WHAT MATTERS

with Janee Woods

Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder

Michael Brown

As we all know by now, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenage boy, was gunned down by the police while walking to his grandmother’s house in the middle of the afternoon. For the past few days my Facebook newsfeed has been full of stories about the incidents unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.

But then I realized something.

For the first couple of days, almost all of the status updates expressing anger and grief about yet another extrajudicial killing of an unarmed black boy, the news articles about the militarized police altercations with community members and the horrifying pictures of his dead body on the city concrete were posted by people of color. Outpourings of rage and demands for justice were voiced by black people, Latinos, Asian Americans, Arab American Muslims. But posts by white people were few at first and those that I saw were posted mostly by my white activist or academic friends who are committed to putting themselves on the frontlines of any conversation about racial or economic injustice in America. And almost nothing, silence practically, by the majority of my nonactivist, nonacademic white friends- those same people who gleefully jumped on the bandwagon to dump buckets of ice over their heads to raise money for ALS and those same people who immediately wrote heartfelt messages about reaching out to loved ones suffering from depression following the suicide of the extraordinary Robin Williams, may he rest in peace. But an unarmed black teenager minding his own business walking down the street in broad daylight gets harassed and murdered by a white police officer and those same people seem to have nothing urgent to say about pervasive, systemic, deadly racism in America?

They have nothing to say?

Why? The simplest explanation is because Facebook is, well, Facebook. It’s not the New York Times or a town hall meeting or the current events class at your high school. It’s the internet playground for sharing cat videos, cheeky status updates about the joys and tribulations of living with toddlers, and humble bragging about your fabulous European vacation. Some people don’t think Facebook is the forum for serious conversations. Okay, that’s fine if you fall into that category and your wall is nothing but rainbows and happy talk about how much you love your life.

However, I think the explanation is more complex and mirrors the silence of many people that I witness in real life. A lot of white people aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation so that they can move to action against racism. It’s not so much that they have nothing to say but rather they don’t see an opportunity being opened up for them to say something or to do something that matters. Or they might not be sure what to say or how to do it. They might have a hard time seeing a role for themselves in the fight against racism because they aren’t racist, they don’t feel that racism affects them or their loved ones personally, they worry that talking about race and differences between cultures might make things worse, or they think they rarely see overt racism at play in their everyday lives. And, sometimes, they are afraid. There’s a real fear of saying the wrong thing even if the intention is pure, of being alienated socially and economically from other white people for standing in solidarity with black people, or of putting one’s self in harm’s way, whether the harm be physical or psychological.  I’m not saying those aren’t valid fears but I am challenging white people to consider carefully whether failing to speak out or act because of those fears is justified when white silence and inaction mean the oppression and death of black people.

Let’s talk about an active role for white people in the fight against racism because racism burdens all of us and is destroying our communities. And, quite frankly, because white people have a role in undoing racism because white people created and, for the most part, currently maintain (whether they want to or not) the racist system that benefits white people to the detriment of people of color. My white friends who’ve spoken out harshly against the murder of Michael Brown end with a similar refrain: What can I do that will matter in the fight against racism?

White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.

In the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown, may he rest in power, here are some ways for white people to become white allies who are engaged thoughtfully and critically in examining the situation in Ferguson and standing on the side of justice and equity. This list is a good place to start your fight to dismantle racial inequity and shine a light on the oppressive structures that lead to yet another extrajudicial killing of a black person.

1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America.  Michael Brown’s murder is not a social anomaly or statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling. The militarized police response to peaceful assembly by the people mirrors what happened in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Reject the “He Was a Good Kid” narrative and lift up the “Black Lives Matter” narrative. Michael Brown was a good kid, by accounts of those who knew him during his short life. But that’s not why his death is tragic. His death isn’t tragic because he was a sweet kid on his way to college next week. His death is tragic because he was a human being and his life mattered. The Good Kid narrative might provoke some sympathy but what it really does is support the lie that as a rule black people, black men in particular, have a norm of violence or criminal behavior. The Good Kid narrative says that this kid didn’t deserve to die because his goodness was the exception to the rule. This is wrong. This kid didn’t deserve to die because he was a human being and black lives matter.

3. Use words that speak the truth about the disempowerment, oppression, disinvestment and racism that are rampant in our communities.  Be mindful, political and socially aware with your language. Notice how the mainstream news outlets are using words like riot and looting to describe the uprising in Ferguson.  What’s happening is not a riot. The people are protesting and engaging in a justified rebellion. They have a righteous anger and are revolting against the police who have terrorized them for years.

4. Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts and the prison industrial complex.  We don’t enslave black people on the plantation cotton fields anymore. Now we lock them up in for profit prisons at disproportionate rates and for longer sentences for the same crimes than white people. And when they are released, they are second class citizens stripped of voting rights and denied access to housing, employment and education.  Mass incarceration is The New Jim Crow.

5. Examine the interplay between poverty and racial equity. The twin pillar of racism is economic injustice but do not use class issues to trump race issues and avoid the racism conversation. While racism and class oppression are tangled together in this country, the fact remains that the number one predictor of prosperity and access to opportunity is race.

6. Diversify your media. Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on the tv, on the internet and on the radio to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues. Check out Colorlines, The Root or This Week in Blackness to get started.

7. Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression. Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for nonviolent conflict reconciliation as the primary strategy of the Civil Rights Movement and the charge of His Final Marching Orders.  East Point Peace Academy offers online resources and in person training on nonviolence that is accessible to all people regardless of ability to pay.

8. Find support from fellow white allies. Challenge and encourage each other to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused and angry and sad and hopeless, so that you can be more authentic in your shared journey with people of color to uphold and protect principles of antiracism and equity in our society.  Go to workshops like Training for Change’s Whites Confronting Racism or European Dissent by The People’s Institute.  Attend The White Privilege Conference or the Facing Race conference. Some organizations offer scholarships or reduced fees to help people attend if funding is an issue.

9. If you are a person of faith, look to your scriptures or holy texts for guidance. Seek out faith based organizations like Sojourners and follow faith leaders that incorporate social justice into their ministry. Ask your clergy person to address antiracism in their sermons and teachings. If you are not a person of faith, learn how the world’s religions view social justice issues so that when you have opportunity to invite people of faith to also become white allies, you can talk with them meaningfully about why being a white ally is supported by their spiritual beliefs.

10. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Let’s be realistic. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot once you know what you’re looking at) some people might not want to hang out with you as much. That’s a risk you’ll need to accept. But think about it like this: staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression. So you can be the popular person who stands with the oppressor or you can be the (maybe) unpopular person who stands for equality and dignity for all people. Which person would you prefer to be? And honestly, if some people don’t want to hang out with you anymore once you show yourself as a white ally then why would you even want to be friends with them anyway? They’re probably racists.

11. Be proactive in your own community. As a white ally, you are not limited to being reactionary and only rising up to stand on the side of justice when black people are being subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of crisis do not need to be the catalyst because taking action against systemic racism is always appropriate because systemic racism permeates nearly every institution and community in this country. Some ideas for action: organize a community conversation about the state of police-community relations* in your neighborhood, support leaders of color by donating your time or money to their campaigns or causes, ask the local library to host a showing and discussion group about the documentary RACE – The Power of an Illusion, attend workshops to learn how to transform conflict into opportunity for dialogue. Gather together diverse white allies that represent the diversity of backgrounds in your community. Antiracism is not a liberals only cause. Antiracism is a movement for all people, whether they be conservative, progressive, rich, poor, urban or rural.

12. Don’t give up. We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily. You may not see or feel the positive impact of your white allyship in the next month, the next year, the next decade or even your lifetime. But don’t ever stop. Being a white ally matters because your thoughts, deeds and actions will be part of what turns the tide someday. Change starts with the individual.

This is a list of just 12 ways to be an ally. There are many more ways and I invite you to consider what else you can do to become a strong and loyal white ally. People of color, black people especially, cannot and should not shoulder the burden for dismantling the racist, white supremacist system that devalues and criminalizes black life without the all in support, blood, sweat and tears of white people. If you are not already a white ally, now is the time to become one.

People are literally dying.

Black people are dying and it’s not your personal fault that black people are dying because you’re white but if you don’t make a purposeful choice to become a white ally and actively work to dismantle the racist system running America for the benefit of white people then it becomes your shame because you are white and black lives matter. And if you live your whole life and then die without making a purposeful choice to become a white ally then American racism becomes your legacy.

The choice is yours.

 

*Disclosure: I work at this organization but the views expressed in this piece are my own and not necessarily those of the organization.

