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Brown: Troubling questions in Ferguson’s wake

BY MARCUS BROWN | OCTOBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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The word “Ferguson” has become more than just the name of a city. I for one can say I had never heard of Ferguson, Missouri, before a couple of months ago.

However, just that one word has become synonymous with civil unrest, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Michael Brown has become this generation’s Rodney King. In many ways, the death of the unarmed African-American Brown at the hands of white police Officer Darren Wilson has become the new vantage point through which we now see shooting deaths resulting from interactions with the police, but I wonder for how long. What has been seen cannot be unseen, and race-relations post-Ferguson will never be the same. Or perhaps it will be in a few months.

Whether Wilson is punished for killing for Michael Brown is no longer the issue, as a line has already been crossed in terms of public awareness of racially motivated police killings. We are now in the territory of combustible unrest.

The deaths of young black men at the hands of the police is nothing new, and only now with a renewed outrage is the issue being closely examined and pushed to the forefront of popular culture. The lens through which we see the death of Brown is now the one that we are now forced to look through when we hear of the shooting death of a young black male.

It is no coincidence that in the months after Ferguson, news of police shooting civilians has become more prevalent, such as the attention placed on the shooting death of John Crawford, who was shot inside a Walmart in Ohio. Police were called to the scene of the Walmart because of a customer saw Crawford walking around the store with a BB gun in his hand. Just recently in St. Louis, 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers was shot by police, only this time the victim was allegedly armed. However, this is consistently mentioned only after referring to the death of Brown first. The cynic in me wants to say that this is because deep down we want another Michael Brown. We want to stay angry, and just one death will no longer suffice. 

Situations such as these can longer be seen as isolated incidents, but it raises the question of why the public has decided to become outraged now. Furthermore, it raises the question of how long this rage will continue when the fuel runs out. Following the acquittal of the police officers that beat Rodney King, riots broke out that engulfed the nation. Yet with time, it was back to business as usual.

History often repeats itself, which is why I make the comparison of Michael Brown with Rodney King. As long as we keep hearing about young black men being shot by police officers, it is possible to remain in disbelief and keep tweeting #HandsUpDon’tShoot, but what happens after that? If we get lucky, Wilson will be acquitted, and we can have the climax of rage we’ve been waiting for. But if he is found guilty, what will we do? Will we applaud that justice has been served and go about our lives until the future, when we can hail the death of another unarmed black teenager as that generation’s Michael Brown?


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