Ferguson, Gardner, and the Convenient Narrative

When thinking about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Gardner, there is a particularly important statistic to remember in the face of Al Sharpton and his exercise of theatrics, traipsing around the hotbeds of civil conflict like some rebellious figurehead: Something like ninety-three percent of the black murders that occur in the United States are perpetrated by black offenders, as found in a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics Report – not by white police officers or Hispanic vigilantes or the racially ambiguous face of “The Man,” but by criminals who, it would seem, are flustered with motivation entirely independent of race. And even for the other seven percent, I have yet to read a convincing, evidenced case that rampant racism plays a significant role in their occurrence. No matter, though – to the astute media analysts whose hysteric reactions to both of these situations has resembled a pitiful display of deceptive bias and frivolous conclusion-making, such a harrowing statistic matters little. Why? Because, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t contribute to the narrative that it is their pitiful job to create – a false narrative which makes it seem as if the United States is still suffering from entrenched institutional racism, despite all the evidence that shows otherwise.

The uncomfortable reality is that the death of Eric Gardner and what it tells us about the relationships between communities and their police officers is not one that can simply be conflated with what happened in Ferguson. Indeed, it does not stand to reason that if one was motivated by a white officer’s deep-seated, racial hatred, the other must have been, too – you might as well claim that because some people voted for President Obama as a direct result of his skin color, everybody must have, which itself is an entirely imperfect metaphor due to the fact that neither Michael Brown’s nor Eric Gardner’s death came about as a result of being black (don’t take my word for it, look at the evidence and at specific comments that have been made by Gardner’s family). As such, it is absolutely necessary that we treat these two terrible events in turn – looking at them from an objective point of view so as to avoid the incoherent and false ranting that has unfortunately characterized the contributions of many.

With regard to Gardner, we have specific video evidence which shows his albeit large frame surrounded by several police officers who are attempting to arrest him for the sale of “loose” cigarettes – single cigarettes instead of packs, the sale of which is illegal in Staten Island. In the process, Gardner visibly resists officers’ subdual of him, and as a result, he is placed in a choke-hold, the strength and longevity of which eventually cause his death. So, the question remains: Was the police officer’s use of force excessive considering Gardner’s offense and the number of officers there to ensure each other’s safety? Or was it completely within his right to do so, even though Gardner was unarmed and surrounded by able-bodied, police backup?

You can probably guess at my opinion from my framing of the questions – that I think the officer’s use of force was not only excessive, but also worthy of a manslaughter conviction, in the least. After all, the video clearly illustrates the officers’ legitimate control of the situation: they had Gardner surrounded, they were armed and he wasn’t, and there was the notable absence of any significant threat to innocent bystanders. The idea that an officer should be able to use such lethal force in such a situation is, I think, borderline abominable – not to mention that Gardner’s crime was so benign that there is a legitimate concern as to whether or not he should have been approached in the first place. The point is that there is a reasonable case that the grand jury’s interpretation of the events that transpired – and luckily, we have them on video – is somewhat spurious in its willingness to give the officers the benefit of the doubt. The evidence is quite clear, and we don’t have to rely on ambiguous and suspect eyewitness reports from people who are self-contradictory and unsure. With that being said, there is still no reason to believe that race fueled the officer’s apparent aggressiveness – it’s a distinct possibility, of course, but a positive claim about such a charged event that carries with it damaging implications is, accordingly, in need of positive, definitive evidence. Here, there doesn’t seem to be any – only the affective narrative of respected men like President Obama, who is actually sufficiently daft to suggest that Gardner’s death illustrates the persistence of racial animus and the necessity of more and more meaningless dialogue.

On the other hand, the situation that has unfolded in Ferguson is entirely dependent upon ridiculous and flippant interpretations of evidence – evidence that overwhelmingly points to Officer Darren Wilson’s innocence, but that is ignored at the pernicious discretion of Sharpton and his cronies. The suggestion of the evidence is simple enough: After having violently robbed a convenience store and been determined dangerous and on the run by police, Michael Brown was confronted by Wilson, who eventually was forced to use his gun in a deadly yet self-protective manner. The narrative furthered by protestors regarding Brown’s hands-up stance is not only irresponsible and facile because of the unreliable nature of the suggesting witness’ testimony, but also stunningly ignorant because of the forensic analysis which was conducted for the grand jury. As unfortunate as it is, we have no video available to show us directly the on-goings that led to Brown’s shooting, but we do, indeed, have witness reports, forensic evidence, ballistics, and a legal system that refuses to function on emotion – all of which suggest that the decision to not indict Wilson was the correct one.

It seems appropriate, then, to ask the protestors – who once more claim that Wilson was both unjustified in his use of force and brutally racist in his motivation for doing so – whether or not they would prefer a justice system that reviews evidence, but brews decisions within a cesspool of uninformed public opinion, emotive accusation, and egregious, witch-trial trickery. I, for one, am horrified by the willingness of many to crucify evidence in favor of the construction of a patently false, politically expedient narrative – to ignore that which is demonstrably true and instead air on the side of that which they wish to be true, for purposes of outrage.

You see, the difference between the typical conservative and the typical liberal response to these situations is that the Democrats see black deaths within a torrent of political opportunism, which, if they fail to use, will force them to focus on issues that will actually help the black community. No matter the extent to which the country continues to evolve on race – no matter the extent to which its citizens attempt to share constructive dialogue – Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will always be there to trump up the situation to serve their diabolic purposes. After all, upon what else do their careers thrive? Haven’t you heard in the news that Sharpton has some serious tax debt to pay? As long as that remains the case, the dialogue that credible members of both sides of the aisle try to proffer will proceed in absolute phoniness and insincerity – based upon the idea that our country is a bad place for black people, who must always look over their shoulders should a draconian, white cop begin to follow.

The bottom line is that it is patently irresponsible for the media to act like virtual merchants charged with bandying about the issue of race as if it were a currency. But that’s just the thing: for many liberals, race is a political currency which distracts from a variety of issues of significantly increased purport. Democrats hear Republicans all the time talk about things such as single-motherhood, the breakup of the black family, the nature of the welfare state and government dependence, the state of the economy in minority communities, the educational system, and gang culture; but all they seem to do in the meantime is think to themselves, “How boring! Those issues can’t headline campaign commercials …”

And then they spill out into the streets to protest.