Ferguson, Under Cover of Darkness
Why does America still regard black life as expendable?
There was a video posted on social media the night that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch stepped in front of a worldwide audience to deliver the news that Officer Darren Wilson would avoid trial. The video featured the diminutive Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, stepping down from her perch outside the police station, amid a crowd of protesters, anguished and fed up.
For 109 days, McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr, the father of the teenager who was shot and killed by Wilson, waited for answers. They, like the rest of us, found out about McCulloch’s announcement by watching CNN.
It’s a curious thing, to make these types of announcements at night. It’s always curious to do anything in the dark of night that could just as easily be done in the day, especially when things are as tense as they have been in Ferguson. For weeks, the National Guard has been present among the people in Ferguson without any (public) disclosure of whether an indictment would fall; it took four days for the National Guard to arrive in the drowned city of New Orleans after Katrina.
As the cameras covered chaos, McSpadden stepped down from her perch, apparently distraught, to go someplace, presumably any place but where she was. Maybe someplace where reality didn’t bite so hard, or where the cameras weren’t so bright. In time, McSpadden will return to what is to become a new normal in her life without her son. Perhaps she will return to work, where officemates will offer empty platitudes and condolences, coworkers will whisper about the rumored box of cigarillos that her son allegedly stole and offer it as the reason he lied dead in the street for four long hours in the midwestern sun.
She will have no answers. There were none provided by the prosecutor who did an impressive job defending Wilson while blaming the news media so fervently it would give Sarah Palin a run for her money. He blamed social media, too, and attacked the character of eyewitnesses, but provided very little information about the man who pulled the trigger and took a child’s life.
A smirk crawling across his face, he was not a prosecutor who seemed dismayed by the loss of a case.
He mentioned nothing of the shots fired, did not bother to account for how many there were nor how far away Wilson and Brown stood when Wilson pulled the trigger. He cited that Wilson was treated for his injuries — the ones that made him fear for his life — but a quick look at the photos provided by the prosecutor’s office suggests that Wilson, who police initially reported suffered from a fracture to his orbital eye socket, perhaps just suffers from a pesky case of eczema. His eyes, which are wide open in the photos, are a spectacular shade of bright, bullshitter blue.
“Medical records showed [Darren Wilson] was advised to take Aleve” if his supposedly life-threatening injuries caused him any pain. In Wilson’s testimony, Brown is described as a “demon,” someone who appeared “angry” because he was being shot and “bulked up” because of it. It’s par for the course that unarmed black children become superhuman in the eyes of men who kill them in an irrational panic.
We will hear about this fear again, just as we heard about it in the case of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, in the case of 12-year old Tamir Rice who was fatally shot by Cleveland police officers and Akai Gurley who was killed by NYPD while unarmed in a dark stairwell.
This story all happens again because there are no structures in place to prevent it from happening, because we have a president who once spoke with elegant nuance about race — and who now says awful things like “nobody needs policing more than poor communities” instead of talking about more jobs, better schools, and well, racism.
There will be more Lesley McSpaddens because there was Mamie Till and countless unnamed before her, because little has changed in the ways this country regards black life as expendable, and black men and boys worthy of contempt and fear. Because Ella Baker’s proposition that “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens” still hits home.
Which is exactly where Lesley McSpadden and Darren Wilson both went last night.
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