537 comments on “Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder

  1. Mark
    November 27, 2014

    Quotes from your article: “As we all know by now, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenage boy, was gunned down by the police while walking to his grandmother’s house in the middle of the afternoon”.

    “But an unarmed black teenager minding his own business walking down the street in broad daylight gets harassed and murdered by a white police officer and those same people seem to have nothing urgent to say about pervasive, systemic, deadly racism in America”?

    Are you that blind and deaf to the evidence? He committed a robbery! He was in the street! He attacked the police officer! What flavor of Kool Aid are you drinking? There is nothing nefarious about what occurred. That “teenager” made poor “adult type” decisions that cost him his life. The rest of us are not to blame! It starts with his parents and the community he lived in!

    All journalist’s should take heed to what they write as you may think you’re making a difference but all you are doing is making the divide even bigger. Just as Law Enforcement has responsibilities for their actions, so does anyone in the Media.

    • Dean
      November 29, 2014

      I was gonna make this exact same point.

    • Cynthia
      November 29, 2014

      Mark, look at your language. Do you think that you are being heard when you start off with name calling “are you blind and deaf” etc.

      Mark, shoplifting is not a capital offense. White teenagers do it all the time without getting killed. Why do you think that is? Why do whites in general get off with much lighter sentences than blacks for the same crimes?

      When “journalists take heed” do you think they should be ignoring issues like decades of predatory culture of the Ferguson Police Department? Should they ignore recent events like the man in Walmart who was killed by police while holding a toy gun? And ignore the choking death of an unarmed black man by the NYPD? And the many instances of “death by cop” that don’t seem as rampant in the White community? Should journalists taking “heed” and accept the testimony of Darren Wilson and all exculpatory evidence and ignore the incriminating evidence?

      Did Wilson escalate the situation? Did he do all he could to de-escalate it? Some law enforcement experts wonder why he didn’t drive off a bit, a “strategic retreat” to re-group until back up arrived.

      Your “entitlement” to the set of facts that support your world view is on parade here. But there are many, many more considerations that need our attention. We have much to learn from writers like Janee Woods who expressed things clearly and as non-defensively as possible, until the last two paragraphs. Alas, those two paragraphs speak a truth that I think we all need to hear, provocative though it may be.

      Peace.

      • Clint Poole
        December 2, 2014

        Cynthia. This wasn’t just shoplifting, were you selectively watching this video when this almost 290 pound 18 year old man pushed the smaller defenseless shop owner into his chip rack. You call that shoplifting? Really? I shoplifted candy when I was a kid but would never had smacked around anyone. Why do you insist on defending this bullying behavior?

        Do,you not understand Brown jumped Wilson and fought for his gun. What about the fact he was high. And do you defend his accomplice that blatantly lied right after the incident saying brown was shot in the back! igniting the immediate judgement of wilson. Did you read that all three autopsies proved brown was not shot in the back?

        Seriously, are you just brainwashed? Where is your defense of the white man that was beat to death by four black teens with hammers in St. Louis yesterday? What about all the other racist crimes towards whites we read everyday?

      • mach
        December 7, 2014

        Of course it’s not a capital crime, but it challenges the quote claiming he was harassed by police while he was simply minding his own business.

    • joe
      November 30, 2014

      ” ” ” “

  2. 'Elle Nations
    November 27, 2014

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ARTICLE.

    I’m sure you can imagine the things I’ve heard in Texas this week regarding this case. Racism is alive and well in these parts, and the worst part is you’re made to feel ashamed/naive/unintelligent if you say anything in opposition. As a white female, I’ve felt pretty powerless and have found myself in ultra rare silence when I’ve always been vocal against injustice. But the ideas in this article are a good start. Thanks, love. Truly helped. Bravo.

  3. Holly Richmond
    November 28, 2014

    Reblogged this on H O L L Y R I C H M O N D.

  4. fearandwriting
    November 28, 2014

    It sucks you had to include this disclosure. Almost takes away from your very important and powerful piece.

  5. David Campbell
    November 28, 2014

    This article is so, so important and enlightening. Knowing how race and racism began is key to ending it.

    View story at Medium.com

  6. helen
    November 28, 2014

    In spite of the vitriol and ignorance displayed in some of the responses to your wonderful article, please be assured you have a huge audience who will be guided by your extremely good advice. Thank you for your lucid thinking and courage to speak the truth.

