- But Mike Brown robbed a convenience store!
- “Attorney for the Ferguson store, Jake Kanzler, said the Ferguson store owner, [sic] nor any store employee called the police to report any shoplifting of cigars, but, rather, a customer called the police.” (here.) [Update 11/29/14: Since people are commenting on this, we want to note that we decided to include it because some folks were stating that Mike Brown robbed a convenience store and that the store owner is the one that reported it to police. We do not mean to imply that only the store owner could have or should have reported a robbery.]
- Absolutely NO stolen things presented as evidence in the grand jury testimony (link to evidence above). [Update 11/29/14: Again, as above, just information to reply to those saying that it got used.]
- The core issue remains: since when is theft/robbery punishable by death? Most people are using the “robbed a convenience store” argument to imply that Brown was thus “a criminal” (and all that entails). How many people have stolen things from convenience stores? How many young White girls have stolen lipgloss from a pharmacy? Come on. [Update 11/29/14: We aren’t arguing so much about the “did he steal or not” but about the framing and the use of this to characterize Brown as “a thug who deserved what he got.”]
- [Added 11/29/14] Since so many folks are bringing this up, here’s the video and the stills from the convenience store. Once again, we are not arguing about the theft/robbery. This video wasn’t included previously in this post because the point we are making is about the framing of the situation, not “did he steal or not?” Something else noteworthy is that it’s been reported that the Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the reason for contact between Wilson and Brown was not due to the robbery. Apparently the story changed later, though, which is curious.
- Mike Brown was a giant demon who charged at Darren Wilson, who had no recourse but to fear for his life and use lethal force.
- Darren Wilson is 6’4”, 215 lbs. He had a gun and a car. Mike Brown was an unarmed 18 year old, also 6’4”, and 289 lbs.
- Please also take a peek at our section below covering the question “What if Mike Brown had been White? Would you still be outraged? Would it still be police brutality?”
- Photographs of Wilson’s injuries don’t show much. Hospital discharge report writes that he had a facial contusion—a fancy way of saying bruise—check page 4. [Updated 11/30/14] The prescription in the discharge is for a mild painkiller.
- [Section updated 11/29/14] Whereas there’s documentation about Wilson, the photographs of Mike Brown’s body by the medical legal investigator were not taken because the THEY RAN OUT OF BATTERIES (from grand jury transcript, page 31-32) which is completely ridiculous and unacceptable. As a commenter notes: “To be clear, that’s not the person who conducts the autopsy; it’s the person who initially goes to the scene and orders that the body be delivered to the medical examiner.” Apparently the police took pictures, but they don’t get discussed much here. Though measurements are usually also taken, the medical investigator did not “because it was self explanatory what happened. Somebody shot somebody.” [We include this, not to say that measurements were never taken at all, because they were (and you can peek at the state examiner’s autopsy report here), but to show some of the problems with how this case was handled from the beginning.]
- Mike Brown smoked pot regularly and/or was high during his interaction with Wilson.
- Know who else has smoked pot? Justin Bieber. And these grandmas. You should also be aware that marijuana has been decriminalized in 18 states, deemed legal for recreational use in 4 states and D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and D.C.
- Again, this does not justify shooting Brown.
- The toxicology report was positive for cannabinoids in Mike’s system, but it’s important to note the following: “The toxicologist testified that Brown’s blood contained 12 nanograms of active THC per milliliter, a level that he said indicated Brown had consumed cannabis in the previous two or three hours. That contradicted testimony by Dorian Johnson, the friend who was with Brown when Wilson shot him. Johnson, who said he was with Brown all day, testified that they had planned to get high […] but never got around to it. Despite the blood test results, Johnson could be telling the truth. Daily marijuana users have been known to register 12 nanograms or more when they get up in the morning, and they may even perform competently on driving tests at that level.”
- Furthermore, as the above link points out, during the testimony there was a conflation of dosage and blood concentration, which was super misleading to anyone who heard it and took it at face value.
- “Pot is most popularly known as a sedative that relaxes users. One of the prominent arguments against its use, in fact, is that it makes users so sedated that they’re lazy and, as a result, unproductive.” and “There’s actually no reason to believe, based on the available research and the scientific understanding of pot, that marijuana would actually make someone more violent,” Lopez writes.”- German Lopez, Vox
- Mike Brown was reaching for a gun when killed.
