I remember exactly where I was, and how I felt, on October 3, 1995. I was a freshman in High School. That afternoon, me and several of my classmates piled into the basement of my dormitory (I went to Board School) and anxiously awaited the verdict in the OJ Simpson murder trial. This day was a pivotal moment for me because it was the first time I realized that our justice system was flawed. I left that basement a slightly different version of myself then when I first sat down to hear the verdict. Naive 15 year old Cappuccino Queen had begun that day thinking, ‘I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal about this….surely he is going to be convicted of this. Everyone knows he did that shit.’
After hearing that OJ Simpson would walk free after it seems obvious that he had killed two innocent people, I was rocked to the core. This was the first time that I realized that the law doesn’t apply to everyone the same way. Money is power, and that power allowed Simpson to get away with murdering two people.
Though I had learned this important lesson about power, there was still some innocence left and I still felt a sense of safety in our system. Since 2011, however, I have learned that the Simpson trial was more of a rule than the exception that I had hoped it was. As an adult, I continue to have emotions of sadness, anger, and fear when I hear stories where justice has clearly been failed.
You have to have been living under a rock if by now you haven’t heard the name Darren Wilson. In the event that you have been living under a rock, I will briefly explain. Darren Wilson is the police officer who shot an unarmed 18 year old man named Michael Brown. Brown’s murder (yes, I still consider it murder even if the officer says he felt threatened) has caused a huge uproar in this country with many people splitting their opinion along racial lines. In light of what I have learned since my own trust in our system was lost, I want to comment on what I think this incident means for our society.
Not Every American Citizen Is Equal: Police officers take an oath to “protect and serve”. This oath, however, doesn’t also mean that you are able to “try, convict, and sentence.” If a common citizen shot an unarmed man, there would be a trial to determine whether or not the shooter acted in self defense. Wilson had months to work with his attorney to prepare his chain of events. Though Brown laid in the street dead for four hours, nobody was able to take pictures of the scene or measure the distance between the officer’s car and Brown’s dead body. There was, however, enough time (and a working camera) to snap a shot of the small bruise on Wilson’s cheek.
Darren Wilson was not treated as an equal citizen in this situation. After reading through the testimony that the State chose to release from the Grand Jury (which by the way is not like the open trial a normal citizen would get), Wilson’s story didn’t make sense. If Wilson had been forced to have a real trial (where the prosecutor was actually representing the victim), he would have been cross examined after making statements like, “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan…that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt from grasping his arm.” (Note: Darren Wilson is 6’4″ tall and 210 pounds. That is a big ass five year old.)
The day that the Grand Jury came to it’s decision, the State sat on the information for hours while they figured out how to best present this information to the public in a way that didn’t appear as an obvious insult to Justice. They knew that in a normal trial, all the witnesses would have been able to testify. Brown would have had character witnesses at a trial who could have testified as to whether he was the type of person to do the things Wilson was accusing him of. Instead, the Grand Jury was given Wilson’s remorseless version of events.
I am not certain Wilson would have been convicted if he had gone through a trial. Maybe a jury would still have believed that 6 bullets into an unarmed man wasn’t excessive force. That said, we will never know because our system killed the opportunity for true justice.
Nobody Wins: Yesterday I had a long conversation with a police officer that I respect. While we have very different perspectives on this case, she said something that I think is extremely important when thinking about what this case means for us all. She said, “it is much easier to put on a stamp, than to take it off.” She talked about how hard it was for good officers to overcome the image of the bad ones. Wilson’s decision to use this level of force colored the police force in a way that will negatively impact officers across the country for some time. His decision killed his career, and it also put his fellow officer’s lives at risk. It should be of no surprise to anyone when black men (in particular) behave with an extreme fear of police. Riots have broken out in areas all over the country. These riots seem to muffle the peaceful protests of those like myself who simply want answers.
On January 25, 2012, my ex was arrested for the murder of my son Prince. If the police officer’s who arrived to arrest him had decided to shoot him that day, I would have been the first person to breath a sigh of relieve and pop the champagne. That said, I am rational enough to understand that this wouldn’t have brought real justice to my son. As law abiding citizens, we count on the police to behave with integrity. We count on the police to respect their role in the process of justice.
Darren Wilson, I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you didn’t have another option than to kill an unarmed man. If you joined the police force as a patriot, then you should be ashamed. You should have remorse for taking the life of a man you could have possibly saved. Whether or not you believe Brown was a thug should be of no consequence. If you one day go on to have children, I pray that in those precious moments that you are able to hold your child – that you also have the emotional capacity to think about the Brown’s child, whom you took from this earth. In that moment, maybe you will finally be able to understand even a fraction of the pain you have caused.