Like many Americans, I have carefully followed the news from Ferguson, MO involving the tragic shooting of an 18-year-old African American, with the notable exception that he carries my name. And so, every day, I’m reading about the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Michael Brown and the autopsy of Michael Brown, all of which reminds me of the very real loss of life involved.
As I reflect on what is happening in Ferguson and interact with callers to my radio show, there are five obvious lessons to be learned.
1) The racial divide in America remains wide and deep.
According to a Rasmussen poll, “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of black adults . . . think police officer Darren Wilson [who shot Brown] should be found guilty of murder, compared to just 17% of whites and 24% of other minority Americans.”
Similarly, a Pew Research Center poll found that, “Nearly two-thirds of blacks think the police have gone too far; just a third of whites said so. Three-quarters of blacks do not have confidence in the shooting investigation, but a majority of whites — 52 percent — do.”
In stating the obvious, I am not ascribing fault to either side. I’m simply saying that there’s no denying the width and depth of the racial divide in our country.
2) Much of white America still doesn’t get it.
I have never been racially profiled. I have never been stopped by police while driving with my family because I looked like a suspect in a crime. I have never been treated violently by the police or treated unfairly by the court system.
That’s because I am white. And so it’s difficult for me to grasp fully why there is so much distrust of the legal system in black America or why there is so much hostility towards the police.
Looking back to the OJ trial, I still find it inconceivable that so many black Americans thought he was being framed by the police. Yet there was a reason that they believed this, and Ferguson reminds us that their life experience is often very different from the experience of white Americans or even other minorities.
Much of white America still doesn’t get this, but the fact is that black Americans have been victims of injustice much more than we realize.
3) Much of black America still doesn’t get it.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.