Was Michael Brown Shot Over a Box of Cigars
John Sterling Dec 09 2014
Recent conversations on the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO seem to focus on the amount of force (deadly- shot 6 or 7 times) by police officer Darren Wilson, over what was nothing more than a petty shoplifting charge.
It is too easy to see a single event and the consequences of that event as being the only elements of the discussion, (i.e. Brown stole cigars, and Brown got shot, ergo life is cheap and we think Black lives don't matter). That is far too simplistic and so completely misses the elephant in the room that if anybody truly is limited to that perspective, it will be impossible to have an intellectual discussion with that person. If people REALLY want to discuss issues of race, and race relations, we cannot ignore the obvious. We must say what needs to be said, and feelings must be put aside in the interest of honest dialogue.
Using the Brown scenario as the symbolic reference point in my analysis, I note that young Mr. Brown had history of violence. This was not released immediately because he only recently became "legally" an adult so his juvenile record was hidden from the public view. But now that it is exposed to the light of day, we can see a pattern of disrespect for the law, and disrespect for his fellow man that was the proximate cause of his final, and terminal, conflict with the law. His demise was "triggered" by the incredibly small infraction of walking in the middle of the street, and disobeying an officer, but it was CAUSED by Mr. Brown's belief that his conduct was beyond any meaningful disciplinary consequences. What could have CAUSED that mistaken belief?
We can look to his dysfunctional family, his dysfunctional community, and the previous failures of the justice system to properly discipline him in the past. It is irrelevant for purposes of this discussion what caused the dysfunction, but there is ample sociological evidence that if one is brought into this world, and raised in the manner in which Brown was raise, his statistical probabilities of fully assimilating into mainstream culture are terribly low.
Be that as it may, at some point, a man becomes personally responsible for his own choices. Legally, the presumption is that when one attains the age of eighteen, as if by magic, and without regard to previous inputs, one is now suddenly responsible for his actions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this is not going to end well.
So, consistent with the predictable pattern of his previous conduct, Brown not only steals cigars but does so by throwing his not insignificant weight around. He bullies, and he pushes to get what he wants, on HIS terms, without regard to his fellow man nor his duties to his community and to society at large. Whether he knew it or not, Big Mike Brown’s continuing pattern of thought produced the conduct that got him killed.
The "elephant in the room" is that if we acknowledge all of that, it forces us to have to deal with whole range of other issues. It challenges us to accept responsibility for a range of past behaviors that we have sought to justify, whether we are black or white. It forces us to stretch our understanding beyond merely what we can feel. If we are not conditioned to be introspective, or self-critical, we can never transcend our present state. Denying culpability condemns us to more of the same.
There is no question but that throughout the history of man, some of have subjugated others. Whites enslaved other whites, and blacks enslaved other blacks and whites and blacks enslaved each other. But that cannot explain why some people, both black and white, have been able to “move on” while others seem unable to shed the shackles of the past… to escape the consequences of being born into disadvantage.
Political and social science experiments have tried to “level the playing field through programs like Affirmative Action (and its stepchildren) but the results seem to prove that the “cure” is worse than “the disease”. Programs that provide “extra” assistance on the basis of race, while definitely benefitting some African-Americans, have NOT significantly improved race relations. Arguably, race relations is worse in 2014 than at any time since Affirmative Action programs were first introduced.
Logic and observation of human behavior suggests that there is no reasonable expectation that the black community will ever be self-reliant, or fully "integrated" (in the social sciences sense) until there is an end to the special treatment produced by Affirmative Action. Accepting special help is often seen (by both Blacks and Whites) as an admission that the Black man cannot be competitive without “help”. Affirmative Action is guaranteed to keep African Americans from becoming equal (or being viewed as equal) in mainstream society. It has been observed repeatedly that life is not fair and it is LESS fair for some than for others. Some people will have to work harder and some people, no matter how hard they try, will never be "equal" in terms of outcome. This is true regardless of skin color. It never happens in nature, and it cannot happen even if "managed" by government. In fact, artificial attempts at legislated "equality" will definitely backfire (as the current evidence proves) by making its recipients MORE dependent, not less, upon government assistance.
This is not "new" revelation. Frederick Douglass said as much in 1865: ‘What shall we do with the negro’” after emancipation? Douglass’s response was disarmingly blunt. “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us…. [If] the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall…. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!” (Citation available)
As he explained to an audience of Boston abolitionists in early 1862, fair play meant that the ruling majority should “do nothing with us, by us, or for us as a particular class…. The broadest and bitterest of the black man’s misfortunes is the fact that he is everywhere regarded and treated as an exception to the principles and maxims which apply to other men.” (Citation available)
Dr. Martin Luther King echoed those sentiments in 1958. "We've broken loose from...slavery and we have moved through the wilderness of legal segregation. Now we stand on the border of the promised land of integration.” He went on to say, "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love...Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding." In Montgomery Alabama, in 1956, Dr. King said, "We believe in law and order. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. If I am stopped, our work will not stop, for what we are doing is right." In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, Dr. King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Michael Brown was not killed because he stole cigars. His death was the logical, predictable result of a past pattern of years of being led to believe that there would be no consequences for his actions. Like so many young men, both Black and White, his failure was that he chose not to become part of something bigger-something good- something worth more than immediate gratification. He chose the wrong kind of character to imitate. He and his friends, and those others who want to elevate Michael Brown to sainthood after his death, are STILL camped on the mountains of violence and hatred. Dr. King said, “We’ve been in the mountain of war. We’ve been in the mountain of violence. We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God.” (Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood in June 1965)
Given the highly flammable passions following the incident in Ferguson, MO, and the unapologetic calls for even more violence by pretenders like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other self-proclaimed leader of African Americans, we will not see progress in race relations until there emerges another Frederick Douglass or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.