- [Updated section 11/29/14] He was unarmed and 12 distinct witnesses (of the 14 that spoke to the issue) testified that he had his hands up—the universal sign of “unarmed, don’t shoot” when he was killed (though there was a lot of contradicting eyewitness info, that was one of the things with near unanimous agreement). Regardless, the fatal shots that killed Brown weren’t shot while he was near the police vehicle, when Wilson claims he was reaching for the gun.
- Here’s a video of Forensic Pathologist Cyril Wecht commenting on the case, and in particular, his thoughts on the ballistics evidence regarding where Brown was shot. Wecht “has been the president of both the American Academy of Forensic Science and the American College of Legal Medicine, and currently heads the board of trustees of the American Board of Legal Medicine” (Wikipedia as bio source for brevity)
- Mike Brown was a threat and could not be taken into custody alive.
- Interesting argument, since many, many known-to-be-dangerous individuals are taken into custody alive all the time. Random example: cop killer, Eric Frein, captured alive (White) while a slew of Black men aren’t as lucky.
- [Updated 11/30/14] Thanks to commenters for posting the source! Some folks have been asking “why not use a taser?” Wilson stated “(…) I usually elect not to carry one. It is not the most comfortable thing. They are very large, I don’t have a lot of room in the front for it to be positioned.” You can find this on page 205 of Grand Jury Volume V, which is page 874 here.
Q: Why are you making this about race?
- Before anything else, look at the responses to events in Ferguson—from those thanking Officer Wilson with racial epithets, to those understanding that this is about institutional racism. Regardless, the responses are proof that it is unequivocably about race: [trigger-warning for the obvious horrors] note all these racist public posts on social media. More racists here.
- Then, there’s the list of unarmed Black folks murdered by police.
- If you want to listen to a spoken word poem that will break your heart and addresses this, peep the video by Javon Johnson.
- To quote Lisa Wade: “A Pew study found that 63% of white and 20% of black people think that Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Darren Wilson is not about race. Those people are wrong.” See why here.
- Some food for thought: young Black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than White men. “Police kill Black Americans at nearly the same rate as Jim Crow era lynchings.” [Added 11/29/14: A commenter clarifies that the folks who made the graphic probably meant in the same quantities, not the same rates.]
- Just know that 2,200 National Guard troops were deployed to Ferguson (compared to 3,100 in Iraq).
- [Added 11/29/14] Someone emailed me share information about #BlackPoetsSpeakOut: “in solidarity with the movements to address racial injustices related to police brutality, including the killing of Michael Brown, poets have been reading poems online under the hashtag #BlackPoetsSpeakOut.” You can read some of them here.
Q: What did riots ever solve? Why are people getting violent?
- Open a history book and take a look at the social change accompanying riots—from basic rights for Blacks and women, to voting rights, to ending war. Succinct case in point here and there.
- “My name’s DeAndre Smith and this is exactly what’s supposed to happen when injustice is happening in your community.”
- “‘So are you saying we should just give up?’ That’s what people ask me when I say things like this. My response: ‘eh, how about just not reducing everything to patience and progress?’ Don’t ask kids to wait around and dodge bullets until the system treats us fairly. Just stop putting that on them. Believe it or not, you don’t have to save the world. And you sure as hell ain’t going to do it on Twitter. Just step back with the riot shaming, and work on your perspective.” – Tyler Reinhard, Hey, Step Back with the Riot Shaming
- People are totally chill with Black Friday sales and going NUTS over them to the point of injuring others, but social justice protests are “too much.”
- “The protesters in Ferguson aren’t irrational or apolitical. They are calling attention to their basic, unmet needs.”
- Peter Linebaugh: “…the thirsty do not ask permission to take a drink, nor the hungry food. Is it the new society? Of course not. But it could be; this is self-activity.”
- Finally, if you’ve ever attended a Pride parade and ESPECIALLY if you’re LGBTQIA, did you forget the Stonewall Riots?
