- August 13, 2015 in Columnists
Latest Ferguson shooting not worthy of outrage
In a skirmish with police during the anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, a childhood friend of Brown’s, Tyrone Harris Jr. was shot by police and is in critical condition. The police claimed Harris was armed and shot at them while Harris’ family denied it. The idea of yet another unarmed African-American shot by overzealous police reverberated throughout the black community and set Ferguson on edge. However, police have subsequently released a surveillance video showing what they say is Tyrone Harris pulling a handgun from his pants.
Hearing an unarmed black man has been shot by police is an all too frequent occurrence these days. In response to any questionable use of force protestors are right to employ their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
But, brothers and sisters, we have to keep an open mind. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of seeing every case like the previous one. It’s true we’ve known injustices between police and minorities have occurred in our community long before there were smartphones to document it and get the dominant culture to believe it. But we have to follow the evidence to whatever conclusion it leads us.
Minorities often rally around their own whether it is blacks, Latinos, gays or others. Our collective voices are our strength in procuring justice. But it can also lead us into setting aside critical thinking. A black man killed by police raises our hackles much in the same way gays react to allegations of gay bashing or Hispanics bristle when anti-illegal immigration rhetoric veers into racism.
Sometimes those calls to action turn out to be the crying of wolves.
I can understand a family not wanting to believe the worst of their child. What parent does? I had to come to terms with the fact that the older brother I idolized was a batterer and murderer. It’s hard thinking that about someone you love. But if your child is on the streets doing wrong, pulling a gun and firing at police, there’s no injustice. There’s no improper use of force if police shoot and wound or kill in that scenario.
It behooves us to point out when there’s been no wrongdoing by police. It ennobles our cause and holds everyone to a high standard. Charging police with misconduct is serious business because we depend on them to provide that thin blue line between anarchy and us.
At the same time, it’s incumbent upon law enforcement to resist that blue code of silence that has decent cops protecting the wrongdoing and misconduct of their colleagues. The same fear of snitching that keeps people silent on the streets in the aftermath of violence motivates good police officers to look the other way while their wayward brethren in blue neither protect nor serve.
In the end, it harms everyone. When police protect bad cops it sullies the profession. It makes the good cop’s job more dangerous. And likewise, our outrage, our protests have to be based on facts. I’m not going to champion someone who shoots at the police. That person’s action endangers my life. It allows the majority to ignore our cries when real injustice occurs.
There are still problems in Ferguson. There are still reasons to protest. After the Department of Justice’s scathing report about how Ferguson jails and fines mostly African-Americans for minor offenses and issues warrants when folks can’t pay, you’d think this 21st century debtors prison system would be addressed. It hasn’t been. The targeting of minorities with this heavy-handed policing deserves scrutiny.
But the bottom line is if that’s Tyrone Harris Jr. on that video with a gun in his hand and he fired at police, then he’s a criminal and not worthy of the community’s outrage. Let’s save our outrage, our passion and energy for genuine injustice.