Hours after the announcement was made that there would be no indictment against Darren Wilson, Ferguson community braced itself for another cop to get away with murdering an unarmed citizen. Although debates will continue for the next few weeks about whether justice was readily served or if another guilty cop got off, one thing remains: there is no justice for the community and the people that live in a corrupt system.
In all honesty, I am disappointed by the verdict of Wilson not being indicted and not because it's race baiting, or I hate the police. It's because after looking at all the evidence, regardless of the situation, I think Wilson did not act in accordance with his job. Even if he feared for his safety, which many argue for, there was no need to continue to shoot the victim as he was running away. In his own testimony and later in an interview, Wilson mentioned not having his taser because it was uncomfortable to wear and felt that using mace wouldn't diffuse the threat. In case after case, we hear of officers “reaching” for the taser only to mistake it for a gun. Or we hear of officers shooting a victim 12, 14, or 16 times.
Yet, this points to a larger issue and the one I believe most people wanted to see acknowledged with the indictment against Wilson. To be clear, an indictment against Wilson would not prove that he was guilty, it would just an open a case to further investigate the circumstances that led to the shooting.
A recent event that highlights the conflicts the police and communities face was presented in the case of Chief Edward Flynn in Milwaukee county. Chief Flynn investigated a shooting of an African American man, Dontre Hamilton, by one of his officers, Christopher Manney. Hamilton, who suffered from schizophrenia, was shot 14 times by Officer Manney who first responded at the scene. Although differing from other cases, as the victim put up a fight with the officer, after a deeper investigation Chief Flynn decided to fire the officer for improperly approaching the situation and not following police protocol.
Instead of being supported by his officers, the police union held a hearing and overwhelming vote no confidence in Flynn in hopes of getting the mayor's attention to remove Flynn from office. The outside community, already reeling from the death of another minority, responded with frustration suggesting that Officer Manney should be held accountable for the death with prison time. Yet, the important statements from Flynn came when he was being interviewed after a police commission meeting. He reflected on the overwhelming deaths in the minority community, the racial disparity in the community, and the devastating number of violent crimes against African Americans. He also speaks on the community’s lack of response to violence until after the third shooting of a minority by an officer, but not of the gangs that surround the area. He also attributes the continued violence as a result of high capacity firearms flooding into the city.
There is a multitude of statements that Flynn vocalizes that touch on very important issues. Ferguson has been the tipping point for these issues, but we as a society are ignoring all the real problems of a system riddled with corruption. Flynn is right to fire a police officer who did not properly do his job, the community has a right to be upset with the police shooting another minority, and Flynn is right to show frustration at a community filled with violence but only gets upset when police violence occurs.
All these issues point to the lack of education, proper training, an over militarized police force (where they’re too excited with their new weapons, pointing it at citizens and as if almost forgetting it’s a deadly weapon), and lack of law application to officers. It also highlights the poverty and lack of economic opportunities these communities have, which in most cases, leads them to fall into destructive paths. It also reveals the struggle police officers face with a lack of budgets to properly go after the “right” criminals. We can also see how without the proper budget, the proper training, and lack of concern for life, because that particular community is wrapped in violence everyday with itself, that an officer will shoot a minority and see no real harm done. It happens all the time.
Yet, these all are the underlying issues to the problem. The whole system from properly funded community to providing them with opportunities, to getting rid of laws that target minorities (which probably further fuel a cop's resentment toward a particular minority group) need to be addressed if we're serious about changing the situation. To say it's just a race issue or its just one corrupt cop, is to ignore the whole problem and leaves the system open to continue to hurt its citizens.
When we look at the outcome of Michael Brown and the no indictment against Darren Wilson, we can see the system reveal deeper issues. While Michael Brown was a large guy, in Wilson's testimony we can see very racist and generalizedstatements about making Brown appear as a “dangerous black man.” We can hear the voices of witnesses that spoke of Brown being a very caring person and how he was just about to start college. Instead we focus on how he had a pot in his system, like that should change anything (lest we forget the War on Drugs campaign and the racial profiling it continues today). With Wilson, we can see the lack of proper training he had, and the overdependence on a gun and violence in disposing of a potential threat--a life. We also see the lack of empathy for another human being with his comments of no remorse for the situation.
In all honesty, our biggest problem is a lack of remorse. We feel no compassion to the victim or the perpetrator (who’s at fault because of the system) and instead give it to one and project violence and menace on the other. Compassion and empathy towards a fellow person is what allows a community to reach out to one another and help them turn away from violence. It allows a state or government to properly assist its own people without letting them starve or live homeless in the streets. It's what makes officers question the shooting of another being, regardless of the situation. It allows each of us to reel in pain when a fellow human being dies. Without compassion things only get more tragic, people become more fearful, and react in a more radical and unforgiving way. Violence becomes the only answer and destruction of a society ensues. We are at the breaking point and Ferguson has shown us this. People are desperate to show us that they can be compassionate of one another. We can see the empathy for one another as citizens stand guard in front of small business to stop looters and the out pour of citizens filling the streets of cities across the US in support of justice. We have to be willing to see that there are deep problems in our society and stop simplifying them into one issue or another. There are many issues to a problem and at the end of the day, it's the system we've maintained that has us where we're at now.
Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated for his honesty and courage to find a middle ground. He changed people's minds and inspired generations with his “I Have a Dream” speech. Yet, one thing people always tend to forget or ignore, is that at the end of his life, he saw all that he had fought for begin to fall apart. When the Voting Rights Act was put into law, he saw people move away from helping the still struggling communities and lack of opportunities many people faced. He started to see his fellow activist get murdered and be buried before him. It was at the most opportune time that the momentum with the civil rights movement and a majority wanting to push for change that he expected the public would go the extra mile. Instead people figured they pushed for enough progress for the black community and believed with equal voting that made everyone equal. Yet it was this moment that was lost on Americans where we could've had an altered history and pushed for a more equal society through economics. Without a proper economic system for everyone, racial groups will be left in the dark. It is now, with the momentum, passion, and unity we're seeing with Ferguson that we are given a similar opportunity. It's up to us what we do with it.