Take a look at this picture. It reveals the decision of the Ferguson grand jury. Tell me what you see.
I’m writing this before the grand jury decision is announced, but click here for the obligatory link I’ll add. By the time you read this, many people are outraged. I don’t have a clue what the decision will be, but I can guarantee that something about it — and the aftermath of its announcement — will confirm the worst of what millions of people believe.
If Officer Darren Wilson is indicted, it would confirm for many people that cops are killers and deserve to be attacked. For others, it would confirm that civilized society is under assault by those who are being allowed to destroy it — and that our valiant protectors are being harmed.
If Wilson is not indicted, it would confirm for many people that an evil and corrupt system is willing to let white cops murder young black men without accountability. For others, the aftermath would confirm that they need to prepare for a race war against lawless hoodlums.
It’s not a pretty picture. I suspect things are going to get ugly.
I don’t have an opinion about whether Wilson should be indicted, because I’ll never know the facts. Based on the available information, I suspect Wilson handled the situation is a way that escalated it and that he could have made better choices that would have led to a better outcome. (I also strongly suspect he was following his training to always be in charge of a situation.)
At the same time, the idea that Michael Brown didn’t do anything wrong seems increasingly suspect to me. Some of the evidence that’s come out suggests the early reports that he had his hands up aren’t true. Maybe he did struggle with Wilson and go after his gun. I just don’t know. I can’t know.
Anyone who claims to know is looking at an inkblot and coming up with what his existing biases tell him — and that’s true for everyone with dogmatic positions about this.
I agree that there is a serious problem with police misconduct in this country. I’ve experienced minor examples of abuse of power myself, and officers have recently told me numerous stories off the record of things they’ve been involved with — or shut their eyes to seeing. Police culture is sick and something needs to change.
Minority groups are right to be concerned that “walking while black” or “driving while Hispanic” are the sorts of things that put them at risk with police. Anyone who denies that those things happen is ignoring reality.
On the other hand, if the leaders of those groups would spend more efforts to rebuild their communities — both economics and family structure — as they do on political protests and lobbying for tax money, I suspect we would see a change in the current sad fact that minorities are grossly overrepresented among criminals.
I don’t know how to solve this problem. I can point a few fingers on some issues and suggest a few things that could make a difference on both sides, but the core issue is so entrenched — and trust is so low on both sides — that I don’t see any reasonable or simple answers.
Whatever the decision of the grand jury is, what people see in the decision will tell us a lot about their existing beliefs, but not much about what actually happened.
What really happened between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown? I will never know. You will never know. But that’s not going to stop most people from confidently asserting “the truth” about what happened.
Something has to change in the racial dynamics of this country, because things like this are going to happen more and more frequently. People will die. Communities will burn. Both sides’ beliefs are going to become hardened. Before long, nobody will even care about the facts, because everyone will be certain he already knows the truth.
Maybe we’ve already reached that point.