Three decades ago, I stood in a Tampa courtroom and, with dozens of other starry-eyed immigrants, I raised my right hand and recited these words:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I believed every word of it then. Sadly, I no longer do.
I am now convinced that justice in America is not a right that belongs to all. I believe justice is reserved for a privileged class, mostly white, with good jobs and nice clothes.
Michael Brown did not belong to that class. He was a young, black male. And America has – once again – been put on notice: Young, black males are fair game for white killers.
Darren Wilson will go down in history as one of those white killers. Wilson shot Brown to death on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, in broad daylight before numerous witnesses. And he will not be charged with any crime.
A grand jury with nine white and three black members has ruled that Wilson was justified in killing the unarmed 18-year-old.
Darren Wilson is a cop. A white cop.
Apparently, cops have the right to kill civilians they see as “threatening.” And, it is increasingly apparent that, in this republic, any young, black male is, by definition, threatening.
Brown was a burly, black teenager, easy to depict as a bully. He is accused of grabbing a box of cigarillos and walking out of a corner store without paying for them. A store video shows him shoving the shopkeeper out of the way as he leaves.
Wilson is weedy looking and would obviously be no match for Brown in a physical confrontation. But Wilson had a gun. Brown did not.
I felt another one of those punches in my face would knock me out or worse. I mean, it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was, and stronger, and the—I’ve already taken two to the face, and I don’t think I would—the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.
Wilson said that Brown also tried to grab his gun. But that was not when the fatal shots were fired.
According to prosecutor Robert McCulloch, Wilson fired 12 times during the confrontation with Brown. Most of the shots were fired after Brown fled from the scene.
To believe McCulloch’s version of events, you have to visualize Brown as a raging bull, fearless and mindless, charging Wilson with his head down and his arms pawing the air like some wounded jungle beast.
That was quite different from the version presented by eyewitnesses who appeared on TV after the shooting. They said Brown was running away and, when Wilson kept shooting at him, stopped and turned to face the policeman, raising his hands above his head in a gesture of surrender.
A majority on the grand jury obviously accepted McCulloch’s version, strange as it might sound to you or me.
I find it hard to believe that any sane person – black or white – would turn and charge a gunman like that. It would obviously be suicidal. But I grew up in Jamaica, and my view of young, black males is different from the image the members of that jury must have had.