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On Ferguson, social media and racial empathy

REUTERS
The reality of this country prompts black parents to have “the talk” with their sons — impressing upon them that to survive, to avoid suspicion and mistreatment, to escape the ugly presumption of guilt that blackness inexorably attaches, they must be better-dressed, more deferential to authority, more articulate, than their white counterparts.

On the night St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough announced that Darren Wilson would not face trial, I placed myself in a social media quarantine. The avalanche of status updates, news, grief, criticism from all sides — it was too overwhelming, too frustrating.

Ruth DeFoster

But by the next day it was still there, impossible to ignore. There were, of course, the two polarized sides — those who grieved the grand jury’s decision and supported the protests, and those who supported the decision (and by proxy, the actions of Darren Wilson). But there was another, more insidious middle ground: large swaths of (largely white) people weighing in on the growing conflict almost solely by calling for the black community to get their house in order.

People who had never felt compelled to speak out or post about broader issues of police brutality, wildly inconsistent sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimums, or other legitimate objects of concern were suddenly moved to write lengthy social media commentary attacking the black community for (at worst) engaging in violent behavior and looting — despite that fact that these behaviors represented a tiny minority of protesters — or, (at best) for what they perceived as failing to appropriately condemn said violence and misbehavior.

This knee-jerk inclination to temper any ostensible empathy or acknowledgement of racial inequality with criticism of the black community is not only unhelpful. It is emblematic of what scholar Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, at the end of the 20th century, presciently called “the new racism,” and it underlines the fraught racial environment we inhabit in the 21st century.

It’s easy, especially for those who grew up in the 20th century, to see race in the binary terms of the civil-rights movement. To see racism as the domain of Individual Bad Racists. Today that tendency to see racism as the sole problem of bad seeds or individual capital-R Racists undercuts our ability to see the larger racial problems plaguing this country. The racism of the 21st century is covert. It is institutional. Often, it’s subliminal, and not always intentionally malicious. But it’s still here, more present than ever.

Black Americans are far more likely than whites to be arrested and jailed. They are more likely than whites to be pulled over and to be searched for drugs, despite being statistically less likely, in the aggregate, to use drugs. Black Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users — but represent 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. Once convicted, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, black federal defendants receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white defendants — and they are 20 percent more likely to be sentenced to prison. Students of color are disproportionately (3½ times more) likely to be suspended and expelled, beginning as early as preschool. And perhaps most horrifyingly, according to a study by ProPublica, black men are an astonishing 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts.

This is the reality of the racial chasm of the 21st century. This is the reality that prompts black parents to have “the talk” with their sons — impressing upon them that to survive, to avoid suspicion and mistreatment, to escape the ugly presumption of guilt that blackness inexorably attaches, they must be better-dressed, more deferential to authority, more articulate, than their white counterparts. These are the broader inequalities and realities that prompt racial disparities in the way people see the Michael Brown case — the exhaustion and mistrust of the black community with the police and a justice system that feels designed to fail them, vs. the mystification of the white community, who are far more likely to see the Michael Brown case as an isolated incident, rather than a symptom of a broader problem.

The protests are about much more than the death of one teenager. Becoming fixated on the minutiae of the case, or on fringe violent elements, completely ignores the elephant of 21st-century inequality looming over the debacle.

So try this: Instead of falling prey to the inclination to temper any acknowledgment of racism and inequality with “concern” about the black community/black families /”black-on-black violence” (a destructive, inaccurate, racist term), set aside these unhelpful caveats long enough to be able to simply say: “Yes. I hear your fears and your exhaustion. They are legitimate. I empathize with your concern for your children. I hear your frustration with our justice/police system. Let’s work together to change our shared future for the better. Period.” 

Ruth DeFoster is an adjunct professor of communication studies at St. Catherine University, where she teaches classes on race, gender, and culture. She has spent the last several years studying media coverage of crime, terrorism, race and identity during her doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota.

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Comments (44)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/03/2014 - 08:39 am.

    Is it a “racist” reaction to be less than comfortable about a movement of the moment built on the grave of a young man who made some clearly illegal choices in the last half-hour of his life?