  7. Pingback: Learning About Ferguson | Painting the Grey Area

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  9. Tom
    November 29, 2014

    -He was on drugs
    -He had just robbed a store
    -He assaulted a police officer
    -He grabbed the officers gun
    -He charged the officer

    The officers life was clearly in danger, so he killed the kid, who happened to be unarmed. none the less, he was dangerous and obviously the kind of kid who ends up in jail. not because he is black, but because he was on drugs and robbed a god damn store. Stop making it sound like he was a regular kid, he was a criminal.

    • Cynthia
      November 29, 2014

      It’s not that clear unless you accept Wilson’s view without challenging it. Even law enforcement professionals have said that Wilson did not use all of his tools to de-escalate it before pulling his gun (and they don’t buy his excuses). The Grand Jury did not establish the truth about whether Michael was surrendering or charging, and the physical evidence was inconclusive to solve that. I’m sorry, but it is bias to accept one version over other versions.

      “He’s obviously the kind of kid who ends up in jail.” Right. Like white kids who shoplift, jaywalk, and get high end up dead. At what point did Wilson pull his gun? Is it possible that Michael grabbed the gun in self defense? It just seems so unprofessional that a cop couldn’t execute a “strategic retreat” when he knew that back up was on the way.

      The stereotyping “he’s obviously the kind of kid…” and accepting the unchallenged testimony of Wilson looks like bias.

      Ignoring the cultural context and long history of racism and injustice simply isn’t possible. This happened in a particularly strongly racist police culture.

      • realbkw
        December 14, 2014

        “The Grand Jury did not establish the truth about whether Michael Brown was surrendering or charging.” It’s not up to the GJ to ESTABLISH anything. They do as other juries do, albeit with different information and evidence and using a diffeent method of analysis. It is NOT “bias” to accept one version over other(s). You’re wrong. Because it doesn’t happen. They don’t just take a look at a couple of “versions” and pick one. They have to examine the evidence and see which “versions” are supported by the evidence. They look at the totality of each version and weigh the degree of credibility it gets. There may be bits and pieces of different versions that can be supported by physical evidence.

        Your use of hind-sight is ridiculous. “LE professionals have said…” and “did not use … his tools to de-escalate” “(and they don’t buy his excuses)” Who are these “professionals?” Are they cops who patrol a beat? Or are they arm chair quarterbacks who have never been faced with this type of situation? HOW would they have de-escalated the situation? Brown had already attacked a store clerk. Then, for some inexplicable reason he attacked a cop trapped in his vehicle, tried to steal his gun, and then tried to run.

        White kids who simply shoplift don’t get shot. Neither do black kids. Had Brown not “escalated” the shoplifting to a felony strong-arm robbery and assault, maybe things would have ended up differently for him. Maybe by the time he went to trial, a judge would learn he had started school and stayed out of trouble, and just given him a small fine, or an admonition. But then Brown was challenged by Wilson, and reacted very badly, not just in a threatening manner but in a violent manner.

        What kind of “strategic retreat” could Wilson have pulled? Should he have stayed in his car? Maybe. Except at that point Brown was a violent criminal and could not just be left to wander the streets until help arrived. I’m sure Wilson, looking back, would love to have just said “Whatever!” and driven home to ice his injuries. But that wasn’t his job.his job was to protect others from people like Brown, not unleash him on them and drive away.

        And sometimes one does have to “ignor(e) the cultural context and long history of racism” because, in this case, there is NO EVIDENCE that this incident had anything to do do with race, never mind racism. Simply put, this case ended the way it did BECAUSE OF MICHAEL BROWN’S ACTIONS. Wilson pulled his gun BECAUSE Brown was reaching into his car, throwing punches at him. He pursued Brown because of that assault and because Brown had tried to control his weapon. He pursued him to stop him before anybody else got hurt.

        WILSON. DID. HIS. JOB.

      • ckatsarelis
        December 15, 2014

        Realbkw, you are definitely accepting the biased position here. The evidence clearly also fits another view, which is why a trial was needed.

        The pro’s who have questioned Wilson’s tactics were retired police chiefs of major cities, like Boston. Wilson could have driven off a short ways. He also could have used his other tools before pulling his gun. Not having his taser was unprofessional.

        WILSON. SCREWED. UP. AND. A TEENAGER. DIED.

        There is ample evidence of a culture of racism in the Ferguson PD. Maybe that’s why Wilson didn’t bother carrying a taser. He should be facing trial, but at the very least, he should never work as a gun toting cop ever again.

