Why Michael Brown Won't Be the Last Unarmed Black Man Killed By Police

ferguson protestor"Disappointed, but not surprised." Those four simple words encapsulate how most black people seemed to feel after hearing that Officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the death of Michael Brown. It's a bleak sentiment that we are all too familiar with. From 2006 to 2012, a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in the United States, and too many of those victims were unarmed men. Politicians like to say that an epidemic of crime in black communities is the true problem. Scared and angry residents claim it's racism, pure and simple. Though what is lost in the debate between the pundits and the protesters is one very significant reason tragedies like this continue to happen. 


Poor training. Horrifically inadequate training. Do they understand the communities to which they are assigned to protect and serve? Have they dealt with their own personal biases and issues? Do they know how to handle a tense situation without resorting to deadly force? No one can deny that police officers have dangerous jobs. It requires a kind of bravery most of us can't muster. Though certain egregious examples force us to question the skills of some of these officers.

In one of the more recent tragedies, a 12-year-old boy was shot to death on a Cleveland playground after cops got a 911 call about a "man" with a gun that was "probably fake." And days earlier, an unarmed father was shot while walking down the darkly lit stairwell of his Brooklyn housing project by a reportedly inexperienced cop. I am not alone when I say these outcomes are unacceptable.

You don't have to be a person of color or a mother of a black child to feel the heartache stories like this cause. That agony was never more palpable than in Brown's mother's reaction (video below) to the news that there would be no justice for her son.

The bottom line is that this world is a scary, dangerous place for black boys and men. I remember a college roommate telling me that she always crossed the street when she saw a black guy coming her way because she assumed they were up to no good. As much as I hated her ignorance in that moment, I knew so many others felt that way too. Regardless of who they are or how they were raised, this is the type of judgment black males face every day, even from cops.

Of course most cops are good people. We should never villainize an entire group because of the shortcomings of a small percentage (that's a lesson everyone should heed). Still, someone must atone for these senseless killings and, at the very least, come up with real solutions for how to prevent them.

What do you think of the grand jury's decision not to charge Wilson?


Image © Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis

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