Tag Archives: michael brown

Getting serious about civil rights and race relations in wake of Ferguson

1 Dec

When I was 20 years old, I was once biking on the sidewalk on my way to Loyola University to study. Along the way, a policeman on a motorcycle tried to pull me over, calling me from behind. But because I was wearing headphones listening to my Walkman cassette player (for you whippersnappers who don’t know what that is, google it), I never heard him.

Finally, he pulled alongside me. I stopped and he told me I wasn’t supposed to be biking on the sidewalk. I told him I wasn’t aware that was a law. He replied that it was and that he was going to take me in. Seriously? Arrested for biking on the sidewalk? After a brief discussion about why I would get arrested for such a petty offense, he sarcastically asked me, “Do you speak English?” As an Asian growing up in a low-income, crime-ridden neighborhood, I was used to racism—even from blacks in that predominantly black neighborhood. But I never anticipated it from a policeman—people portrayed as heroes in the TV shows I watched growing up. I replied back, “Better than you.” With that snarky reply, he handcuffed me and ratcheted it extremely tightly—clearly in retaliation for what I said.

I was eventually released on my own recognizance (I believe b/c the other cops knew he overstepped his bounds) and I considered whether or not to file a complaint against the cop for excessive force and/or racism. I decided to drop the matter. That was not my only negative brush with cops either. But the moral of the story is that I personally experienced some of the same things that supposedly caused teenager Michael Brown to be fatally shot in Ferguson, Missouri (not to the same extent, of course, but similar in nature).

You might think that because of my experiences, I am outraged or saddened by the grand jury’s decision to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. You might think that I am joining the chorus of people who declare the legal system broken and that there was no justice for Michael Brown. You might think that when I read that King Obama is meeting with civil rights leaders about the Ferguson case, I’m excited and hopeful.

And you’d be wrong.

Did the grand jury really make the wrong decision?

If you think those things, you are being played for a fool. Everyone needs to calm down. Readers of my blog know that the Trayvon Martin case wasn’t at all what the media portrayed. So when this case came along, people with Minor Insights should know it’s time for caution instead of knee-jerk reactions.

Like the Trayvon Martin case, the media only served up one side of the story in the Michael Brown case. We never heard the other side of the story.

Like the Trayvon Martin case, the media only showed us the same one photo of the victim. In this case, an unintimidating neck-up picture of a chubby-cheeked Michael Brown wearing headphones at an arcade with little kids around. How many people knew that that chubby-cheeked teenager was 6′ 5″ tall and 290 pounds—the size of an enormous, hulking pro football lineman?

Like the Trayvon Martin case, the media portrayed Brown to be completely innocent—especially with the infamous “hands up” pose. How many people knew that Michael Brown charged at Darren Wilson, giving Wilson no choice but to shoot? How many people knew that Brown was at least an accomplice to a robbery of cigarillos just moments before the confrontation with Wilson? How many people knew that Michael Brown threw punches that landed square on Wilson’s face?

Brown completely innocent? If so, I’ve got some land in Florida to sell you.

After the grand jury’s decision, Darren Wilson gave an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that (finally) gave his side of the story. If you think Michael Brown and his parents got the shaft, you MUST watch the video. Even as Stephanopoulos tried to bait Wilson into saying contradictory or self-indicting things, Wilson was consistent in his story.

Then there’s the evidence that the grand jury saw. The evidence backs up Wilson’s story. How many people have seen the evidence? Nobody? Yet without any evidence, and without being a witness to the scene, thousands of people fell hook, line and sinker for the media’s portrayal that Brown struggled to get away from Wilson’s car and then was shot with his hands up.

Consider horrible Nightline anchor Byron Pitts. In one segment, he interviewed some people in Ferguson as they watched the Wilson interview and asked if any of them had been stopped by police. Everyone said yes. Makes for good TV, but does not make a good point. Just because police have stopped citizens does not mean the police are all racist pigs who are happy to shoot black people minding their own business. Pitts’ question is a red herring.

Pitts then ended the Nightline show by saying, “Darren Wilson had a chance to give his side of the story. Michael Brown does not.” Pitts conveniently forgot that the media has been giving Michael Brown’s side of the story ever since the shooting first occurred.

Three Minor Insights

I agree the system is broken—but not the way the protesters think. The system is broken in that the media is the one that is the jury to the American people. They don’t report the news objectively, trying to research and report both sides of the story. Instead, they report the most sensational aspect of the news—whatever will cause the biggest furor and thus draw the biggest ratings.

michael brown trayvon martinI also agree the Michael Brown case is like the Trayvon Martin case—but not the way the protesters think. LeBron James tweeted this drawing of Brown and Martin, insinuating that they both got a raw deal in the same way. But the evidence seems to indicate that if you were to look at the front of their faces in this fictitious drawing, they’d have devilish grins, knowing that they both got away with their respective acts of aggression and violence and yet are being lifted up as martyrs in the general public’s eye.

I also agree that America has a race relations problem—but not the way the protesters think. Protesters think white people have a racism problem when the reality is that many blacks too view things with racism as the reason. Many of the blacks I grew up with were very racist. In today’s age, much of the racism is hyper-fueled by the media (e.g., Stephanopoulos in his interview kept trying to bait Wilson into saying it was a race-related shooting). When a white policeman shoots a black citizen, many blacks automatically assume the cause was race. Sometimes race does come into play but you have to investigate each instance on a case-by-case basis; you just cannot automatically assume it to be true every single time.

Bottom line

If we really want to get serious about improving race relations, it’s critical to not be ignorant. The Ferguson neighborhood Michael Brown died in was a hood—no two ways around it, though most people don’t know that. It’s a crime-infested area and Brown himself has party to a crime just moments before his confrontation with Wilson. It’s sad when people gave Brown the benefit of the doubt instead of Wilson based on ignorance. But it’s even sadder when we loot stores, set cars on fire and make calls to “change the system” based on continued ignorance. Don’t be that person.