Because as tempting as it may seem, no he wasn’t just another statistic, he wasn’t just another unarmed teen shot; he wasn’t the next Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, another promising life lost, another bright future cut short, although all those latter things are true. Better to know him as an individual in his own right, know he was a human being, a living, breathing person, more than with hopes, dreams and aspirations of his own, but someone’s son, possibly someone’s bother, cousin, certainly friend who will be mourned, who will be missed, who will be pined after daily, hourly. Especially losing him to such tragic circumstances, to such apparent needless violence, senseless killing, made all the worse because it wasn’t a gang drive by, his presence in a gang resulting in a beef, it wasn’t a drug deal, never mind gone bad, it wasn’t in the commission of a felony, it wasn’t some frightened, untrained citizen fearing for theirs, their family’s life, their livelihood, lifelong worked for property; this was a shooting by a supposed to be trained, professional police officer in broad daylight over conflicting reports. One saying he was suspected of stealing cigars from a local convenience store causing police to pursue him; others leaving the public to wonder if this started over jaywalking, just walking in the street. Altercation takes place in which the officer believes Brown or someone went for his gun, he then shoots once as Brown keeps walking, then several more times after a presumed refusal to comply with instructions. Eye witness testimony saying he and Brown were simply walking down the street toward his grandmother’s house when the cop in question pulled up alongside them telling them to get the [expletive] off the street, they keep walking, at some point officer fires his gun hitting Brown, Brown stops, turns putting his hands in the air, started to kneel probably at officers previous instruction, but officer continues to fire several times leaving Brown’s lifeless body in the street, reportedly for hours. Michael Brown who wasn’t some random BMW (black man walking), wasn’t a potential problem for police, a potential disruption to public order, Michael Brown who wasn’t a thug, wasn’t a known criminal possessing a wrap sheet, he wasn’t a suspect. He was a kid who should have started classes on Monday a week ago, who was days away from starting college, reaching towards a future, who wanted to open his own business someday; Michael Brown who was first a citizen both of the United States of America and his community, his town, his neighborhood who might have given back it afforded the opportunity.
Following pleas for calm by civil rights activists, grass roots leaders, national chapters of advocacy groups, even the Brown family you can almost hear the mental echo of the people asking, we aren’t supposed to loot, we aren’t supposed to riot, but what are we supposed to do? They say peaceful protests, those sitting behind news desks, those fortunate enough to own a suit never mind be in a prominent position to wear it to work every day, those fortunate enough not to live here; except we’ve been devalued, disrespected and dehumanized so many times there’s hardly anything left. What are we supposed to do with all that rage; never mind maybe the young people not yet beaten down, not yet cowed by life, who inherently, instinctually know this was wrong, know the way they are consistently treated day in day out by police, by authority is wrong decided to show them what real lawlessness looks like, what true thuggery is. Who could honesty blame them, apart from other people, white, black, red, brown, purple, who don’t go through every day under suspicion for something they haven’t even done yet, called boy, girl or worse names denigrating their adulthood as if it doesn’t matter; they are still under authorities thumb as they make decisions those elsewhere take for granted. Thenwhen we do peacefully protest, engage in civil disobedience, we are met with tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades, told to get out of the street once again. You see the pictures all over the news community members, concerned residents, citizens, supporters interested in justice standing with their hands in the air mimicking what people say Michael Brown did before his life was extinguished met by police in riot gear, military style dress, weaponry, tank like vehicles with rifles mounted on top days after looting has stopped, riots are no longer happening rather people marching, protesting, chanting in the streets, sitting calmly on the pavement holding signs silently or outspokenly demanding justice but doing so in a civil, organized way. Amidst what, repeated unprofessional, untrained behavior, police who openly state they haven’t had a chance to practice with the equipment they are using in the type of setting unfolding in clips below, one officer casually waving a rifle down the street when there was no reason to be doing so, so say experts. Clips emerging of people being tear-gassed on their own front lawn, police telling persons in the streets to disperse, return to their homes, not realizing those homes are on the opposite side of the imposed police line; reporters have been arrested for simply documenting what the heck is going on in Ferguson, media and citizens routed out of a local McDonald’s, later told to cease and desist filming though they haven’t the right. This, this is supposed to make us have faith in the process; this is supposed to make us think we will receive justice for the death of a teenager? When the police chief won’t release the name of the officer, when they won’t even tell community members how many bullets were fired into young Michael Brown, a governor who isn’t here, who after finally showing up says nothing of meaning reading from a pre-prepared statement until after the scenes below unfolded and he was forced to break his telling silence.
