As compassionate human beings, we all must feel sympathy for the family and friends of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen who was recently shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of a loved one, especially one so young, and particularly in violent circumstances, is always cause for mourning and grief, and the dubious circumstances surrounding the killing open the door to questions and outrage. Yet that being said, whatever happened between Brown and now-identified police officer Darren Wilson is no excuse for looting, harming innocent bystanders or conducting violent demonstrations.
It’s seems like every time there is a possible race-related incident — whether it involves the police or a civilian — we all have to witness the same dreaded script being played out: a media-feeding frenzy, protesters flanked by the usual bevy of race-baiters, the looting and arson of businesses, the destruction of property and the injury and sometimes death of innocent bystanders.
The very same way that the shooting of an individual by the police because of the color of his skin is reprehensible, a violation of that person’s civil rights, and a crime, the looting of property belonging to individuals who had nothing to do with the shooting is no less criminal, and those engaged in such actions should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The civil rights of property owners are no less important than those of anyone else.
The philosophy behind permitting looting and the destruction of property is that protesters need an outlet to vent their frustration on what they perceive to be a society that discriminates against them. Give them a little destruction and everything will go back to normal in a few days. Individuals who could not care less about Michael Brown and his civil rights exploit racial tensions as an opportunity to rob and commit mayhem without prosecution.
The absurd theory that “boys will be boys” — in place now for decades — is foolish and has had tragic consequences, with the aftermath of possible civil-rights infringements becoming far more deadly than the original incidents themselves. The NYPD stood by during the first days of the Crown Heights riots in order to allow protesters to “vent” their rage. For three days the pillaging of stores and businesses went on, mostly unchecked. Dozens of innocent individuals were injured. The same so-called “venting” took place in 1992 during the riots in South Central Los Angeles, where cops basically ran away rather than forcefully confront rioters. During six days of unchecked rioting, hundreds of businesses were torched, thousands were injured and 53 people died. Now, we are witnessing the same events playing out in Ferguson, Missouri, where looting and injuries have become a daily routine. We shouldn’t have to brace ourselves for a round of out-of-control violence every time there’s a perception of a civil-rights violation.
Unfortunately, there have been tragic cases where law enforcement has used what seems to be excessive force, and it’s difficult to comprehend why such deadly firepower was used. In New York City, in 2006, Sean Bell was killed and two of his friends were severely injured after NYPD officers fired a volley of 50 shots into them. None of the victims had any weapons. That case bore a resemblance to the 1999 Amadou Diallo case, where Diallo was shot 19 times and killed, after taking out his wallet, which police thought was a weapon, from his pocket. Nevertheless, in both cases a racially-mixed jury acquitted the officers on all charges. In Michael Brown’s case, he was shot 11 times, which seems like the police officer was in the wrong. But until the case undergoes an impartial investigation, and is perhaps brought before a grand jury and to trial, no one should pass judgment. Unfortunately, law-enforcement officials do commit civil-rights violations against innocent individuals, but let us also bear in mind that 100 police officers are killed in the line of duty every year, protecting all of us. Should the police loot appliance stores every time one of their ranks is gunned down?
The media deserve some of the blame for the spiral of violence, as they love to fan the flames of these racially-charged incidents. Cars flipped over, buildings in flames, tear gas sprayed onto protesters make for compelling visuals that keep viewers far more hooked than senate budget deliberations, unemployment numbers or conflict in far-off Ukraine. The media are also eager to shine the spotlight on the race-baiters and demagogues who justify their existence as so-called “activists.” These “activists” then have to prove their importance with their ability to whip up violence, duly recorded by the media. This symbiotic relationship only keeps stoking the flames of incitement and violence.
The president and the governor of Missouri have to set down the law to those breaking the law under the smokescreen of racial inequality. If they fail to do so, we will continue to have this wholesale wanton destruction and mob justice every time a police officer shoots or injures a member of a minority group. A violation of civil rights gives no one the right to loot the constitutional rights of others.