I consider myself to be a liberal. I don’t even consider the word liberal to be a bad thing. I am proud to be a liberal. I believe that blacks and other minorities have often gotten an immoral deal in the United States. (Well, I also think many whites have too, but without so much racial discrimination). I believe affirmative action programs and even quotas can be a good thing. I believe we need to promote racial diversity at all levels in our society. I say all this just to make clear that I am not some right-wing conservative trying to roll us back to the 1920s.
So what about Ferguson, Missouri? I think much of the outrage about the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer is misplaced. The police officer could well have been within his rights, and may have acted justly, when he shot the unarmed man. I find it difficult to believe that the officer, even if he was racist, which I am not sure he was, would have wanted to go out and kill a black man just for the fun of it. It was more likely that he felt threatened and acted accordingly. I wish, just like most people do, that the officer had a video camera and would have recorded what happened. But we do not have a video recording, so we have to make our best guesses about what really happened.
At least until we get better evidence. I am sure that soon we will know if Michael Brown, the man killed, had a high level of drugs in him and what kind of drugs if he did, and the same for the officer, Darren Wilson. We will also learn more about the witnesses and their relationship with Brown and the police officer.
I do not know if the officer Wilson, who shot Brown, is guilty of a great wrong, but it is just as likely, maybe more likely, that he is his actions were justified. The video of Brown that was taken at a store minutes before the shooting, showed him stealing a box of cigars and behaving aggressively toward the store clerk. If Wilson’s account of the incident are correct and Brown was acting aggressively toward the officer, then the Wilson had justification for shooting, and the store video leads credence to the Wilson’s story.
The witnesses reported that Brown was raising his arms to surrender before he was shot. That alone does not mean anything. Was he raising his arms as he was being shot, or did he raise his arms then five seconds later get shot? There is a big difference. Also, could he have been raising his arms to attack the officer? We don’t know.
I am going to assume that Wilson was justified and will be proven innocent. At this stage that does seem to me the most likely outcome. But are there any lessons to be learned from this tragedy?
The lesson is this: Racial diversification is important (even if you have to use quotas to achieve it). If the Ferguson police department were fifty percent white and fifty percent minority, or some such number, I wonder if the rioting would have happened. Only three of the fifty-three police officers on the force were black. I am not sure how much community outreach went on in Ferguson, but I wonder if more could have been done.
The tragedy of Ferguson is that one man is dead, one man is assumed to be guilty, and it could perhaps have been avoided if we did much more to promote racial diversity throughout our society.
One cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole. -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)