I was going to call this “The Phenomenon of Michael Brown”, and it is that, but that’s a little obscure for a title.
The facts about Michael Brown are well-known. By “facts” and “well-known” I mean the official facts and the official knowledge. On this level, as we all know from constant repetition from authority, Michael Brown was a young teenage boy more or less minding his own business, killed by a white police officer. The officer’s claim of self-defense can’t be dismissed out of hand, but the role of racism in the incident must be taken seriously and must be investigated.
Other parallel stories carry varying amount of weight. The radical progressive one- that Ferguson, Missouri like most other black communities is under the crushing boot of vicious white racist police- holds a lot of weight, because it’s part of the move to defang law enforcement, but is not the full and official one because it’s too obviously ridiculous. The mainstream conservative one- that Brown was a criminal who got more or less what you would expect from attacking a police officer and trying to take his gun- has little weight, because it suggests nothing is wrong with law enforcement, but it’s out there because it’s pretty close to the truth.
The most basic facts about the event seem to be ignored, because they are difficult to process. On the surface they show that Brown was behaving irrationally and aggressively, which is easy enough to acknowledge, since people behave this way all the time. But his irrationality and aggressiveness were excessive, even for a large black thug.
First, Brown walks out of a convenience store with a box of cigars. He didn’t even try to conceal it. Why did he do this? Because he wanted cigars to make blunts and didn’t have $40, obviously, but we know from sociologist Jack Katz that robbery is as much about showing power over and humiliating the victim, and impressing the confederates, as personal gain. Brown accomplished both of these things. Ghetto stores accept a lot of shoplifting as the cost of doing business, and shoplifting includes just walking out with stuff sometimes. If the clerk doesn’t feel like a confrontation, he can pretend he didn’t see it. In this case however the cigars were behind the counter, so Brown had to ask a clerk for them. While the owners can tolerate a certain amount of shoplifting, just walking out with relatively expensive merchandise can’t be tolerated, or they will soon be ruined.
Did he expect to get away with this? I think he did, and I think he would have, or could have. Assuming a complaint was made, it was petty theft in the amount of $40. If you have ever dealt with the police, they generally seem annoyed and insulted to be summoned for any crime other than murder. A complaint would have been made. A report would sit in a pile on a detective’s desk. The detective would leave promptly at 4:30, ignoring it and numerous other reports like it. The detective would retire in seven years, never having gotten to it.
Even with the store video, it’s $40, and the police don’t care.
Brown also shoved the clerk, and that made it a little more serious. A detective might actually have gone out and spoken to Brown. Brown made a small mistake here, which was turning and shoving the clerk rather than just ignoring him and pushing past him. Had Brown been a little brighter, he could have told the detective the clerk threatened or insulted him- possibly even with the “n” word!- and the matter would likely not have been pursued.
The normal strategy after a robbery is to make a clean getaway, without being seen and avoiding being followed. Brown didn’t try to conceal his getaway either, he made a point of walking right down the middle of the street. Brown’s overall behavior fits a clear pattern here, the game of domination ghetto blacks love to play- throw your weight around and see who dares stop you.
Wilson wasn’t even looking for the store robber, he was just driving along and he sees these two guys walking down the middle of the street. As a police officer he is obliged to suggest to the gentlemen they might use the sidewalk, for their own safety as well as the convenience of drivers. While making this polite and helpful suggestion, he notices Brown matches the description of the suspect.
Brown strongly and profanely rejects the idea it might be safer and more polite to walk on the sidewalk. I’m not entirely sure of the law here, but I think that while one is obligated to obey the instructions of a law officer, especially if the command is to cease unlawful behavior, but the officer has wide discretion.
If Brown had not robbed the store, and had he been a little brighter, he could have worked this confrontation better. First, he would have ignored Wilson several times, then when it seemed certain the cop was getting out of his car, moved to the sidewalk. Had Wilson then spoken to him again, he could have pretended to be outraged he was being harassed walking down the street minding his own business.
