The Ferguson case can’t happen again.
As the parent of a black child who will one day be an 18-year-old, I can’t believe he could be shot while unarmed. I hope he never puts himself in the position to have an encounter with law enforcement that could result in something that horrible.
I also hope my friends in law enforcement are never put in a position to deal with a situation like this and decide that lethal force is the only way to stop an attack. I hope the resulting riots and reaction don’t cause them to become a victim because they decide to delay an appropriate reaction to a dangerous situation.
The Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson fatal confrontation is as simple as black and white — that is, anything but simple.
We have come a long way from police dogs and firehoses dispersing rallies in the south from 50 years ago. We still have a very long way to go.
Racism may not be as rampant as it was then, but the belief system that associates lighter skin with higher intelligence and better character is still reinforced in many homes in all areas of the country.
You know how you teach racism? You teach it by calling people animals when they are really confused, scared and misguided humans whose skin is a different color than yours. You breed racism in children and others by circulating cute internet memes about how “no work boots were stolen” in a riot.
You can post that you dispersed the crowd by handing out job applications and you can even post photos of someone looting a store and mention how that is a great tribute to a young man killed by a police officer.
You can also be the former Mayor of New York City and say incendiary things like the only reason white cops kill black kids is that black people kill so many black people.
“If blacks stopped killing blacks, there'd be less cops killing blacks,” Rudy Giuliani said. But there have been no murders at all in Ferguson in 2014 prior to the killing of Mike Brown. He was a suspected cigar thief, not a violent criminal. Darren Wilson’s story on what happened was slightly more believable than the “witnesses” who saw things happen that, according to the autopsy report, could never have really happened.
But his retelling of the initial stages of the encounter where he spoke with Miss Manners-style politeness to an 18-year-old who responded with the best New Jack City characterization since Wesley Snipes was fantastical.
Then, completely unprovoked, the big black teen attacked him leaving a slightly pink mark. But Wilson withstood the attack.
Wilson described his attacker. “It looked like a demon,” he said. It? Maybe he just misspoke. He also said he felt like a 5-year-old fighting Hulk Hogan.
Wilson is 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Guess how tall this towering black teen was: If you guessed the exact same height, you would be correct. Wilson is a big 5-year-old.
But his testimony was convincing to a grand jury. It should have been. It has been effective for more than 20 years. Rodney King was described by officers who “subdued” him as a Hulk and Tasmanian Devil. Black people are scary.
That’s the crux of the problem. Even if people don’t think they are racists, they see a big white 18-year-old and see a college football player. When they see a big black teen, they see a superhuman criminal.
Put him in a hoodie and the white kid looks like a cold football player. The black kid becomes a gang member.
Life is hard. It is harder when you’re black. In this case, a kid died because he was big and scary and up to no good.
Hopefully, we can learn as a society and make both ends of this incident less likely to happen in the future. Sure, the cops need to use lethal force less often — even if the suspect is black. But it wouldn’t hurt if otherwise good black kids would stop stealing from stores in broad daylight and aggressively reacting to officers in the first place.
It's 2014. We need to start acting like it.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette in Kansas, and can be reached at kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com.