Once more coming back around to the hanging scream in the air, thought process, written all over signs, seen in the eyes of marchers, yelled into TV cameras, questioning what are people supposed to do, what are we supposed to do? We have no representation, no people who look like us policing our streets. 3 out of 53 officers on the Ferguson police force are black, 16% of the city council “representing” a 67% African American population, no black faces on the school board, serving as a role model to our young people, addressing our issues. Meanwhile political analysts talk about the post racial world of the President Obama, the economic recovery, flash us with the national jobs report signaling good news; jobs, there are no jobs here. There aren’t grocery stores here; here is a place the economy forgot and before last Sunday a week ago no one could find on a national map where cops do what they want, when they want and have for years. Jobs that do open up aren’t for us, individuals, mothers, fathers out of work so long having a paycheck seems a distant dream, not living in public housing, officials say get educated; no money for that either. More work minimum wage; still because of our skin color it’s what we deserve or only what our limited intelligence left us with, not the reality nationally that’s where many jobs are, the fact most of us weren’t fortunate enough to afford college; that’s why we were so proud of Michael going to vocational college, going to learn a trade, earn a good living. We need stable hours to raise our children into the responsible citizens you beg us to create, we took it to be employed, to be the stand up, hardworking citizens we are rarely painted as. Turn coat Don Lemon known for telling us to pull up our pants to improve our image, supporting stop and frisk to keep petty crime from escalating got it right this time, said it best we live in an F- town; Fenton, Felton, Festus, Ferguson burned out, dilapidated buildings reminiscent of Iraq. Why, white flight; we moved in, they moved out and without economic diversity a shell of a town, a shell of a community remains aggravated by white cops suppressing already left behind, down trodden people most only know or care about by stereotype. Wondering why we’re looting, burning down the site of a horrible crime against a community, it couldn’t be the tipping point that drove some of us crazed, it couldn’t be young people taking what the environment, the perpetuations created by outsiders, by non-minorities will never allow them to earn; a blogger summarized it perfectly. “Looting, too, is about power. When people have nothing and something happens to remind them, in a big way, that what little they do have can be taken away in an instant, including their lives and the lives of their children, they may reach for any semblance of power or control they can get. That might mean breaking a window or even starting a fire. It may mean taking something. Something you’ve been told you can’t have because you’re not human enough to live, let alone prosper.” Yet according to news watchers, no it’s just they are all thugs, degenerates, no parents, no manners, no work ethic, time to change the channel. Prompting many to say move, taunt us with don’t we get tired of living in “victimhood;” for them it’s that easy, a new town, a new city means new job prospects. For us it means will we be subject to racial epithets at work; will we be able to get a solid job despite our stellar education, should we have it, if all they can see is our skin color. Because Don Lemon got another thing right too pointing to Ferguson, places like Chicago as the most racist areas, people unwilling to acknowledge they see blacks, especially black men differently. Suddenly explains the gangs, the hail of stray bullets there doesn’t it?
