Scoot: The death of Michael Brown and violence in the streets
by Scoot,posted Aug 13 2014 5:46PM
The violence that has erupted in Ferguson, Missouri following a police officer shooting and killing a black teenager proves that many people are living on top of a racial powder keg. Michael Brown was walking with friends Saturday in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, when police made contact with him. There are two starkly different accounts of what happened next.
Police say that Michael Brown made physical contact with a 6-year-veteran of the local police force and attempted to grab the officer’s gun. But Brown’s friend, who was with him at the time, said that the police were the aggressors. Another witness said that Michael Brown had his hands in the air as if he was surrendering when police shot him.
The FBI has joined the investigation into what actually happened, but in the meantime, tension is high. Ferguson police are withholding the name and race of the officer because of death threats.
The death rate of young black males at the hands of police officers has led to an understandable assumption that many officers are prejudiced. However, there should be no justification for young black males – or anyone – allowing contempt and disrespect for law enforcement to encourage them to physically challenge the police.
What I find most discouraging about this racial conflict in Missouri is that it reflects the volatile racial tension in America. There is too little tolerance for the truth. Tragedies are used as campaign messages to promote the racial unrest that feeds the appetite of leaders and the media. We should all stop and recognize how often we make assumptions based on our perceived images of stereotypes.
For one group – young black males are responsible for a disproportionate percentage of crime and murder, therefore, police have no choice except to profile and assume every young black male is a criminal. For the other group – the police are prejudiced and wrongly assume all black males are criminals.
In the case of the shooting death of Michael Brown, we do not yet know which – if either – group is right, and sadly, there are too many people who are willing to use their assumption and stereotyping to pass judgment. Even Michael Brown’s parents are denouncing the violence that is a reaction to what many believe is another police murder of a young black male.
A young black male was killed by a police officer and most speculate the officer is white, but we don’t know if his race is really a factor in the tragedy. We should all hope that the truth is revealed following an objective investigation – though the truth does not serve those who are not interested in the truth.
If a police officer was overanxious in dealing with a young black male on the streets of America – then he must be identified and punished for taking a life. However, if a young black male allowed contempt for the police to become physical – then that truth must be acknowledged.
What I am about to suggest is not fair – but much in life isn’t fair. The unfortunate reality is that if you are a young black male in America, you will be stereotyped by many, including some police officers. While that is not fair on any level, it is a reality that young black males should expect. At least until everyone comes to accept the idea that no individual should be judged by the group they are associated with.
When my son was a teenager, I knew his appearance and style would lead to police profiling him – and they did. I told him that he must always be respectful of law enforcement – even if he knew they were wrong for profiling him. I am not making a direct comparison between a white teenager and a black teenager when it comes to perception – but it does serve to remind us that many police officers profile and act on their feelings about stereotypes.
If a white teenager’s appearance might lead him or her to be stereotyped as a trouble-maker, then they must understand that, and rather than react with an attitude, they must put their pride aside and be respectful – even if the police officer has not earned respect.
Stereotyping is NOT fair – but if it is reality - then it’s important to understand that reality.