The Man Who Shot Michael Brown
August 3, 2015 9:36 AM   Subscribe

This March, I spent several days at his home. Wilson, who is twenty-nine, started receiving death threats not long after the incident, in which Brown was killed in the street shortly after robbing a convenience store. Although Wilson recently bought the house, his name is not on the deed, and only a few friends know where he lives. He and his wife, Barb, who is thirty-seven, and also a former Ferguson cop, rarely linger in the front yard. Because of such precautions, Wilson has been leading a very quiet life. During the past year, a series of police killings of African-Americans across the country has inspired grief, outrage, protest, and acrimonious debate. For many Americans, this discussion, though painful, has been essential. Wilson has tried, with some success, to block it out.
posted by standardasparagus (73 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
I couldn't make it through this. I tried, but when it got to the part where Wilson was "explaining" the motivations of young black kids, I had to close the window.

I guess I'm not really sure why the world needed this article. I'm not really sure why this particular person needs a platform.

It's the New Yorker -- is he being held up as some kind of curiosity? Something for comfortable white liberals to be comfortably horrified by while they drink their coffee? Or worse, to feel a little sad for? To privately, safely pity -- oh no, he has a baby now and he can't leave the house, how tragic!

The "tragedy" of a white man who won't leave his house because he's famous for killing someone.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:48 AM on August 3, 2015 [66 favorites]


At one point, I asked Wilson if he missed walking outside and going to restaurants. He told me that he still ate out, but only at certain places. “We try to go somewhere—how do I say this correctly?—with like-minded individuals,” he said. “You know. Where it’s not a mixing pot.”

Fuck this racist.
posted by palomar at 9:55 AM on August 3, 2015 [208 favorites]


Well, the article isn't exactly offensive, and it doesn't break any other guidelines that would make FIAMO the correct response, but it came off as a very odd piece to me, too. The author really, really wants us to be on Wilson's "side", for some reason.
posted by KGMoney at 9:57 AM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wake me up when the New Yorker gives this many words to an intersectional artist who hasn't murdered anyone this year.

We love violence. We want to talk to these everyday monsters more than we want to talk to our own extended family. We want to see explosions on the news, to read murder mysteries before bed, to put ourselves in every pair of bloodied shoes we can find and even in the context of that reality I can't fathom a reason to publish an article like this -- or to read it -- which doesn't reify everything that's wrong with the white establishment.
posted by an animate objects at 9:58 AM on August 3, 2015 [28 favorites]


From the end of the article, for those of you who can't make it through the end, which I completely understand:

At one point, I asked Wilson if he missed walking outside and going to restaurants. He told me that he still ate out, but only at certain places. “We try to go somewhere—how do I say this correctly?—with like-minded individuals,” he said. “You know. Where it’s not a mixing pot.”

Fuck that racist.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:01 AM on August 3, 2015 [29 favorites]


The author really, really wants us to be on Wilson's "side", for some reason.

I didn't get that impression, to me it read more like the author was just laying out all this information and saying, hmm, how interesting that Wilson's mentor McCarthy worked so hard to point out the obvious racism in policing that Wilson still digs in his heels over. How interesting that Wilson's own upbringing was markedly worse than that of Michael Brown, yet Wilson still feels confident enough to trash Brown's upbringing as not good enough. How interesting that Wilson feels comfortable dropping the kind of casual racism into conversation that you're conditioned to expect from your doddering grandfather. Oh goodness no, not drawing any conclusions here at the New Yorker, just pointing out all the shitty things about this guy and his way of thinking. Don't worry, subscribers! You can't be racist because you're not exactly like this guy!
posted by palomar at 10:02 AM on August 3, 2015 [26 favorites]


HAH! Wow man I thought I couldn't be any more disgusted AND YET SOMEHOW...!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:02 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


“I am really simple in the way that I look at life,” Wilson said. “What happened to my great-grandfather is not happening to me. I can’t base my actions off what happened to him.” Wilson said that police officers didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on the past.

This seems to me a perfect illustration of one of the points Ta-Nehisi Coates makes in his brilliant The Case For Reparations: "Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. We believe white dominance to be a fact of the inert past, a delinquent debt that can be made to disappear if only we don’t look."
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 10:04 AM on August 3, 2015 [66 favorites]


Is it me, or does the portrait of Wilson look remarkable like a mug shot? I haven't even started the article, but already the Magasine has sent a semi-subliminal message of "criminal" and "shifty" (eyes to the side).
posted by jb at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2015


I'm only about 1/3 through the article, but two things have struck me particularly hard.

