The events and aftermath that surround the polarizing shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson have not only divided the residents of Ferguson, Mo. but also Americans across the country.
In this situation in particular, there has been a significant movement to paint the unfortunate loss of a young man’s life as one that is rooted entirely in race relations.
To say this tragedy is merely a byproduct of racial prejudice is a failure to look deeper into the context of what leads to severe disconnects within our society.
When we limit our arguments about the factors and events that lead to Brown’s death to subjects only dealing with racial inequality, we ignore more relative issues that continue to affect groups of many backgrounds.
The inequality issue is no longer simply one that is predominated by ones heritage, social and economic circumstances. These are increasingly more impactful on ones ability to climb out of poverty and access basic human needs.
I agree that race became a factor in the Ferguson case, but not in the same context as so many Americans and media organizations have lazily spelled out for us.
Ferguson is largely populated by minority groups, which historically have been mired in lower economic circumstances than those of white heritage.
Through decades of mistreatment and abuse of authority, mistrust for police officers has become culturally engrained into minority neighborhoods like Ferguson around the country.
Many children in these neighborhoods grow up learning not to trust or respect their local police force simply by absorbing the beliefs and behaviors of older individuals in the community.
The process repeats as these children grow up and have kids of their own. The police departments “serving” these communities have trained their officers that they have the authority to ensure their personal safety and ability to go home to their families at the end of their shift.
A common theme in officer-involved shootings in neighborhoods like Ferguson is that the officer was acting in a manner to preserve their own safety.
It is in these two differing ideologies that violence on both sides of equation festers and incites social turmoil.
Michael Brown’s death is a result of the misapplication of long-practiced police tactics that have proved to be incompatible with protecting low-income minority-dominant neighborhoods, not because he was merely a young black male.
Even if Darren Wilson’s version of what happened that day proves to be accurate, it begs us to question whether or not the use of deadly force is the proper application to protect oneself while serving as a peace officer.
There are a wealth of non-lethal methods that police officers have at their disposal to dispel violence and unrest, many of which are surely to have been accessible to the Ferguson police department.
A non-violent solution in enforcement of public policy needs to be adopted to better serve these communities.
There is no better time than now to begin the dialogue that will lead authority figures to be more understanding of and accountable for the precincts they are chosen to protect. Continued demand for legislation that leads to these remedies are the only hope we have to discontinue the cycle.
How many more people need to be killed or businesses to be burned down before we begin to understand that the current enforcement policies do not stem violence as they were intended to?
I hope we don’t have to wait much longer to find out.