        Meanwhile, a grand jury in Staten Island let off Eric Garner’s murderer. A 12 year old with a toy gun was shot in 1.5 seconds, and I don’t know what’s happened with the cops that shot John Crawford in Walmart while carry a toy gun that’s sold in the store, in an open carry state. This is a miserable state of affairs. No way I’m going to accept the side of a white cop in a white racist PD when the evidence also supports an alternative scenario.

      • realbkw
        December 15, 2014

        I haven’t accepted any view. I have formed my own opinion based on extensive research, firsthand knowledge of police procedure, and after discussing these cases with cops and lawyers. In fact, two of the cops are family members, one SWAT and the other K-9. We all came to similar conclusions. The case against Pantaleo in NY in the death of Eric Gardner SHOULD HAVE resulted in some level of indictment. The officers responding to the call about Tamir Rice committed a huge tactical blunder by driving and stopping so close to him. It hasn’t been made clear why they did so. Perhaps it was a purposeful decision, though unwise. Perhaps they didn’t realize until too late that he was right there. But once that happened, when Rice reached towards the GUN the officer felt his life was endangered. Hindsight tells us this guy might not be cop material. But were his actions criminal? Probably not. Negligent? Possibly. The same for the senior partner who drove the vehicle and was much more experienced than the rookie cop.John Crawford was shot as he burst back around a corner reaching for the dropped gun. Justifiable. And both the Rice and Crawford cases, occurring in different cities in Ohio, involved suspects with guns that were manufactured to deceive, to appear as close as possible to real, deadly weapons. They are NOT TOYS. Nobody who has a child considers a BB gun or pellet gun capable of shooting .22 cal bullets a toy. And Ohio IS an open carry state. But there are regulations and responsibilities that go with that right. For instance, you CANNOT just point your gun at people for the hell of it, like Rice was doing. And the 911 caller who reported Crawford told the dispatcher Crawford was pointing the rifle at customers, including children. He later recanted, but too late to do any good. So in both cases the police were required to respond as if the suspects had REAL weapons and were threatening to shoot people. With the exceptions noted in the Rice case, both were justifiable shootings, unfortunate as they were, and both were preventable if the suspects hadn’t been, well, suspiciously threatening to others. I predict that as open carry garners more favor around the country, we’ll see an increase in gun deaths, by police, against police, and by one citizen against another. Maybe the laws of engagement need to be re-examined regarding police interactions with suspects, but as the laws stand, I stand by my statements.

      • ckatsarelis
        December 15, 2014

        We agree about the likelihood of more gun deaths due to the reckless open carry laws and resistance to even screening gun buyers.

        Your version of John Crawford’s death does not match my observation of the video. The gun was in his hand, pointed downward and he was on his cell phone. He was startled by aggressive cops suddenly running up and pointing guns at him. Startled and frightened, he jumped for cover, he most definitely did not “lung for the gun!” The account given by the racists who called 911 on Crawford were not corroborated by anyone. The police have an OBLIGATION not to automatically accept all details from a caller. People can make false statements about personal enemies or the objects of bigotries, or they can simply misperceive a situation.

        I am not going to call you a liar. I am going to point out scientific data that shows that police and everyone else witnessing the same event enacted by blacks and whites will have a MUCH higher tendency to say that the black actor was threatening but not the white actor.

        I have cops and military people in my family too. The military people are appalled that the police don’t seem to have the stringent rules for engagement that they have. And they think that’s an enormous problem.

        I hear your accounts as totally bought into that of an establishment that works against black citizens. The Rice and Crawford shootings are completely unjustifiable, and yet you justify them.

        However, we agree that the rules of engagement have to be updated tremendously. There is also an enormous need for retraining.

        Of course being a police officer requires courage and significant abilities to discern what is going on in potentially dangerous situations. I have been in situations with shots fired in anger, outside the US. It doesn’t make me an expert, but it shows me that a clear head is needed for survival, let alone a response.

        As a taxpaying and voting citizen in a democracy, I want a police force that aims to “protect and serve” all of our citizens. What we’ve witnessed is summary executions. And that is not OK. And I believe that these rotten apples makes the climate more dangerous for the good guys.