Next sentiments by residents, people who call this community home, attempt to make it the best it can be, there is no relationship between police and community here, no cooperation, no sense the police know you, you know the police and both work together to solve problems. They are our overlords meant to keep the animals in their cage, keep public order with an iron fist including using an expletive to ask someone reasonably to get off the street and stop blocking traffic, to walk on the sidewalk instead; citizens here, like similar places around the nation, parents tell their African American children if they encounter the police to stay silent, not to move, because they want them to come home in one piece, not in a body bag, only an outrage when it hits suburbia, when it happens so many times it can’t be ignored. In between condemning the powerless for regaining it in the only way really left to them, some say vote, we did; helped elect the first black president only to have him compared to a monkey, to Hitler by opposing party minorities, the tea party, who think we’re all on EBT food stamps, we’re all on welfare or products of it, the result of sub-par, negligent parenting, lacking education, uncaring about our ignorance conveniently ignoring the job/economic situation just explained. Some say vote and we would if there was anyone but white folks on the ballot to choose from, if there was anyone we believed, regardless of color, would be fair; critics say run for the offices if you don’t see a person applying who articulates your concerns, aspects of your community, facets of your city, seems to understand your point of view. Left unanswered how we do that too busy trying to survive, get jobs, feed our families, give them a chance at better than we have; we would if we weren’t already too exhausted from just doing that to branch out, to try. Their chorus is vote, we would if we thought it mattered, if we believed voting meant our voice being heard; too often it means exercising our right only to see the other guy win through carefully orchestrate districts, gerrymandering, that word has so many syllables we’re not supposed to know it but we do. And when they still couldn’t win to their satisfaction out came voter ID laws forcing 90 year olds, the disabled to prove who they are before they can mark boxes next to candidates; voter ID laws willing to take a driving license, state ID, military ID, even fire arms permits but not student ID. Demographic problem much; their answer holds, vote. Vote even though it’d virtually meaningless, vote even though no matter whose name you mark an X next to things never seems to change; here is where some probably white amateur philosopher would likely remind people AA’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
Now at what was supposed to be a press conference releasing information about the progress of the investigation into the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown, details like the name of the officer, perhaps how many times he shot Brown, if any of those were close range corroborating the altercation in the police car, he went for my gun story vs. the witness account stating he was pulled into the car by the officer via his hand, possibly choked, breaking free fled scared of what would happen next, then shot at, they try to tell locals, tell us black individuals, families, proud African Americans nationwide adopting the hands up don’t shoot mantra, he stole something. Releasing a video supposedly of a robbery and roughing up a store clerk perpetrated by Michael Brown, trying to say he’s violent that’s why cops went after him; hold on, one minute the cop had no idea Brown was a suspect, pulling up to him and his friend for walking in the street purportedly blocking traffic, physical contact ensues leading to shots fired. However, when residents, smart, intelligent media started to ask what the surveillance video had to do with the shooting, well away from said store, officer having no idea he was a suspect, fit the general description, of an unarmed, witness testimony placing him crouching toward his knees, hands in the air, Michael Brown, seeing community outrage, a dangerous spike in unrest as people shouted collectively the whole thing smelled of cover up. Later in the day, then they say oh yes the officer did know, even saw cigars in Michael Brown’s hands subsequently deciding to question him about a robbery; the witness Darion Johnson side by side Michael Brown never mentioning any questions asked, any indications he (Brown) was being placed under arrest for suspicion of robbery. Which story would you believe? Searching for the facts MSNBC discovered quite easily Johnson admitted the robbery to the DOJ (department of justice), the district attorney among others days beforehand; unfortunately tarnishing Brown’s character to too many, completely changing things for story followers lending credence to the concept the police might have had justification to do what they did. Hold that thought once again, because, further complicating things and fueling the fires of a cover up is actually looking at the video tape, the stills of the person committing a “strong armed robbery;” the top 2 of 4 shots shows a person in clearly what looks like tennis shoes, angle cutting off whether or not he is wearing a hat, has hair, the bottom 2 depict someone in a red hat and wearing sandals, potentially shaved head. Who knows if they are the same person, if the footage was taken on the same day, by the way neither confirmed to be Michael Brown not least of all by his family; contrast that with the picture, as someone below did, widely accepted to be Michael Brown moments after death, laying on the pavement and that person is clearly wearing tennis shoes, noting they can’t all be the same person. We, either citizens of Ferguson, members of the public, national news viewers don’t know if any of the people in the photos given are Michael Brown at all; to the detriment of finding out if the officer had justification for shooting an unarmed teen, how if he was feet away from the police car, getting down there could be any justification. They tried the same thing with Trayvon Martin suspended from school on suspicion of possession/use of pot, tried to paint him as a potential burglar, thug who didn’t belong in the neighborhood even though he had no weapons, drugs on him that night rather was walking back to his dad’s house, whom he’d recently moved in with, with skittles and iced tea.
