From Andrew David, Managing Editor.
I’ve started my wife on the first season of The Wire. If you recall, there’s an episode where, after a mild bit of provocation, a white detective on the Baltimore police force pistol-whips a young black kid. When the detective’s commanding officer, a black man, arrives on the scene, he coaches the detective on what to say when Internal Investigations comes calling:
Lt. Daniels: Now, tell me, who cold-cocked the kid?
Lt. Daniels: Why?
Prez: He pissed me off.
Lt. Daniels: No, Officer Pryzbylewski, he did not piss you off. He made you fear for your safety and that of your fellow officers.
I was reminded of this scene when I read the news today about the grand jury verdict and the riots in Ferguson. Or of the scenes in which D’Angelo, a small-time player in the Barksdale crime family, schools youngsters about race and power.
I don’t know whether Officer Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown because he feared for his life or because the teenager pissed him off. I don’t know whether the grand jury returned the right verdict, though I hope so. I read the New York Times (by way of the Seattle Times) article below, and it reminds me of the chaotic coverage of the Benghazi attack–I can’t see the truth through the cloud of witnesses; I can’t see the truth through the smoke that collects over the burning buildings of Ferguson.
The scene in which Prez clocks the kid takes place in the courtyard of two towering apartment complexes. There are witnesses everywhere. The residents all watch as Prez and his fellow officers wrestle two suspects to the ground. They all watch as the officers return to their squad car and the young black kid makes a joke at the officers’ expense. They all watch as Prez goes ballistic, blinding the kid with the handle of his pistol. But the witnesses don’t wait for a grand jury. Prez and his fellow officers have to take cover as glass bottles and old television sets are chucked at them from twenty stories above. When Lt. Daniels and his men return to the scene in the morning, the squad car has been burned black.
I’m not down with answering violence with violence. I don’t condone the flames. But there is injustice here. Even if Darren Wilson is innocent of all charges, our system and our people are broken, and I can understand that some of us are sick of watching. I can understand that we are sick of waiting.
About the Author
Matthew Shedden is Praxis editor at The Other Journal and an associate Pastor in rural Oregon. He writes more at mshedden.com and on Twitter @sheddenm.