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 12/03/2014 - 09:04 am.

      “Illegal” – Really ?

      The officer was unaware that a store was robbed. And if you take that out ?

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 12/03/2014 - 09:40 am.

      File under simple answers to simple questions.

      Yes.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/03/2014 - 10:30 am.

      Yeah, a bit,

      unless you think that the appropriate penalty for jaywalking (what officer Wilson indicated in his grand jury testimony he stopped Brown for), or even petty larceny, should be death.

      • Submitted by Alfred Sullivan on 12/03/2014 - 11:30 am.

        That’s a pretty serious oversimplification

        The interaction may have started over jaywalking, but when Brown tried to take the officer’s gun, a new realm was entered.

        • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/03/2014 - 01:00 pm.

          Not really

          The entire incident took place in less than a minute and a half, from start to finish. It was a jaywalking stop- and how it escalated to that point is subject to interpretation, though it’s effectively a him vs me argument. Protocol was broken many times- timely crime scene photographs were not taken, officer Wilson washed evidence off his body and altered the crime scene by moving the vehicle (allegedly where the conflict takes place). There are, admittedly by many, odd statements in officer Wilson’s testimony (to be expected, of course, from all involved: see: Rashomon effect), but of course, the grand jury itself was not an adversarial proceeding, as a trial would be. Long story short, there are a lot of missing pieces from the police side of things that, if present, WOULD go a long way towards corroborating officer Wilson’s story, or Dorian Johnson’s version of events. As I’ve said before, I’m fairly certain officer Wilson would have been acquitted in any public trial. but all the facts leading up to the non-indictment smack of a persistent racial bias that is highly evident in this country, at this time.

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/03/2014 - 02:19 pm.

            (QUOTE)…Witness after

            (QUOTE)

            …Witness after witness took the stand to describe the brief encounter and usually agreed on the broadest strokes: how it began with the struggle at the window of Officer Wilson’s police S.U.V., leading to the first shots, and ended with Dorian Johnson, who had been walking with Mr. Brown, shouting, “They killed him,” and crowds descending on the scene.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/26/us/ferguson-grand-jury-weighed-mass-of-evidence-much-of-it-conflicting.html?_r=0

            (END QUOTE)

            Reaching into a police car and fighting with the officer was the tipping point of the confrontation. At that point the whole situation is out of control and no police review or criminal trial would find against the officer. The differing interpretations of Brown’s action after the initial gunfire in the car show how ambiguous these type of shooting incidents are.

            I have no idea what was going on with Brown that day that lead him to strong-arm the clerk to take the cigars, refuse a police request to go to walk the sidewalk or attack the officer in the car, but obviously he was in a pissed-off mood. Which carried to worst final conclusion that it could.

            My question is, what in the particulars of this case tells you or anyone that race determined the outcome of this incident?

            • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/03/2014 - 03:01 pm.

              Quote:”Witness after witness

              Quote:
              “Witness after witness took the stand to describe the brief encounter and usually agreed on the broadest strokes: how it began with the struggle at the window of Officer Wilson’s police S.U.V., leading to the first shots, and ended with Dorian Johnson, who had been walking with Mr. Brown, shouting, “They killed him,” and crowds descending on the scene.”

              Witness agree that a struggle occurred at the window- but not IN the car itself- that particular point varies widely between Dorian Johnson and Darren Wilson. It could be that Brown reached into the car to grab a gun, it could be that Wilson pointed the gun at Wilson outside of the window and a struggle ensued there as well. It may seem a small distinction, but one that has large ramifications. Either way, your inclination is to accept, verbatim, Officer Wilson’s version of events… which gets to something else in the article you posted:

              Quote:
              “But the gentle questioning of Officer Wilson revealed in the transcripts, and the sharp challenges prosecutors made to witnesses whose accounts seemed to contradict his narrative, have led some to question whether the process was as objective as Mr. McCulloch claims.”

              and:
              “Though the prosecutors did not press Officer Wilson and other law enforcement officials about some contradictions in their testimony, they did challenge other witnesses about why their accounts had varied.”

