Whatever perverse view the Ferguson police officer had of Michael Brown — and all Black men like him — before taking his life and leaving him to lay in his blood for hours afterward, his mother has made sure to counter such characterizations. Lesley McSpadden described her now-fallen son as a boy with the sort of disposition that made him more like “a big teddy bear” as opposed to someone who deserved to be slaughtered like a dog in the street. McSpadden went on to explain, “He was a good boy. He deserved none of this. We need justice for our son.”
No stranger to this kind of disregard toward Black people’s humanity, attorney Benjamin Crump, who has since been retained by Brown’s parents, made his thoughts clear at a recent press conference. “I don’t want to sugarcoat it, their baby was executed in broad daylight,” Crump noted. “We want to know and see exactly what happened because this family rejects what the police authorities said at their press conference.”
As does Michael Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who along with other eyewitnesses, disputed Brown’s killer’s claims that he shoved the officer and tried to wrestle the officer’s gun from him.
Any Black man living in this country and who values his life knows better than to tempt fate that way.
The truth may be less imaginative but no less chilling: Even when we don’t fight back, our presence is still intimidating to the point where select members of law enforcement feel no choice but to shoot us dead.
Such a revelation brings justified anger, and while Brown’s parents have encouraged protesters to remain peaceful, their rage is understandable.
Protesters arrived with signs and peaceful discourse and were greeted with dogs, rubber bullets, and tear gas.
And as New York Times correspondent Julie Bosman reported via Twitter, these rubber bullets were even shot in the direction of journalists and photographers. Meanwhile, area police officers describe the scene as a “war zone” and even when protesters sought an exit, the police reportedly blocked them from locating one. There’s since been word of one police officer referring to protesters as “fucking animals” during coverage on CNN.
Yet, some wonder why some of the protesters supposedly sang, “F*ck the police.”
And while I don’t necessarily excuse the acts of looters and those described as “rioters,” I do have empathy. This is why I take issue with Jonathan Capeheart’s “A Shameful Way To Protest the Michael Brown Shooting,” where he writes, “This is not how you make authorities understand your anger and concern. This is not how you get others to join your cause.”
You mean the authorities who shot a Black child in cold blood, left him in the street for hours as some sort of “example” to other people in his area, and greet peaceful protest with nothing but contempt and the intent to further antagonize? The same authorities who employ individuals who refer to the rightfully angry public as “f*cking animals.” The authorities who enter their neighborhood and limit their access?
I am not in the business of policing people’s emotions particularly with respect to dire situations such as these. Anger has its consequences, including irrational behavior. It doesn’t make it right, but learn to have compassion for people in a situation you have yet to experience. There’s a time for discussions on personal responsibility and there’s a time to look at tragedy and respect the rightful rage it creates.
Many people are angry and they are running on empty.
I am tired of having to write about people like Michael Brown. The same goes for 22-year-old John Crawford III, who was shot and killed after holding a BB gun in a Walmart. Like Brown’s mother, Crawford’s father described his son fondly, saying, “He was a good son and a good Father to his two children.”
We shouldn’t have to quantify our lives this way.
It doesn’t even matter if Michael Brown was a “big teddy bear” heading to college or that John Crawford was a good Dad. No matter what kind of personalities they had, there was no reason to slaughter them this way. We shouldn’t have to worry that once our lives are unjustly stripped from us, we will be purposely vilified in order to excuse our killers’ actions — as evidenced in the trending topic #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, and more hauntingly, in both trials relating to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride.
Structural racism, widening economic inequality, a gun manufacturing lobby so hell bent on making money that they’ll probably see to it that guide dogs for the blind receive gun permits, plus the continuation of the militarization of police have all helped it be open season on Black people. You can’t help but feel exhaustion, grief, and yes, anger. To some, such rage may not “help our cause,” but the alternative clearly has its limitations too.
Cooler heads should prevail, but be clear about who the real hotheads causing trouble are.