streets

USA Today – Late release of information risks further distrust in Ferguson, Mo.

CBS News – Ferguson and Michael Brown: 5 things you need to know

 

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Categories: Real Talk SATURDAY, US News

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