Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Tragedy in Ferguson

At face value, the decision not to indict a (white) police officer for the fatal shooting of the young black man Michael Brown shows the hallmark of racism: A white male in a position of power kills an under-privileged black person. However, as always, scratching the surface is a good idea in this case.

For one, Michael Brown was a suspect of a small-scale, although quite violent, robbery at a convenient store and therefore a shady character, at least.

Second, the police officer, Darren Wilson, had never fired his gun up until this incident.

Third, Michael Brown approached and - as the medical reports strongly suggest - hit Darren Wilson when the police officer was in his car.

Fourth, after the tussle at the SUV, Brown runs off, but turns around and approaches Wilson. Witnesses say Brown - the reason not being clear - reaches for his waistband - as he moves toward Wilson. Wilson shoots at Brown several times until Brown is finally hit in the head and dies.

The Washington post has made this graphic illustration of the scenario.

However, after having thoroughly gone through the evidence and witness accounts, it was still unclear what exactly had happened. Witnesses disagreed, and some even contradicted themselves.

The case has received enormous attention, so media coverage has been substantial. Good coverage, however, can - as usual - be found at the Washington Post and The New York Times and other major news papers.

As regrettable and tragic as this case has been, what remains clear, at least, is this: That assaulting a police officer is not an acceptable action to take, and that the public has a tendency to find patterns of racism in America when witnessing particular cases.

There is no simple way forward. But in general, it seems, that cops need to resort to using their guns only as a last resort. Training in conflict management, for instance, seems to be under-prioritized in some areas. However, the public should refrain from shouting 'racism!' whenever a white person kills a black person. Cops - even white ones - are extremely exposed and are in fact putting their lives on the line every day. The black community has a legitimate claim to equal rights, and the U.S. has yet to deliver on its promise to ensure these for all citizens.

1 comment:

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