      • realbkw
        December 15, 2014

        I think we agree on more than that which we each dispute. Our separate interpretations of Crawford’s shooting is interesting, and speaks volumes as to why physical evidence matters and can be used to judge the credibility of an eyewitness statement. I see Crawford as posing no threat, yet I question a couple of things: Why did he pick up the rifle in the first place? I look at him wandering into the gun department, on the phone, and non-chalantly grabbing the rifle as he walked by. In fact, it almost looks as if he knew it was there. Who does that? And in the hunting section of a store where real rifles are sold, and given the great care taken by manufacturers to make this kind of rifle look like a real one, can we assume he somehow knew it wasn’t the real deal without examining it? Because he clearly didn’t take the time to do that. He seems pretty casual about it, so maybe he somehow knew exactly what it was. (It would be interesting to see the surveillance video showing how the rifle ended up, out of its box, laying on a shelf.)

        As for his reaction to the police, I think you may be right, I can see that maybe he dropped the gun after being startled as opposed to dropping it because that’s what somebody holding a gun should do when a cop tells them to. And, assuming he knew the rifle he had was not as real as it looked, maybe he didn’t realize the cops were there for him at all but thought there was someone else nearby with a real weapon. But that doesn’t explain why he came quickly (very quickly!) back around the corner, to where the cop was, and appeared to reach for the gun before being blown back by a shot. Notice the vertical position of the gun as he goes around the corner and the cop heads down the aisle. Then notice Crawford reaching down as he clears back around the corner. He obviously reaches the gun because he changes its position so it’s horizontal in the photo, before the cop reaches it. To me, that’s a justifiable shooting.

        In hindsight everybody knows the rifle wasn’t as deadly as it appeared to be, but neither is it a toy. And now we know the 911 caller lied to the dispatcher about having seen Crawford aiming the gun at children. I don’t know why he did that; obviously we can see it didn’t happen. That’s something he’ll have to live with. And the reason dispatchers don’t pass on information about whether a weapon is real or not is because the officer has to make that call himself. Unless a caller KNOWS a weapon is not real the response must be the same as if the weapon is known to be real. For instance, if a mother calls up and says “My son is on drugs and acting crazy and needs help. He has a plastic gun in one hand and a toy sword in the other. Please help him.” The dispatcher can relay that info and the response will be much different.

        There were definitely some tactical errors in the Tamir Rice shooting. The police still needed to respond as if the gun was real but they put themselves in harm’s way and escalated the situation by driving up on the grass and stopping as closely as they did. It’s too soon to know what happens in this case because it’s still under investigation. The autopsy report, just released, lists the cause of death as homicide. But that doesn’t mean a crime was committed, just that the death was not from natural causes, accidental injury, or suicide. I expect there will be an indictment of some sort. The police definitely fucked up. But having put THEMSELVES in that situation, I think the cop truly was afraid Rice was going to pull a real gun on him and shoot him.

        Cleveland has a less than stellar record when it comes to excessive use of force. And admittedly that’s a ridiculous understatement. The only good thing that can come from these incidents is not a re-examination of police tactics but a CHANGE, REAL change. Re-examinations have been done to death and no real change has come. And along with that has to come change all the way through the justice system. Nobody can be objective and deny there aren’t unjustices being perpetrated on black young men every day in the precincts, in the prosecutors’ offices, in the courts, in the prisons. Hell, even in the laws themselves. But what also has to change is the behavior of many of these young guys who are committing crimes, resisting arrest, fleeing from police. Or even doing something so stupid as pretending a real-looking gun is real. Because people are not going to take the time or the risk to determine if it is or isn’t. Here’s something that might help people understand how quickly the decision must be made to shoot a suspect.

        The suspect has a rifle. He obeys a command to drop it. So the cop facing him holds his fire. Then somebody comes around the corner behind the suspect. Listen closely to what he yells. And watch the suspect’s right hand. THAT is how the bad guy gets the drop on the good guy. Fortunately the guy coming around the corner is a cop.

    • Amy Keyishian
      December 1, 2014

      He had not robbed the store.

      • Ferlin
        December 1, 2014

        Did Industrial Light & Magic alter the video recording to make it look like he took the cigars without paying and pushed and threatened the store owner?

      • realbkw
        December 1, 2014

        What? No, seriously, WTF? You can WATCH HIM. On the video as he steals the blunts, then assaults the little store clerk, then threatens and intimidates him, making the poor guy cower! Then in his “eyewitness account” Brown’s best friend, Dorian Johnson, reports that Brown handed him the stolen Cigarillos before Brown started punching Wilson. Either learn the facts or STFU.

