Race-Based Reactionism Reaches New Low

Racism is an evil; no rational man, woman, or child can argue otherwise. But as a nation, we will never escape our shameful past by assuming guilt before innocence and making villains of potential victims.

I have listened ad infinitum to coverage of Michael’s Brown’s death since his August 9 shooting. The story is anything but clear: all we know for sure is that at some point, Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson approached Brown, 18, and Dorian Johnson, a friend, in his car while the pair were walking in the street. After that, reports vary widely. Johnson claims Wilson murdered his friend “in cold blood,” shooting him once in an initial altercation, a second time as he tried to run away, and then again after surrendering:

I saw the officer proceeding after my friend Big Mike with his gun drawn, and he fired a second shot and that struck my friend Big Mike. And at that time, he turned around with his hands up, beginning to tell the officer that he was unarmed and to tell him to stop shooting. But at that time, the officer firing several more shots into my friend, and he hit the ground and died.

This story was corroborated by two other witnesses, Tiffany Mitchell and Piaget Crenshaw. However, the cops told a different tale. According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Brown was the aggressor.

Apparently, Wilson, an officer with no disciplinary history, was “enforcing the minor violation of jaywalking, as Mr. Brown and Mr. Johnson ignored the sidewalk and strolled down the middle of the road instead.” The two disregarded his order. When Wilson “tried to exit his vehicle…Brown pushed him back.” At the same time, the teen supposedly “assaulted the…officer” and attempted to grab his weapon. One shot was fired, at which time the scuffle moved to the sidewalk, where Brown eventually fell dead. Wilson was purportedly injured and brought to the hospital following the shooting.

These already conflicting narratives became even more confusing as the days went on.

The first autopsy on Brown’s body revealed 6 wounds caused by 6 different bullets, all of which came while he was facing the shooter. Therefore, despite what Johnson and the two other witnesses — Mitchell and Crenshaw — said, the teen was not shot from behind (granted, this doesn’t mean the officer wasn’t shooting at Brown while he attempted to run). The examination also showed at least one of the bullets hitting the teen while his head was down. Of course, there are two very different explanations, according to Dr. Michael Baden: “It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer.” Unfortunately, things only got murkier from there.

Dorian Johnson, the shooting’s key witness, had his credibility called into question; according to “an ABC news affiliate in St. Louis…Johnson is wanted in Jefferson City, Mo., on a 2011 theft charge and also for filing a false police report that same year. Johnson allegedly gave a bogus name and age to investigators in the case.” Following the autopsy, news also broke that Brown had marijuana in his system at the time of the shooting. Now, sketchy (I repeat: very sketchy) reports from “sources” (always trustworthy) claim that Johnson has completely retracted his story to the FBI, admitting that Brown did in fact attack and charge Wilson. And that’s not all. Supposed audio of the shooting surfaced several days ago, suggesting 10 shots were fired with a noticeable gap between two clusters (one of 6 shots and one of 4). As always, it seems, this pause has several potential meanings: Wilson may have continued shooting a now clearly unarmed man (murder) or his first 6 shots may not have stopped Brown’s purported advance. A third option? The audio could be fake.

So what does all of this mean? It means we don’t know what happened. It’s entirely possible that Johnson’s tale is 100% true; Brown may well have been slaughtered “in cold blood.” However, it is equally possible that the officer in question genuinely feared for his life and shot the teen in self-defense.

The fact is, we don’t have enough evidence to say who was at fault. Brown died 35 feet from Wilson, suggesting he wasn’t attacking the officer; but perhaps, as I’ve read elsewhere, he was doubling back? I don’t know what happened, and that’s what makes me so mad.

The civil rights community exploded following the shooting. According to them, Darren Wilson is a racist murderer who gunned down an 18 year-old simply because of his skin color. Am I saying that caricature is necessarily false? No, but it hasn’t been proven, and pretending it has is an affront to justice.

In America, we assume innocence before guilt. That is the only assumption I will make in this case. Michael Brown did nothing wrong; Darren Wilson did nothing wrong. Until I see all of the evidence, I refuse to condemn either of them. It is absolutely disgusting, and frankly un-American, to assign fault before a trial is held.

My message, then, is simple: be patient. Do not, as Georgetown has done, host events that clearly implicate the police; in the same vein, do not vilify Michael Brown, by all accounts a kind-hearted man. The evidence — not anonymous reports or secret accounts from unnamed sources, but real, hard evidence — will tell us who, if anyone, committed a crime. Until that happens, I shall forsake all ‘conclusions’ from self-proclaimed experts.

My heart goes out to those affected by this tragedy, especially Brown’s family; I cannot possibly imagine the pain they are feeling. But I implore all of you: do not be rash. Let the facts, rather than race-baiters (white and black), speak for themselves.