Nov
26
2014

How I Make Sense of the Michael Brown Shooting and Grand Jury Decision

Few days ago, a friend posted this video on Facebook, and I was very disturbed after watching it. But then I continued scrolling down my timeline…on to another video probably of “Jesus” walking on water. Then last night, I found out a grand jury couldn’t indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, of murdering an unarmed Black teenager that had his back turned, moving (if not running) away from him. I was outraged. Next to me, and all around me, the mostly White patrons in the coffee shop I was at went about their chatting and computering (likely watching a video of kittens and stupid things people do to stand out in a crowded Internet). I assume they heard the news too, because the whole country had been waiting for the grand jury decision, and now that it was here the news was all over the Internet, radio and teevee. Ferguson, Missouri was burning; in the whole country Black rage was on the brim. Yet, my neighbors in the coffee shop didn’t seem as disturbed as I was.

Why is this?

I am the type that whenever I watch a crime news shows about some murder mystery in which someone, especially a friend or family member, is found guilty of a horrific murder, a part of me always feel like they didn’t do it, couldn’t do it, somehow the jury got it wrong, the evidence was lying. It’s really hard for me to fathom how a human being can be so violent toward other human being. I mean violent when your safety is not threatened. So I didn’t understand slavery. How a man can look at another man and deem himself master over that man. I didn’t understand the brutality that slavery, especially as practiced in the United States, condoned. I didn’t understand lynching. I didn’t understand bashing a kid’s head in and throwing his body in a river…for whistling at a woman. I didn’t understand the violence perpetrated on Black people in America simply because they were Black. A part of me believe the perpetrators of this violence believed as I do, that it takes a depraved human being to act so violently against another human being, and that only a tiny fraction of the human race is so deranged.

So how can an entire nation be so deranged? I wondered.

Then somewhere in my high school history class, I came across the Three Fifth (3/5) Compromise. I know it has been argued that this didn’t apply to an individual, that it was used as an adjustment to the aggregate in determining electoral representation. But the mere fact that the Northerners would offer this as a compromise said a lot about how even they, supposedly more enlightened in their regard for the Blacks among them, regarded those Blacks: On the animal pyramid, there are humans (Whites people), Blacks and other animals. The Northerners believed this, the Southerners believed this in every fiber of their being. Indeed most Americans in 1787 believed this and some still do in 2014. More importantly, the system was designed on this belief and in some quarters continue to operate on this belief.

No doubt about it, there was a physical altercation between Darrel Wilson and Michael Brown. Maybe Michael Brown did strike Darren Wilson—as lacerations on his face show. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason Michael Brown was killed. Not because he posed a threat after the fight, not because Darren Wilson knew Michael Brown was involved in some shoplifting incident 3 hours prior; but because Michael Brown, a less-than-human, dared to lay hands on a White man–a White police officer at that. Just like Emmitt Till got his head bashed in for daring to whistle at a White woman.

Because what do we do to animals that attack people? We put them down. To not let that experience be part of that animal’s DNA, and god forbids he/she passes it on to others. It is one of the darkest ways we keep our place in the animal kingdom; how we keep other animals in their place and severely petrified of us. Indeed one of the mechanism we use to survive. You let a gorilla get away with harming a man, before you know it it’s “Planet of the Apes”. You let a shark live with the taste of human blood in his mouth, instead of hunting for seals off the coast of South Africa, they would start flipping human beings near beaches in California. Those in the know tell us these gorillas and sharks, and bears and dogs have to be dealt with swiftly and murderously. We as a society agree.

It’s an hierarchy where those at the top only have regard for those below if it doesn’t interfere with thir safety, comfort or lifestyle; and the pyramid is not disturbed.

This is why a Black person like myself can watch that video (of a goat being slapped, punched, kicked and slammed to the ground) and continue scrolling down my Facebook timeline looking for the next video. It is the same reason a White person could attend a lynching on their way home to an afternoon tea. So could a grand jury find no fault with a White police officer shooting an unarmed Black teenager, so could the patrons in that coffee shop go about their chatting without missing a beat.

Perhaps because of my background (but really more because of my disposition for believing in the goodness of people and therefore find ways to excuse their indiscretions) I found a way to explain Treyvon Martin’s killing. I told myself that George Zimmerman may not have had grounds to fear for his life, but definitely knew he was getting his ass kicked for stalking and scaring a kid that unfortunately for him decided to go on a preemptive strike. Unfortunately for Treyvon, society had instilled fear of Black boys in Zimmermann’s mind, and given him a gun to feel safe. So in the struggle (with his worse nightmare) he shot and killed Treyvon Martin.

Michael Brown on the other hand, I have been trying to find a rational explanation for how a police officer—trained to handle difficult situations (without immediately resorting to his gun)—could shoot an unarmed man that didn’t pose an immediate danger to him or any others; and a grand jury would say that officer did nothing illegal in shooting six bullets in that fleeing man.

Unfortunately, the only answer I can come up with is this: because Darrel Wilson didn’t think Michael Brown was human enough to merit consideration and restraint on his part. To him, Michael Brown was an animal that needed to be put down swiftly and murderously, in front of all the other animals in sight so they would think twice next time they are harassed by a police officer and they dare try to stand upright like a man. The grand jury believes the same. Maybe the patrons in the coffee shop understand. Yes, Black lives matter. But not as much as White supremacy.

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