              “Prosecutors did not seem to shy from pointing out the discrepancies between multiple interviews of a single witness, or at some points exploring the criminal history of some witnesses, including Mr. Johnson, Mr. Brown’s friend.”

              So, the particulars of this case that make be think race played a part are two-fold: 1, that race was most likely a factor in terms of the demeanor officer Wilson would have adopted towards Michael Brown, which is basically impossible to prove, and 2, that race was most likely a factor in the heavily tainted process that followed… the over-aggressive military policing and ALL that it entailed, not to mention the Grand Jury and the Prosecutor, Mr. McCulloch. That, and the statistics that are mentioned in the article above, and personal experiences of being with black males who encounter the police, also make me believe race played a factor.

              Mr. Hamilton said it much better than I can, below. Here’s a snippet of his excellent post:
              “One need not read the entire transcript, however, to know that there is ample evidence that the process was tainted. From the decision to permit a county attorney with close personal ties to law enforcement, not to mention his professional ties with the Ferguson PD, to the reading of a long since abandoned and highly favorable statute to the grand jurors just before Wilson testified, to the highly suspect failure to cross examine Wilson at all during his appearance before the grand jury, and to the series of leading questions used to establish his defense at the close of Wilson’s testimony, one cannot read the record without coming away feeling soiled. Was it intentional? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that by rendering the process untrustworthy, the result was forever marked as suspect.”

            • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 12/03/2014 - 03:11 pm.

              Fact or Fiction.

              ” refuse a police request to go to walk the sidewalk or attack the officer in the car, but obviously he was in a pissed-off mood. ” – None of which is corroborated in any of the testimony you linked to.

              An “impartial” prosecutor of course….

              “Some witnesses, whom Mr. McCulloch described as the most credible and consistent, hewed more closely to Officer Wilson’s account.”

              who did not ask any inconvenient questions…

              “But the gentle questioning of Officer Wilson revealed in the transcripts, and the sharp challenges prosecutors made to witnesses whose accounts seemed to contradict his narrative, have led some to question whether the process was as objective as Mr. McCulloch claims.”

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/03/2014 - 10:50 pm.

                Store Video

                Now I assume you watched the store robbery video. The one where Michael openly stole property and threatened the clerk. Then he had the audacity to stroll down the middle of the street with his ill gotten gains. And talk back to the officer when asked to get out of the middle of the road.

                Do these seem like actions of a passive law abiding person? Or a person likely to attack a police officer for challenging him?

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/03/2014 - 01:02 pm.

        Clarification

        That’s not me calling you a ‘racist.’ Racism is a spectrum (and a helluva loaded word)- everyone sits somewhere on it- and that includes me,

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 12/03/2014 - 11:04 am.

    Great piece

    I appreciate the author expressing what I felt and I’m sure many others in the last few days. I too took a break from social media for the week of Thanksgiving but then learned that we are not finished with processing what happened in Ferguson.

    I also appreciate the author defining the differences between the old racism and the “new racism.” Undoubtedly, people who are still thinking about the racism of Montgomery and Selma in the 1960’s, and “Burn, Mississippi, Burn!” will reject any suggestion of their being racist. But as the author points out, the “new racism” is “covert”, it’s “institutional”, it’s “often subliminal”, “not always intentionally malicious” but “still here, more present than ever.” We must all take measures to resist the knee-jerk impulse to see events like those in Ferguson as being somehow “us” and “them” while understanding that “their” experiences in this country are vastly different from “ours” purely by virtue of the color of skin.

    I find myself trying to understand what really happened between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson. There is an unfortunate narrative in the media gaining currency that Michael Brown allegedly shoplifted a box of cigars from a nearby store before he was confronted by Officer Wilson. The narrative that has been emerging is that Brown “charged” officer Wilson after being shot while wrestling with Officer Wilson in Wilson’s squad car. This narrative accepts Officer Wilson’s and the police department’s narrative as the true and only one and that Michael Brown was therefore a “thug” who “deserved what he got” by getting killed. Amazingly, those who accept this narrative are completely blind to the fact that it is an interpretation of events based upon one person’s perception and description of what happened to him.

