Many have put their thoughts on paper concerning the Michael Brown and Eric Garner tragic interactions with law enforcement in the United States. As Caribbean people, we too must express our thoughts on these issues. With or without opening our mouths, we are most certainly Michael Brown and Eric Garner. So I was happy when I came across an essay written in the Grenadian online news network NOW Grenada addressing the issue. The piece was written by Arley Gill and titled Malcolm X Was Right About the U. S. Human Rights Issue. Gill made very important points in the piece. For instance, he is correct in his observation that the United States of America has much work to do in regards to race relations. This notwithstanding, after reading the piece, there appeared to be statements that I believe were, at best, misguided and, as an Afro-Caribbean man living in the United States, I could not but address these statements.
According to Arley Gill, “The truth of officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown is that there were many inconsistencies and inaccuracies that contradicted the scientific evidence. He noted, as being a trained legal mind, it is difficult to see how the grand jury could have decided differently, and one ought not to be emotional about these things.” It is true that since humans are emotional beings it is easy for our emotions to cloud our reaction to issues. Gill is right in cautioning that we watch our emotions. Here is the question though; what is Gill saying in this statement? Is he saying that because there are inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the Michael Brown case that contradicts the scientific evidence, then the conclusion of the Grand Jury is correct? Is he suggesting that the only important aspect to the case is the struggle that happened next to the car, and that everything else is a non-issue? It is true that inconsistencies and inaccuracies exist, but as observed by many, these existed in the stories on both sides, witnesses for both the defense and prosecution.
Important, however is this question:What is the job of a Grand Jury? I am no lawyer, but in a basic sense, the job of a Grand Jury is to work with a prosecutor to decide if there is enough of a reason to bring charges against a perpetrator. In essence, the Grand Jury has to show probable cause, which is said to be the lowest legal standard to cross. Hence the phrase ‘a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich.’ The job of the prosecutor is to obtain an indictment against the perpetrator for the crime committed. It is neither the job of the Grand Jury, nor the job of the prosecutor to find guilt or innocence. The prosecutor’s role is to be neutral and should not present evidence to the Grand Jury in the context of bidding a defense for the perpetrator of the crime. If one is fair in his or her assessment, it cannot be concluded that this is not what happened in both Eric Garner’s and Michael Brown’s cases. Something true to all incidents, Arley Gill, is that there will always be the presence of conflicting evidence. This truth is not a reason to not indict. On the contrary, because of these inconsistencies and inaccuracies in testimonies it seems even more reason to let the truth come out by indicting and then a trial.
There are just too many things wrong with the handling of Michael Brown’s case to conclude that the Grand Jury could not have ruled otherwise. As observed by most legal observers, the Prosecutor Bob McCulloch handled the shooter, Darren Wilson, as someone to be defended and protected, which as I pointed out above, is not the job of a prosecutor. Bob McCulloch took Darren Wilson’s side as a defense attorney and sought to find him not guilty. As attorney, and NBC analyst Lisa Bloom, observed, before the documents in the case was revealed, Darren Wilson “wasn’t cross-examined, instead he was just allowed to talk in a narrative, and tell a story and in fact, that’s exactly what happened.” Even witnesses, who were testifying on Darren Wilson’s side, were allowed to just tell their story without any vetting or cross-examination whatsoever. In the wake of the Smoking Gun report, in which they have identified witness #40, Sandra McElroy, shown that she had lied that she was present during the Michael Brown incident and that she witnessed Michael Brown charging police officer Darren Wilson. This story, Arley Gill appears to have been a critical piece of the evidence that played into the result of the Grand Jury. Sandra McElroy was nowhere near the incident that day. Also the witness Bob McCulloch found credible enough to quote in his press conference, Witness #10, story has been scrutinized and appeared to be a fabrication. He or she also claimed that Michael Brown charged Darren Wilson in “a full charge.” Yet, if one read the testimony of witness #10, it appears that he or she cannot remember anything. He or she is sure that Michael Brown charged at Officer Darren Wilson and that “Michael Brown did not put his hands up,” yet “can’t recall the movements that he (Michael Brown) did.” In essence, these two witnesses’ testimonies appear to have been given much more credibility than that of anyone who testified on Michael Brown (which ordinarily belongs to the states’) behalf. As observed, “McCulloch had gone out of his way to paint all the witnesses against Darren Wilson as unreliable.” Is this the behavior of a prosecutor acting in good faith? Certainly not!
