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Scoot: Ferguson shooting - have you made up your mind?

We all watch as the protesting and violence continue in Ferguson, MO, amid growing questions about what really happened when a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed young black male.  

Did a white officer feel that his life was threatened when a young black male charged at him and was, therefore, justified in shooting and killing him? Or did a white police officer profile a young black male as a criminal and become aggressive in handling the encounter?

The police officer says that he was attacked, and that Michael Brown was attempting to grab the officer’s gun and he shot him in self-defense. There are eyewitnesses who support the assumption that the white officer treated a young black male differently than he would have treated a young white male.  

There is a great temptation to believe what you want to believe based on your perception of the world – but we don’t really know exactly what happened.  The family-ordered autopsy report showing that Michael Brown was shot 6 times – 2 in the head and 4 in the arm – does not tell us what really happened.  So, why are many people on both sides of this debate so sure they know what happened and why does it seem what they want to believe is more important than the truth? 

Most of us never heard of Ferguson, MO – a suburb of St. Louis – which has always been a racially charged city. We have learned that racial tension has been festering in Ferguson for years and the nearly 70% African-American community does not feel represented by a police department that is about 95% white and a city council that is disproportionately white as well.  The reasons and the remedies for those disparities are a completely different topic – but the perception of misrepresentation yields a sense of injustice.

What is happening in Ferguson is a made-for-media drama.  There is the racial issue, there are innocent people who want to protest peacefully, and there is the violence which has erupted live on television. The cable TV news networks have special theme music introducing their coverage of the shooting and the events that have followed, and a title is usually given to the coverage. One cable news network has titled the coverage, “The Shooting of Michael Brown.”  It is presented as a live drama – which it is – and millions are glued to their television sets watching the drama unfold without knowing what will happen or how it will end.

If wonder what would happen if the TV media stopped covering every development?  Certainly, the TV coverage would not be as extensive if the protest was guaranteed to be peaceful.

But before you criticize the media – remember that the media makes decisions based on what it believes will capture our attention.  The shooting and the subsequent events in Ferguson tap into America’s racially-divided past and present – which touches us emotionally.  No matter what you think caused the shooting death of a young black male – you are driven by passionate emotion.

I am not suggesting that the media not cover this event or any events that can lead to heated debates – but I am suggesting that the media coverage is based on the fact that the issues of race and justice already exist and those who follow the media should do more to analyze their emotional response, rather than quickly choose a side.

We should expect police officers to respect everyone – even young black males -- and we should also expect everyone to be respectful to police officers, even if we know they are wrong at the moment of a verbal encounter. 

I have heard an attorney who is in Ferguson supporting the protesters and pleading for peace say that justice needs to be served by indicting the police officer.  At this point, we are not certain that an indictment would be justice. It seems logical from what we know, but we do not yet know for certain.
The Ferguson Police Department appears to have mishandled the release of information, which leads citizens to understandably questioning if the police department is hiding something to protect one of their own.

Many African-Americans see our system of justice as unfairly arresting and trying young black males.  If you are not black – then is it fair to think you know what it’s like to be black in America?  If I were a young black male or raising a young black male – I would be more afraid than I am as a white male.  No American should feel that they are immediately judged when they are anywhere in public – and yet many are judged.

But – in spite of perceived injustices – young black males should show respect for law enforcement because anything less is a no-win situation on the street.

The sad truth is that if both the white police officer and the young black male are to blame for a situation that escalated out-of-control – only the young black male is dead.  The officer can say he’s sorry – but the young male has no voice.  And unfortunately, that has been the reality in too many situations across America.

We should “listen” to each other rather than “shout” at each other.  President Obama made that comment when addressing the shooting and unrest in Ferguson, MO – but as we know – there will be those who will dismiss whatever the President says, even when he is right.

At this point – we don’t really know what happened that Saturday afternoon in Ferguson.  So why are so many sure they know exactly what happened?

Tags :  
Locations : FergusonMissouriSt. Louis
People : Michael BrownObama

08/19/2014 12:00PM
Scoot: Why are so many so sure they know what happened in Ferguson?
Please Enter Your Comments Below
08/19/2014 11:06PM
Made up your mind?
Change the victim to a skinhead and the officer as a black cop, somewhere like Fontana Ca. Would this even get press?
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