Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the article misstated the police shootings as “murder.” However, the Associated Press Stylebook defines “murder” as “malicious, premeditated homicide” and notes that “a person should not be described as a murderer until convicted of the charge.”
By Alexa Epitropoulos | firstname.lastname@example.org
The fact that Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown on an early August morning, won’t have a day in court should be alarming, but not surprising.
The signs that Wilson wouldn’t be charged were present since the beginning. Over the weekend, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon even went so far as to declare a state of emergency, assuming, correctly, that the grand jury announcement would create a wave of unrest.
Far before the grand jury began to deliberate, the protests over Brown’s death, which captivated the media and the public’s attention throughout the late summer, saw protesters who took to the street – and the journalists who followed them – treated brutally, rather than protected, by the police.
The unrest, while it has become violent at times, is easy to understand. The individual at the heart of the issue, 18-year-old Brown, is dead, while his killer is not only alive, but able to walk free.
While an indictment would not necessarily mean justice, it would at least mean one victory for crimes against young minority men, which are rarely heard in court.
Brown’s death, in fact, stings more because it has precedent. While violence against white men and women receive instant sympathy and attention from the courts, crimes against black men are largely ignored.
Those that do come forward are, like Brown’s, because of the efforts of others to bring injustice to light. The death of Trayvon Martin, who was only a year older than Brown, attracted similar media attention due to the efforts of Martin’s parents and others.
Like Ferguson, Martin’s case ended with his killer, George Zimmerman, walking away with a verdict of not guilty. Brown’s death, however, will never be tried in criminal court. His killer will receive no justice.
Instead, Wilson, a 28-year-old St. Louis resident, will walk away unscathed; a beacon of the failures of the American justice system.
The deaths of Brown and Martin show how broken the system has become. More importantly, their deaths show that it’s possible – and even plausible – to walk away with taking someone’s life.
The deaths of minority men, especially young black men, are prevalent and they often go unpunished.
In 2009, Victor Steen, a 17-year-old Pensacola resident, was tased and run over by a police officer. Earlier this year, 16-year-old Kimani Gray was shot seven times by police officers in New York City. In the last few days, a 12-year-old was killed by police for carrying a toy gun.
While all were killed, the officers who killed them have yet to or were never found guilty of a crime. They were able to go home, spend time with their families, build upon their futures, while young men like Brown had those opportunities stolen from them.
There is a problem when police officers and neighborhood watch leaders feel that the only way to contend with a threat is to use a weapon with deadly force. There’s a larger problem when those killed are overwhelmingly young black males.
The sad truth is, Wilson not being indicted sends a clear message that the lives of young black men are worthless and deserve no justice. The argument is, after all, not whether Wilson killed Brown. The argument is if Brown deserved it.
Every time a young man like Brown or Martin is gunned down in the street, it sends a message that we simply don’t care about certain groups. And that certain individuals, namely the law enforcement we’re supposed trust in, are above the law.