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Ferguson: An instant that could lead to a lifetime of change

E.N. Pailen | 9/2/2014, 9:04 a.m.
In one instant, Michael Brown was identified as a threat and in the next he was dead. The people in ...
Residents gather at the scene where Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri police Saturday, August 11, 2014. KMOV

In one instant, Michael Brown was identified as a threat and in the next he was dead. The people in Ferguson, Missouri have seen this story before and they are tired of its repetitive nature. It still remains unclear the exact threat that caused the officer to open fire on an unarmed teenager walking along the street in his hometown.

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Police officials in Ferguson want us to know, by selectively releasing information that not only painted Brown in a bad light but also caught the attention of the Justice Department, that he was indeed a threat.

This information, unlike the highly redacted incident report, is meant to help support the threat determined by the officer who shot Michael Brown. The officer presumed that Michael Brown was a criminal, that Michael Brown posed a threat, and that Michael Brown didn’t have a voice.

The reality is that a defenseless Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including two shots to the head. The reality is that Michael Brown was denied his Fifth Amendment right to due process because of his appearance and his location. These non-relevant, external factors stem from a series of stereotypical attributes that would not exist if our society truly valued diversity and supported racial tolerance.

People generally mean well, but that is not an excuse to ignore the obvious facts that seem to elude the Ferguson narrative while sitting in plain sight. As the country’s attention has been directed towards the arrests and actions of the protestors, a similar incident occurred a few miles away 10 days later in St Louis where an officer fired 12 shots at nearly point blank range into Kajieme Powell, resulting in the death of yet

another young black man. Unfortunately, these incidents occur far too often in African-American communities, especially those facing economic adversity.

The protests in Ferguson represent a community that has grown tired of having their rights violated by the very people who have sworn to help protect them. Their purpose has become muddled and mired with a narrative searching for balance along the misguided theme of mob violence but should be centered on the core of this story: life and death.

Inconvenient and unwanted, the truth represented by the Ferguson protestors rocks our cultural ethos to its core. In the line of duty, all law enforcement officers do not operate with integrity and unwanted outcomes are bound to occur if we, as a society continue to be unwilling to scrutinize the instances when they act as the judge, jury and executioner.

Some may question the intentions of the protestors in Ferguson, but the results speak for themselves. The events around Michael Brown’s death are still part of the national consciousness, whereas Kajieme Powell’s story, regrettably, has received minimal interest.

We can all hope that the instant that led to Michael Brown’s death will cause police officer’s to better understand the element of reasonable fear, before attempting to take the life of a supposed threat.

E.N. Pailen is a Management Professional and native of the Baltimore area. He is a freelance writer with degrees in Political Science, Sociology and Finance.