Thoughts on the Death of Michael Brown: The Criminalization of Black Men

Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was shot 6 times (twice in the head), according to the New York Times, by Darren Wilson, a police officer. Two witnesses state that Brown surrendered placing both hands in the air when the officer continued to fire. This is called an “execution”. Regardless of whether the officer knew about the robbery or if the officer had ruptured anything; this was an execution. Second, the Ferguson police released some 19 pages of police report for the robbery. Where are the police reports for the Brown shooting? The police are reluctant to release any reports because they are determined to coordinate the story and make it “loophole proof” before Benjamin Crump, Esq. will get a chance to attack this case and a larger institutionalized system of criminalization of African Americans. In retrospect, George Zimmerman contradicted himself at least three times in his renderings. As a result, he could not take the stand because he would have been torn apart with inconsistent stories. The Ferguson police know this and this is why the police reports have not been released. Third, what is the prosecutor doing letting Wilson testify in front of the grand jury? The press reveals several things to us: how many African Americans have been prosecuted by this prosecutors’ office, how many of them have been allowed to testify before the grand jury, and how many targets and/or defendants have ever been allowed to testify before the grand jury by the prosecutors’ office.

At least two or more eyewitnesses say that Michael Brown died with his hands up. Phillip Agnew, Executive Director of Dream Defenders said on All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, “Ever since you’re born, you’re taught that this posture right here (with his hands up) should guarantee you life and liberty in your interaction with a police officer. This should indicate to a police officer that you mean him or her no harm, that you have no malice in your heart, and that you’re subjecting yourself to the will of that police officer. This is the position that for years and years in this country was the last position that people that look like me and people that look like people around this country died in. This is an enduring trend in this country. This is the white flag–I’m surrendering to you.” In other words, Michael’s hands held up high was not enough for the police officer to allow him to keep his life. There is an undercurrent that says African Americans are ignorant, dangerous, and need to be controlled.   Shortly after Michael Brown was killed, he was associated with a burglary case that the police officer was not aware of. Too many times, America’s justice system ruins the innocence of Black life by associating Black life with crimes that do not associate with individuals. Racism is so powerful that it can create a reality that does not exist and create an existence so real that it can be used to justify a murder. A robbery, if it is true, should never result to an execution in the street under any circumstances.

The University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern School of Law produced interesting data on this criminalization of Black life. The data highlights more than 2,000 innocents who were falsely convicted of serious crimes since 1989 and half of those exonerated were African American. Furthermore, African-Americans represent 42% of death row inmates (according to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) yet, represent only 14.2% of the total US population (according to the CDC).   This alarming data should reveal to us that African Americans are illegitimately labeled as criminals. According to information compiled by Ivory Toldson, Professor at Howard University, from (The National Center for Education Statistics:12 month unduplicated headcount of non Hispanic Black males, The American Community Survey: ongoing Census Bureau Survey and estimate of Black male college enrollment, and the US Department of Justice: estimated number of Black male inmates held in custody in state or federal prisons or local jails), 1.4 million Black men are in college and around 840,000 are in prison. Furthermore, if other statistics point to half of Blacks being innocent, nearly 2 million Black men are well on their way to be successful.

It is  completely inaccurate to think or try to assert that all Blacks are criminals. Statistics reveal that they are not. We cannot ignore the statistics.   This criminalization must stop because it isn’t humane nor is it the truth. Michael Brown was treated like a criminal who was heavily armed with deadly weapons. This was not the case, Michael Brown (Big Mike) was unarmed. If equality still means what I perceive it to mean, everyone no matter their income or race, should be treated fairly. If justice still means what I perceive it to mean, one should have to pay for what they have done no matter their race or income. Money or race should never dictate whether one is given justice or not.

The criminalization of young African Americans is leading to genocide in our country. From Trayvon Martin to Jordan Davis, from Renisha McBride to Chavis Carter, from Eric Gardner to Michael Brown, from Oscar Grant to Kendrick Johnson, from Ezell Ford to Duane Brown, from Angelo Clark to Christopher Kissane, from Roy Middleton to Stephon Watts, from Sean Bell to Jonathan Ferrell the endless crimes against Black life must stop! The pseudospeciation of African Americans in our country is distasteful. We arent saving lives, we are taking lives.   George Yancy, Professor at Duquesne University, writes in Pursuing Trayvon Martin: Historical Contexts and Contemporary Manifestations of Racial Dynamics, “This world of living death is a world where, as a Black person, you are constantly reminded by White people, within an anti-Black racist world, that you are a problem, a sub-person, worthless and inconsequential, inferior, criminal, suspicious, and something to be feared and dreaded.”

Robert Hoggard is from Middletown, Connecticut. He is an alum of American Baptist College, with a Bachelors of Arts in Theology and concentration in Community and Non-Profit Leadership. e is a graduate student at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School earning a MA in Kairos Studies. He preached and participated in missionary work in Saint Thomas, Anguilla, Saint Kitts, Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica and Trinidad.He believes his calling in life is to facilitate education and implementation on social issues in America. As a Community Organizer, he intends to be liberal without limits, to love without hate, and to learn without reservation.

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