It has been over a week since Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police office in Ferguson, MO. Sadly, it seems like the protests, overly aggressive police response, violence perpetrated by a few, and general chaos, will continue to get worse before it gets better. Resolution does not seem at hand.
There is an important principal at work here: THIS IS NOT REALLY ABOUT THAT.
In other words, the tension being experienced in Ferguson is about more than just the Michael Brown shooting. While it may have started with that, it is clear that there something bigger and deeper that is causing the angst, anger and protests in Ferguson, and has touched off emotions across the country.
And this shouldn’t really be a surprise. While many of us (and by “many of us”, I generally mean “many of us white middle & upper middle class folks”) like to pretend that RACE is no longer an issue in our country, the reality is that race is and always will be a major issue in our country. Frankly, given our history, race will always be an issue — one that we need to recognize, embrace, talk about and work through. And when we don’t, eventually things explode.
Here are a couple of thoughts, in no particular order:
1. Whether Michael Brown stole cigars or not is 100% irrelevant. The video released by the police is nothing more than a red herring to divert attention from the real issues. Even if he stole cigars, the police officer who shot him did not know he might be involved. And more so, the penalty for stealing cigars is not being shot 6 times.
2. Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times, including two shots to the head. While we don’t have all the facts yet, we do know that. He was also unarmed. That we know as well. Some have suggested that his killing was an “unprovoked assassination” while others have said that he “bum rushed” the police officer and was trying to get his gun. Hopefully a full investigation (by federal authorities) will answer some of these questions. In the meantime, let’s just all agree that this a “police fail”. No matter what happened, an unarmed teenager should not be shot 6 times by the police, including two shots to the head (designed to kill). This is unacceptable and there needs to be accountability.
3. It is hard to overstate this point: just about every decision the local officials have made since the incident has been wrong and has escalated the tensions. From leaving Michael’s body exposed in the street for hours to refusing to release the officers name to describing the shooting as “more than a few shots” to the total “military response” — hard to imagine a greater level of incompetence by local leadership.
4. Capt. Ron Johnson seems like a very good man… but he is not a superman.
5. While this is a local issue in response to a local shooting, there are some bigger issues that are being revealed here… issues of race, but also serious constitutional issues around the right to assemble and protest, freedom of the press, etc. These should be deeply disturbing to all Americans.
6. It goes without saying that (a) Americans have a right (and maybe an obligation) to protest; and (b) looting and violence are never justified and never helpful and always wrong. However, a few people looting and being violent does not justify the militarized response that has been seen from police.
7. It is worth remembering that the filing of charges and arrest of someone in this country is based on probable cause. In other words, the police officer should be charged… there is quite obviously probable cause… certainly the officer deserves full due process, but that will come later.
8. Here is a great post that everyone should read: 12 Things White People Can Do Now. Please read it.
9. Again, it goes without saying (and therefore worth repeating) that the vast majority of police officers are good public servants worthy of our appreciation and respect. While this fact does not excuse the ones who are bad, we should not use the few bad ones to attack and denigrate those many (most) who have integrity and serve well.
10. As a Christian, all of this moves me to pray for peace and pray that the Prince of Peace would rule and be Lord of all.
Join me in prayer… I welcome your thoughts as well.