This part about the way training is structured:

A recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum revealed that cadets usually receive fifty-eight hours of training in firearms, forty-nine in defensive tactics, ten in communication skills, and eight in de-escalation tactics. (emphasis added)

And the fact that we need more cops like the one Wilson "apprenticed" with, who understood you do a lot more to prevent crime -- and shootings-- by getting to know the people in the neighborhoods you patrol than you do by living with an "us vs them" mentality. Damn shame Wilson managed to learn sfa from that guy.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2015 [17 favorites]


NOPE
posted by tonycpsu at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wilson told me that Ferguson’s force had a few bigoted members, but he denied that racism was institutional. The Justice Department’s numbers were “skewed,” he said. “You can make those numbers fit whatever agenda you want.”

Gross. End stop.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:07 AM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


UGH why would this author -- Nabokov, is it? -- write a book about a CHILD MOLESTER! So disgusting!!

Or, more simply: save your righteousness -- one can find an article about a despicable person interesting for a variety of reasons.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:07 AM on August 3, 2015 [42 favorites]


The author really, really wants us to be on Wilson's "side", for some reason.

Perhaps to show that here is a guy just trying his best to get by and be a good cop, who only very rarely murders the people he has sworn to serve and protect?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:07 AM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


The author is not taking Wilson's side.

He effectively shows that Wilson is a fairly ignorant and racist man, with a dodgy work record in the police department. Theres not much room for interpretation.
posted by Avenger at 10:09 AM on August 3, 2015 [37 favorites]


Later, McCarthy asked, “What would’ve happened if you’d found a gun?” Wilson said that he would have arrested the man. McCarthy asked him what his case for probable cause would have been, and Wilson couldn’t answer. “You’d be screwed,” McCarthy said.

Hooooly shit we let kids out of the academy in this state of ignorance? Jesus Christ no wonder policing is so fucked in this country. We spend so much time training to kill and ignore teaching them the fucking law.
posted by Talez at 10:14 AM on August 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


God, the more I think about this guy the angrier I get. He wanted to work in a predominantly Af-Am neighborhood because he got a laugh out of the people, but he couldn't be bothered to actually do anything to be a better cop for those people. They're there to serve him, they're there to amuse him and make his day more fun, but fuck actually becoming an effective police officer by connecting with the community you work in.

A tremendous dumpster fire burns in place of this man's soul.
posted by palomar at 10:19 AM on August 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


What gets me isn't the assistance of the article itself but the complete lack of non-softball questions. Sure, Wilson himself makes himself look like a racist garbage profiting from a racist system that he is, but why not ask him about it? How will he explain to his kid that the house they live in was purchased because he killed someone and people with ties to the KKK and neo-nazis gave him enough money to afford it?

Or question what he means when he says when he started working where “I’d never been in an area where there was that much poverty,” even though he's from Fort Worth, where there is also a significant percentage of people in population. Did he mean that he wasn't comfortable with an area that was 90% black?

The author proudly says he pushes him once. But what about all the other items that are accepted as fact on their face from Wilson?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:20 AM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


I asked him if he agreed with Randolph that the neighborhood’s main problem was the absence of jobs. “There’s a lack of jobs everywhere,” he replied, brusquely. “But there’s also lack of initiative to get a job. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” He acknowledged that the jobs available in Ferguson often paid poorly, but added, “That’s how I started. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Good values, Wilson insisted, needed to be learned at home. He spoke of a black single mother, in Ferguson, who was physically disabled and blind. She had several teen-age children, who “ran wild,” shooting guns, dealing drugs, and breaking into cars.


This is some crazy psychological shit. So Wilson's mother was mentally ill and committed suicide, Wilson had difficulty finding a job and joined a police department because he couldn't find anything else.

But he has no sympathy for people who can't find work, no sympathy for the children of a profoundly disabled mother.
posted by angrycat at 10:20 AM on August 3, 2015 [37 favorites]


Brown did violently steal from a store. He did reach into a car and punch a police officer. He was not shot from behind or with his hands up.

That doesn't make the fact that he was murdered okay.

But yeah, I feel for an officer who is pretty much ground meat in this system being held up as if he is the major problem. His sin is one life, under difficult and confusing circumstances. Systemic racism is what claims thousands of lives every year (with police shootings a drop in the bucket), but it's harder to find a true poster boy for it because we all contribute.

Voting for War on Drugs and tough on crime candidates. White flight. Sending the kids to private schools. Not making ending racism or economic inequality along racial lines a non-negotiable part of our political views. There are 10000 different reasons Mike Brown was more likely to be killed than me even though I committed the same sort of stupid fucking crimes when I was his age, bad cops are only a part of it. Wilsons are an inevitable end result of what we are doing as a society. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be in jail for the rest of his life, but I wish people examined themselves with the same vigor they do him.

