04 December, 2014

content warning for violence and racism

I don't expect this to change anyone's mind, because it is seeming to me that a lot of my fellow white people just don't care and refuse to acknowledge when an innocent black person is murdered by a white person for no reason. This isn't going to be a very good or original piece of writing, but I don't want to be silent about this either.

Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and all the other black people who have been killed this way in recent months and recent years, were innocent people who did not deserve to die. The people who killed them were wrong and racist, as were people who defended their killers and the people who, in most of these cases, have allowed the killers to go completely unpunished.

Of course no human being is completely innocent. No one is an angel. This doesn't mean anyone deserves to die for being a normal imperfect human being, and attempting to "tell the other side of the story" by talking about the victim's drinking, supposed petty crimes, or social media posts is hateful. When people tried to defend George Zimmerman by showing that Trayvon swore and talked about sex on Twitter, all they did was reiterate how horrible Zimmerman's crime was by showing the average and infinitely complex young person whose life he cut off for no reason. Yes, Trayvon was "no angel," but only in the sense that he was a regular kid.

After Mike Brown was killed, the Ferguson police department went around looking for something that would make him look like a criminal. They have successfully convinced many people that Mike stole cigars from a convenience store prior to his death, and that he can be seen on video physically harassing an employee at the store. First of all, this wouldn't excuse his murder and it can't possibly have been the motivation for Darren Wilson to kill him, since Wilson could not have known about it at the time. But it is also unbelievable that Mike even did this. There is a video of Mike buying the cigars he supposedly stole and the store owner does not think that the person in the surveillance camera video is Mike. (There are sources for this in item 3 of this helpful master post about Ferguson.)

The situation with Mike Brown's "robbery" is very telling. It shows how if powerful people want to cover up a crime, they can find a way to make the victim look bad and they can make the public believe it. Not only are some white people already biased against black men, but when authority figures show the surveillance video and say it is Mike Brown, it can be hard to question them. It was hard for me to believe that the police were this dishonest in their attempts to protect a murderer--but they really were. The "robbery" brings home that any victim could be portrayed this way. Even if there existed a human being who was impossibly morally perfect, that wouldn't protect their reputation if they were a black person murdered by a cop. The facts could be twisted to convince the public that they were a bad person and somehow frightened their murderer into killing them.

Some of these victims had done illegal things in their lives; some had not; some were big and strong; and some were people who couldn't possibly have been physically threatening, like Renisha McBride who had just been injured in a car accident. But not only can some of these details be misrepresented, they are not relevant.  What these black murder victims have in common is that they didn't deserve what was done to them and their killers should have been unequivocally condemned by public opinion and the law. The fact is that over and over, their killers have been excused.