I went to the San Francisco Auto Show over the Thanksgiving Weekend – with Grandson Auggie and his stellar father – my Son-In-Law – Gabe. and I want to write about it. But I kept thinking about the Ferguson Grand Jury and Michael Brown and that makes the Auto Show seem too frivolous. Now a Staten Island Grand Jury upped the ante with Eric Garner and the Auto Show has faded behind a red mist of – I don’t exactly know what to call it, really – something between Sadness and Rage.
Sadness that my country is not the exemplar of Fairness and Justice that I want it to be and Rage that, even with all the Unfairness and Injustice, with all the Inequality, with the biggest prison system the world has ever seen, most of us still think that The United States is the Greatest Country In The World. I so desperately want to make it somebody’s fault – somebody besides me, of course – but there are no bad guys here. Or, maybe, more accurately, we are all bad guys.
I have my opinions about the guilt or culpability of Darren Wilson, Michael Brown’s killer, but those opinions are based on somebody else’s opinions because I wasn’t there. What makes me sad, however, isn’t the guilt or innocence of Officer Wilson, it is the typical-ness of the act. The dispose-ability of young black men. A couple of days ago, another young black man, Rumain Brisbon, was killed in Phoenix by the police, and I don’t think it was even mentioned in the New York Times.
Michael Brown was killed. That is a fact. Still, it is a fact that does not mean the same thing to everybody. When I goggled different variations of How many black men were shot by police last year, I didn’t get much; the numbers are not as available as I would have thought. However, I did get this from The San Francisco Chrony, dated December 2010: The NAACP presented statistics from Oakland authorities on 45 officer-involved shootings from 2004 to 2008, one-third of which were fatal. Of the people shot, 37 were black and none was white. Although weapons were not found in 40 percent of cases, no officers were charged.
In 2010, Oakland was about 28% black and about 82% of officer-involved shootings were against black people. Let’s stipulate that those are accurate numbers, still, there are several ways to look at them. To me – and, apparently, the NAACP – it shows black people are shot by the police at a higher rate because they are black. To Conservatives, even though their default position is normally that they don’t like or trust the government – for example, conservative Fox News sided with Cliven Bundy, and his heavily armed friends, over the government agents trying to collect taxes that the courts had ruled are due – see the shooting disparity as proof that black people are more violent.
Sadly, many good Liberals pretty much believe the same thing. Unlike Conservatives, most Liberals like the government. Their default position is that the government is good and usually works. They believe the authorities are trying their best and that the police should be given the benefit of the doubt. They point to the fact that Michael Brown had just stolen some cigars and that Eric Garner was, in fact, engaged in an illegal activity. That is not to say that Liberals like that Officer Wilson killed Brown, just that the killing was unfortunate, rare, and – to a certain extent – understandable. It was unfortunate, but it isn’t rare, still it is understandable. Michael Brown was – how I hate to put in the past tense here, but is doesn’t fit – big and Wilson was scared. Later, Wilson testified I felt another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean, it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger and the, I’ve already taken two to the face and I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right. Officer Wilson said Brown was like The Hulk with terrible resilience and incredible strength. Of course Wilson was scared.
A huge part of why Darren Wilson was scared is because he was under-trained. Then, to make the situation worse, he was heavily armed. That is a bad combination. It isn’t, however, a combination based on decisions Officer Wilson made, it is a combination the City Council along with the Chief of Police- who drew up and accepted the budgets for Police Training and equipment purchases – made. Wilson being under-trained and heavily armed was also a decision facilitated by several Congresses and several Administrations, including the Obama Administration, whose numerous bills to improve Local Policing, or as they like to call it, Local Law Enforcement, leaned heavily on equipment over training.
That is the American way. Washington is stuffed full of lobbyists pushing expensive equipment. They push it on the military and the police, both national police and local police. As a result, the police have become armed as if they were an occupying army (and it has become hard for them to resist acting that way). We want to believe that Ferguson and Staten Island and Phoenix are rare, but the people facing that occupying army know it isn’t rare. They know that the potential of something going wrong is alway there. That is not an accident, it is how the system has been designed. That is very sad,