In the months since the shooting of Michael Brown and the days since the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson on any charges related to the shooting, one thought has been in the back of my mind:
Maybe Darren Wilson’s story is truth.
Maybe Officer Wilson was attacked by Michael Brown, and was justified in his actions in defending himself. Maybe everyone protesting this shooting and indictment decision are operating under false assumptions.
Even if this is true, a very important issue still remains: this is so much bigger than Michael Brown.
In the last 400 years, the area that is now the United States saw the importation of millions of African slaves, denial of basic human rights to Black men and women, separate and unequal treatment in law, education, and civil rights, and a white majority citizenry that has often appeared not to care. It is this history and so much more that have led people to protest. It is the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police; the death of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old shot and killed by police; it is the death of 4 children in a church bombing in Alabama; it is the death of Emmitt Till; it is hundreds of years of slavery; it is firehoses and police dogs; it is a lack of quality education opportunities; it is redlining and segregation; it is a lack of response or attempts to mend wounds from the White community.
So often, my White brothers and sisters forget that people of color have a different life experience. It is difficult for us to understand why this incident is so painful to the Black community because we don’t think it affects our lives. We also have a tendency as White Americans to only see people or events as individual, and not as a part of a system. That is why there is such a vocal White majority refusing to hear the cries of our hurting Black brothers and sisters: if we are not affected (or so we think), then you must be mistaken in your cries. We cannot acknowledge that the numerous police shootings relates to anything accept individual, isolated incidents. We cannot see that there is a still a racial issue if Whites are hurt by the system too.
Black men are not the only people killed by police in this country. This acknowledgement, however, does not mean that there are not still racial issues or racist pieces in our systems and our country. Raising these issues does not make a person anti-American; on the contrary, it is in an attempt to make this country better that so many are raising their voices. Choosing not to see or deal with the issues doesn’t help our country; it only hurts it. Additionally, calling for police accountability does not make a person anti-police. For many, it is a desire to see the police truly as our “finest” that leads them to call for accountability and reform.
So maybe Darren Wilson is right, and he did need to fire 12 shots and hit Michael Brown 6 times in order to defend himself. Maybe the only form of defense possible was to shoot to kill. However, treating the Michael Brown shooting as an isolated incident and refusing to see the broken systems that led to this and so many other deaths is a failure to understand that we have a problem, and we need to find a solution before others are lost.