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The Ferguson Problem
Note: I know that this can be a sensitive subject to some, and a very polarizing one. I will do my best to keep that in mind in this article. If you disagree or are offended by what I say, that is your own choice. I will do my best to mind others’ sensitivities, but my opinions are the same.
If you don’t know what the whole situation in Ferguson, Missouri is all about let me update you briefly. On August 9, 2014, 18 year old Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were on their way to Brown’s grandmother’s house when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson confronted them. The story goes that Brown and Johnson were walking in the street when Officer Wilson asked them to get out of the road as they were blocking traffic. A scuffle ensued and Michael Brown was shot and killed.
I do not know with absolute certainty who was in the right, but the evidence is compelling. Prior to the shooting, a videotape shows Michael Brown and his friend committing strong-arm robbery at a convenience store over a box of cigars. About ten minutes later, Officer Wilson pulled up in his car and told the boys to get on the sidewalk as they were walking in the street and blocking traffic. Both refused, and when Wilson stepped out of his cruiser to confront the pair, Brown and Johnson shoved him back into the car. This is likely due to Brown’s worry that Wilson was after him for the robbery at the store. However, Wilson did not know about the robbery at first, though the description of Brown later came over his radio about the same time he first saw the two.
Michael Brown attacked Wilson and punched him while in his police car, wrestled his gun away from him and pointed it at the officer with intent to shoot. A shot was discharged while in the car. Wilson eventually wrestled the gun back away, and as such Brown and Johnson began to run away. Wilson told them to halt and intended to apprehend them. Both eventually stopped, but did not give themselves up. Instead they proceeded to taunt Officer Wilson. It was then that Michael Brown decided to bum-rush Wilson, thus constituting a need for self defense on the officer’s part. About 12 eye witnesses have backed up Officer Wilson’s account as well as there being the video of the convenience store robbery showing Brown forcibly shoving and attacking the clerk. Further reports indicate that Brown had traceable amounts of marijuana in his system when he was killed and that Officer Wilson suffered a fractured eye socket prior to shooting Brown.
Now, this situation is very telling about race relations in America. The United States does in fact have stains on its past when it comes to the problem of racial equality. From African Americans enslaved in the south, to American Indians relocated out west, to Asian Americans imprisoned during World War II, there are no shortage of examples as to how the statement “liberty and justice for all” has not always rung true. However, in this day and age, in which America has desegregated everything, in which there are people of color in the media, academic, and athletic worlds, and in which a black president and a black attorney general have obtained office, it is important to note that America IS NOT RACIST!
Following Brown’s shooting there were a number of riots and clashes with police in Ferguson, mostly poor blacks and out-of-towners attacking and looting innocent people and businesses. This activity is despicable. I don’t care what you’re opinion is or how badly you think you’ve been slighted; you do not get to go out and riot and loot and do whatever the hell you want to do. You may protest, yes that is your right, but you may not cause disruption or impede the process of law and order.
The rioting and looting comes from a perverted sense of the racial culture in this country today. Those who are upset over the killing of Michael Brown have accepted a version of events in which Michael Brown was shot in the back (an autopsy revealed he was not) with his hands up in surrender (eye witnesses say he was not). This seems to be a false account of the happenings, as the evidence presented suggests.
Those who are rioting and looting and protesting the police do not care about these facts however. They instead have dreams of an unjust America, an America of the 1960s where Jim Crow ruled supreme and blacks were beaten mercilessly with clubs and sprayed with hoses. They dream of an America where there is some sinister white supremacy to fight against and some great justice to uphold.
Now, ask yourself, is this true? Are blacks and other colored people discriminated against, beaten in the streets, and forced to submit to a white person’s will simply because of their skin color in 2014? Are colored people cheated out of work opportunities, forced to sit in the back of the bus, and not allowed to go to school with whites in 2014? NO!
America has made leaps and bounds since the 1960s. Blacks and whites go to school together, work together, serve in the military together, and even marry and love one another. America does not prohibit ANY of this, and the fact that people think America still has racial discriminatory sentiments is sad. Did Martin Luther King Jr. accomplish nothing? Did Frederick Douglas and Medgar Evers and W. E. B. Du Bois accomplish nothing in this country? It is an insult to think that these men had no pull on American history, and that their deaths meant nothing to where we stand today.
Would Dr. King support what is going on today, what with the violence and thievery and the disruption of the rule of law? I do not speak for the dead, but I dare to say that he would not. Based upon the philosophies he communicated while with us, he would not condone any of this.
Ultimately, it cannot be decided arbitrarily who was in the right. It cannot and should not be decided by the mobs in the streets or the media on TV and the Web. There is a way to do things in this country, and jump-the-gun conclusions and throngs of people calling for blood is not the way to do it. A police investigation mindful of the rule of law and with integrity to pursue an investigation based on facts is crucial to the continuation of our great nation and the upholding of all of its high ideals. After all, the term “innocent until proven guilty” does still mean something in this country.
There are also those who complain about the level of police force in Ferguson during the riots and looting. They say that it was too severe and uncalled for. I tell you, we are a warped people when we complain about how many police officers and what kind of weapons they use to uphold the law, but say nothing about the criminal activity that the police officers are attempting to subdue. We are a cowardly nation if we will not let our agents of justice defend themselves and do their job in a situation that had ballooned out of control.
Take a look at your environment. Are there whites constantly shooting blacks? Are police officers routinely and regularly discriminating against you because of the color of your skin? There will always be the few outliers in a nation of 318 million people, but are the majority of police officers gunning kids down in the streets? I would wager no to all of this, and that any such discriminatory happening that does occur is rare at best and on the edge of nonexistence at worst.
So I implore you, when you watch the news, when you read the paper, or surf Facebook, think objectively and reasonably. Realize what America is, and not what others would like you to believe. Ask yourself: Do I live in a racially just America? My hope is that the resounding answer would be yes.