    Officer Wilson’s narrative conflicts with the observations of neutral witnesses and also with reasonable experience of human behavior. Which is not to say that I think he is deliberately lying. But even the way Brown and his behavior were described by Wilson and is now being widely repeated as the truthful narrative reflects this subliminal racial bias. Brown was somehow shot while interacting with Officer Wilson and then was shot five more times as he was facing? walking toward? moving toward? charging? Officer Wilson. Dead men tell no lies. And that is all we will ever really know.

  3. Submitted by jody rooney on 12/03/2014 - 11:26 am.

    Thank you for a thought provoking article

    I couldn’t agree more. As white people we just really don’t get it. After working for the business arm of one of the reservations I do – somewhat.

    When I call a police officer I expect them to be polite respectful and to focus on my issue. If someone of color calls a police officer that is not necessarily their expectation. Imagine being not being able to call the police if you needed them for fear your friends or relatives might be hurt.

    After being there a while I heard of many of the folks who had Band plates on their vehicles including my well educated well spoken boss being pulled over for just a traffic check – which was really a DUI check. It is good that the changed it to DUI because DWI was to close of an acronym for “Driving while Indian”. I

  4. Submitted by Marcia Wattson on 12/03/2014 - 11:39 am.

    Racist? Probably

    I don’t believe in hell, but sometimes I wish there were a hell to hold people who think that anyone who breaks a law deserves to be shot, no questions asked. It’s sickening.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/03/2014 - 12:11 pm.

    The myth continues…

    “Hands up – don’t shoot” is a myth. Those who perpetuate this myth are not moving toward real solutions to the problems facing the community, but accentuate the problems

  6. Submitted by rolf westgard on 12/03/2014 - 12:42 pm.

    without reality there will be no good responses

    The reason that roughly 50% of young black males are in the justice system, awaiting trial, in jail, on probation, etc is that they commit more crimes. If we think it is because the rest of us racially biased or that police are unjust, we will never tackle the real problems. They start early in life, not just for blacks, but for many low income families.
    Ex Mayor Rybak is working with programs for improved early education, etc. We need more of that.

  7. Submitted by James Hamilton on 12/03/2014 - 12:50 pm.

    If you want to know what the evidence was

    read the transcript. Then, after reviewing the statutes which actually apply and the standards for indicting a person, you can decide NOT whether Officer Wilson was guilty or not guilty (there is no “innocent” verdict in our system) but whether he should have been indicted on one more charges.

    One need not read the entire transcript, however, to know that there is ample evidence that the process was tainted. From the decision to permit a county attorney with close personal ties to law enforcement, not to mention his professional ties with the Ferguson PD, to the reading of a long since abandoned and highly favorable statute to the grand jurors just before Wilson testified, to the highly suspect failure to cross examine Wilson at all during his appearance before the grand jury, and to the series of leading questions used to establish his defense at the close of Wilson’s testimony, one cannot read the record without coming away feeling soiled. Was it intentional? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that by rendering the process untrustworthy, the result was forever marked as suspect.

    The only way to restore confidence in the outcome is to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and to decide whether Officer Wilson should be charged. A grand jury is not and was not required to make this decision. In fact, one is used on only about half of the Missouri cases involving police conduct.

    Absent such action, the shooting of Michael Brown has no chance of being anything other than another divisive event in American race relations.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/03/2014 - 03:03 pm.

    Well said

    …Ms. DeFoster.

    A long-time resident of Ferguson, I’m an old white guy with friends and relatives who still live there, I’ve already written at some length about the details of Michael Brown’s death, and won’t bore readers by repeating what I’ve already said.

    Of the comments already posted in response to Ms. DeFoster’s column, I’m most inclined to agree with James Hamilton. The post-shooting process was tainted from start to finish by the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, whether intentional or not. Not least among the flaws in the process is that a grand jury is not typically used as a trial jury. That’s because grand jury proceedings are, usually by law, held secret until a conclusion has been reached. A civil or criminal jury trial, by comparison, is typically a *public* proceeding based on an adversarial relationship.

    In effect, Darren Wilson was treated during the proceeding as if *he* were the victim, and as far as I’ve been able to tell, no one spoke in any official capacity to represent the interests of Michael Brown, who was, I’d argue, the *actual* victim.