But hey, there I go again with the misdirected empathy. I know, not gonna deny it. I guess it's probably that I'm a shithead that makes me feel empathy for the biggest shitheads of all at times, but the dude is a human being and I don't think he took a job in law enforcement to be a villain. Time's yours.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:23 AM on August 3, 2015 [23 favorites]


...the dude is a human being and I don't think he took a job in law enforcement to be a villain.

He didn't take the job to be a hero, either. He took the job because he couldn't think of anything better to do. Besides, in real life nobody ever thinks of themselves as a villain. Bill Cosby didn't take an acting job to be a rapist. Sometimes people just suck.
posted by something something at 10:27 AM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


the dude is a human being

He's a human being who refuses to recognize the humanity of people who are exactly like him save the color of their skin. Look at the way he trashes the black mother whose only crime is severe disability, yet lauds his own mother for doling out so much love while she was ruining her children's lives with her own crimes.

I don't have a whole lot of use for sitting around feeling sorry for people like this. Not when they MURDER people and still refuse to feel any guilt or shame because that would mean they're living in the past, which is somehow a bad thing when one needs to contemplate how badly they have fucked up, but is apparently okay if what you want to do is go back to a town where you murdered a kid and do your police job for just one more day to prove to all the haters that they haven't beaten you.

Fuck this guy, and his supporters.
posted by palomar at 10:27 AM on August 3, 2015 [45 favorites]


The article struck me as an examination of privilege and I think the comparisons between victim and killer were made to highlight Brown and Wilson's similarities and differences in that light. Wilson is clearly either not conscious of, or unwilling to acknowledge his racism. Privilege. He's also an unreliable source: he lied to the reporter at several points, and the reporter dutifully noted when evidence ran counter to claims.

I didn't think this was a flattering, supportive profile or that the author took Wilson's side. Wilson comes across as oblivious of his surroundings, racist as fuck, and severely lacking basic human empathy of the people he was supposed to be protecting. It also sounds like Wilson was taught but didn't learn to value communication and de-escalation. A failure of personal responsibility in every sense. Meanwhile, the system that took him in, armed him and put him in charge of "keeping the peace," also encouraged him on-the-job to view "black residents [as lacking] 'personal responsibility'" -- thereby enforcing what sound like racist beliefs he already held.

It's not just Wilson. The entire system is sick, and fixing that won't be easy. But combating institutionalized racism requires an understanding of how it manifests, so in that, the article can be an important read.

Thanks for posting.
posted by zarq at 10:31 AM on August 3, 2015 [31 favorites]


this thread is going to be difficult enough, can i ask that people stop making weird casual links to rape and molestation? using rape as a stand in for bad thing/bad person makes it difficult for me to participate in threads that should have nothing to do with rape.
posted by nadawi at 10:33 AM on August 3, 2015 [27 favorites]


> But he has no sympathy for people who can't find work, no sympathy for the children of a profoundly disabled mother.

It's worth noting that, though Darren Wilson is probably lacking in the self-reflection department, this attitude is not at all uncommon for police officers, regardless of background. I'm pretty sure that it's one of the lies they tell themselves as a coping strategy, rather than believe that they deal with lots of morally ambiguous situations with no clear villains. And, in fact, Wilson’s childhood may make him more likely to believe these things, since the “if I crawled out of the gutter, so can you” mentality is likely a part of his identity and not just a way to cope.

I have no desire to defend Darren Wilson in this thread, but let's just remember that there are thousands of officers like him who are still walking a beat, and those are the officers that represent the biggest danger to black men right now. The systemic “us vs. them” mentality is the cancer that is infecting police departments. And I don't know what to do about that; I just know that it will take a major shift in training and probably in hiring practices as well.

And even then, I don't know if it will do much for communities like Ferguson where us-versus-them is the entire point of the city's founding and the backdrop of the past several decades. Even if Ferguson PD becomes a model police department overnight — how do they turn things around and make black Ferguson residents feel like the police aren't the bad guys? I don't think it will have happened even a generation from now.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:40 AM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


. Wilson comes across as oblivious of his surroundings, racist as fuck, and severely lacking basic human empathy of the people he was supposed to be protecting. It also sounds like Wilson was taught but didn't learn to value communication and de-escalation.

Yeah, this is huge. Cops have a "RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!" attitude instead of a protect and serve attitude. Look at this video here of Roy Tensing (cop who killed Dubose) in 2014. The restraint the men he pulled over display is remarkable, but what really makes the video is what happens when Tensing's supervisor shows up. In moments common sense completely de-escalates the situation back to what it obviously was, a simple traffic stop. Tensing was clearly flirting with a "Drag them out of the car for disobeying," response for the entire duration until the supervisor shows up and embarrasses him into total silence and then politeness.

