“My white privilege is the only thing keeping me alive.” I saw this comment on a social media site the other day in which a woman was responding to the whole Ferguson situation. The absurdity of that statement is what prompted me to write this article. It’s not the color of her skin that’s keeping her alive. It’s the basic use of common sense. For me, what happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with race and everything to do with bad decisions.
I have a different angle than most people when it comes to this situation. I’ve been on both sides of the law. I had been arrested several times as a teenager and in my early twenties for misdemeanor charges and spent a couple nights in the clank. Every time I got in trouble, I started blaming the police. It was simply a knee-jerk reaction and for some reason I believed it was never my fault. I was 23 years old and sitting in a cold jail cell at about 4:00 am when I had my epiphany. I finally realized that if I stopped making stupid decisions and hanging around people who made stupid decisions, then I would stay out of trouble. With my newfound clarity, I set out to turn things around. Low and behold its 11 years later and I haven’t had any problems with law enforcement since. Act like an adult and take responsibility for your actions. Amazing what some common sense will do for you.
As I said, I’ve been on both sides of the law. I also spent about a year working at a local prison as a corrections officer. I went through months of training as required by the state of Virginia in order to become an officer. Training was not as extensive as the police force, but still a great deal of time nonetheless. To be honest, I hated the job. Some people love that type of work but it just wasn’t for me. But while I was there, I learned a few things about the law and its enforcers that I’ve taken with me in my life. It certainly allows me to see different sides to the Michael Brown case. I remember sitting down at a desk in front of the Lieutenant on duty and being told, “we look out for one another.” I was told that whatever decisions I made and actions I took would be backed up by the other officers 100%. Well, sort of. I would be backed up in front of the inmates. We couldn’t let the bad guys see indecision or bickering amongst ourselves. However, if I screwed up really bad, I would expect to be called in behind closed doors for a good reaming. But really, I liked hearing that I had a whole force of men and women who were there to back me up. It boosted my confidence level. And let me assure you, you better be chock-full of confidence when walking around unarmed amidst a sea of inmates by yourself. But all of that backing is two-fold. It also meant that I had to back other officer’s decisions and actions. No matter what. Even if they were wrong. This left a sour taste in my mouth, to say the least. I understood the necessity of having each other’s backs. I really did. But I also didn’t like the fact that there could be a time when I would have to sell out my own principles and morals to back another officer. But that’s how it works. That’s why it’s so hard to bring up indictments against officers. It’s because they’re all looking out for one another. The whole legal system is looking out for one another. From judges, to prosecutors, to lawyers, to officers. They don’t throw each other under the bus.
I understand the situation in Ferguson is a very complex issue. But it’s in my nature to simplify things. To look at the nuts and bolts. I want the basic facts. But that’s the thing with Ferguson, nobody seems to know exactly what happened. You can rest assured the media is also doing their part to put a twist on it and this makes it more difficult to analyze without having been there and a part of it. But still, there are two main facts that we can look at to get an idea of what happened. The event(s) leading up to the shooting, and the shooting itself.
Fact #1: Michael Brown committed a strong arm robbery moments before the shooting. He walks into a neighborhood store that he frequents and steals a box of cheap cigars. Then on the way out, he physically assaults the store owner. He does this in his own neighborhood. In a place where everybody knows him. Without trying to conceal his identity. In broad daylight. On camera. Michael Brown was not ignorant of the law. He understood that stealing and assaulting people was wrong. He simply made the decision to go through with it. If he wasn’t killed, that camera footage would’ve been on an episode of Dumbest Criminals Volume 17 with a bunch of C-list actors making fun of him. So after stealing the cigars, he doesn’t even run. He walks down the street with his buddy like there would be no consequences. Really?! The question I’d love to ask Brown would be, “What the f*ck were you thinking?” He was supposed to start college the next day. Yet, decides to engage in this type of serious criminal behavior. Regardless of why he did it, it lets me know the kind of person he was. A loser. However, being a loser and robbing a store while assaulting the owner isn’t a reason to shoot him.
