Our world is, has been, and always will be populated by two factions: those on the right side of history, and those that oppose them. Over time, thankfully, the right side prevails – the world is a more tolerant and enlightened place today than it was even a single year ago.
Pushing social norms toward the light requires strength and dedication from the enlightened to expose injustices to the masses that are ignorant or indifferent to their existence. Just as critical as that strength and dedication, though, is discretion.
The righteous seek to educate those clinging to notions of propriety that are innocuously outdated or shamefully based in hatred that need to be converted. The only effective way to convert them is challenging their prejudiced views and opinions with facts and sincerity. The best approach is to nullify all their counterarguments by systematically revealing their flaws; the change will not be instant, but given time to reflect the wrong-minded will hopefully shift their worldview.
The least effective approach , though, is leading those on the wrong side of history to further embrace their ideology by presenting flawed arguments, ignoring facts that may oppose your viewpoint. This is why the need for discretion is vital; in an effort to educate, the burden of being accurate and comprehensive is on the teacher. The right idea with the wrong information is doomed to fail.
There is still racism in the United States. There are police officers infected with that racism. Our country does have police forces disproportionately armed and aggressive to the communities they are sworn to protect. All of these wrongs need to be righted.
Ferguson, though, wasn’t the place to plant the flag.
Yes, the system is broken; does that mean that this officer’s guilt should be predetermined? Is the answer to righting the wrongs of history selecting potentially innocent parties and demanding they pay the price for others?
In the weeks following the killing of Michael Brown, activists and media with the best of intentions made Ferguson the example of the aforementioned ills bedevilling communities made up largely of minorities. Through protests and emphatic statements, they made Ferguson Ground Zero for exposing these issues. The lines were drawn, with very little information regarding what actually happened that day. The contention – or at least the strong implication – was Mr. Brown was killed because he was black, and the officer was white.
With the introduction of the facts that were missing at that time, though, that contention is placed in great doubt. The release of Officer Wilson’s testimony show an account of the events that match the findings of the autopsies performed on Mr. Brown. There was an altercation in the vehicle. Two of the shots struck Brown at very close range to the officer’s weapon at the start of the struggle. Brown did not stand still with hands up to surrender.
The cop didn’t open fire on Mr. Brown simply because he was black; he did so because he was leaning inside his car and reaching for his weapon.
Now, those who so adamantly maintained this tragedy was based in nothing but race are faced with admitting they may have acted prematurely or over-zealously in the absence of data – or refusing to acknowledge the facts in front of them.
When they choose the latter, they damage their own credibility and reduce their ability to affect the change they need to make in the minds of those who don’t yet see the light.
The death of Michael Brown was a tragedy. The fight of those seeking to expose racism in our society and in police forces across the country is an honorable and just fight; Ferguson was just the wrong place to wage it.