    Brown did some stupid things that day, none of which merit being shot 6 times and killed. It’s been interesting to read on social media (I’m 70, but not completely digitally illiterate) some of the responses to Brown’s death that are, sadly, exactly as Ms. DeFoster has described them. I’ve read commentary on black families (Brown’s in particular), black rioting, as if whites have not done the same thing, and sometimes for far less justifiable reasons, and as if this represented the entire black community of Ferguson, black looting (for which I offer no defense, nor do grownups in the black community), and quite a few others. Mostly, those comments simply confirm what Ms. DeFoster has written about.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/03/2014 - 03:12 pm.

      Another excellent point

      “In effect, Darren Wilson was treated during the proceeding as if *he* were the victim, and as far as I’ve been able to tell, no one spoke in any official capacity to represent the interests of Michael Brown, who was, I’d argue, the *actual* victim.”

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/03/2014 - 03:20 pm.

        Interestingly

        The standard practice in Missouri is to regard a police officer involved in a shooting as a “victim.” Never mind the person whose body is left in the street.

  9. Submitted by Alfred Sullivan on 12/03/2014 - 06:01 pm.

    We sure see different things

    Some of us know that racism exists and deeply regret it. We also regret that Michael Brown was killed. And yet we are uncomfortable about the way this case is being used. Here are some of the key things I see:

    The video of the store robbery shows me that Brown had plenty of “attitude” that morning and no qualms about using his considerable size to intimidate. Whether this was out of character for him or not, I have no way to know. But it was not pretty then.

    Then Brown and Dorian Johnson walked down the middle of a street when a sidewalk was available, drawing the attention of Darren Wilson.

    There is uncertainty over when or if Wilson became aware that these two were suspects in the recent robbery, but they certainly knew what had happened.

    No matter how the interaction started, physical evidence, not just Wilson’s testimony shows that Brown had his hand on Wilson’s gun. That is a serious act that constitutes “Code Red” to trained police officers. Once that happened, we were no longer dealing with just jaywalking or even robbery. To me, it is entirely reasonable for Wilson to believe anyone who initiated that action, with that considerable physical size, might try again to overpower him and take his gun.

    Much of the initial narrative of this story came from witnesses, particularly Dorian Johnson, whose testimony to the grand jury was not the same as their initial accounts. Johnson’s story changed as the autopsies were reported so that what he said matched better. Much of what he claims is impossible given the physical evidence. One young woman changed her testimony to the grand jury from what she had earlier told the FBI, after being given immunity. Yet these early testimonies, later retracted or modified, still drive much of the discussion.

    Whenever a case like this comes up, lots of people ask why did the police shoot so many times? Once the decision is made to use deadly force, police are trained to keep shooting until the threat is eliminated. In most real world situations, that takes multiple shots. That may not be pretty, but there it is.

    It is a sad case, but no one is more responsible for what happened than is Michael Brown.

    • Submitted by rolf westgard on 12/04/2014 - 03:08 am.

      Well stated

      Brown was shot in the top of the head because his head was down while charging the officer. Or else Officer Wilson was eight feet tall to shoot Brown in that manner.
      It is unfortunate that the black community has to have heros like Brown and Garner with his 30 arrests.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/04/2014 - 07:39 am.

        Yes

        It is unfortunate that people are choosing to label these criminals as heroes.
        And choosing to label Police Officers who operate within the law as villains. (ie no indictments)

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/04/2014 - 09:27 am.

        What?

        Who is calling either man a “hero?” Neither deserved to die (unless you consider selling untaxed cigarettes worthy of summary execution by strangulation).

        Or is your real objection to the fact that the African American community is protesting the fact that law enforcement can cause the deaths of two men and suffer no consequences of their actions? “Heck, you know how THOSE people are. Kill one on the street, and they make him a near hero! It’s unfortunate, for sure.”

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/04/2014 - 12:12 pm.

          The New York incident is entirely different than the Ferguson case.

          The New York police officer initiated physical contact with the suspect, used a clearly prohibited choke hold, and treated the suspect with callous disregard for their health after the incident. The finding of the coroner was homicide.