It's a long watch, but I highly recommend it because it's a textbook moment by moment case for "Policing does not have to be the way it is." The question is, why does a good supervisor tolerate bad cops to the point where the Dubose incident was eventually allowed to occur? Accountability is severely lacking. It's good that cops are now starting to be charged with murder when they murder, but we know we will be truly on the way when the day to day indignities, violations, and assaults start to be taken with real seriousness too.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


He is utterly unexceptional and any cop would do the same in his place.

Which is horrifying.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on August 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


this attitude is not at all uncommon for police officers, regardless of background.

yeah... I have a cousin who's a cop just outside of the St. Louis area, actually. He's always been kind of a prick (his hobby used to be throwing nice little bombs into our grandmother's relationship with his mom while in our city on a layover between home and college and making them snipe at each other), but becoming a cop really brought out the worst aspects of his personality. He's a full-on Fox News believing dittohead now, and I'm honestly surprised that his more liberal wife hasn't taken the kids and left him yet. I really am. It's that bad.
posted by palomar at 10:50 AM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


...but the dude is a human being and I don't think he took a job in law enforcement to be a villain.

Why should anyone give a shit whether he had good intentions? Obviously that won't bring back the dead 18 year old.

Dude wasn't having a bad day. He wasn't a victim of circumstance. He didn't make an innocent mistake that will follow him for the rest of his life. He didn't accidentally discharge his weapon once or twice. He chased and shot at an unarmed suspect 10 times.

The fact that he hasn't really expressed remorse, can view himself as a victim, tries to block out what he's done and claims "this wasn't about race" is a testament not only to the privilege he holds and is refusing to examine, but also to how little humanity he possesses.
posted by zarq at 10:52 AM on August 3, 2015 [37 favorites]


A passage from Ta-Nehisi Coates' book given in the article: “There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers or even in this moment. The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country.”

It's a keen insight that made me hesitant to finish the rest of the article, as it reminded me that Wilson is effectively a persona non grata for me in trying to make sense of race relations in the U.S. I kept on, until this paragraph:
McCarthy wasn’t surprised that Wilson had difficulty interacting with residents. Police officers are rigorously trained in firing weapons and apprehending suspects but not in establishing common ground with people who have had different experiences. “If you go to an academy, how much is on that?” he asked me. “Basically, nothing.” A recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum revealed that cadets usually receive fifty-eight hours of training in firearms, forty-nine in defensive tactics, ten in communication skills, and eight in de-escalation tactics.
There's the real article. I get it: all sorts of headlines, eyeballs, page-clicks are grabbed with the personal profile (wasn't there a what's-life-like-now article on George Zimmerman on the blue a while back?). But good heavens: I don't want to dig deeper into a person's minutae (I never did get past that paragraph, I don't know what the article did or didn't bring up), I don't want prickly issues around race to be framed around one (albeit notorious) person's experience. Racism is systematic; police training that focuses on being ready for "the bad guy", with token attention paid to communication and connection with citizens is racist when precincts are so starkly divided by race.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 10:59 AM on August 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


About his mother: Despite her compulsive thievery, Dean somehow avoided prison. Finally, a judge warned her that if she appeared in his court again she would be jailed.

not....executed by a police officer.

This, if nothing else, should be hammered into Wilson's head: the difference that the privilege he grew up with makes, and why ignoring it makes him the racist that he is.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:00 AM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I tried to read this; hit the paragraph that's been circulating on twitter that fails to mention that the KKK was a significant financial backer of Wilson's charity case and wasn't pleased, then hit an embedded Kate Beaton cartoon about a fairy godmother with lame curses and wanted to throw up. They really could not have taken this less seriously, could they? This article is the height of liberal backpatting bullshit; Narrative Priorities, I could not agree more. Disgusting.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:01 AM on August 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Appropriate: The Conversation on Race by Clay Bennett
posted by Fizz at 11:04 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Artw: He is utterly unexceptional and any cop would do the same in his place.

This is far from true. For example, see Alaska's Unarmed Law Enforcement, some of who still didn't want to carry a sidearm even after one of their own was killed in the line of duty. Mind you, this is a much different setting, but still part of the Good Ol' US of A.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:08 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The New Yorker embeds its cartoons on every single story, regardless of content, and has done so for years. It isn't a wise policy, in my opinion, because it leads to jarring juxtapositions like this, but they aren't deliberately trivializing Mike Brown's murder by following it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:13 AM on August 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Cops have a "RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!" attitude

In other words:
Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority”

and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person”

and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.
posted by Phire at 11:13 AM on August 3, 2015 [82 favorites]


Brown did violently steal from a store. He did reach into a car and punch a police officer. He was not shot from behind or with his hands up.

