When facing a system that claims to want justice, the fight for black youths against those hired to allegedly uphold the law is an impossible one. What was so sickening about watching the explanation from the prosecuting attorney Monday night was that we were forced to listen to the prosecutor justify the decision with nothing but the boilerplate insulting, institutionalized racist jargon used for so many decisions.
“There is no question that Darren Wilson caused the death of Michael Brown by shooting him,” Robert P. McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney said at one point. Translation: the value of Michael Brown’s life is not worth enough to at least put Wilson on trial for ending it.
He then went on to blame social media countless times for casting a negative light on the case. This is how privilege and systemic bigotry work. In his testimony, Wilson said that Brown was looking at him like a “demon.” And that if an unarmed 18-year-old had landed a punch during a scuffle, it could have been fatal.
Of course. The crazed Negro with superhuman strength; obviously he must be stopped with lethal force. Neither of those men, and apparently the grand jury in Missouri, even seems to understand why this is so wrong. With a black man in the White House, a significant part of America still doesn’t fully grasp how they benefit from a power structure that routinely paints people of color in a negative light, particularly in the eyes of law enforcement.
“I found it very patronizing. He was pointing his words to try to make sure that people thought, ‘hey, this criminal justice system did the right thing.’ But the truth is the people in the streets know,” Radhika Miller, an attorney, said Monday night at the African-American Civil War memorial. There, a march was organized in solidarity with the Brown family. “We watched so many people go to jail. We watch so many people face life and even death, when the prosecutor wants to charge somebody. So, we know it’s not a fair criminal justice system.”
If you can’t see the obvious parallels, or lack thereof, between how, say, young white men who literally kill people by the dozens are treated by law enforcement versus that of unarmed black folks, then you are part of the problem. That schism is fueled by a pathology of supremacy that is a complete embarrassment for this nation and ultimately, a public health risk for people of color.
The District is not immune from this “monkeys in a cage” mindset either. MPD Chief Cathy Lanier activated 17 civil disturbance platoons, including helicopters with spotlights, and canceling her own appearances in apparent preparation for any backlash to the grand jury decision. Nevermind that people have been peacefully protesting this situation for months here in D.C.
Salim Adofo, of the National Black United Fund, who’s been a lead participant in the #DCferguson movement, did not appreciate it. “That was kind of just out of nowhere to me, because through out the entire summer and early fall, we haven’t had any incidents,” Adofo said, while walking with the marching crowd down 16th Street NW Monday night. “So to bring out 17 platoons, the bomb squad, K9 units and to announce that you’re doing it, I think creates that [dangerous] atmosphere.”
One of my best friends growing up was shot by a police officer in the neighborhood we grew up in, and lived to tell the tale. But his life was never the same. It ruined him, it ruined our friendship and the promising life of one of the smartest young men I’d ever met was derailed because an officer was scared of an unarmed black man. He never recovered psychologically and the fact that it happened on a block he called home forever changed how he felt about his upbringing.
It’s not a surprise that when this country has spent centuries training itself to criminalize all levels of black life that when an oppressor is put to the test they leak through the same criminal justice system that puts so many of us behind bars for non-violent offenses. But what’s most disheartening is that the faith inside you dies a little more when a life is taken with no repercussions.
“Everytime, you think ‘maybe this time,'” Miller said. “But it doesn’t change.”
In a statement after the decision was announced, Darren Wilson addressed the matter. The number of times he mentioned Michael Brown’s name gave a clear indication about how much that black kid’s life mattered in his eyes: zero.