Peter Smith

A Double Standard in Black and White

ferguson riotWhen a black man kills another black man in the US it is so commonplace it hardly makes the news. If police were to shoot and kill a white man who earlier had robbed a store it might make the inside pages, before fading from view. But when police shot and killed a black man who had robbed a store it made the front pages and has stayed there for days. Riots, looting and mayhem ensue. Police in riot gear come out in force. The state Governor, the Attorney-General and President, no less, become personally and officially involved in the case. And this distraction happens while the enemies of Western civilisation are on the march.

Should we be concerned? I think we should. The concern shouldn’t be overstated, but being racked by internal division weakens the US and emboldens our mutual enemies. I am fairly sure that the Islamists are cheering every Al Jazeera report of rocks thrown in Ferguson Missouri, where an unarmed Michael Brown was shot six times and killed by a lone police officer, Darren Wilson.

The bullets entered the front of Brown’s body despite at least one witness saying that he was shot while running away. Four bullets went into his right arm and shoulder region; two struck his head, one killing him. Video evidence from shortly before the shooting appears to show Brown robbing a convenience store of some cigars and pushing and intimidating the shop assistant when walking from the store.

Brown was eighteen years of age. He was very heavy-set, around 132kgs, and 193cm, about 6’ 4”  by the pre-metric measure. He was black. Wilson, who has been a cop in Ferguson for six years with, reportedly, a clean record, is white. At this stage, none of the above information appears to be in contention. However, the circumstances of the shooting and the immediately preceding events remain unclear.

The story is that Wilson, while in his patrol car, asked Brown and his companion, who were walking in the middle of the road, to move to the sidewalk. Apparently one or both of the pair replied that they were nearly where they wanted to go. Here the story gets more complicated. Did Wilson then insist on them moving onto the sidewalk, or did he re-engage with them because he was told of the robbery at the convenience store, or did he simply spot the cigars in Brown’s hand and suspect something amiss? We don’t know.

The story is that an altercation ensued between Brown and Wilson, who was sitting in his car. It is reported that the cop was punched and has a broken eye socket as a result.

There are two versions of the shooting, apparently supported by different and differing witnesses. One is that Brown surrendered by putting his hands in the air, either before or after he received non-fatal wounds, and was then killed. The other is that Brown walked away before turning and charging at Wilson, continuing the charge until stopped by the fatal shot. The killing would be unlawful under the first version , justifiable under the second.

It goes without saying, but is worth saying because the reports I’ve seen gloss over it, that a man as huge as Brown can do a lot of damage even if unarmed. Moreover, Wilson was armed and, if overpowered, his weapon could have fallen into Brown’s hands. In other words, the fact that Brown was unarmed is material but it by no means obviates a claim of self defence and justifiable homicide.

A grand jury has been convened to assess whether Wilson should be indicted and, if so, on what charge or charges. Someone has been killed and six bullet wounds warrant a thorough investigation.

So far so good but, unfortunately, the legal process has been accompanied night after night by riots, looting, gun fire, Molotov cocktails, rock throwing, and urine dousing; and by trouble-making rabble-rousers like Al Sharpton stoking racial tensions. The police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets in some instances. Almost all of those arrested live outside of Ferguson and often outside the state. They are ring-ins out to cause mayhem.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has disgraced himself and his office by calling for ‘justice for Michael Brown and his family’ and for the ‘vigorous prosecution’ of Wilson. The President has also weighed in, as has Attorney-General Eric Holder, who has ordered a federal investigation. No person in authority, so far as I can tell, has expressed unqualified support for ensuring that blind justice is done, even if that means Wilson is exonerated.

The mob took control, guillotine at the ready. Hopefully, however fitfully, the integrity of the legal system, on which freedom depends, will prevail, as it did in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case; though not before Zimmerman had been dragged to trial on flimsy evidence. Meanwhile, Darren Wilson and his family live in fear of being killed — and in fear, too, of a justice system contaminated with politics. What exactly does that mean for policing if the cop is innocent of wrongdoing?

There seems to be no answer to the problem exemplified in Ferguson. An underclass of young black men, fatherless, unemployed, taught to be victims by do-gooders, and with unscrupulous politicians stoking their sense of grievance and entitlement, is a recipe for crime. Police called to crime scenes see black perpetrators. It would be naive to think that this would not cause them to profile and harass black men much more than they do white men, as the figures seem to demonstrate they do in Ferguson. This leads to resentment and, when something like the shooting of Brown occurs, acts as a trigger for mob violence.

The best answer is having society which doesn’t have a racially divided underclass. Unfortunately the whole drift of societal change over the past one hundred years has been towards creating one underclass after another by creating larger and larger pockets of dependency. This won’t be turned back. It has gone too far.

More black police officers and more early-intervention policing, as shown in New York, can make a difference. Black people make up almost 70 per cent of the population of Ferguson but represent less than10 per cent of the police force. That seems to be a disparity worth spending some time on to see if it can be narrowed.

Meanwhile, a black man, coincidentally also named Brown, Muhammad Ali Brown, has been charged in Seattle with gunning down four people, one a 19-year-old white student, all allegedly killed in the name of Allah.

Somehow that isn’t worldwide news, yet its portents are ominous.


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