And Wilson had a choice that day. He could have just driven by and gone about his day, nothing out of the ordinary. But he chose to stop and hassle two kids walking home simply because he could, because that's what cops do. And when one of those kids disrespected him with a remark, he went ballistic and escalated, which we have seen time and again, when he could have just shook his head and gone on by and Michael Brown would be alive. It's disrespect for their authority that cops simply won't tolerate.
posted by JackFlash at 11:15 AM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


Cops have a "RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!" attitude

This shooting of an unarmed Michigan teenager exemplifies that attitude. The filmmaker has since produced an in-depth look at the shooting, and the parents are trying to have the officer brought to justice.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:18 AM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


The New Yorker has a long history (at least through the 12 or so years that I've subscribed to it) of basically writing hit pieces on people starkly against their general editorial stance (cosmopolitan left of center) by merely giving them all the rope they need to hang themselves. They're definitely not endorsing this person's views by printing them. There will be quite a few similar articles on Republican presidential candidates over the next year.
posted by LionIndex at 11:26 AM on August 3, 2015 [24 favorites]


That Clay Bennett cartoon would be more accurate if the group on the right were facing left, holding megaphones. Which is to say, one of the groups is not making an effort to have the conversation.
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 11:27 AM on August 3, 2015


That's a bookmark, Phire. Thanks.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:32 AM on August 3, 2015


[Comment removed. This really, really needs to not turn into a relitigation of how and why Michael Brown was no angel or etc.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:40 AM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


KGMoney: "The author really, really wants us to be on Wilson's "side", for some reason."

I think the author wants to show us why WILSON is on Wilson's side. Banality of evil, etc.

I actually found it really fascinating. Dude repeatedly gets PARTWAY there. He realizes he doesn't know the black community, asks for help, learns a little, and then says "Okay, item checked off, I did it, I'm not racist, I don't need to learn any more." And then when he's called on still being really racist, he's SUPER OFFENDED about it and can't hear it even a little.

zarq: "I didn't think this was a flattering, supportive profile or that the author took Wilson's side. Wilson comes across as oblivious of his surroundings, racist as fuck, and severely lacking basic human empathy of the people he was supposed to be protecting."

Yeah, exactly.

LionIndex: "basically writing hit pieces on people starkly against their general editorial stance (cosmopolitan left of center) by merely giving them all the rope they need to hang themselves."

This too.

IMO, there's a real value to listening to people who are really wrong explaining themselves in their own words and their thought process for how they got there. (Not everywhere in all platforms all the time, obviously, but sometimes.) For one thing, it lets you see where harmless crankery (get off my damn lawn!) crosses over into overt racism (for example), which can be a very useful thing to know in local politics. For another, if you, say, found yourself on a community police review board, or negotiating management's side in a union police contract, you have got to know how the bad cops are thinking if you're going to make changes that improve the force. (The good cops are pretty up-front with you. The bad cops know that you, educated liberal pansy, do not want to hear their actual opinions so they just lie to you and slow-walk everything you try to change.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:46 AM on August 3, 2015 [22 favorites]


After reading some of the comments in this thread, I'm not sure I want to finish the article, but I was rather struck by this:
(In 2013, the town of Edmundson, which comprises less than a square mile, issued nearly five thousand traffic tickets.) Police officers, meanwhile, can be paid as little as ten dollars an hour
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:54 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't feel like the author was taking Wilson's side at all. He was simply offering to tell the man's side of the story his way, trusting that he knew exactly what would happen when he gave this shitheel enough rope.

I thought it was a good tack. Infinitely more damning than a hit piece could ever have been.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:58 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


They're definitely not endorsing this person's views by printing them.

That's not the problem - the problem is, as already noted by Narrative Priorities above, that the reporter doesn't ask any serious or difficult questions or press Wilson in any way. Everything is soft serve. This is what gives it a sheen of whitewashing.
posted by jammy at 12:00 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


(In 2013, the town of Edmundson, which comprises less than a square mile, issued nearly five thousand traffic tickets.) Police officers, meanwhile, can be paid as little as ten dollars an hour

Yep. Edmundson is adjacent to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and includes a stretch of I-70. Cops there apparently issued so many traffic tickets last year that they've gone afoul of a 2013 Missouri state law which limits traffic ticket revenue to 30 percent of any municipality's total budget. In March:
"Edmundson on Thursday night became one of the first St. Louis County municipalities to formally oppose final approval of a legislative proposal that would limit traffic fine revenue to 10 percent of their budgets."

posted by zarq at 12:06 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to give Drinkie Die the benefit of the doubt and say I do not think that he himself is a white supremacist in his intentions or in his soul.

However, he posted a classic example of white supremacy in action:
Brown did violently steal from a store. He did reach into a car and punch a police officer. He was not shot from behind or with his hands up.

