In my opinion, the complete lack of accountability in the aftermath of Ferguson is an assault on the senses, but it is a teachable moment about the profound lack of accountability in white affirmative action. I coined the term white affirmative action as a counterpoint to the civil-rights-era affirmative action, which opened jobs that were closed to anyone but white people. We get dozens of emails a month from people deriding affirmative action to justify their own lack of success. This erroneous perception is a cherished, commonly held and self-comforting platitude among certain elements of the majority—just like Ronald Reagan’s fictitious welfare queen and the “wilding” Central Park rapists (all of whom were innocent).
It is an amazing negative illumination of our society to note that a 6’4″, 210-pound police officer with a car, badge, gun and backup on the way couldn’t figure out a peaceful resolution to confronting two unarmed teenagers—but got to keep his job, until his resignation this weekend, facilitated by the system’s conspiratorial process. And after more than three months of preparation, having all of the tricks handed to him by a prosecutor invested in the racist law enforcement that has existed in St. Louis environs for decades, he could not think of another thing to say other than to call Mike Brown, the teenager he shot to death more than 100 feet from his car, a “demon.”
Shootist Wilson gets to resign his position (and collect more than $500,000 donated to him). The police chief gets to keep his job. The governor skates above it all after bumbling the first response to community outrage immediately after the killing, then doubling down on the same tactics to provoke yet more destruction in the community. The smirking prosecutor who presided over a law-enforcement community in St. Louis that preyed upon Black people—even though its own evidence showed that white people, on a percentage basis, had more criminal involvement—gets to keep his job. He knew he was on thin ice with this case, so he used the grand jury to avoid a trial in which the evidence would not have stood up. When he got the results he was looking for, he released the information—after a long, slow buildup—at 8 p.m. to allow the National Guard and militarized police to provoke people into the kind of response that would clear his subversion of justice off the front page.
Nobody in Officer Wilson’s chain of command gets fired for allowing Wilson to clean off his own hands without supervision or photographs, to keep his gun after the killing and put it in an evidence bag by himself with no supervision, and to allow Wilson to submit a blank incident report.
It is an astounding cavalcade of incompetence, prosecutorial arrogance, callous indifference to Black life and self-righteous justification of repetitively using law-enforcement practices that were proven to be wrong. Yet for the police chief, the prosecutor, the governor and other assorted people—like the medical investigator (with 25 years’ experience, no less) who couldn’t take pictures because he had a camera with dead batteries and who decided not to take any measurements because “it was self-explanatory what happened. Somebody shot somebody”—get to keep their jobs. Nobody gets fired. Nobody goes to prison for malfeasance. Nobody even resigns in humiliation.
What’s even more interesting to me is that the pattern of outright lies: The distance between Wilson and Brown, whether or not Wilson knew that Brown had shoplifted, even the videotape of the shoplifting incident is in question. But that pattern of lies doesn’t scare white people—which, if you think about it, it should. What would you think your chances of justice would be if you got caught up in a crime investigation and there was no chain of evidence, the people charged with taking pictures and making measurements didn’t do either, and the prosecutor was well known to be in the pocket of the police Yet, it seems that most of the public would prefer to believe “It couldn’t happen to me,” that bumbling racist incompetence is OK, and Mike Brown is a “demon” and “deserved what he got.” As detrimental as it is for white people, confronting reality is still too painful for this country.
I think it’s fair to sum up the Ferguson disaster as “white affirmative action”—the traditionally practiced way for incompetent white people to attain and maintain positions they are clearly incompetent and unqualified to hold. It’s assumed that the police chief, prosecutor, medical examiner and governor are competent, and despite a repetitive drumbeat of news that shows they are not, the popular press goes after the victim and the people provoked. “Why are these people destroying their neighborhood”