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What Matters in Ferguson | The Nation

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Mychal Denzel Smith

Mychal Denzel Smith

All the blackness that’s fit to print. And some that isn’t. 

What Matters in Ferguson

Michael Brown Protest

A sign and a pin are pictured on the back of a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, August 13, 2014 (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. This is what matters.

The name of the officer has been released (it’s Darren Wilson, who has been on the force for six years), alongside allegations that Brown was involved in a robbery. This does not matter.

It doesn’t matter because people accused of robbery should not be shot. It doesn’t matter because people who put their hands up in surrender should not be shot. It doesn’t matter because a body should not lie in the streets for hours after being shot by a police officer.

Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. Everything else is irrelevant.

“Of course, it’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances,” President Obama said yesterday in his brief remarks on Brown’s death and the protests that followed. What he failed to say, and what is absent from Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement, is how Brown lost his life. He was a teenage black boy in America who was shot and killed by a police officer.

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To not say that is to isolate Brown’s death. If you don’t say “Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department,” then you don’t have to reckon with the entire history of police harassing, beating, terrorizing and killing black bodies. It’s to disconnect his story from Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Rekia Boyd, Aiyanna Stanley-Jones, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Stewart and so many more. It’s to say that what happened to Michael Brown isn’t a part of this country’s insistence on criminalizing black bodies. It erases the black codes, convict leasing, Jim Crow, lynching and all other forms of terror visited upon black people in the place they call home.

There should be a thorough and transparent investigation of the killing of Michael Brown. We should learn all the facts of what happened that afternoon. His family and community deserve that much. But we also can’t avoid saying the one thing we do know.

Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department.

 

Read Next: The death of Michael Brown and the search for justice in black America.

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