Some thoughts from the outside
By Sam Perwin
I am a white, male, privileged, Harvard educated, gay Jew from New York City. I live nowhere near Ferguson, MO and can't pretend to know what it is like to live there. I am not a police officer. I'm lucky enough to have had very few interactions with police officers in my life. I have never fired a gun. I am a tall man with a large build, and accordingly, have never been mugged, attacked, or even threatened while walking the streets. I am fortunate beyond description, and I try to be grateful for these privileges in my life.
I am also what anyone would call a knee-jerk liberal. A man who worked in Carter's White House and was later president of the Florida ACLU and a woman who worked on Capitol Hill and helped found EMILY's List raised me to believe that Ronald Reagan was the source of all evil in the world. My own education showed me they were, in fact, correct. My politics have always sat squarely on the blue side of the polarized American spectrum, and, I suspect, they always will.
I say all this because I believe strongly in having as much information as possible before forming an opinion. Outrage flooded my newsfeed (and the streets of New York) last night over the Grand Jury decision that Darren Wilson would not be indicted for fatally shooting Michael Brown on August 9th. From the safe distance of my apartment in Hell's Kitchen, all I felt was confusion. "That can't be right," I thought. The cynic in me knew that the officer would most likely be found not guilty, but the Grand Jury just decided that the case wouldn't even go to trial? Really? I resisted the urge to take to social media before I had all the facts. Yet, even after reading the reporting on the decision, I found it hard to believe that an unarmed 18 year old boy posed enough of a threat to a police officer to warrent the use of lethal force. But again, I'm not a lawyer, a judge, or a police officer, and I've never been in a remotely comparable position.
This morning, as I write this, what I feel most is not rage, but rather disappointment and sorrow. In 2008, America watched a major racial barrier crumble as Barack Obama became President of the United States. And yet, as we saw with Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and most recently with Michael Brown, being a person of color seems to be enough to constitute a perceived threat. This is a bigger problem than anyone wants to admit. It goes deep. It goes back generations, and it's not something that will go away unless we address the problem instead of pretending that it isn't one. What happened last night was a failure of a system that is supposed to protect the disenfranchised, not excuse those who take advantage of them.
I'll end here becuase I fear that the facts outlined above make it too easy for me to sit on the outside and cry injustice. Another lesson I've learned, though, is that silence and complacency only make the problem worse. I hope I'll never be in a situation like Michael Brown or Darren Wilson were in. But even from my distant perch, this seems like a bad call.