That doesn't make the fact that he was murdered okay.
Here, a black teen is presented in terms of pure wrongdoing. Just a list of actions attributed to an individual, nothing about the person, with a little disclaimer at the end. Too bad he was murdered, but hey, don't feel too bad – he was not a good person anyway.
But yeah, I feel for an officer who is pretty much ground meat in this system being held up as if he is the major problem. His sin is one life, under difficult and confusing circumstances. Systemic racism is what claims thousands of lives every year (with police shootings a drop in the bucket), but it's harder to find a true poster boy for it because we all contribute.
Then, the white adult is presented, not in terms of bare actions that he is responsible for as an individual, but rather, as a human being like you or me. He is the victim of a system. Police shootings are minimized as a drop in the bucket. We all share the blame when it comes time to talk about this white man who murdered a black teen.
But hey, there I go again with the misdirected empathy. I know, not gonna deny it. I guess it's probably that I'm a shithead that makes me feel empathy for the biggest shitheads of all at times, but the dude is a human being and I don't think he took a job in law enforcement to be a villain. Time's yours.
Continuing to do this is a problem. If we see this, we should not shrug and perpetuate the idea that black people do things because they're bad, while white people do them because of environmental conditions. We should just stop.
posted by ignignokt at 12:23 PM on August 3, 2015 [131 favorites]


They're definitely not endorsing this person's views by printing them.

That's not the problem - the problem is, as already noted by Narrative Priorities above, that the reporter doesn't ask any serious or difficult questions or press Wilson in any way. Everything is soft serve. This is what gives it a sheen of whitewashing.


Given how damning this article comes off, it seems like they didn't particularly need to press him.
posted by Etrigan at 12:35 PM on August 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thank you, ignignokt.
posted by jammy at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Everything is soft serve. This is what gives it a sheen of whitewashing.

Everything is "soft serve" because the reporter wanted the interview subject to keep talking. The article treats Wilson with some sympathy and nuance, yes, but the chosen quotes make it clear that he's so breathtakingly racist that he has no idea he is implicating himself with his own words. It's an interesting and revealing piece.
posted by Mothlight at 1:07 PM on August 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Before reading the comments here, I found the article to be a deservedly vicious, if subtle, takedown. I couldn't imagine reading it and concluding that Wilson was anything but a cowardly, racist moron. Halpern even implicitly criticizes the findings of the Brown-specific DOJ report, by pointing out repeatedly that the more general Ferguson report comports with verifiable facts and that it seems obvious and logical that an officer in such a system would have acted more like the way Dorian Johnson says Wilson acted than the Brown report claims.

And that exquisite photo of Wilson is the portrait of a criminal (obviously done in the style of a mug shot) who can't -- or won't -- look his true self in the mirror.

(And to boot, his wife is of the "Cool Girl," "women are too catty for me," school.)
posted by sallybrown at 1:26 PM on August 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


That's not the problem - the problem is, as already noted by Narrative Priorities above, that the reporter doesn't ask any serious or difficult questions or press Wilson in any way. Everything is soft serve. This is what gives it a sheen of whitewashing.

Again, to mix the overused metaphors - softball or enough rope? Does he seem like he would kept talking if he thought he was being challenged? I kind of skimmed this but I see the reporter highlighting the double standard Wilson holds for his own family, letting him unspool the "racial code language" at his own leisure, discussing systemic police racism including damning details from the Justice Department investigation of the Ferguson P.D., interviewing black residents about the traumatic effect of the shooting, and so on. It seems like a textbook journalism technique of (purportedly) examining a systemic issue through its reflection in an individual.

I think the biggest problem with this approach in general it's that it can accidentally paint the subject as more sympathetic than intended, even though I don't personally find him sympathetic here. One could argue that it's kind of a hackneyed, eyeball-grabbing take and that Wilson's presence doesn't provide that much insight that couldn't be gotten from examining the system (or less infamous cops) more directly. If there's a deficiency of this piece in particular it's that it could have dug deeper on that - though other writers certainly have - and on the outright racism of Wilson's supporters.
posted by atoxyl at 1:30 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


But I mean I think it is trying to balance "don't make him look tragic/victimized" with "don't make him look like a one-off bad guy."
posted by atoxyl at 1:44 PM on August 3, 2015


The part that seems unsavory is that on some level it's like "we got Darren Wilson - what a scoop!" The highbrow version.
posted by atoxyl at 1:46 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


> If we see this, we should not shrug and perpetuate the idea that black people do things because they're bad, while white people do them because of environmental conditions. We should just stop.

ignignokt, I took at least 20 minutes to understand what it was about your comment that rubbed me the wrong way. I'm only 90% sure I've figured it out, but here it is:

In these here parts, the major narrative of the Michael Brown shooting — not the Ferguson PD's handling of the protest, nor the draconian system of local “justice” depicted in the DOJ report, but just the shooting itself — is that Darren Wilson was a monster of a cop who shot a kid for walking in the street.

