Like so many others today, I’m sad. Frustrated. Angry. There’s a sense of impotence, not knowing what I can do or say that will make tomorrow better than today for the community around me. I don’t know what else to do, so I’m going to write.
In an editorial on CNN earlier today, Safiya Simmons, a black woman married to a police officer, said that she is conflicted on the Darren Wilson verdict. On one hand, she is raising her son and living in a society that displays “a pattern in this country of killing black boys without care or consequences”, while on the other hand, she believes firmly that her husband should do what he needs to do to stay alive and come home to her at the end of day. In her words, it’s “complicated”.
Being a police officer is dangerous, thankless and unbelievably self-sacrificing. It also comes with a legal and moral obligation for discipline, objectivity and restraint when asserting your authority and in the use of your firearm. I would guess that 99.99+% of the police force in America are great men and women with great judgement, who are worthy of our support, praise, thanks and trust. Darren Wilson is not one of them.
Don’t make Ferguson about people who support cops versus people who don’t. Doing so is to completely misunderstand and minimize the depth of the issue. This is about justice for victims of cops who go too far and get away with it. This is about a system that is broken. This is about respect for all lives of all colors. This is rooted in hundreds of years of history. This isn’t easy, but it is also not “complicated”.
If Michael Brown had been armed with a gun… If Darren Wilson had fired only to disable or deter the unarmed teenager… If Darren Wilson had fired only one shot… If the fatal shot had been at close range while Michael Brown was within reaching (punching, tackling) distance of Officer Wilson… If any one of those things had been true, I might believe that Darren Wilson was doing what he needed to do to stay alive and go home at the end of the day. But 12 gun shots – only one, non-fatal, at close range – is in no way simply what he needed to do.
12 gunshots and a body left in the street for more than 4 hours is a disregard for the life behind the skin color. It is, at the very least, a loss of control and negligence in the use of a firearm that deserves the due process of a criminal trial by jury.
(This post fails to address so many other critical issues that the shooting death of Michael Brown and subsequent protests brought to light. The handling of the protests, the numerous questionable decisions of the prosecutor, the violence in the midst of pleas for peace from Michael Brown’s family, and the underlying systemic racism that so many want to deny. I’m going to try to spend some time over the upcoming weekend digging into the grand jury testimony, and I expect this will not be my last post on this topic.)