The most prominent domestic story in the United States, sadly, remains that of the shooting of Ferguson, Missouri Michael Brown by a police officer and the days of demonstrations and riots that have followed it. One of the saddest things about the matter is how impossible it is to write about without pre-conditioning the story. I elected to write it as I did but many would condemn that as sweeping the facts under the carpet, preferring “black teenager Michael Brown” and “white police officer”. The reality is that at this point we do not know if those supplemental facts are relevant or not and we may never know.
It may be that any police officer in the situation in which this particular police officer found himself would have responded in the same way, regardless of the races of the principles and the misunderstandings and histories those convey. We just don’t know.
Eugene Robinson explains his view:
But the violence in Ferguson tells of a deeper, more fundamental narrative about what African Americans have done, and what has been done to them, in the decades since the urban riots of the 1960s — the fire last time.
Tempted to conclude that nothing has changed? Please note that the Missouri Highway Patrol commander, brought in to bring proportion and discipline to what had been a provocative local police response, is black. The attorney general who interrupted his Martha’s Vineyard vacation to order a Justice Department investigation and a third autopsy is black. And, of course, the president and commander in chief — who also took time from a Vineyard holiday to address the crisis in Ferguson — is black.
However, Mr. Robinson’s explication, too, sweeps some of the supplemental facts under the rug. President Obama is the the son of an African father and a white mother and was reared by white grandparents in Hawaii. Atty. Gen. Holder, born in the Bronx, is the son of a Barbadian father whose mother was the daughter of Barbadian immigrants. Neither of their life experiences has much in common with that of Michael Brown or with the millions of others of African Americans whose ancestors were brought to this country in the holds of ships as slaves. The sociologist Charles Moskas called these people “Afro-Americans”, a people with a distinct culture, history, dialect, and problems.
Our policies of the last half century have had the unfortunate effect of granting substantial benefits to those who shared only skin color and, perhaps, aspiration with Afro-Americans but not their problems. Meanwhile, our immigration, trade, tax, and education policies have made it very, very difficult for Afro-Americans to escape poverty and ghettoization.
We need better, more targeted policies.