Drinky Die's comment made clear that he thinks Darren Wilson is a giant shithead who murdered someone. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't use the word "murdered" if he thought there should be no criminal penalty for Wilson. Talking about systemic racism is not a way to diffuse responsibility any more than talking about America's hypocrisy in the drug war is a way to excuse Pablo Escobar.

I think his comment itself illustrates that he's not doing a "Michael Brown was no angel" thing. He's pointing out that Wilson's crime is not villainous evil (shooting a kid in the back with only bare pretense) but rather banal evil (escalating an ostensibly legitimate police encounter to the point where he felt like lethal force was his only way out). His comment contained only the information you'd need to include to shift the discussion from scenario A to scenario B. Hence I feel like your paraphrasing is too reductive. I don't think Drinky Die is obligated to recapitulate the whole discussion just to add that context.

People who do bad things within a system still need to be punished. People who emerge from abusive childhoods spent in poverty will still get arrested if they choose to deal drugs. You may empathize with those people, you may think "there but for fortune go I," and that's the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean you fail to arrest them in the first place. Same with Wilson — it's not quite fair to make him out to be a super-villain instead of the minion that he is.

Obviously he goes to the back of the line empathy-wise, far behind Michael Brown's family, far behind any person of color living in America. But I don't feel like Drinky Die was suggesting otherwise.
posted by savetheclocktower at 1:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


People seem to be under the illusion that the police in America are a force that were set up to enforce laws, and keep people safe. That is not true.

In the American South, the police forces pretty much exclusively dealt with, at first, Slave Patrol, and later enforcement of Jim Crow. Even in cities like Los Angeles, racial separation and discrimination could not be separated from the police force's core objectives and goals.

So even if there are good officers here and there, let's not forget why the police were set up in the first place and what their role was for so long. Even though today's police can talk a good game to the public, people like Wilson know exactly why they are getting into police work-- to assert racial superiority over an oppressed minority, and feel the power and self worth that comes along with it.
posted by cell divide at 1:52 PM on August 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Obviously he goes to the back of the line empathy-wise, far behind Michael Brown's family, far behind any person of color living in America. But I don't feel like Drinky Die was suggesting otherwise.

But when a person's comment kicks off with "Michael Brown did bad things and assaulted a cop* and that doesn't make his murder okay, but now let's talk about all the empathy I have for the poor guy that killed him"... it's pretty damn hard to see where the empathy comes in for anyone that isn't Darren Wilson.

But hey, Drinky Die also said that we're all complicit in the systemic racism and he wishes people would focus on themselves instead of Darren Wilson. So... pointing out that there's a fair amount of systemic racism that goes into deciding Wilson deserves empathy because he's just a powerless cog in a machine seems more than reasonable to me. Wilson's not a powerless cog, he's someone who got away with murder and is annoyed that people aren't getting over it yet, and he'll do it again if given half a chance. He's just another Zimmerman with a more boyishly handsome face.

is this even true, though? is there actual evidence that this happened or are we basing that on the police report and not the photos that show Wilson's totally undamaged face? if a man's punched twice in the face and honestly believes, as Wilson claimed in his grand jury testimony, that the third punch would be the one that killed him, shouldn't there be even a tiny bit of redness on the face of the person being punched? some swelling? blood? bruising? anything at all?
posted by palomar at 2:13 PM on August 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


> But when a person's comment kicks off with "Michael Brown did bad things and assaulted a cop* and that doesn't make his murder okay, but now let's talk about all the empathy I have for the poor guy that killed him"... it's pretty damn hard to see where the empathy comes in for anyone that isn't Darren Wilson.

And, again, (a) I feel like that paraphrase is too reductive and uncharitable; (b) I feel like when you say (in the very same comment) that Wilson deserves to be in jail for the rest of his life, you don't also have to make it explicit that you have empathy for Michael Brown and his family.

When someone in the thread agrees with 99% of what's already been said, and wants to give a slightly different take on the last 1%, I don't think we should expect that person to type four paragraphs of disclaimers beforehand reiterating the other 99% just to prove they're not concern trolling.

> is this even true, though? is there actual evidence that this happened or are we basing that on the police report and not the photos that show Wilson's totally undamaged face?

The DOJ report had more than just the police report to go on. I don't remember all the details, but their conclusion was that there was both forensic and eyewitness evidence of some sort of struggle at the car door, as well as forensic and eyewitness evidence that Brown was facing Wilson and moving toward him with his arms out and not in a typical hands-up surrender pose. That's all that can be said with even half certainty.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:27 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wilson told the grand jury that Brown, upon being shot, had “the most intense, aggressive face,” and looked “like a demon.” Brown retreated, running east. Wilson chased him.

