Michael Brown has been laid to rest, but the controversy surrounding his death continues to smoulder. The New York Times today just exacerbated things with
that was fairly laudatory, except for an outrageously badly-worded summary sentence:
Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.
He "was no angel" -- phrase typically charitably applied to good-hearted yet deeply troubled people. Yet all Brown's devilishness came down to one disputed charge of shoplifting, smoking some pot and drinking some beers, enjoying rap and once getting into a pushing match. Sounds a lot like the story of every kid's adolescence. Sounds damn near exemplary to me for a kid who lives in an economically disadvantaged area.
The last weeks have been a circus of character assassination and withheld information. The Ferguson PD delayed releasing the name of the officer who shot Brown. They released a video, taken minutes before the shooting, that seemed to show Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store. They claimed (without corroborating evidence) that Brown was trying to get hold of the cop's gun. After two weeks, and under intense pressure, they released the incident report, with large areas blanked out. They terrorized peaceful protesters and news media with military vehicles, weapons and tactics, tear gassing people, threatening to shoot them and arresting them for taking pictures. They even
, because. Well, just because.
Elements of the white community -- both in Ferguson and beyond, closed ranks behind the shooter.
His story had yet to be told. Innocent until proven guilty! Brown deserved what he got
(execution for a petty theft). They raised more than a
. Fox News circulated false rumors that Brown had given his killer a broken eye socket, suggesting a vicious fight. They claimed that Brown had been charging his killer, in spite of stories from numerous witnesses, gathered immediately after the incident, that he had been running away from the bullets and was surrendering with his hands up. Some claimed he was crazy on marijuana. Well-known black authorities were ridiculed. Today, they claimed that an unarmed 300-pound black kid is really "armed" due to his weight and strength alone.A
dedicated to the shooter gathered ugly comments about blacks, and exonerating comments about his killer.
The old, racist machinery that justifies heinous acts against blacks is functioning smoothly in Ferguson, Missouri. It's as if it was well-oiled and ably-maintained after the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. No wonder some blacks continue to claim that it was never put in mothballs, but has been in active usage all these years.
We have light years to go before we reach the color-blind society that Dr. King dreamed about.