Considering the robbery, Brown could have done the same, but when asked by the cop about the robbery, just denied everything. “I paid for these. No, I don’t have the receipt, I threw it away. They are lying. No, I didn’t hit anybody. Maybe the guy got in my way and I knocked into him, but I didn’t hit anybody. I didn’t do anything. Why are you harassing me? I’m minding my own business, leave me alone.” You can translate that into ghetto argot if you want. Would Wilson have arrested Brown? I think he probably would have, but Brown could have worked the situation pretty good. He could have made a scene, and gotten the whole neighborhood out, then been a local hero for defying the sick evil racist white cracker police. This happens every day, which is why cops frequently just roll by. I’m quite sure Wilson wishes he had just rolled by, but life doesn’t let you take things back.
Up to this point, Brown had committed several minor offenses, most of which are tacitly tolerated in the black ghetto, for the simple reason there are only so many people the government can afford to lock up. In each case Brown was able to dominate others and his environment, while avoiding any meaningful sanction from the state. Ghetto blacks do this because it’s fun and exciting for them; black radicals and white progressives defend it, to different degrees, as meeting the need for self-empowerment by oppressed blacks living in an oppressive, racist society.
Everything up to this point is easily explained by the idiot racial dynamics of America, which everybody knows and understands, from Black Panthers to Klansmen, even if from different perspectives. But now Brown does something that cannot, in any known universe, come to a good end. He attacks a cop.
The fact that Wilson had a gun, and Brown didn’t, isn’t in itself too crazy. Katz, in “Seductions of Crime”, talks about men who takes guns away from others. He found one case where the man did it multiple times, eventually being shot in the process. It is one thing to have a gun, another to pull it out, another to point it at someone, and the biggest jump of all, to pull the trigger. If someone is pointing a gun at you, there is a fair chance you can just grab it. But Wilson was a cop, and obligated to maintain his authority.
“Suicide by cop” generally involves a distraught middle-aged white man who has suffered serious reverses but doesn’t have the guts to kill himself, so he creates a confrontation with police where they do it for him. Michael Brown, we are assured, was a young man with a bright future- perhaps a little troubled, but what young man isn’t? He had “just finished high school”, we are told, although he apparently graduated in August on some kind of remedial program, and was “on his way to college” although that was certainly some remedial program at a community college.
Michael Brown, we are supposed to believe, had everything to live for. But he had little or nothing to live for, and he knew it. In a decent society, a not-very-bright high school graduate has some options for a decent life, a job that will adequate income, the prospect of marriage, a small family and a small home. It would involve hard work for a difficult employer, an ordinary wife, ordinary kids, a Saturday filled with chores, with a little relaxation in the evening and Sunday.
But Michael Brown had been encouraged to love and want by the TV and the music a high life of expensive cars, fine liquor and sexy mullatas only available to football stars, rappers and drug dealers. He wasn’t any of these things, and wasn’t going to be. A surly fellow like Brown wouldn’t do well working in a store. UPS would have been a good option, but while they pay well, that is a hard job, and I think they do drug testing. The type of labor that used to be done by big black guys is now almost all done by small Mexican guys.
Brown was doomed by his own poor character and the deliberate reduction of employment opportunities for black men by the system. He wasn’t smart enough to get a bogus liberal arts or teaching degree and get into the kind of low-level corporate or government employment that sustains the black middle class, and he knew it, and he wasn’t tough enough to be a gangster, and he knew it.
Getting by in life takes a great deal of ability to suck it up. Most of the time you just have to take it, and kid yourself it’s going to get better, even when you know it’s not. I think most 18 year olds look forward to adulthood, usually with unrealistic hopes of how it will work out. Hope fades over the years, and our dreams get smaller. But we keep going, because that’s what you do.
Bruce Charlton talked recently about the temptation to suicide when you feel that life is a failure, or pointless, or the use of suicide to control the timing and circumstances of one’s death. Brown had youth, and health. But I think he saw that it was all downhill for him, going to school, which he probably hated, working crappy, humiliating jobs, which everyone hates, his mom probably hinting it would be nice if he got a job, some girl hinting she would like to have a baby which he would have to support for years, and couldn’t bear the thought of it. He decided to go out in a blaze of glory, and the rest, as they say, is history……..
The classification of the incident as suicide-by-cop has barely been mentioned in the MSM, and never taken seriously. But lost in the shouting is the low value placed on life by all the good people, but especially Michael Brown himself.