Well, the verdict's out at last. Officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges in connection with the shooting of Michael Brown in August. I'm not surprised; for weeks, it's been clear that the balance of evidence was that it was a justifiable homicide.
It's also been clear for weeks - ever since the shooting, in fact - that protesters could not be trusted to demonstrate peacefully their opposition to the racial tensions in Ferguson, MO, and the events that led to Michael Brown's death. Predictably, many of them were not interested in the facts of the matter, only in their perceptions of and emotions about the incident. After the announcement of the grand jury's findings, the inevitable happened.
I have no problem accepting that racial tensions run high in the area. I equally have no problem accepting that law enforcement there has serious problems that are as yet unaddressed. When you have a community that's more than two-thirds black, but its police force is 94% white, that's prima facie evidence of an imbalance. When investigations incontrovertibly reveal a long-standing culture of law-enforcement and justice-system discrimination against black people, it's even worse. I urge you to read the following reports to understand the legitimate and very real anger of black people there. These reports are fact, not fantasy - they're the reality of life on the ground there.
- Ferguson Police Made 10,000 More Arrests Last Year Than There Are People In The City
- How traffic enforcement has exacerbated racial tensions in Ferguson
- How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty
- In Ferguson, Court Fines And Fees Fuel Anger
- Driving While Black in Ferguson
It's no good trying to write off those reports as liberal or progressive propaganda. The facts have been checked by many different sources. The problem is real. That's why the reaction of the local black community to Michael Brown's death has been so visceral. It's not primarily about Michael Brown as a person. His death has become a symbol of what they perceive - and experience every day - as persistent, institutionalized racial bias in local law enforcement and the local justice system.
Unfortunately, the community's anger has been manipulated by those with their own agendas to pursue. Activists are deliberately trying to inflame community anger to provoke outbursts of rioting, looting and insurrection - with considerable success. When there's so much tinder lying around, it doesn't take much of a spark to produce a conflagration. This, in turn, provokes even greater intransigence among local law enforcement, and among the white community.
Even those of us who strive to acknowledge the fairness of black grievances in the area are outraged when protesters set fire to vehicles and buildings, and loot stores. Those are crimes, not protests. As far as I'm concerned, anyone perpetrating such acts deserves to be treated like the criminals they are, not handled with kid gloves . . . but if the police do that, they'll be accused of being 'insensitive' or 'bullying' or 'racist', largely due to the perceptions to which their own actions in the past have given rise. They can't win. If I lived in Ferguson, and encountered a mob of protesters trying to torch my home or business, and used lethal force to stop them, I'd be just another Officer Wilson in the eyes of the mob. They wouldn't ask whether or not I was justified in my actions - it would be all about their perceptions, which to them have the force of reality even if they're not factually correct.
Let's be blunt. I'm not an apologist for Michael Brown. Before he was shot he'd used marijuana and robbed a convenience store; and the evidence presented to the grand jury indicated conclusively that he initiated the assault on Officer Wilson that led to the latter shooting him. I agree with the grand jury's findings: there's no evidence of wrongdoing in his death. It's in similar vein to the shooting of Trayvon Martin - who openly boasted of his drug use, illegal possession of weapons, and 'thug' persona on social media - by George Zimmerman in 2012; the evidence proved that Martin assaulted Zimmerman, who shot him in self-defense. Two wannabe thugs - Brown and Martin - are dead, and our streets will probably be safer in the future as a result.
Unfortunately, the fates of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin are now going to be inextricably linked and manipulated by the racial grievance industry. It's already happening. They're going to exploit their deaths for whatever gain they can wring out of them, and sweep their undoubted criminal proclivities and actions under the rug. In turn, the 'thin blue line' of law enforcement and the local justice system are going to get their dander up about the 'unfairness' of many of the accusations against them, and resent the hell out of those making them . . . which may well prevent the authorities from recognizing, acknowledging, and dealing with the very real shortcomings they've demonstrated in the past.
There are no winners in this situation; and, unless calmer heads prevail, there won't be any in future either.