Awareness of the video by the media and the public has nothing to do with why the officer shot and ultimately killed Michael Brown who was in the process of getting on his knees hands in the air saying don’t shoot. And in a court of law a person’s past, a person’s prior criminal history only matters if it is relevant to the case at hand, proving a pattern of violence, former convictions for the same crime, none of which apply here. What is readily apparent, this is Mayberry unpreparedness meets Duck Dynasty’s redneck philosophy obviously disseminated to take the heat off of Darren Wilson the cop who shot Brown, to take the heat off their own behind, to veil their own incompetence, unable to keep their story straight. These are the same people, the same police department, same police chief who days later when witness accounts weren’t matching the officers account, said to reporters oh the officers jaw did appear swollen and he was seen by medical staff. Plus if there was a connection between the video and the altercation between police and Brown, if he was legitimately stopped for both obstructing traffic and during the course of handling that situation he saw cigars and planned to ask questions about a robbery when Brown ran, why wait until day 6 to release the video, why wait until day 6 for that to be the story given to press and public alike, why make it appear as if there is a cover up by stalling, by first saying there’s no connection, by seeming to sneak the officer’s name into your press conference revealing these shocking, blatantly inflammatory details? But even if everything they say about what Michael Brown is true, we ask you, is the crime for petty theft, misdemeanor, simple assault death? Astute people pointing out even under Islamic sharia law they only remove a thief’s hand, not kill them. Even if everything they say about Michael Brown is true, it doesn’t negate there was a better way to apprehend him than killing him; remember Michael Brown wasn’t shot by cop or store clerk running away from a clear robbery, wasn’t shot by police in some sort of chase, being violent, posing a threat. Michael Brown was shot after being approached by police for walking in the street obstructing traffic where the cop starts things out badly using an expletive, when he and his friend keep walking confrontation is escalated resulting in either the officer trying to pull Brown into the car or pulling out his gun to get Brown to stop walking away, depending on which version you hear. Maybe he saw cigars, maybe he didn’t; but we ask you do we now summarily execute people in the street for just being suspected of theft, without formal accusation, without first trial, then conviction? Do police now suddenly become judge, jury and executioner, sole providers of “justice?” The answer is no, he stole something; someone believes he stole something, ok. Arrest him, put him in jail awaiting trial, bring forth the evidence before a jury, a judge to determine guilt or innocence; at worst he spends 6 months to 2 years in jail, assuming this is his first offense, hopefully learns this is not something he wants to continue, repeat and moves on with his life. But like Eric Garner, Renisha McBride before him, we’ll never know if he was guilty of the petty crime he was accused of; due to police, citizen involvement, he, like them, didn’t live to make it to trial, to hear a verdict in his case.
Expounding on another Mychal, Mychal Denzel Smith’s eloquent, frank work who wrote about what it still feels like to be young, black and male in America right now today after recounting an exchange between him and a person who thought, because he was black, he would know where to buy drugs. “But I made my choice last night on the basis of feeling that I had something to lose. I haven’t always felt that way. Being black in America feels like having nothing. But at 27, there’s something I try to live for. I use my anger in a way that feels productive. I write, I speak, I teach, I shout, I learn, I grow. Last night, I decided to keep doing that. I decided that’s how I fight back. Imagine having to make that decision when every muscle in your body tells you to do otherwise. Imagine having to make that decision when you don’t know how to operate on anything but anger. Imagine having to make that decision on an almost daily basis. Imagine having to make the decision when you’re sure there isn’t a future for you in this world. Imagine having to make the decision knowing it could be your last. Are we still thugs now?” Yet we, outsiders, onlookers have the audacity to wonder why people in Ferguson absolutely take exception to once more the expectation of criminality, the reinforcing of ideas detailing the black male body as something to fear, as something to harm, something to kill before it harms or kills you, we wonder why Michael Brown might have stolen $4.88 worth of cigars, for that was indeed the reported price of the theft allegedly committed by Michael Brown; we, outsiders, onlookers possess the audacity to wonder why looting spiked again. You, police have a reason to don riot gear now, to bring out tear gas now, to hail rubber bullets now, but don’t point to us as us as see they are violent animals, they are lawless heathens. You made this mess, this reality, this situation with your own actions. Never mind if you’re told you’re a thug, a criminal, a degenerate, an up to no good, worthless N word often enough, you start to believe it; never mind if people are going to continue to call you all those names and more, why not act like what they are continually telling you, you already are? And it’s great the FBI is taking over the investigation, intends to investigate the Ferguson police department for civil rights violations, use of excessive force, it’s great, though long past time, the rest of the nation sees what’s happening in smaller parts of it; too bad it comes too late for young life. Because fact remains Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride and now Michael Brown are still dead when they didn’t have to be, are still mourned, are still missed by grieving families; this is what Michael Brown represents people not numbers, statistics, stereotypes, people. All gone, removed from the world over walking in a neighborhood, loud music, knocking on a door after an accident and $4.88 worth of cigars.