My Ferguson, right or wrong

[originally from November 25, 2014]

The ease with which people wholeheartedly take sides on Darren Wilson’s process seems to indicate that it is not perceived as an issue of criminal justice and criminal justice system. It is rather perceived as a battle in the race war, which makes the questions of justice irrelevant. In a war it’s not a soldier’s job to ponder which side is more just; his job is to win the battles. In a war it’s not expected from soldiers to switch sides back and forth depending on which one looks better. And this is how it looks like here.

There are a lot of possibilities.
It is possible that Wilson was racially biased. It is even quite likely, since, given the demographics of that place, over the course of his occupation he probably observed more black criminals than white ones, and it would take conscious effort to avoid racial biases in this situation.

It is possible that the jury was racially biased. The fact that they indict much more often than not is the evidence in favor of that, as well as their having all risk factors for being racially biased: they’re mostly white, they’re in the South, and they’re in a place with particularly strong racial tensions, which correlate with racism (it’s probably a feedback loop: racism creates racial tensions, and people living in the middle of racial tensions are likely to become racist).

It is possible that the jury was biased to support the the side of the police. In this case their declining to indict Wilson falls into the typical pattern rather than contradicts it; it’s just that the police is much more often on the prosecutor’s side rather than on the defendant’s.

It is possible that Wilson did act according to the law, and the jury ruled accordingly, but the law gives the police too much power to use the lethal force, and should be changed. Note that being biased doesn’t automatically make one wrong on every particular case – biases are often statistical rather than strict.

It is also possible that it should not be changed until the gun control is stricter, since the lives of police officers also deserve protection. In this case wearable cameras could be a good solution for resolving ambiguous cases.

Did people sit there, considered all the possibilities, and gathered evidence in favor and against them? It doesn’t look like so. Right after Brown was killed, people already knew which position to take, and this decision is based on the political affiliation rather than the evidence. “My side, right or wrong.”

The effect of the protests and riots is also dubious. One one hand, they attract public attention to the issue, and create more public pressure against silently fiddling with evidence. On the other hand, given the war mentality, whoever was racially biased, is probably now biased even more. A racist person sees a mob doing awful things allegedly in support of a black person, and now they hate black people even more. Halo effect is much closer to throwing feces than to any kind of logical reasoning.


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