WASHINGTON – As many had predicted, the Grand Jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on his killing last August of Michael Brown, a Black teenager, sparked a new wave of violence.
The facts do not matter
The sad truth is that the exonerating facts that emerged from the lengthy judicial process do not matter at all for the rioters. It does not matter that the jurors had the opportunity to listen to all testimonies and look at the circumstances of Brown’s killing from all angles before reaching their conclusion that officer Wilson acted properly when he shot Michael Brown.
The system is rigged
The sad truth is that a large percentage, possibly a majority, of African-Americans firmly believe that the White Majority uses the police and other law enforcement tools as means to intimidate and purposely hurt Blacks. The fact that the Grand Jury established that there is no evidence to indict officer Wilson for this killing is just part of the fix. The entire system is rigged. The point is that Blacks do not get justice in White America. Period.
From this well established perspective, the killing of young Michael Brown is just an additional piece of evidence that simply reaffirms the accepted narrative. America is still a racist society. Blacks are routinely targeted and harassed by the police, or they are murdered for no reason, as the Brown killing tells us.
America is racist
And unfortunately this is a widely shared belief. We see competent Black lawyers arguing on TV that the Grand Jury process was essentially a travesty. The jurors –they argue– did not hear all the damaging evidence. The policeman’s self-serving account of what actually happened during what he described as his altercation with Michael Brown was not adequately challenged. Therefore, it is obvious that the Grand Jury came to the conclusion that there should be no indictment. The whole process had been fixed well in advance.
Worse yet, many educated Blacks argued on TV that, given this outrage, it is perfectly understandable that “The Community” could not contain its anger. Therefore, it goes without saying that the Grand Jury decision not to indict Wilson was followed by violence, arson, looting and destruction. Well, what else would you expect?
And so, these compassionate leaders with a straight face tell us that of course the good people of Ferguson manifested their moral indignation over police brutality by looting liquor stores. Why, is there any other way to vent your anger at White injustice?
Look, this whole matter of race relations in America is of course a lot more complex than the Grand Jury process aimed at establishing the actual facts about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. In this particular case, looking at the evidence it would appear that the officer was justified in using deadly force. And this is the conclusion reached by the Grand Jury.
Black Americans targeted
But it is also true that in many other cases all across America Blacks have been unfairly targeted by the (mostly White) police.
And why are they targeted? Well, in some measure because a disproportionate number of violent criminals happen to be young Blacks. Therefore, any young Black man who seems to act in a strange or suspicious way attracts attention. And therefore he is more likely to become a target for the police.
Of course, all this means that many young Black males are unfairly targeted. Yes, in America you can be stopped by the police because “you were driving while being Black”.
Clearly, all those Blacks who have been stopped, questioned, frisked, arrested or worse without any real motive have every reason to believe that they are victims of an organized persecution.
So, how do we get out of this vicious cycle in which it is impossible to identify cause and effect? This is going to be very difficult.
But we should start with reality. The reality is that several decades after the passing of landmark civil rights legislation that put an end to any form of legally sanctioned racial discrimination, America remains a deeply divided society. The African-American minority still looks at White America with a mix of suspicion, resentment and fear. African-Americans feel victimized by what they see as an inherently unfair law enforcement system that –they firmly believe– is willfully used by the White Majority to intimidate and brutalize them.
A fair system?
How do you convince Black leaders and ordinary African-Americans that at least in most cases this is not true? How do you convince them that on balance this is a fair, “color blind” system in which everybody is treated in the same way? How can we do away with prejudice and preconceived ideas?
The sad Michael Brown story will eventually fade and go away. But soon enough there will be some other story of yet another Black man killed in the street, allegedly without any solid justification, by yet another trigger-happy White policeman.
And you can rest assured that this will cause more anger and more riots.