- [Added 9/29/14] Some people take the “chaos” as a good time to hurt folks in the movement, as with the death (being investigated as a homicide) of Deandre Joshua (TW because the beginning of the article details his death), a friend of Dorian Johnson—who was with Mike Brown when he was killed.
- [Added 9/29/14] One of the folks who commented on this post shared this and this, essays that give more historical information about riots, looting, and the rationale behind these behaviors.
“If there are more black people in jails or getting arrested, it’s probably because they commit more crimes.”
- There are a few things at play here. First, let’s take a look at how the definitions of criminal activity are decided in the U.S. — “Social Construction of Crime” from 21st Century Criminology, Sage. 2009.:
- “From the social constructionist perspective, crime is a classification of behavior defined by individuals with the power and authority to make laws that identify some behavior as offensive and render its perpetrators subject to punishment….What behavior they define as crime reflects both their own values and interests and the collective norms and values of the society, or at least the most vociferous segments of it.”
- So, the group in power makes rules and chooses to prosecute petty crimes disproportionately by Blacks and simultaneously let white-collar (mostly by Whites) crimes off with a low punishment, though the total economic cost there is much higher than the petty crimes. Makes loads of sense, right?
- If you want to get more theoretical, read about the commodification of security, changes in the nature of surveillance, and more.
- Who actually commits the most crimes? Take a look at the proportions versus actual numbers of crimes by race. For a more thorough look at the data and how it is manipulated especially in the media, read here. And to put the nail on the metaphoric coffin here, even though Black men are more highly policed, they are not more likely to precipitate police violence. In fact, “police are more likely to kill black people regardless of what they are doing” and “the less clear it is that force was necessary, the more likely the victim is to be black.”
- Blacks and some other groups under the POC umbrella are disproportionately charged with misdemeanors and face frequent police interruption or harassment (perpetual court fees and arrest when unable to pay) in their daily lives, say, for jaywalking. Or maybe your license plate holder is particularly sweet—lawsuit here.
- The thing about the Ferguson disparities in arrests is that it’s not actually that unique at all.
- Want more proof? Check out “The House I Live In” documentary which tackles the War on Drugs and details changes in drug laws and how these disproportionately and INTENTIONALLY criminalized communities of color. Even just the differences in sentencing for use/possession of different types of cocaine (broken down along racialized lines) speaks volumes. None of these things happen accidentally.
- Finally, looking into the “school-to-prison pipeline” (“a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems”) is critical in understanding why there are so many people of color in prisons. This heavily affects Black children, children with disabilities, and those at the intersection of both identities. Here’s a great fact-sheet and infographic on it.
Q: What if Mike Brown had been White? Would you still be outraged? Would it still be police brutality?
- It would’ve still been police brutality, which is deplorable, but not part of a pattern of systematic brutality against a particular group of people. Watch Melissa Harris-Perry break it down in this video.
- Another issue at hand here is that the media describes White versus Black crime differently. For a quick, timely example, look at how Mike Brown is immediately vilified and described as “no angel” while Ted Bundy, a horrific mass murderer, is given way more than the benefit of the doubt. This isn’t just the media, though. The American Psychological Association reported that Black boys are seen as older and as less innocent than White boys.
- This media bias is being directly and visually confronted by people using the #IfIWereGunnedDown and #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtags. You can see the collection of pictures here.
- Language matters because it frames and informs our perspectives. The metaphors we use both reflect and create our realities. The fact that Darren Wilson described Mike Brown as looking like a “demon” and that he felt like “a five year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan” is not just innocent description; it’s telling us A) how Darren Wilson understood the existence of Mike Brown and B) how he, as a Black youth, was dehumanized and distorted in Wilson’s eyes.
“These people are destroying their own cities!”
- Here are just a couple of instances where White people have rioted and destroyed property over petty things, but you do NOT see the same level of media condemnation or widespread White hate about it. [Added 11/29/14: Wikipedia also has some articles on it.] The disproportionate attention (from individuals as well as the media), racialized framing, sensationalizing, and condemning of the actions to engage with the issues in Ferguson = deplorable.