          There’s a very strong case against the police officer in New York.

          Not in Ferguson.

          Conflating the circumstances of the two incidents is not helpful to the discussion.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/04/2014 - 12:19 pm.

            Helpful?

            “It is unfortunate that the black community has to have heros like Brown and Garner with his 30 arrests.”

            That is where the conflation was made, along with the malicious smearing of Mr. Garner’s reputation and the patronizing dig at the “black community.”

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/04/2014 - 12:30 pm.

            We know this, because there is an actual video recording of the arrest taking place, in which Mr. Garner is killed.

            There is no such recording of the Brown/Wilson affair, only competing statements… in which you’ve decided to take 100% of the officer’s testimony as factually correct. And as has been discussed, there are significant discrepancies between many of the testimonies.

            Saying the two non-indictments are unrelated is also ‘not helpful to the discussion,’ as many of the the particulars are similar, if not nearly identical.

            • Submitted by Alfred Sullivan on 12/04/2014 - 12:45 pm.

              For whatever reason …

              you seem determined to ignore the physical evidence that corroborates Wilson’s testimony and discredits Johnson’s. There is not a video recording, but there is DNA evidence, autopsies, and a blood trail that does not match what Johnson said.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/04/2014 - 12:58 pm.

                Not to mention . . .

                . . . the sixteen witnesses (out of a total of eighteen) who said Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot.

              • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/04/2014 - 01:07 pm.

                I’m not ignoring it. I am asserting that there are many competing claims in the Brown/Wilson altercation… beyond that, there was shoddy police-work done at the crime scene, and an outsized and overly aggressive police response. And my reasoning for questioning it should be self-evident: Re-read the article.

                “Black Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users — but represent 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses.”

                “…black federal defendants receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white defendants…”

                “and they [black defendants] are 20 percent more likely to be sentenced to prison.”

                “Students of color are disproportionately (3½ times more) likely to be suspended and expelled, beginning as early as preschool.”

                “according to a study by ProPublica, black men are an astonishing 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts.”

                Unless you believe that black men are inherently predisposed towards violence, and predisposed towards violence against police, and even then at a rate 21 times more than white men (or even 2x that of whites), then any situation which involves one of the points above, AND is subject to a tainted legal process, must be circumspect.

                • Submitted by Alfred Sullivan on 12/04/2014 - 01:43 pm.

                  OK,

                  but physical evidence represents facts, not “competing claims.”

                  • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/04/2014 - 03:22 pm.

                    Physical evidence mostly corroborates officer Wilson’s testimony- OR visa-versa. You can look at the evidence and then extrapolate a mostly correct witness testimony from it, to support it… and remember, some of that physical evidence was altered immediately after the event, by Wilson’s own admission. The squad was moved, Officer Wilson washed blood from his body, removed his clothes, etc etc etc.

                    The ‘competing claims’ can also be backed up by that same evidence. Certainly, some of Mr. Brown’s DNA is inside the police cruiser- which could have happened when he was shot in close proximity to a cruiser with an open door- powder burns on his hands could be a defensive wound, etc etc etc.

                    Of course, my 2nd paragraph is entirely supposition, but what happened in and around that police cruiser’s driver window is what matters most here, and that’s the part of this whole tale that remains the murkiest- and is most easily obscured. I mean, just look a the discrepancy between what Dorian Johnson claims Wilson said when he first encountered him and Michael Brown, vs what Darren Wilson claims.

                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/04/2014 - 08:29 pm.

                      Ever hear the phrase, “guilty BEYOND a reasonable doubt”??

                      You have to make a supposition that the officer had a racially tainted motive, you have to suppose that the officer is lying, you have to overlook the chain of events that led to the shooting, you have to believe that many of the 67 witnesses interviewed were lying, you have to make unusual and perhaps impossible physical rearrangements of gun,victim, bullets and blood, you have to make a supposition that the evidence was tampered with, and then you can get to the point where you are at. That’s saying, “guilty through ignoring many reasonable doubts”.

                      Sorry, that’s why the Brown case would go nowhere in the court system.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/05/2014 - 09:24 am.