What I am about to point out concerning young, Black men’s lives dealing with the police in the United States is indeed anecdotal. I am speaking here of what I have observed and I have not only lived in the state of New York either. I have witnessed police officers pulling up so close to black men on the streets that the car stops inches away from their bodies. These young men often have to jump out-of-the-way to avoid being knocked over. This is not a made up story. It is very real. I have witnessed it countless of times. I bring this point up because it is part of Dorian Johnson’s story, the friend of Michael Brown who was actually involved in the incident. This speaks to what actually may have happened at the police car. According to Dorian Johnson, “We (himself and Michael Brown) were so close, almost inches away, that when he tried to open his door aggressively, the door ricocheted both off me and Big Mike’s body and closed back on the officer.” Think about it. This approach is designed to escalate the interaction. At this point in time, any reaction by these young men is interpreted as resisting. Then it’s the police officer’s words vs. Michael Brown’s. But wait a minute, Michael Brown is dead. He cannot speak for himself. In essence, Dorian Johnson story is probable the true story. And that is why an indictment should have been made, so that the truth could have come out in a court of law.
Here are some questions for you Arley Gill: Why did you conclude that “it is hard to understand how the grand jury came to the decision they actually did, of not indicting the officer,” regarding the Eric Garner’s case, and not conclude the same in Michael Brown’s case? It is hard to imagine why. Is it because the Eric Garner incident was caught on tape? If there was no tape, what would have being your conclusion? Black and Brown people have been complaining about this type of treatment by law enforcement officers for years. The consensus it seems, was, why believe Black and Brown people? They are criminals after all. Unless, of course, it has been caught on tape, and even then many people can’t bring themselves to believe it, nor obtain justice. They must have committed some type of crime, and therefore deserve these horrible treatment, many have concluded. If one look at the description of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in the media as presented by many white Americans you will find that they are described , as being the aggressive, gorilla-type, demon-type black men that must be feared. Michael Brown and Eric Garner could not have been dealt with differently. These are some of the preconceptions my friend that colored the beliefs by some in law enforcement, and it is used to justify law enforcement behavior as we witness in Eric Garner’s and Michael Brown’s Cases. According to Darian Wilson, “when I grabbed him (Michael Brown), the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.” Michael Brown, Darian Wilson went on saying, “[he] had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.” Yes, these descriptions about black and brown men are embedded in the long history of stereotyping black and brown people in America. Black and Brown human beings are seen as people whose innate nature is evil.
The problem is that many of us Caribbean people also buy into the stereotyping of Black Americans. It is true that many of us believe that Black Americans are lazy, and most of them commit crimes. I am not accusing Arley Gill of holding such beliefs. I believe the opposite. But here is a statement he made that struck me. According to Arley Gill, there is a problem with “the behavior of Black Americans as well.” The suggestion here, I believe, is that Black Americans have a certain type or types of behaviors that warrant the aggressive treatment by law enforcement. It will be shortsighted to claim everything is “kosher” in the black community. It is certainly not. But, to suggest that because this is the case, then the violation of human beings’ rights is acceptable is unthinkable. Arley Gill went on to point out that “In the Ferguson case, the victim Brown, was not on his best behavior on the day he was shot and killed. It appears that if he was, the entire confrontation with Officer Wilson could have been avoided.” This is exactly what I am talking about. Arley Gill seems to be suggesting that it is Michael Brown’s fault he got killed. If he just had been a humble little boy, then everything would have worked out alright. On the other hand, when Arley Gill says “best behavior,” is he suggesting that the video that allegedly shows Michael Brown stealing from a store is the reason why he was stopped by the police? I hope Mr. Gill understands that this was not the reason Michael Brown was stopped. It seems that the video was leaked in an effort to tarnish Michael Brown’s character so that it could be concluded that he was just a criminal who got what he deserved. The two had no connection. Understand this, as a Black man in America you are already being judged as a criminal, “best behavior” or not.
As I conclude, let me reiterate that I agree with Arley Gill in that America has to take a hard look at its race relations. It must engage in confronting the divide that exists between Black and Brown Americans and its White population. I agree that “there is a lot of fixing to be done in the USA; and, maybe, it’s time that the United Nations takes a look into it. Malcolm X, the great Grenadian–American, was asking for that decades ago; that’s when he said that this is a Human Rights issue and not a Civil Rights issue.”