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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Community reels with sorrow after Ferguson decision

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Like many workplaces across the country, the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper office was abuzz the day following the “no indictment” announcement in the criminal case against officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo. police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown Jr.

Throughout that day, many members of the community either called the Recorder, or stopped by, just to talk about the not-guilty verdict. It was as if they simply wanted to talk to other individuals who shared their perspectives, hurt and anger.

And when the calls and visits ceased, the conversations my staff and I had in the office intensified. For so many people throughout this country – not just Blacks – the Ferguson verdict was blatantly unjust. And many of those people cited an obvious bias or racism as the motive behind the jury’s decision.

The manner in which the Michael Brown shooting was handled from the onset was a chaotic disaster rooted in subliminal messages of white superiority.

For example, Brown lay dead in the street for hours – with only a sheet that partially covered the teen’s body. With no partitions or curtains to shield the body from public view, instead, Brown’s bloody body laid there, in the center of a predominately Black low-income complex, for all to see.

To the residents of that particular complex, the message came through loud and clear: “mess with us and this is what happens to you.”

These are the same tactics southern whites and Klansmen used when they gathered slaves to witness the brutal beatings or lynchings of one of their own. It’s a scare tactic rooted in intimidation to ensure Blacks feel inferiority and terror.

In addition to the shocking display of the 18-year-old’s corpse, Ferguson officials, specifically the medical examiner’s investigator, compounded the disrespect when they failed to photograph the body and scene, a standard procedure in homicide cases.

So what was the medical examiner’s reason for not photographing Brown for the sake of evidence? He didn’t have batteries in his camera.

Really…that’s what he said.

He also took no measurements at the scene. It wasn’t necessary, he said.

This investigator’s dereliction of duty prohibited the gathering of key evidence that should have been available to investigators and the jury. Mere hours into the investigation, the potential for a fair trial had already been compromised beyond redemption.

Another foul move was when Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called in the National Guard several days before the verdict was announced.

Even if it wasn’t deliberate, the timing of Nixon’s effort seemed to agitate protesters, racially divide the community and exacerbate an already polarized, toxic situation. Which brings me to another point – the timing of the announcement.

The jury reached its decision hours before the verdict was actually announced.

That’s when the prosecuting attorney should have informed the public. Releasing the jury’s decision at night, when the potential for dangerous and unfavorable actions are more likely to occur, was incredibly foolish.

While I have never been a conspiracy theorist per se, the timing of this important grand jury decision seemed intentional. So too was mainstream media’s televised coverage of the riots.

Throughout the world, news outlets showed people looting and burning buildings, and flames leaping into the sky, but no cameras focused on those protesters who wept upon hearing the decision or even those who responded with looks of despair.

I have personally spoken with journalists who were in Ferguson when the verdict was announced. Yes, some looted and burned, but most of those present were the peaceful protesters who did not resort to violence after the no-indictment announcement.

Showing the buffoonery perpetuates a stereotype, and shapes a narrative that Ferguson residents burn their own businesses. It quickly changed the dialogue from the grand jury’s decision, to a discussion of the damaged businesses.

This selective coverage is not only one-dimensional and unfair, but flat-out wrong. If most of the world, reliant on this curated media coverage, now views Blacks as violent people who loot and burn buildings, than they are more likely to treat us as such. This attitude bears evil results in instances like the Trayvon Martin encounter.

As I thought about all the recent Black men whose lives have been lost at the hands of police officers, I kept asking myself when is enough enough? I also wondered why some groups have such a deep-seeded hatred for Blacks. What have we done that makes them hate us so much?

If there is a light in this incredibly dark instance, it’s the fact that protesters around the nation and the world are now advocating for the lives and fair treatment of people like Michael Brown.

Brown was no saint, but no one would argue that he deserved to die such a horrible demise. There has to be more regard for individual life, a Black man’s life, all life.

When police officers die in the line of duty, we hold memorials and name streets after them, which is fitting because every day they risk their lives for the public’s safety.

But what do we do when a Black man is killed by a police officer?

If this slipshod, unprofessional investigation into Brown’s fatal shooting and Wilson’s resulting not guilty verdict is any indication, the sad answer is: not much.

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