- Protesters are protecting stores from looting and destruction. Some report that gang-members (Bloods and Crips, specifically) are seemingly working together to help (seen here and in HuffPo video above), but we can’t say for sure here!
- Here are some examples of White people rioting.
- Social change is difficult. While the events in Ferguson appear chaotic, it’s important to appreciate the beauty in small kindnesses and people helping each other. There are fundraisers going on for feeding students, rebuilding a looted bakery, and repairing the Ferguson Market Store.
- The Ferguson library is also doing great community-building work.
Q: Why do Black people take this so personally?
- As one person so succinctly put it: “Because, for us, we are one bullet away from our brothers and fathers becoming hashtags.”
- A friend said at a vigil: “with a White cop becoming a millionaire after shooting one of us, it is basically open season on our asses.”
- Black people are taking it personally because it IS personal. These injustices and this violence perpetrated against Black people affects them both directly and indirectly, no matter where in the U.S. they live. Not indicting Darren Wilson has reinforced the message (that is not new, by the way) that Black lives are not as worthy of discussing, saving, or supporting. That is a message being sent to all of America, and directly affecting Black people.
- This image summarizes some of the reasons why Black folks have every right to be pissed off.
- “These killings come on top of other forms of oppression black people face. Mass incarceration of nonwhites is one of them. While African-Americans constitute 13.1% of the nation’s population, they make up nearly 40% of the prison population. Even though African-Americans use or sell drugs about the same rate as whites, they are 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites. Black offenders also receive longer sentences compared to whites. Most offenders are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.” – Adam Hudson
- Finally, you can read the article from Salon by Brittney Cooper: In defense of black rage. If you’re feeling artsy, listen to the song “Black Rage” by Lauryn Hill.
Q: This is not the dream that MLK fought for. What would he say about all this?
- If you’re feeling cheeky or snarky, you can just respond with I “literally don’t know because he was shot and killed too.”
- If you’re NOT feeling snarky, we have a response ready too,sinceMLK actually did comment on riots when he was alive, and said they were “the language of the unheard” and that condemning riots without condemning the conditions that lead people to them would be reprehensible. In fact, he would call that “morally irresponsible.” [Update 11/30/14: Does thatmeanMLK is pro-riot? Nah. It means that you can’t condemn riots without also then condemning the conditions that make them happen.]
- Here’s his full quote: “Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
- As Jay Smooth put it: “The fundamental danger of a non-indictment is not more riots, it is more Darren Wilsons.” Check out how Jay Smooth breaks that down in this video where he addresses MLK, human limits, and riots. [Added 11/30/14] Here’s a transcribed version if you prefer to read or need that style for accessibility purposes!
- Here is MLK talking about order and “White moderates,” the people who prioritize order over justice, who are in his opinion the most dangerous and the most detrimental to Black folks’ fight for justice and freedom.
“If you’re out causing trouble, of course shit’s gonna happen!”
- First of all, what does “causing trouble” mean? Reducing direct action and protests to achieve goals of visibility to “trouble” minimizes their goals, impact, and meaning. It’s a clear tactic to make something seem worthless, like “drama.” If we ignored all that, though, the problem is that shit doesn’t happen equally when you account for all other factors. Black men are seen as “causing trouble” even when doing the exact same thing a White man would do and who would not be read as “causing trouble.”
- Saying these protests are “causing trouble” is in the same line of victim-blaming thought that excuses rapes, and often perpetuated by the same people who look at White murderers and call for compassion, or focus on the fact that they “must have been disturbed or mentally ill to do these horrible things.” See that summed up in a single tweet here.
- In response to arguments like this, where Black men are told to “pull up their pants” and “get educated” as a means of protection from state violence, a set of tweets notes how the argument is terrible and relies on broken ideas and respectability politics. Many Black and Latino parents do give this kind of advice to their children anyway in hopes of shielding them from harm, but it’s very different coming from White and non-Black people.
- Iranian-American Shirin Barghi made some heartbreaking art of the last words Black folks like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin (apparently) uttered. There’s also art for Kimani Gray (16), Kenneth Chamberlain (66), Eric Garner (43), Amadou Diallo (23), John Crawford (22), Oscar Grant (22), Sean Bell (23), and Kendrec McDade (19).
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