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Police Abuse Isn't All About Race - My Thoughts When Ferguson Burned

By J. Freeman on 06/15/2018 02:00:36

On August 3rd, 2014, I was violently kidnapped from my home by Hall County Sheriff's Officers who were serving an invalid warrant, nominally issued in response to the so-called "crime" of publicly speaking out in favor of homeschooling, but actually issued to silence my Christian political opinions in general.

6 days later and 600 miles away, in Ferguson, Missouri, one Michael Brown was shot dead, and as you probably know, all Hell broke loose.

Michael Brown was 18 years old, and on the day he was shot, he had robbed a covenience store. Accounts vary as to exactly what happened thereafter. Brown's supporters would have us believe that he was approached by Officer Darren Wilson despite the fact that Wilson did not yet have any evidence that a crime had been committed, that Brown raised his hands and said, "Don't shoot!" and that Wilson - evidently for no reason - shot Brown (6 times) and killed him anyway. Obviously, subsequent investigations came to a very different conclusion - that Wilson had stopped a suspected convenience store robber, that the robber had attacked him, and that Wilson shot Brown in self-defense.

The exact truth of the matter, I can't know. I'm certain that any investigation by the government into the government can't be trusted. However, in this case, I've very much prone to side with Wilson. There's video evidence showing Brown robbing a convenience store. Whatever the particulars of his encounter with Wilson shortly thereafter, Brown is hard to defend, and the odds of Brown being stopped for nothing but "walking while black" and putting his hands up and saying "don't shoot" and getting shot anyway seems highly unlikely to me (though not impossible).

Now that's not to say that there's never been a case of actual "Hands up don't shoot" and getting shot despite the fact. Daniel Shaver was shot that way.

So, I could go through my normal "presume him innocent" routine and come up with every possible way to convince you that Michael Brown didn't deserve to die, but I'm not going to because (for one) I believe Darren Wilson's story, (for two) I have little sympathy for people caught on tape robbing convenience stores, and (for three) I've got more important things to say about the matter.

If you don't live under a rock on Mars, you know about what happened next. Protesters came out in full force and the police responded in military gear like a scene out of The Hunger Games. Next thing you know, Ferguson was burning, stores were being looted, protesters were being warned to disperse from "unlawful" gatherings, and at one point private citizens started showing up in camoflauge and carrying assault rifles. Bullets, rocks, tear-gas, and beanbags started flying. Even reporters weren't immune from being detained and gassed.

Now exactly what went on in the riots, I can't know. It seems obvious to me that there were problems on both sides. The police were overly aggressive and unprofessional however. We expect a higher standard from them than we do from a rag-tag gang of ne'er-do-wells. There were, of course, allegations that the police started the fires and that agent provocateurs had been planted among the protesters to cause unrest for the purpose of discrediting their cause and breaking up their gatherings. I suppose I can't comment on that either, but I don't doubt it - seeing that the government has engaged in such (immoral and unlawful) activities before.

Frankly, I'm not at all convinced that the entire church hasn't also been co-opted.

But regardless of who was responsible, Ferguson was a mess. I was watching it all unfold on TV, and all I could think was, "All this for a guy who robbed a convenience store?" I mean, really, I didn't die like Michael Brown did, but how does that guy become the focal point of an entire movement against police abuse when we've literally got police officers torturing and threatening to kill ministers for voicing their opinions?

Then again, I wonder if we even need to ask the question. The name of the movement birthed from this incident says it all: "Black lives matter." The name seems ridiculous to me; I have sincere doubts that there is anyone in America who would really believe that the lives of black people don't matter (and if there is such a person, he is an extreme minority). But that name does tell us what the movement is about - it's about black people against police. Evidently white people like me don't matter.

And I can understand why blacks would be more upset with police than whites are. No one denies that there has been historical oppression against blacks, and it is obvious that policing hurts blacks more than it does whites. If a black man and a white man are convicted of the same crime, the black man does more jail time. Not only that, but black communities tend to have more police - meaning more arrests and convictions. Blacks are also more likely to be convicted when accused of the same crime, and even though whites and blacks smoke marijuana at comparable rates, blacks are more likely to be jailed for it.

Now some "conservatives" like to make arguments that blacks commit more crime than whites, and, judging by a large number of cultural factors, I'd suppose that may be true. But it simply can't justify the wild disparities in how blacks are treated by our criminal justice-system.

So I want to make sure anyone reading this post hears me clearly: I get it. Blacks and other people of color are getting the shaft, and the rights of minorities need to be protected. But I'm heavily disappointed by any movement that pretends blacks are the only ones being abused by the police. The simple reality is that people of every race are having their civil rights routinely violated, and a white life ruined is worth no less than a black life ruined. So I want to plea with you: please, don't make the police abuse problem about race. When you do that, all you do is discredit yourself and push white people who might be your best friends away. If we, as Americans, want to bring about real, meaningful accountability for the police, we're only going to be able to accomplish that by working together. Everyone has an interest in ensuring that we have good laws which are obeyed and applied evenly (over black, white, and blue as well). If we're going to accomplish that, we're going to have to work together peacefully to do it.

Well, eventually the violence in Ferguson subsided. Hilary Clinton seemed to openly take the side of Black Lives Matter, and since she lost to Trump, the movement seems to have dwindled. Maybe Black Lives Matter and riots in the streets can become a thing of the past. I do hope though that conservatives can learn to see past the unfortunate events in Ferguson and can take them as a wake up call to the fact that there is a serious problem in policing for all races (blacks especially), which had been largely ignored prior to Michael Brown's death. My hope is that Republican leaders, in Georgia and elsewhere, can display the courage to acknowledge these problems despite their political unpopularity and can work for meaningful change for us all.

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