Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gunning 'Em Down

"313 is not my lucky number."
I'm recently involved in an email conversation with a dear friend who thinks we should just "wait" before we come to any conclusions about what happened in Ferguson, MO. I politely demurred. I don't think there's any question about the broad outline of the story: a cop shot an unarmed black teen (Michael Brown) to death. How exactly did it happen? Some witnesses say the guy had his hands up and was basically in a submissive position; others disagree. In fact, there are several versions. You can find a video of what the victim's friend, who was with him during the incident, said here and here. Both of these accounts are in sync. Does this guy look like he's making it up as he goes along? Fabricating a story because he and his friend were actually the villains of this piece? Or does it sound like a guy who's just seen his friend shot down and was scared shitless himself? I suppose we're going to get several different stories on this whenever the "investigation" of the incident gets finished. (I've read that there are going to be at least three investigations, including one by the Justice Dept.) But we now do know that this one cop, Darren Wilson, shot the guy six times, twice in the head. Something's not right here.

I'm not prejudging--or am I?--when I observe that cops shooting and killing young black men are hardly a rarity in the Land of the Free, which is why I don't see that "waiting" for a answer is really going to change much of anything. This article, and accompanying data, contends that a black man is shot by police or vigilantes once every 28 hours in this country. That's 313 in the year 2012. It would repay your glancing at it. The numbers are convincing. And even if it's only half-true, that's still a dead black man at the hands of cops three times a week. Does that sound like we don't have a problem?

Here's what Some Assembly Required has to say, a different tack:
Inquiring Mind: What makes you think that the clash between the poor and the police in St. Louis is about race, rather than the continuing economic slavery the descendants of slaves have been kept in for 125 years? How long before the 50 million Americans who are poor realize that being poor gives them more in common than the shades of their skin divide them, that being poor is as big a crime as being black? That united they would be unstoppable? Maybe it starts in the #QuickTrip People's Park.
And that's a good argument too, except the "descendants of slaves" are all African-Americans, and the institution they descended from in America was strictly race-based.
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