First, I should tell you that I am a middle-aged white woman. I’m whiter than white. Check the header picture – in a few years, even my hair will be white. I am smart, capable, educated and privileged, if by privileged you mean I don’t get stopped by the police just walking down the street. Everything that follows is based on my socioeconomic background and my experiences. In other words, it doesn’t really mean shit to a black kid in Ferguson, Missouri.
When I first heard about the shooting, I was shocked. It’s always shocking, I think, when a cop shoots someone – anyone. So I paid attention over the next couple of weeks as witnesses came forward, the police released the video of Brown strong-arming the store owner, and the governor claiming that Wilson would get “a fair trial” before any evidence was even presented to the grand jury. I heard what everyone heard: Brown had his hands up, he was surrendering, he was shot in the back, he was shot while he was kneeling with his hands up, that he wasn’t armed and that he was guilty of nothing but walking while being black. It was confusing and it was frustrating, but eventually the story got pieced together.
I play an online text-based game that involves vampires and werewolves (it is sort of relevant, just go with it for now). In that game, there are over half a million players and about 300,000 are active. You can attack other players, beat their pixels to a pulp, take their money and do other nefarious things. In that game, I am a bona fide bad ass bitch. Out of 300,000, I am ranked #37. No one fucks with me and if they try, they get sent to “recovery” for 5 or 6 hours. I’m not challenged anymore, so now I look for challenges. I train my stats and build them up and find players who are at higher levels and attack them just for fun. Because I can. (There it is, that’s the point)
I watched that video of Michael Brown taking the box of cigarillos and shoving the store owner out of the way. Just a few minutes later, he and his friend were stopped by Wilson. Now just imagine you’re a 6’5 guy built like a brick shit house and you’ve just taken what you wanted with impunity … and here comes a cop. It does not strike me as inconceivable in the least that Brown got his badass in an uproar and slammed Wilson’s car door shut as he was trying to get out of the car.
The prosecutor said last night that about 90 seconds passed from the time Wilson stopped Brown and his friend to the last shot fired. 90 seconds. Call it two minutes. Call it three minutes even. That’s nothing. That’s no time at all. That’s the blink of an eye – or a New York minute.
Eyewitness testimony is rarely reliable. People forget. They get excited or scared or shocked and the details blur. Three people can see the exact same thing and repeat it back in three totally different ways with different details. So I don’t doubt that the people who said Brown was shot in the back thought he got shot in the back. It’s clear that he ran a short distance away and it is also clear that Wilson fired 11 (I think) shots. Easy to get that confused. I relate it to watching a football game and a pass interference is called. I am watching the game, paying attention and I swear the defender had his hands up and was going for the ball. I would testify to that in court. And then they show the replay – and no, his hands weren’t up, they were wrapped around the receiver. How did I miss that? I KNOW what I saw … don’t I?
As soon as McCulloch (the prosecutor, if you’ve been living under a rock the last few days) finished speaking, CNN cut to a reporter – an African-American woman. I don’t know who it was, I don’t usually watch CNN. McCulloch said, I believe in answer to a question, that he brought all the evidence he had to the grand jury so that the process would be more transparent to the public. If there is no indictment, it becomes a closed case and an open file. He then said that with all the evidence, the grand jury decided there was not probable cause to indict. Now, back to the reporter who immediately said that because McCulloch had all this evidence, clearly there was probable cause and the grand jury got it wrong.
So I guess what it boils down to is race – and I think that sucks. It really fucking sucks. Michael Brown didn’t deserve to die for stealing a box of cigars (and I also think that Wilson did realize Brown was the suspect in that robbery, but not in the first few seconds that he stopped them). I would argue that Darren Wilson doesn’t deserve to have his life ruined for 90 seconds that EVERYONE would like to take back. Does he deserve to keep his badge? Probably not, but even if he keeps it, he can’t be a cop in Ferguson. It would be impossible at this point.
I can understand why people are upset. I’m upset. I kind of think there should have been an indictment. That way, there is a trial and some of these questions get answered. But because I am a middle-aged white woman in suburbia, I really can’t relate. I just can’t. It isn’t that I don’t want to, but that being harassed by cops is completely out of the realm of my experience.
Racial tension still runs deep in this country. A former boss of mine was talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. one day and about the riots in Kansas City. She was astounded (and a little pissy) that I didn’t know what she was talking about. I finally had to point out to her that I was a year old at that time. I don’t remember much from that stage of my life. My point is that over 40 years later, she remembers it like it was yesterday because it wasn’t just King’s dream – it was hers. And in a split second, it was gone.
I don’t know what the answer is. I know the police mishandled this from the beginning. I think the governor mishandled it. I don’t know if the prosecutor mishandled it which caused the grand jury to mishandle it. I can’t say Wilson mishandled it because I don’t know.
And if cops are too scared to legitimately defend themselves for fear of losing their jobs or their lives (thanks, Twitter fuckheads calling for his address or anyone in his family) then how long before we sink into total anarchy?
I heard a report that of the 80 or so people arrested last night, only one was from Ferguson. That says a lot. That speaks to a nation-wide frustration that still hasn’t been eased. (It also says those people are assholes, because they aren’t destroying their town)
So what do we do when things like this keep happening? How do we fix it? Because one thing I know is that no amount of guilt I feel for being born white makes up for the outrages that black people live with every day – and have lived with for 150 years.
I think I’m going to go bust some vampire pixels and try to make my brain stop hurting.
For the curious, here is a link to the grand jury documents. Go get ‘em, tiger.
PS sorry for the rambling post. I just started writing and let it come together (or not) on its own.
PPS I should also point out that just because there was no indictment does not mean Wilson is vindicated. There is still a federal investigation going on and I’m sure there will be civil suits as well.