White Vision: Seeing Clothes on a Naked Emperor

This is what trials are for, to determine whether or not the accused is a coldblooded killer; whether it was manslaughter; or whether it was excessive force. The outrage is that there will be no trial at all. People are not protesting a verdict. They're protesting the fact that the officer who killed Michael Brown will not see the inside of a courtroom because the Grand Jury decided not to indict Darrell Wilson. Worse, the Special Prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, acted more like a defense attorney than a prosecutor, discrediting witnesses and putting social media on trial. He also timed his announcement of the decision perfectly to ensure night skies lit up with fires, offering validation to those who believe in the criminality of black youth, and guaranteeing juicy fodder for media outlets, who would rather cover "riots" than the injustice of the decision.

Mind you, it's not riots when white college students set cars on fire after a football victory. It's not a terrifying mob when gun activists waltz into Target with AK-47s. But justifiably outraged youth revolt against what is clearly oppression in the eyes of the world, call in the troops.

Contrary to what some critics say on social media, most of us who are outraged are not taking a monolithic view on all cops. We're taking a fact-based stand against vastly disproportionate cases of police and others (George Zimmerman) killing unarmed black men, due to what can only be chalked up to racial fear, and doing so in large part with impunity. And to the point of Brown's size being 6'3," 292 lbs, Wilson himself is 6'4", 210 lbs, armed. And he shot 12 times, when according to eyewitnesses, Michael Brown had his hands up in the air.

Many police officers are heroes, sworn to protect and serve. And they do just that, every day, often at great personal cost. But there needs to be better training. There need to be fewer guns out there in general, to prevent officers being so afraid. It can't be a shoot-first mentality. There needs to be racial sensitivity training. There need to be more indictments of cops who kill unarmed citizens. There needs to be the option of shooting to wound, not kill, if one must absolutely shoot. And if officers took the Aurora shooter alive, took Gabi Giffords' assailant alive, mass murderers with massive arsenals, why do they have to shoot unarmed black boys dead?

When you're black, which I am not, it must seem monolithic, of course. All too frequently cops pull guns on unarmed black men who have done nothing wrong. Many of my Ivy-League-educated black male friends, including my own husband, can attest to this, after getting pulled over for a minor infraction, like a license-plate light being out or registration out of date. It is fear, plain and simple, that caused Wilson to see the black face in front of him as a "demon." A cultural illness of "otherness" colors our vision as white people and that includes white officers. It must be addressed, so that trigger-happy cops don't ruin the reputation of all cops. And more importantly, so we can build trust between our communities and those sworn to protect and serve them.

Can you imagine how maddening it must be for black people to experience the daily indignities of unacknowledged white supremacy -- from media portrayals or the lack thereof to inequities in the job market and in the schools, right down to being told by your society that white men may shoot you down without any consequences? The fact that black people don't retaliate more -- especially considering their disproportionate contribution to the building of American society and culture -- bespeaks the patience of Job. This is not the version of our country, the country we love, that I want to pass on to my mixed children or your white ones or anyone's children anywhere.

The epidemic of monolithic thinking seems to me to be weighted far more on the side of white Americans, officers and civilians alike, thinking of all black boys as criminal. It motivates white women to clutch their purses when they see young black men walking down the street. It motivates white men to shoot to kill unarmed black boys. It motivates prosecutors not to prosecute. Juries to be selected that are not sufficiently integrated. Grand Juries not to indict. Juries not to convict. Media to report on a few angry looters, rather than on the source of their outrage. And audiences to gobble it all up in a ratings bonanza. White Americans, we need to grow up and let go of the comforting blankie of our longest-held fears.

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