In the days after the grand jury ruling against sending a Ferguson, MO police officer, Darren Wilson, to trial after shooting an unarmed black teen, discussion has continued to take place on whether or not Darren Wilson's actions were reflective of racial prejudice. Social media and news outlets have featured people from both sides of the debate. Some say that Michael Brown was racially profiled, which led to Darren Wilson's use of lethal force. Others say that Michael Brown posed a legitimate lethal threat to Officer Wilson, and they reject the issue of race as playing a role.
Despite attempts to distract the public from the issue of race, polls have shown a distinct racial divide between these two camps. For example, the Chicago Tribune reported on a CNN poll that revealed 54% of non-whites calling for Wilson's conviction, while only 23% of Whites agreed. Another source indicates the issue of race even before the shootings occurred. Consider the racial profiling data collected on the Ferguson Police Dept. in 2013. Ferguson, MO has a population of 15,865 people as of the 2010 census. In 2013, 5384 (or ~33% of the total population) Ferguson citizens were stopped by police. Of those 5384 citizens, 686 were White, 4632 were Black, 22 were Hispanic, 12 were Asian, 8 were First Nation, and 24 were listed as Other.
Notice some significance? So did the statisticians. That's why they included a disparity measure, which is an attempt to quantify any disproportionate focus on any of the racial communities in Ferguson. A disparity value of 1 indicates absolutely NO disparity. The farther that value falls toward zero, the more UNDER-represented that race becomes. On the other hand, the higher it rises ABOVE 1, the more OVER-represented they are. Let's look at the disparity value for the 686 whites stopped by police in 2013: .38. Now lets look at the disparity value for the Black community: 1.37. What does this say? It says that despite the fact that blacks make up 63% of the total population of Ferguson, they are still over-represented in these statistics. It also says that Whites are vastly under-represented. Note that this is statistics for police stops. Not arrests. Not convictions. In other words, you are statistically more likely to be singled out and stopped by police in Ferguson, MO if you are Black.
"So?!" You might say. "None of this proves that Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown out of racial prejudice. Ferguson citizens are rioting based on sensationalist reports of murder that are unverifiable given the evidence!"
You're right. At least, that is what the grand jury ruled. And who am I to argue with them since I am not as intimately acquainted with the evidence as they are? This evidence proves nothing about the Michael Brown case, but it proves everything about the issue of institutional racism in our society. It proves everything about why people of color are angry at the system, and it proves everything about why they are suspicious of law enforcement. What I find so funny is that this is not what I hear about on mainstream news. I hear about riots, punching cameramen in the face, and looting alcohol. The media is infatuated with the violence, and pays no attention to the context of Michael Brown's death.
The specifics of Michael Brown's death will forever be cloudy, but the ambiguous circumstances of his death do not reflect upon the larger issue. Institutional racism is clearly a problem, but the majority has thus far refused to do anything significant. They remain blind, yet they easily spot injustice when people riot and threaten their economy.
Media outlets have taken the riots and violence in Ferguson, and burned it like a cross in front of America. The smoke that rises obscures the real problem, which is that our people of color are profiled and singled out by law enforcement. Whether Michael Brown was legitimately threatening or not, he was more likely to be stopped, and therefore, more likely to be shot by police, simply because he was black.
The majority needs to put their hands up instead of keeping them in their pockets.