Everything I need to know about Darren Wilson is right here. Because that face people make when they're shot?

It's called pain.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:28 PM on August 3, 2015 [32 favorites]


And, again, (a) I feel like that paraphrase is too reductive and uncharitable; (b) I feel like when you say (in the very same comment) that Wilson deserves to be in jail for the rest of his life, you don't also have to make it explicit that you have empathy for Michael Brown and his family.


yeah, the thing is that the "oh, but Michael Brown shoved a clerk" or whatever well has been thoroughly poisoned, and even if it hadn't it is basically irrelevant to whatever stories Darren Wilson tells himself to get to sleep at night.
posted by kagredon at 2:32 PM on August 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


Brown was killed in the street shortly after robbing a convenience store

The only reason the above was even floated (and as far as I know it remains unclear whether there actually was a shoplifting or not - at this point the well is thoroughly poisoned) is because it was released by the police of Ferguson attempting to prove that Brown was dangerous and deserved to be shot.

The simple fact that so many people in this thread are leaning hard on the "Brown was an adult and aggressive, so his death is a tragedy but not unexpected" is so striking in contrast to how similarly aged or even older white criminals are treated. For example, the "troubled young man" in South Carolina who murdered people in cold blood.

Our media literally treats white murderers and suspects with more empathy and compassion than black murder victims. This was striking in the Brown case in particular, since the police engaged in organized character assassination of Brown and Ferguson citizens in general, but it is common in all of these cases which reach national attention.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:32 PM on August 3, 2015 [31 favorites]




I don't have much to add, just that I was thinking this might be revelatory, that Wilson isn't really the terrible person I suspected he is.

But no, he's just a piece of shit. Focusing on the individual cop, though, is a mistake; we need to take down the system instead. Somehow.
posted by zardoz at 6:45 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


"What you have there is basically raw sewage"

The title of the previous post could also apply here.
posted by reiichiroh at 6:51 PM on August 3, 2015


Darrell Wilson is boring. But I'd really like to read a New Yorker article about his late mother.
posted by knoyers at 8:20 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted. I know folks have the best of intentions just to get the facts straight, but please seriously let's drop the "what exactly did Michael Brown do or not do" line of inquiry, it's not really what the profile's about and regardless of disclaimers, it comes across as derailing onto how much blame falls on Brown.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:36 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


NPR's Audie Cornish talked to Jake Halpern about the interviews in a piece aired yesterday, and Halpern ended with this thought:
I think that meeting someone in person, whoever they are, meeting their family, seeing their child - you inevitably see them in a more human way. That's true. And yet, reading the police reports, even to some of his own police reports, I also felt like he is a human, but he was part of a system that was really doing some bad things.

I think I saw the contradictions of it, the really egregious things that that police department did and some of the checks that this guy did - the pedestrian checks and whatnot - that were super questionable and where there were real suffering as a result of it, and yet simultaneously see this guy as a three-dimensional human being. And it was complicated. It made it difficult to kind of come up with easy answers and, you know, swift, knee-jerk conclusions.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:13 AM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's not quite fair to make him out to be a super-villain instead of the minion that he is

Minion? He wasn't just following orders. It was his finger on the trigger of his gun and nobody else's.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:54 AM on August 4, 2015


Also, positioning people whose response is "fuck this racist" as "making him out to be a super-villain" is a really convenient way of making a perfectly reasonable response sound unreasonable.
posted by kagredon at 12:15 PM on August 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's very convenient for racists that people equate being one with being a "super-villain" because it positions them as a victim of their own beliefs rather that a human being that should not be racist.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:43 PM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's very convenient for racists that people equate being one with being a "super-villain"

It's also very convenient that people equate racism with being a super-villain because as long as you're not a super-villain you never have to question whether or not you might actually be kinda racist.

Fun fact, if you grew up in the United States you are absolutely a racist. We all are.
posted by palomar at 1:15 PM on August 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Charles M. Blow, "Darren Wilson's Quest for Distance"
[T]his false detachment and distancing is what makes the predation of structural racism so perfect: It is an edifice without a single, maleficent architect or even a council thereof. It grows out of collective desire to perform a collective deed. It isn’t so much conscious brainchild as subliminal mind meld.

It is like the hive. No single bee need be aware of the hive’s entirety or its enormity. Just doing one seemingly innocuous task contributes to the whole. In fact, you needn’t participate at all to reap the benefits of the system.

It is as exquisite as it is insidious. It can also be deadly.
posted by gladly at 9:28 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


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