Friday, March 6, 2015

Uncomfortable 'Truths': Have You Read the DOJ Report on the 'Legal' Killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson?

There has been justifiable outrage at the (not surprising) finding by the Department of Justice that the Ferguson police department and courts are profoundly and consistently racist in their treatment of black people.

However, the Department of Justice's determination--released on the same day as the Ferguson report--that there will be no civil rights charges against Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, and furthermore that said killing was "legally justifiable", has gone with little comment.

As reported by CNN:
The Justice Department formally closed its investigation of Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson, declining to bring criminal charges for the killing of Michael Brown.
In a report released Wednesday, prosecutors said that "Wilson's actions do not constitute prosecutable violations" of federal civil rights law. 
"There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson's stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety," the Justice Department report said.
The Right-wing media has chosen to obsess over the latter as a vindication of their racist law and order kill black people fantasies while remaining relatively mute over the findings about Ferguson's institutional and day-to-day white supremacist practices. The "progressive" media, online and elsewhere, has chosen to emphasize the Department of Justice's findings about racist police practices and to not comment on the findings that legally exonerate Darren Wilson.

Cognitive bias and partisanship combine to filter information and to set one's priorities on what issues they see as noteworthy and demanding concern and engagement.

Practical political concerns and gamesmanship also influence how opinion leaders choose to discuss those issues that validate their own standing priors and beliefs.

But, practical politics and dynamics of public opinion about a given matter do not, if ever, intersect with the higher principle of and commitment to truth-telling--even if said realities make us uncomfortable.

I have written numerous essays about the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson. I have also done TV and other interviews about Ferguson and the broader issue of police thuggery in the United States.

Critical moments of self-reflection are invaluable. They are especially so, when new information may complicate one's earlier conclusions about a given matter.

In reading about the Department of Justice's findings that Darren Wilson did not "violate" the civil rights of Michael Brown, I stand by my earlier comments about that wholly preventable and tragic incident.

I also offer the following questions and caveats.

1. There is an extraordinarily high standard of evidence necessary to prove if a police officer violated a victim's civil rights. Many of those laws have been gutted by the courts. As has repeatedly occurred with police abuse cases in the United States--especially when the victim is a person of color, poor, or mentally ill--that cops can and have killed with impunity and without consequence.

2. Just because something is legal does not make it just.

3. The rational and reasonable upset by the good people of Ferguson at the killing of Michael Brown was directed towards how he and his family were denied basic due process under the law. This denial of their rights continued with the systematic cover-up, and judicial malfeasance of the Ferguson police department and prosecutor's office.

Black and brown folks are not irrational or crazy or hyper-emotional. While the Department of Justice conducted its own investigation, the people of Ferguson and the Brown family deserved a proper trial where all of this information could be publicly vetted and shared. Darren Wilson should have faced a proper trial. Ferguson's racist enablers and defenders made this an impossibility.

4. Ferguson's police practice white supremacy as a matter of policy and protocol. Their systematic harassment and denial of black citizen's rights are the context for Darren Wilson's decision to harass Michael Brown for the Jim Crow era crime of "bumptious walking".

Cause and effect: the Ferguson police are a KKK-like force that created the cultural norms that legitimate, encourage, and reward the behavior of police such as Darren Wilson. The Department of Justice's data on Ferguson's debt peonage extortion schemes against, violence and excessive force towards, and denial of the constitutional rights of black folks prove this to be true.

5. Darren Wilson's killing of Michael Brown is still onerous and unreasonable. Wilson chose to use lethal force in a situation which he unnecessarily initiated and then fatally escalated. Wilson also chose to repeatedly shoot someone who was already grievously injured and no longer an objective threat to him.

Wilson's racist comments that he saw Brown as some type of black superpower possessed not human demon and feral beast suggest either 1) a psychosis and altered state of consciousness or 2) deep and profound racial animus that a priori deemed that Wilson as a white person would be in "reasonable fear" for his life when interacting with a black person.

The Brown Family's civil lawsuit against Ferguson, Missouri and Darren Wilson will be another opportunity to evaluate the facts in a context where the standards for evidence are broader and more inclusive. I do hope that they will be able to separate Darren Wilson from his blood money and punish Ferguson for their gross and repeated violations of the civil rights of black people in that community.


Unfortunately, justice is not blind in America.

The colorline and white supremacy have historically and in the present deemed that people of color are not true citizens, to be treated equally under the law. America has gone from Dred Scott and Chief Justice Taney's famous dictate that "black people have no rights that the white man is bound to respect" to a criminal justice system that does the work of institutional white supremacy. As much as things have changed in America, the legal system's hostile relationship to non-whites has remained very much the same.

Have you read the Department of Justice report on the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson? What are your thoughts about it? How would you respond when queried by Wilson's defenders who will read it as exonerating their idol and million dollar plus bounty rewarded killer of a black teenager?


Justin M. White said...

Before I saw your post from today I went back into the archives and shared your post from October on Michael Brown being killed for the crime of "bumptious walking". The DOJ report showed exactly how on point you were.

I reflect on how little the things we criminalize have changed for the oppressed. Though the crimes once called vagrancy and bumptious walking are now "obstructing pedestrian traffic" and "loitering", they're enforced in much the same way to the same effect (i.e. to extort fines, to kidnap people for profit, to punish dissent).

I thought, when I started my comparative research, that I might be reaching for comparisons. After all I'm very critical of the work of white ethnicicists who use Irish history to minimize the Maafa, so poor comparisons are something I keep at the forefront of my mind (BTW, happy Irish-American heritage month! *eyeroll*). But the more I think about it, the more I see a clear line of continuity going through the entire modern era and its attitudes towards crime, poverty, and a desire for social control.

chauncey devega said...

You likely know his work. Cool folks. I am trying to get an interview with him.

Condemnation of Blackness speaks write to those points.

I tried to reiterate that point today in the segment I recorded for Ring of Fire TV. Was a short one which threw me off my game a bit, but I think I got it in. I did say it a few months back but wanted to reiterate it.

If you didn't read white supremacist Pat Buchanan's response to the DOJ report it is worth a good laugh.

chauncey devega said...

They cannot be reached. You are somebody in this society. Never succumb to that feeling and logic as that is what THEY want.

Justin M. White said...

I was not aware of Dr. Muhammad's work. It's on the list now.

I expect the DOJ report on Darren Wilson will be used as a cudgel by the conservative punditry for months to come, and will be a throwback comment for months after that whenever needing to make a rhetorical point. It will become "accepted knowledge", like other buzzwords no one even contests anymore: Solyndra, ACORN, etc.

DoGoOn said...

I believe one of the incident reports cited the suspected infraction as "walking in a manner deemed suspicious".

chauncey devega said...

Bumptious walking time machine. Again.

EllisIslandProgeny said...

Patrick Puke-anan's column, interestingly, comprises the same racist tropes I've encountered frequently the past couple of days on blogs. Do they read the same memos?