There’s an old adage that hindsight is 20/20. Often when we look back, we are able to gain clarity on matters. Gaining clarity often enables us to learn from the past. That Jay Nixon, Governor of Missouri, has declared a state of emergency ahead of the grand jury’s decision regarding the shooting of Michael Brown, speaks volumes about what we as a country have learned from the past. Explicitly, it is expected that there are going to be a lot of disappointed, discouraged, and highly emotional persons in what is anticipated to be what many may deem an unjust decision. One can only presume that the previously decided judicial outcomes, or fates, of those whom have killed and/or harmed unarmed black youth have conditioned many of us to expect little accountability on the part of those who committed the act.
Of course, one of the most prominent examples would be that of Trayvon Martin. It was only after months of demonstrations, protests, and public outcry did law enforcement officials even charge George Zimmerman in the shooting of young, unarmed Trayvon. Still, even after he was arrested, many waited with baited breath for a conviction that never occurred. Mr. Zimmerman remains free. A much earlier example, the brutal beating of Rodney King by multiple police officers left many Americans in shock and unspeakable frustration. Unlike the trial of George Zimmerman that was mired in “he say/she say” and varying interpretations of forensic evidence, Mr. King’s beating was captured on video and played repeatedly on media outlets. Even with the unsettling visual evidence, Mr. King’s assailants walked away free.
The killing and beating of Trayvon Martin and Rodney King respectively are only two examples of a long evolving pattern involving the killing of unarmed persons of color. It seems that the long evolving pattern of failing to hold persons accountable in response to the killing of unarmed persons of color has only perpetuated a growing sense of apathy. In his book, Between Barack and a Hard Place, Tim Wise discusses the open and random killing of Black persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Primarily, Tim Wise makes the point that when the killings occurred, those who committed the murders stated that they were not worried about being convicted by a jury. As Mr. Wise noted in his book, at the time of his writing the book years later, no one had even been charged. Hence, the pattern remained uninterrupted.
Nonetheless, perhaps the grand jury will charge the police officer, and many will be surprised. However, looking back, hindsight is 20/20 vision.