Tensions surrounding the officer-involved shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri have caused racial issues to come to the forefront of collective thought and discussion. Red and yellow, black and white; all types of Americans are discussing multiple topics from civil liberties to racism in response to the August 9 killing of unarmed, 18-year-old Mike Brown.
Immediately following the killing, the world’s attention was diverted to Saint Louis County’s militarized police force as they employed armored tanks, threw tear gas and instructed snipers to take aim at peaceful protestors; local government officials, Ferguson residents, activists, concerned citizens and journalists. Clearly there is an undiscussed fear of black unrest; hence the shoot-first antics of police officers in urban communities nationwide and the over zealous show of force as a preventative measure against mounting anger.
What aren’t we saying about Ferguson? Following State Patrol Captain Ron Johnson’s show of good-will; his appointment as safety-chief for the duration of the protests, and the peaceful atmosphere that persisted after he marched among demonstrators; passing out hugs and handshakes while promising to protect the people, the infamous robbery video emerged and seemingly undid the peaceful progress in an instant. In the aftermath of viewing Mike’s alleged shoplifting shenanigans, what have we subconsciously learned?
What does the video prove? Although the alleged theft is not a justification for the shooting officer’s actions, the video proves that Mike Brown was big, strong and scary. Stereotypes or facts?
Black people, both male and female, are often characterized as being aggressive, volatile and downright dangerous. Is this a true assessment of oppressed, frustrated black America? Could it be true that black people are angry? Could it be more than a stereotype that black people are violent? Call it a stereotype, or call it a justifiable attitude in the face of generational racist trauma; but call it something. Until we do, it is an elephant in the room.
Obviously it was wrong to execute Mike Brown in the middle of the street on a Saturday afternoon; regardless of what he stole. But will the shooting officer admit to being afraid of rebellious and volatile black teens and young adults? Will he admit that he was frightened because a large and aggressive black man did not immediately cower at the sight of his police cruiser?
Will the cop admit that he’s afraid of aggressive blacks and views them as an unmanageable, irrational and unreasonable bunch who threaten the well-being of communities by virtue of their very existence? Will he admit that he should never have been employed in law enforcement because when it comes to a strong and angry black man, his only defense is a pistol?
Will the officer face the public and admit that he believes the community is better off without men like Mike? Will he admit that saying, “Get the fuck out of the street,” was an assertion of his bravado; that he thought vocal aggression, his cop car and badge were sufficient to intimidate the two youths into submission. Will he admit that he felt helpless after realizing that between himself and the two youths, he was the only one who was afraid?
Will the officer admit that he became enraged and frightened by the audacity of Mike Brown to not back down? Will he admit that he was red-faced and sweaty-palmed with veins enlarged and adrenaline pumping, as he reached for his pistol? Or will he just describe the imminent danger he imagined and predicted for himself and the community; and the imaginary weapon Mike could have had?
What’s the appropriate response when you’ve got an angry black who won’t back down? We don’t know Mike’s state of mind. We don’t know what he said to the officer. However the video footage shows his aggression. It shows his fearlessness. The video shows his towering and bulky physical stature. It shows his lack of regard for the convenience store’s self-appointed loss control agent.
So what’s the procedure when a race of oppressed, yet strong black people decide to say, “Fuck the police,” whether in word or in deed? What’s the procedure when the guns and badges no longer scare young black America? Apparently the procedure is to kill.