On August 9, 18-year-old black teen Michael Brown was gunned down by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri – a small community with a 70 percent black populace but only a 5 percent black police force. The shooting has sparked week-long protests; peaceful demonstrations have been offset by hoodie-wearing blacks engaging in violent looting. Blacks and whites marching the streets demanding impartial justice, demanding deserved answers have been counterbalanced by handkerchief-hidden faceless shoplifters carrying stolen wares out of broken storefront windows by the armful.
These are the facts. But then there is also a subjective judgment one can be persuaded into believing. It can be accomplished with something as simple as a picture. Michael Brown, grim gangbanger? Michael Brown, ingenuous adolescent?
The verdict is in the eye that beholds, but when the eye-patched media trots out a pic of a baggy-jean wearing Brown with a red Nike wifebeater, hard-faced and chunking up a two-fingered deuce sign to his homies, well, we naturally draw another conclusion – it’s predisposed and bigoted, but that’s what the media wants.
The circumstances surrounding Brown’s death have yet to be revealed. We may never know exactly what happened. Did Michael Brown assault the convenience store clerk and walk out with a $50 box of cigars? Did 6-year city of Ferguson cop Darren Wilson stop Brown simply because he was walking in the street, as Wilson asserts? What happened in the patrol car? Was Brown the one struggling to grab Wilson’s pistol, or was it Brown’s friend, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson? Reports are that Brown had his hands up – a universal sign of capitulation – when he was shot multiple times. Did he?
The unanswered questions are troublesome. But even some of the facts presented are scheming and deleterious. For example, the long awaited press packet handed out by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, which was supposed to provide details about what went down between Brown and Wilson, instead implicated Brown in a “strong arm robbery” of the convenience store. And shortly thereafter, police released video of the theft. Both touched off a fresh round of violence and looting.
The renewed violence came just a few days after Missouri police Capt. Ron Johnson, a 27-year veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon as chief of security operations in the riot-driven Ferguson. Johnson, who was seen leading a crowd of peaceful protesters Thursday night, said a “new approach” was needed to deal with the continued unrest and looting. Nixon said he was outraged over the “heavy-handed tactics” of police, and turned matters over to Ferguson and his troopers.
Brown’s grieving family spoke out. Through their attorney, they released a statement, accusing the cops in Ferguson of “assassinating the character” of Brown by releasing the robbery details and video at the same time they released the name of the white cop that shot him dead.
What is known is this – Right or wrong, comparisons have been drawn between Brown and others, such as Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin. And a Twitter hashtag and accompanying pictures have driven the point home. The hashtag shows a photoset of the same person(s) with the question:
If they gunned me down, which picture would they use?
It’s a powerful question. See below: