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On Ferguson

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Michael Brown is probably a bad example. He appears to have committed a crime; to have tangled with the police officer at and in the officer’s vehicle; to have turned back toward the officer and approached him before being shot. Michael Brown isn’t the clean example that could wrap this whole thing up in a tidy package and deliver it with a bow. I honestly never expected an indictment in this case. The facts were too messy. I kept wanting to remind the media that “unarmed” does not equate to “innocent,” and to remind those defending Officer Wilson that probable guilt does not equate to a death sentence. But without minimizing the life of Michael Brown–his life matters–the facts of this particular case stopped being the point a long time ago. Ferguson is not about one black male being shot in the street.

I recently drove across the country, and as I heard that a decision about indictment was near I thought really hard about stopping in and staying in Ferguson for the reaction. This is a historic moment; we’ll remember watching it on tv. But it’s also the sort of moment that you can never understand without feeling it in the air. It’s the kind of moment that feels very different unfiltered. It’s the start of a movement that will change the landscape of criminal enforcement in this country. In some ways, I hate that I’m not there for something like this. Because Ferguson is not about one black male being shot in the street.

Ferguson is a tipping point. It’s a tipping point of awareness that too many black and brown men are dying at the hands of police. It’s a tipping point of our societal tolerance for letting that continue to happen. It’s a tipping point for the militarization of police units and the escalation of force that accompanies it. People in the streets are clamoring for justice for Michael Brown, but Michael Brown is probably a bad example. This is not about one black male being shot in the street. Justice will be served when (not if) the death of Michael Brown spurs the movement that forces our police to stop unnecessarily killing black and brown men. And any discussion of the events of tonight must recognize that Ferguson is about more than one case and more than one life.