The Michael Brown Problem

Unless you’ve been living in a cave in Siberia for the past few weeks, you know that unarmed, black, 18-year old Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th. The police officer’s name was not released until a week after the incident, during which time it seems that the Ferguson police had been trying to concoct a ridiculous story that they still weren’t even able to get straight, including a version of events in which Brown physically attacked the officer, something that every single eye witness has refuted.

The police officer, Darren Wilson, has still not been charged with anything. The murder, and the subsequent lack of legal action, has led to unrest in Ferguson, with the National Guard being sent in and pointing guns at unarmed, peaceful civilians. (The National Guard left after being completely incompetent in doing their jobs.)

The shooting of Michael Brown, and the ensuing media circus, show the painful reality that black people in the United States are not human beings. (John Stewart has done a wonderful job of explaining this.)

The New York Times called Michael Brown “no angel.” Sean McElwee at Demos compared this to the way the humanizing, generous way that the same paper described convicted, white serial killers.

I’ve written before about how men of color are victims of gendered, racialized violence because of how they are perceived. The perception affects every aspect of the lives of people of color. It’s why when I complain about people touching and making comments about my hair, I’m not talking just about having “unfair” beauty standards placed on me, I’m talking about people seeing my existence as being less than human. It’s why when Richard Sherman talked loudly after a football game, white people started screaming about what a thug he was, as though no white athlete has ever screamed trash talk. It’s because he’s not seen as human. It’s why unarmed black people can be killed by the people who are charged with protecting them, over and over and over again in the “greatest country in the world”, and will most likely never see justice. In the past month, Michael Brown, John Crawford, and Eric Garner, were all murdered by law enforcement.

What kind of justice is there really for Michael Brown and his family? Even if Wilson is charged, prosecuted, and convicted, this boy still lost his life for having the audacity to exist in a black body. What justice is there for anyone who is murdered senselessly because of what s/he looks like?

Black people are not seen as human beings in America.


3 thoughts on “The Michael Brown Problem

  1. konsciouskings says:

    People have lost respect for life, not even just the lives of the black men. It is a viscous circle but someone must draw a line and I believe it must be our police. We pay them to protect and serve us, not to kill us. I believe the media and the upper class has created this fear that we have for one another to turn our focus away from a bigger agenda, a way to bring the middle and lower class down. Any thoughts?

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I don’t think we can remove race from this. Evidence has shown that the world is getting more peaceful (have you read Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature? I highly recommend it.) It’s the reason George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder, the reason Troy Davis was executed despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence, the reason that people like Eric Garner and Mike Brown and John Crawford and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant keep dying at the hands of the state. I don’t disagree that the “1%” have done an excellent job of removing the focus from the very real caste system (which Tim Wise does an excellent job of explaining) that exists in America, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that America as a whole, devalues the lives of white men. Plenty of lower-class white people are rushing to Darren Wilson’s defense, to extent that they are raising money for him. People are raising money for a policeman who killed an unarmed black teenager. So although the upper class has done a good job of creating a division to distract from the class problem, they are doing it at the expense of black lives, by convincing people that our lives are worth less.

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