                      Guilty?

                      Do you know what the function of a grand jury is? Just to clue you in, it is NOT to determine guilt or innocence, but only whether there is probable cause to charge a person with a crime.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/05/2014 - 02:13 pm.

                      The point of my previous post was to illustrate that it’s easy enough to construct a narrative to fit any particular set of facts, and when you can’t cross-examine based on that narrative, there is no way to see whether or not it can truly hold up in court.

                      Yes, I do understand what reasonable doubt it. While I am not an attorney, I do have a rather nuanced understanding of our legal system in this country. As Mr. Holbrook stated, the grand jury does not determine guilt, only whether or not charges can be brought.

                      As I’ve stated before, I don’t believe that Darren Wilson would be convicted in a trial. I do believe that there is significant evidence to indict Wilson, however.

                      Also, please note that, since this article was posted on tuesday, the NY Grand Jury failed to indict the NY officer who was on video applying a prohibited chokehold leading to the death of Eric Garner, which the coroner deemed a homicide. Now, another unarmed black man in Arizona has been killed be a police officer, apparently in front of his children, under dubious circumstances.

                      None of this is happening in a vacuum.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/05/2014 - 08:42 pm.

                      Respect

                      “I do believe that there is significant evidence to indict Wilson,however.”

                      You and all of the protesters are free to have your opinions, however it is showing a great deal of disrepect to the people who served on the Grand Juries. In essence you folks are saying they got it wrong after spending weeks studying the law, facts, witness accounts, etc.

                    • Submitted by E Gamauf on 12/06/2014 - 07:58 am.

                      False

                      Its cheap to claim that people impugn the grand jury for being upset.
                      That’s just not true.

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 12/06/2014 - 02:45 pm.

                      Yup…

                      that’s what we’re saying…and I can easily live with the disrespect, especially considering how little respect they have for a black mans life.

  10. Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/04/2014 - 01:15 pm.

    BTW

    Kudos to the Minnpost moderators, who I know are having to work overtime on these comment boards lately.

  11. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/08/2014 - 02:01 pm.

    My problem with the situation in Ferguson is that it was probably the most inappropriate case to start caring about what happens to black youth. Yes, there is an inherent bias against blacks, particularly young black men. The statistics show it. However, Michael Brown’s death shouldn’t have been a trigger for protests and looting. The protests should have already been happening, and the looting is just wrong.

    Instead of working to get results every day by voting and amending laws which disproportionately keep the already disadvantaged from voting, a kid who probably brought his fate onto himself turns into the poster child for how institutionalized racism is wrong? C’mon? What does all of this do other than justify racism on all sides of the spectrum?

    All the laws that keep people from voting because they’ve been jailed in the past are wrong–either you’ve served your sentence or you should still be serving it. Further, election day should be a national holiday that you should be given paid leave for–as appropriate to get your vote in (perhaps voting receipts could be used?). I don’t care if you work at McDonald’s you shouldn’t be punished in any way, let alone financially, for voting. Laws that create further barriers to voting need to go, as well. For many people, it’s hard, if not impossible, to get to a government office to get an ID or other “permission” to vote.

    On the other side of the coin, if you don’t make getting involved in your own government a priority, those who are happy to continue institutionalizing racism will most certainly do so. I can understand that depression leads to inaction, but at some point, inaction is merely a decision and not a symptom of an affliction. In Minnesota, at least, getting to polling places is fairly easy–definitely within walking distance for healthy adults. I appreciate the mechanism for registering to vote here, as well. Every voter should have at least as easy a time getting to polling places as here. More can be done, but there’s little to no excuse for as poor a turnout as there has been.

    In the end, Michael Brown is a poor excuse to protest if people didn’t feel the need to protest before. Have we already forgotten what happened to Trayvon Martin? No one is perfect, but as much as it’s likely that Brown made decisions that directly lead to his own death, Trayvon almost certainly was only guilty of being too dark in the wrong neighborhood. And yet, sadly, that tragedy didn’t lead to a surge in voting.

  12. Submitted by Pam Rickett on 01/31/2015 - 11:37 pm.

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