  10. Ferlin
    November 29, 2014

    Unarmed 18 Year Old White College Student Shot and Killed by Black Cop

    Where is the outrage, riots and looting? Where’s Rev. Al

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/university-of-south-alabama-gil-collar/

    • Ferlin
      December 1, 2014

      Why is thus incident not being reported on by the mainstream media?

  11. Andrea
    November 30, 2014

    I’m white, and I needed this. Thank you for a thoughtful, insightful, righteous article. The truths resonate, even here in Canada where our history is not so radically racially divisive (though people of colour will likely have another perspective). Understanding is mandatory for any change or movement.

  12. Paula
    November 30, 2014

    Sorry but what is being done in the name of “racial injustice” is completely backfiring. Deliberately preventing workers on busy highways to get to work is totally insensitive at the least and possibly criminal at the worst. How is preventing a medical worker as activist college students did on a major interstate in California on Thanksgiving break really address the issue. Oh yes-they can take selfies on Instagram and feel good about themselves. Also how does forcing store workers to close early on the busiest shopping day help workers who are trying to provide for their families? Also, how does traumatizing young students who wanted to sing at a Christmas lighting ceremony at a Seattle mall really address the issue? My suggestion to the “professional community organizers”-please do something more constructive. Why don’t you volunteer at a soup kitchen or work at a homeless shelter. Finally, if you really want to get people on “your side”-why don’t you admit that the whole thing would not had started and ended horribly, if a young man would not have decided to do a strong arm robbery at a convenience store.
    Paula

  13. David
    November 30, 2014

    This article is VERY biased and uses diversionary tactics to ignore the evidence as a tool to talk about racism in general.

    “As we all know by now, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenage boy, was gunned down by the police while walking to his grandmother’s house in the middle of the afternoon. ”

    Either the author is ignorant to the facts or is twisting things in order to fit her preconceived notion and predetermined verdict. I’d think it’s safe to say it’s the latter.

    1. He robbed a store and use violence against the store owner.
    2. He threatened the cop and became hostile when approached after the officer suspected him of fitting the description of a crime that was committed earlier (which the suspect did commit).
    3. He attacked the officer and while unarmed, fought him for his gun.
    4. After a skirmish and brown was shot in the hand, he attacked and charged the officer once more.

    These are FACTS proven by evidence. He was not shot in the back and based on the suspect’s prior photos, video evidence and character references it is very unlikely to next to impossible that he was the innocent little kid strolling along to granny’s house singing Twinkle twinkle little star as the author seemed to ignorantly paint it.

    While racial disparity and police brutality certainly exists, (and I agree something must be done to change that as well as the over militarizing of the police), scapegoating this instance and twisting facts and evidence to push an agenda, is completely ignorant, racist and divisive to the very outcome you want to see.

    Also, every ignorant twisted of literature that ignored the evidence and is out into the light of the public only fueled the fire of the riots in Ferguson which caused one fatality, millions of dollars in damages and innocent business owners with their livelihoods in ruins. The ironic part is people like this author who chose to ignorane evidence and facts have an inherent bias and racist view. Had Michael Brown been white, the and threatened the officer, attacked him, fought for his gun and charged him again, the outcome would have been EXACTLY the same. The cop in his adrenaline state after being attacked and fearing for his life after a violent criminal tried to take his gun, doesn’t are color. He sees a survival situation just as anyone else would. While there are many cases where race is definitely a factor, this was not one of them.

  14. john
    November 30, 2014

    I can not see or understand janee’s view of this. His death was very sad but she is not being very truthful about Michael. Most any huge person who grabs for a cop’s gun will end up hurt. The cop was a rookie and was frightened. Period ! The kid should have shot in the leg instead? Would it have stopped him? We will never know. Sick of hearing the race card from hysterical blacks and whites !

    • realbkw
      December 1, 2014

      Actually, the cop had several years’ experience in policing.

  15. john
    November 30, 2014

    I can not see or understand janee’s view of this. His death was very sad but she is not being very truthful about Michael. Most any huge person who grabs for a cop’s gun will end up hurt. The cop was a rookie and was frightened. Period ! Should the kid should have been shot in the leg instead? Would it have stopped him? We will never know. Sick of hearing the race card from hysterical blacks and whites !

