If you have not yet read Darren Wilson’s testimony to the Ferguson grand jury which decided that he would suffer no ill consequences for his decision to kill Michael Brown, please do so.
Wilson’s description of the events on the day that he decided to shoot and kill an unarmed person cannot be adequately relayed to you by a second party.
The absurd, unfathomable, and fantastical story which Wilson spun out of the whole cloth in order to justify killing an unarmed black teenager combines the deepest and ugliest white supremacist stereotypes and fantasies about black folks’ humanity such as the negro fiend”, “black beast”, and “giant negro”, with white racist paranoiac thinking, and dialogue from blaxploitation movies.
Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony purports to be an accurate description of his encounter with Michael Brown. In reality, it is closer to an amateurish summer stock theater production of the movie Birth of the Nation as performed by the KKK and/or Neo-Nazis.
After submitting a blank police report that provided no substantive information, Darren Wilson was trained by attorneys from the police union (a common procedure when police kill civilians), and had many weeks to prepare his grand jury testimony.
During that time, Wilson was privy to the narrative and witness testimony that he would be confronted by in court.
Wilson was also aided by a prosecutor who was not at all interested in finding sufficient probable cause to proceed with a proper trial for the latter’s decision to kill Michael Brown.
Ultimately, Darren Wilson was either 1) coached to recite a profoundly racist and bizarre version of his encounter with Michael Brown; 2) is deeply mired in the White Gaze and White Racial Frame to such a degree that he actually believes the white supremacist fictions he told the grand jury; or 3) some combination of the above.
The American legal system is not separate and apart from the social norms, cultures, values, and beliefs which produced it. Rather, the legal system (as well as schools, prisons, hospitals, etc.) is a crystallization of American society and its hierarchies of power.
Social scientists and others have produced volumes of research which have repeatedly demonstrated how the American legal system reinforces, perpetuates, and reflects disparate racial outcomes and white supremacy. For example, their findings include how black Americans face racial bias and unfair treatment at every level of the criminal justice system from initial police encounters to sentencing and parole decisions. Juries are influenced by implicit racial bias. Juries are also less likely to find black witnesses “credible” or “believable”. And perhaps most troubling, white jurors can be subconsciously primed by images of apes and gorillas–this deeply racist association between animals and African-Americans in turn makes white jurors more likely to give black defendants the death penalty.
The empirical evidence for white racial bias in the criminal justice system is the context which produced the Ferguson grand jury’s decision in favor of Darren Wilson. White supremacy makes Wilson’s testimony an “intelligible” and “legitimate” type of truth claim as understood by the jurors, and the broader white society that supports Wilson’s killing of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
White supremacy and white racial paranoiac thinking makes Wilson’s following statements about Michael Brown believable and valid–as opposed to utterances and transparent lies that most certainly do not surpass the legal standard of “reasonable doubt”.
Wilson told the grand jury the following:
1. Brown possessed super human negro strength as he effortlessly crushed the weak white man’s flesh with one hand. “And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan…Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.”
2. Brown is so strong and possessed of giant negro powers that he could attack Wilson with one hand while using the other to give his compatriot Dorian Johnson the box of cigars.
3. Even though he was shot several times by Darren Wilson, Brown let out a bestial growl like a feral monster, seemingly impervious to the threat of bullets and harm, he then charged at the police officer:
“So when he stopped, I stopped. And then he starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground. He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.”
“At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him.
And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.”
4. Brown apparently speaks like a blaxploitation movie character: “He grabs my gun, says, ‘You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.'”
5. Brown, like other negroes, was irrational and crazed. Wilson was in a state of terror: “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.”
6. Brown also has melanin powered super speed. Because blacks are apparently natural athletes with overdeveloped leg muscles, Brown ran away from Wilson so fast that he left a trail of dust at his feet in a manner akin to that of a Looney Tunes cartoon character: “When I look up after that, I see him start to run and I see a cloud of dust behind him.”
7. Because Brown is a giant negro he towered over Wilson: “He then grabs my door again and shuts my door. At that time is when I saw him coming into my vehicle. His head was higher than the top of my car. And I see him ducking and as he is ducking, his hands are up and he is coming in my vehicle.”
Darren Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury mates a cultural script that views black people as inherently criminal with recent empirical research that demonstrates how white folks actually do believe that black people are “super human” and a mysterious type of Other.
Wilson’s tale is also a reminder of how the near past of Jim and Jane Crow lives in the “post racial” present of the Age of Obama.
A black man is President of the United States of America.
But, a white cop can use language and white racial logic of 19th and early 20th century lynch law–with its fixation on “negro fiends”, “imps of the inferno”, and “noble” defenders of white society–to avoid going to trial for taking the life of an unarmed black teenager, while also being elevated to hero status (and financially enriched) by those sick and morally deranged white folks who want to live vicariously through the act of killing a black person.
Dred Scott is buried several miles away from where Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. Scott, in one of the most infamous United States Supreme Court decisions, was deemed to not have any rights that a white man is bound to respect. Almost 150 years later, Darren Wilson used the same white supremacist logic, and in doing so offered a version of events that would have been a perfect fit for a 19th century newspaper article about the lynching, disembowelment, and vivisection of a black victim of spectacular white violence.
“History is a moving train”. Ferguson is a reminder of how those historical continuities of white supremacy as enacted through the American legal system (and other cultural and social institutions) are still killing and murdering black and brown folks with impunity in the present.