And that is because the death of all of our Michael Browns at the hands of people who are supposed to protect them originates in a force more powerful than any president: American society itself. This is the world our collective American ancestors wanted. This is the world our collective grandparents made. And this is the country that we, the people, now preserve in our fantastic dream. What can never be said is that the Fergusons of America can be changed—but, right now, we lack the will to do it.
This seems right to me. Millions and millions of Americans do not just accept but applaud the killing of people like Michael Brown, that is, people who could be dangerous. Those same people don’t exactly applaud the killing of a man peacefully shopping at Wal-Mart or a child playing with a toy gun on the street — but they accept such acts with no real qualms.
Why do those Americans accept such behavior by police? Because it almost certainly won’t happen to anyone of their color or social class. Because it would be hard to reduce the massive amount of firearms our police carry; it would be hard to dissuade police from their shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later policies; it would be hard to change our laws to hold police more accountable for their acts; it would be hard to become better informed about what crime rates actually are and what dangers police actually face, or don’t face. Because their lives would be complicated by caring, and who needs more complications in life? It’s a shame that John Crawford and Tamir Rice are dead. But not enough of a shame for anybody to try to change anything. Black lives just aren’t worth that much.