  16. john
    November 30, 2014

    I can not see or understand janee’s view of this. His death was very sad but she is not being very truthful about Michael. Most any huge person who grabs for a cop’s gun will end up hurt. The cop was a rookie and was frightened. Period ! Should the kid have been shot in the leg instead? Would it have stopped him? We will never know. Sick of hearing the race card from hysterical blacks and whites !

  17. Nena
    December 1, 2014

    This is such a pointless silly article. But if it makes the white folk feel better about themselves for reading it then bravo.

  18. Amy Keyishian
    December 1, 2014

    Thank you so, so much for writing this. Thank you so, so much for including me in the struggle. I am grateful.

    “Challenge and encourage each other to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused and angry and sad and hopeless, ”

    This.

  19. Melissa
    December 3, 2014

    You have confused Treyvon Martin with Michael Brown…..

  20. James May
    December 3, 2014

    FBI stats say 5 to 6 thousand blacks are murdered by other blacks each year.

    FBI stats say 400 whites are murdered by blacks each year, twice as much as the other way around.

    USA Today says 100 blacks are killed by police each year.

    We can assume a small minority of those were “extrajudicial.”

    Broken down by demographics, Wikipedia stats on people hit by lightning says about 50 blacks are struck by lightning each year.

    That means blacks are far more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by police, and far more likely to be killed by another black.

    If this is all about reality, numbers, real fear based on logic and reason and real death and where its coming from, then you need to re-write this post and re-orient your priorities if you want to use the words “literally dying.” What you wrote bears no relation to reality but instead is a concocted anti-white smear supposedly based on numbers while having nothing to do with numbers.

    • mach
      December 7, 2014

      That doesn’t make sense. if 100 black Americans are killed by police and 50 are killed by lightning in the same amount of time, how are they “far more likely to be struck by lightning”?

    • Hi, if you’re on the fence and reading these comments, firstly why would you do that, secondly — no, there really is a problem.

      Federal stats bear little relation to reality and that is precisely what this campaign is about.

      Local counts of justifiable homicide going under- on un-reported or being pushed into some other quota by corrupt police officers is the central manifestation of racist oppression here.

      Deaths due to natural causes are unfortunate and irrelevant here.

      People are literally dying, that’s understatement actually. As is “400 years” — try the entirety of recorded history. I don’t see what’s so special about the atlantic slave trade in comparison to the preceding ~3 millenia of each turbulent african-eurasian local power in turn tooling around the Mediterranean, collecting slaves, hostages, and kidnapping breeding fodder.

      Today we’re doing better than that, but there’s evidently a long way to go.

  21. Jordan
    December 3, 2014

    Can anyone recommend any print materials in regards to #1 :

    ” 1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America. Michael Brown’s murder is not a social anomaly or statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling”

    I’m interested in learning more.

    Thanks

  22. popitoconpapas
    December 4, 2014

    Just going to say one thing: I am white, but I do not want to think of myself as a “white ally”. By calling yourself an “ally”, you’re already ‘othering’ black people and creating a dynamic of us-vs.-them. Language like this perpetuates racism, excludes you from the problem, and takes an almost colonialist and paternalistic narrative of the “white savior”.

    No, I refuse to be a “white ally”. I am just a white person who’s against racism and against the criminal institution that police has become.

  23. 108julia
    December 5, 2014

    Jordan, and anyone else interested in reading more about institutionalized racism in the US, Ta-Nehisis Coates at the Atlantic has an excellent series of essays on this, as well as a book-reading club with online discussions of relevant texts.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/ta-nehisi-coates/

    Janee, thank you for this article.

  24. mach
    December 7, 2014

    “A lot of white people aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation so that they can move to action against racism.”

    For me, it’s not this. My reasoning for not advocating for Brown is rather that I’m not sure if this incident involved racism or if the shooting was unjustified. Unlike some folks who are quite ready to jump on one side or the other as the righteous side, I don’t feel like we have enough information either way. Uncertainty is my reason for not speaking out.

    In any case, my point isn’t necessarily to defend this view, but to posit it as a reason for white silence. I think Ms. Woods may underestimate how many non-racist white folks are simply not sure whether or not it was racially motivated and don’t speak for this reason.

    The thing I am willing to publicly support in the fallout of these events is a mandate for dash cams and/or collar cams so that such uncertainty becomes less common.

  25. Pingback: Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder | Radical Washtenaw

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