Podzilla 1985

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Michael Brown & the Curious Case of When Murder Isn't Important

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you've more than likely heard about the sad tales of people like Michael Brown.

Michael Brown was a young man who was gunned down by a police officer named Darren Wilson almost one month ago in Ferguson, Missouri. The details on what really happened that fateful August 9th remain a mystery, but the incident itself created a huge backlash against the police and sparked racial tension in the otherwise unremarkable city in St. Louis County.

As we creep closer to the one month anniversary of an event that shook the very country we live in, I read an article on local news channel KFVS 12's website that got me to thinking.

"The St. Louis police chief has promised a vigorous investigation after six apparently unrelated homicides in an 18-hour period and renewed his call for tougher gun crime penalties.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Police Chief Sam Dotson says police have found very little evidence into the killings, which began Thursday afternoon. The deaths pushed the city's homicide total to 95 for the year, compared to 75 at this time last year."

That's a staggering number. In eighteen hours there were six homicides in St. Louis.

Want to know the really scary part?

Not a single one was caused by a police officer.

You're probably wondering what my point is. People are murdered every day in the United States, and it's especially bad in large metropolitan cities like St. Louis. Who cares about another statistic?

And that is exactly the point of this article. I can't understand why a police officer killing a teen starts a riot, while citizens killing each other gets a small headline after other seemingly more important stories. Stories, by the way, that include plans for a suburban gun club in Chicago, the mystery behind a US couple's crash off the coast of Jamaica, boil orders in the Heartland, and Kroger adding new jobs nationwide.

To be fair, it did manage to rank higher than a story about a shop in Sikeston raising awareness to help girls have a good time at school prom.

And, would you believe, people still ask me why I walked away from a career in mainstream journalism.

It's baffling to me how little people care about each other. The CDC lists that there are 5.2 murders per 100,000 people in the United States. Most studies seem to agree that there are between 40 to 50 murders in the US every single day.

That's a lot of caskets.

Pop quiz! How many of the thousands of people that are murdered every year in the United States can you name? Do you know how they died? Do you know who killed them?

A better question, and one that really gets to the heart of this piece, is do you even care?

The news channels don't. Your government officials don't. Of all the murders in the United States since President Barack Obama took office, how many has he taken a personal and professional interest in? How many has the good Reverend Al Sharpton marched at?

The easiest way to answer that is to find out how many cameras were there.

It's a hard lesson that we as a society of human beings need to learn quickly.

They don't care if you kill each other.

Who are "they," and who are "you?"

You are a person. You are any person. You are a young black man at risk of being gunned down on the streets because of where you live. You are a white college student at a party that had one too many and found yourself at the end of another drunk's pistol. You are a little girl playing in her yard who found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And who are "they?" They are any number of people who will kill you for no particular reason at all, and more often than not they do not hide behind a badge.

In the United States we seem to only mourn the ones who are killed by someone that we can turn into a monster. They have to have a face we can hate, and an angle we can exploit. It's easy to focus our hatred on the police for killing an innocent teenager, or at the very least someone we perceive as an innocent teenager. I wouldn't try to cover your eyes and tell you that the police are perfect and never pulled the trigger on anyone who didn't force them to. I won't lie to you, because there are plenty of trusted officials and talking heads who will do that for me.

However, for the handful of honest to God murders that the police carry out in the name of "justice," there are many more murders against us that are caused by us.

Who mourns for them if there isn't a news crew there to attract the vultures?

I recently saw something floating around Facebook about a National Blackout Day on Monday, September 8th. It's a protest in the name of the people who were unjustly gunned down by the police, and it encourages like minded people to boycott shopping at white owned businesses.

When you get past the poor grammar and misspellings, you're left only with a misguided cause that actually belittles the deaths of the people it is supposed to be honoring.

How could such a noble and logical movement like boycotting business that have nothing to do with the tragedy that befell Michael Brown actually harm the cause?

Every time you yell to the world that you're absolutely furious over the unjust murder of this young man, you're also telling them that you don't give a shit what happens to the other thousands of people who are murdered every single day.

It's easy to exploit Michael Brown and make him a martyr. We did the same thing with Trayvon Martin. All we have to do is find the friendliest picture of them and iron it onto a shirt, or come up with a catchy slogan and slap it down on a button. Now you're a part of something meaningful and we're going to create change!

Except, we won't. In between the days, months, and years that it takes for another murder to make headline news, there will be thousands of other innocent dead people who just weren't marketable enough to be important.

Murder should not be a ratings tactic. It is not a race problem. It is not a cop problem. It's just a problem, and it doesn't care who you are or what color your skin is.

5.2 murders per 100,000 population.

Make sure you keep an on the eye on the guy in front of you with the knife, while you've got your hands up and you're waiting for the cop to shoot you in the back.
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