The idea that Michael Brown’s death is being emphasized too much by the black community, which should instead be concerning itself with “black on black crime” is oddly dissonant with the specific details of this case. The death of a person at the hands of a police officer, a person who is vested with the state’s power to do violence, should obviously be treated with an even greater seriousness than their death at the hands of another citizen. It also would seem strange to invoke the ancient spectre of black criminality given that, even if we take the questionable police account of events as completely credible, the worst crime for which Brown was stopped was shoplifting a handful of cheap cigars. Why this should be treated as something more than an instance of ordinary American juvenile mischief is unclear. That each of these well-worn narratives are being wheeled out in this this case only seems strange if we fail to recognize the argument’s core: we can’t complain about being treated like niggers when we’re acting like niggers.
I wish I were ending this comment with answers or at least encouragement, but I have none to offer. I just have a list of things that I know. I know that I have never called the police, and if in future I do, it will be because I have reached the furthest of last resorts. I know that I am taking steps to learn how to arm myself for the protection of my loved ones and my community. I know that I will always vote “not guilty” if I am on a jury prosecuting a non-violent drug offense. I know that I will always oppose any expansion of the state’s power to harm and jail its citizens. I know that I will be going to community meetings and protests and vigils and organizing sessions and memorial services for the rest of my life. I know that one day I will tell my child, if I am blessed enough to have one, that the world is afraid of them, and that the police are not to be trusted. I know that one day, that child will tell her own child the same thing. And yet, I know that I still have enough hope to want to bring children into this world, broken as it is. That is something.