Fact #2: Michael Brown physically assaulted Darren Wilson and tried to take his gun. Forensic reports showed that Michael Brown’s blood was on Officer Wilson’s gun and also on Officer Wilson’s shirt and in the cruiser as well. This backed up Wilson’s claim that Brown attacked him in the car. Also, three independent autopsy reports showed that Brown had gun powder residue on his hand where he was shot and fragments from the barrel of the gun. The only way this could’ve happened is if Brown was grabbing the gun when it went off. Whether you like it or not, it’s the truth. Again, I would’ve loved to ask Brown, “What the f*ck were you thinking?” Seriously folks, who attacks an officer and tries to take his gun? See fact #1 for your answer. Michael Brown made the decision to attack the officer.
After the first shot, that’s where the confusion really sets in. The eye witness testimony varied wildly and it’s difficult (for me at least) to figure out exactly what happened. I’ve done my fair share of research on what I thought transpired. Before I go any farther I’d like to make it clear that if Wilson did in fact gun down Brown in the street while trying to surrender, then the case needs to be pursued until justice is served. However, the evidence shows that Brown didn’t have his hands in the air when he was shot, he was facing Wilson, and he was moving towards him. Either way, we haven’t heard the last of this case. While doing some research, I kept thinking about what the Major told me when I first started as a corrections officer. I was asking him about some different tactics that we could and couldn’t use to subdue an inmate. He told me, “If your life is in danger, you do whatever you have to do to stay alive”. And that’s the truth. I don’t care if Brown was unarmed. More people are killed in the United States every year from blows to the head via fists and feet than from guns. The main point to focus on is that Brown tried taking Wilson’s gun. It wasn’t until he was shot that he backed off. Understand that we’re talking about a life and death struggle. If I was the officer, I would’ve certainly shot him as well. And, if Wilson’s testimony was true, I would’ve continued shooting Brown as he charged at me. Not because I’m a racist. But because I would want to preserve my life. I would’ve emptied the clip and reloaded. I certainly wouldn’t have holstered the gun and pulled out pepper spray or a baton. Why switch to a less effective means of defense? Remember, he’s already put a bullet in his hand and it didn’t stop him. That’s the thing about law enforcement officers. They’re not interested in giving you a fair fight. They want the upper hand in every situation. To stay in control. To go home at the end of the shift. I would too.
If you want to point fingers and place blame for Brown’s death, then look no further than Brown himself. Nobody made him steal the cigars and assault the owner of the store. Nobody. More importantly, nobody made him attack Wilson. He did it on his own free will. It wasn’t racism that made him do it. It was stupid decisions and he paid for it with his life. Yes, Officer Wilson did kill Brown. But it was Brown who put him in that situation to begin with. Don’t want to get killed by the police? Don’t put an officer in a situation where he has to make the call whether or not to pull the trigger. It’s that simple.
Now, if you want to point fingers as to why Wilson wasn’t indicted, then look no further than the prosecution. In Brian’s article on Ferguson, he thoroughly discusses how the grand jury was misled. I 100% agree with this. It may seem like I’m contradicting myself. But I do believe there was ample evidence to indict Wilson and take him to trial. Do I think Wilson was given special treatment because he was an officer? You bet your ass I do. I know it. Wilson’s superiors scrambled to make sure his story was straight and obviously the prosecutors didn’t want to indict him. They wanted to make sure the story was air tight. They wanted an open and shut case. Like I said earlier, they’ve got each other’s backs. However, that doesn’t mean Officer Wilson was lying about what happened. Understand the prosecution wasn’t trying to get Officer Wilson off because he was white or because the man he shot was black. They were trying to get Officer Wilson off because he was, well, an officer.
Regardless as to how this whole thing plays out, the fact remains that Michael Brown is dead and Officer Wilson killed him. But understand that Brown’s actions and decisions are the reason it came to this point. Had he just surrendered to Wilson then this would’ve never happened. Moreover, if he hadn’t stolen a box of cigars, there would be a young man getting ready to finish up his first semester of college in Ferguson. What happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with race. Nothing. Don’t get played into thinking Brown died because he was black or that Wilson killed him because Wilson was white. The only reason race has become an issue is because the media needs ratings, political parties need votes, and Jackson and Sharpton need a paycheck. The sad part is that a young man made some extremely poor decisions that cost him his life. What’s worse is there are people and groups exploiting his death for their own gain.