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Death is not always shocking

Brown: the aftermath
Brown: the aftermath
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Presently, within the United States there are two distinct events that are vying for the nation’s divided attention. Social media, print media, coffee shops, office chatter, and chance encounters all speak to what is the mind set and what is on the minds of Americans.

No shocker
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images


Robin Williams’ untimely death shocked many, hurt others, and confused a multitude of his followers. His actions left a trail of pain for those who were left behind to carry on. His immediate family members and close acquaintances will forever bear the pain that he sought to escape.

How will he be remembered--it is anyone’s’ guess. Yet, in the acting business it has been said that you are only as good as your last performance. Williams’ last performance was not a comedy of errors, but rather a tragic soliloquy with so many negative repercussions. There would be no standing ovations or positive reviews about his final production.

Shepard Smith, a well-known Fox News anchor described Williams’ actions as cowardly, and Todd Bridges, a former child star who kicked his addictions, suggested that Williams should have gotten down on his knees and asked God for strength.

The reporter and former child star succumbed to public outrage and apologized for speaking their minds. Smith and Bridges were accused of insensitive comments about Williams’ death.

Attention in another part of the country is on Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown, an eighteen year old unarmed African American was shot to death by the police in Ferguson, Missouri after he had assumed the position with his hands in the air as an act of surrender. Reports indicate that Brown was shot eight times.

The video camera on the squad car was not working so the facts involving the shooting are in dispute.

On a recent session of “Let it Rip” on Fox 2, a former Detroit police detective stated that the incident in Ferguson was not a racial one, but rather a schism between the police and the community. Yet, Ferguson’s population is sixty percent African American. Ferguson’s police chief and mayor are white. Of the six City Council members, one is black. The local school board has six white members and one Latino. Of the 53 commissioned officers on the police force, three are black, reported Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

“Blacks in Ferguson are twice as likely to be stopped by police as whites, according to an annual report on racial profiling by the Missouri attorney general. Last year, 93% of arrests following car stops in Ferguson were of blacks. Ninety-two percent of searches and 80% of car stops involved blacks”, the report said. Indeed, the percentage of incidents would be higher for blacks because the population of blacks in Ferguson is higher than the white population.

Be that as it may, this week the Governor of Missouri appointed an African American, Ron Johnson, to take over the police department in Ferguson, hoping that he could calm the situation.

Tear gas, military styled weapons, rubber bullets and excessive police force has elevated the racial tensions in Ferguson, thereby prompting extreme civilian outrage.

Capt. Ron Johnson, of Missouri Highway Patrol is now leading police in Ferguson. Capt. Johnson walked Thursday night with those protesting one day after protesters faced rubber bullets and tear gas from heavily armed officers in riot gear.

Death’s aftermath

"The Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly and the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery were arrested Wednesday evening while covering the protests in Ferguson.

SWAT officers “roughed” up the reporters inside a McDonald's where the journalists were working. Reilly snapped a photo, prompting cops to request his identification. “They essentially acted as a military force. It was incredible," Reilly said. "The worst part was he slammed my head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald's and then sarcastically apologized for it.”

Brown’s last moments in his life were also tragic. However, he did not choose death--he begged for his life to continue. Still, his death too will bring painful repercussions to his family and acquaintances.

No shock value

Comparing and contrasting Brown’s and Williams’ deaths is liken to a litmus test. What is reality is very clear after the test is completed. Williams’ suicide was a tremendous shock; and the operative word here is “shock”. Brown’s death, unfortunately, was not a shock. America has a history (recent and past history) where black men are annihilated more frequently than any other group in this country.

Black men are becoming an endangered entity in our society. The historical, sociological, familial, and economic underpinnings are far too complicated and voluminous to expound on in this article. But, it is commonplace for young American males with an African heritage to die a violent death--most Americans expect it and others desire it. The shock value over the death of black men is nonexistent; whether at the hands of police officers, George Zimmerman, or an acquaintance.

Social media has opened up our thoughts and hearts in order for us to bear our very souls. If one hates, we know. If one loves, we know. If one is indifferent, we know. If one prejudges a race of people, we know.

Life without the one’s we love

Brown did not have a standing ovation either, but there are thousands standing up in protest because of his murder.

Suicide is a national tragedy. No matter the race, age or gender, suicide is the ultimate robber of hope. Hope also dies every time a young black man is shot down in the streets.

The killing of black men in America does not come with a shock value. The killings of African Americans by the hands of our law enforcers is an atrocity with roots in America that go deep. The Tuskegee Institute documented every known lynching of a black person from 1900 to the late 1940s’.

How one lives is as poignant as how one dies. Whether one picks their time of death or whether one’s time of death is not within their control, the departed can only be remembered by their living deeds, and mourned for or commemorated by the legacy that surrounded their death. The shock value comes into play -- or not--when the cause of death is revealed.

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