To my AP US History Class, RE: Ferguson

Yesterday, my APUSH (as us young’uns call it) teacher began the class with a summarizing video about Ferguson from CNN.  What we talked primarily about were the details of the Michael Brown’s death.  And as we did, I could feel myself getting more and more annoyed.  I do this thing when I’m agitated–I tremble a little bit.  Unlike a thoughtless leg-jiggle, it’s something that I can’t quell for more than a few seconds.  It usually happens when I speak up in class, which I did several times during the course of the discussion.

It wasn’t just the fact that, thanks to the video, the class mainly viewed the incident through Darren Wilson’s testimony.  I mean, sure, that was pretty annoying.  Nor was it the fact that some students still categorized six bullets as “self-defense,” though that was mind-numbing as well.  Honestly, I couldn’t even place what exactly I was frustrated about.

Well, over 24 hours later, I’ve finally grasped it.  What bothered me is that for forty minutes, we tried to be Ferguson’s Grand Jury.

Why that is Annoying

  • As we affirmed pretty early-on in the discussion, there are so many conflicting accounts that no one (except the deceased Mike Brown and the murderous Wilson, of course) can say that they know exactly what happened.  If the Grand Jury in Ferguson, with 70+ hours of witness testimony and forensic data and etc, cannot be sure, then a classroom full of junior sure as hell can’t either.
  • I literally couldn’t care less if Darren Wilson did his job correctly or if his actions were legal

IF the eyewitnesses are wrong, IF Brown truly did attack Wilson, even IF Darren Wilson wasn’t a scaredy-cat racist and IF shooting someone to death falls under self-defense, I couldn’t give less of a shit.

HERE’s what I give a shit about: that under the American justice system, policemen become untouchable beings who can get away with murder, assault, and basically anything else that a normal civilian would be arrested for.  That under the law, hurting a policeman is a bigger deal than hurting a civilian.  (Don’t believe me?  As I type and as you read, some protesters in Ferguson are getting prison sentences that exceed their lifespans for throwing paint at an officer, while a cop who murdered an unarmed boy is on paid leave.)  That, apparently, cops lack (or ignore) training to prevent a minor situation into escalating into a fatal incident.  That the Brown family, for the first time in eighteen years, will eat Thanksgiving turkey without their son, the truth about whom is murky because Ferguson police failed to use bodycams.

In other words, I’m frustrated with the entire system surrounding police.  Fairness cannot be done if the established system is stacked.  We need a damn Magna Carta for our cops.  

I rose my hand and said something about how Mike Brown wasn’t the first unarmed teen to be killed by a policeman.  That the rage of the protesters all across were now speaking for something that transcended this individual event.   But the full idea written out above was not brought into fruition, into sensible words.  Not yet.  And I’m sorry about that.

-M.L.

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