Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Darren Wilson, Robert McCulloch and the nightmare images of Michael Brown

There have been lots of good articles reflecting on the farce of the Ferguson/Darren Wilson grand jury proceedings whose results were announced this week.

The announcement itself by District Attorney Robert McCulloch has understandably been the subject of attention in itself. Will Bunch writes about it in Robert McCulloch's recipe for an American disaster Attytood 11/25/2014:

But Robert McCulloch, the top law enforcement official in one of the nation's largest counties, was the master chef in Monday night's recipe for disaster. He had weeks to decide just exactly how he would release the eventual results of the grand jury probe. And he knew full well the most likely outcome was no indictment, because he had engineered it. He could have released the news earlier in the day, when many folks were still in work or school, or -- as happened famously in the O.J. Simpson murder trial -- he could have held the information overnight. Instead, he picked the moment when the largest number of protesters could gather, and react under the cover of deep darkness.


The announcement was just one of a number of crucial decisions by McCulloch that were either very odd, or maybe not odd at all after you consider his real objectives. Start in the early days of the crisis, when McCulloch -- from a family of police officers, whose father was murdered by a black man in the 1960s, who won office with the enthusiastic backing of the police union and and who has never once prosecuted a law-enforcement officer for excessive force -- joined with Nixon to resist any and all calls to remove himself from this case in favor of a fair and impartial special prosecutor.

Next came a series of McCulloch moves -- to dump mounds of evidence on the grand jury, to not seek a specific charge against Wilson, and to allow the supposed target of the investigation to tell his side of the story for four hours -- that all pointed in one direction, to guide the legal process to its predetermined outcome of no indictment.

Remember, Mike Brown's supporters wanted, in the end, one thing: equal justice, some kind of proof that young black lives matter. Instead, McCulloch determined that this case would be brought before the grand jury in a manner that NONE of the other hundreds of cases that he's prosecuted in St. Louis County have ever been handled. In other words, justice for Mike Brown was separate -- and highly unequal.
The Young Turks discuss McCulloch's announcement and grand jury show in Bob McCulloch’s Bizarre Statement On Michael Brown Included Old Slanders 11/25/2014:

And in Ferguson Prosecutor Fails To Prosecute & That Might Have Been His Goal 11/25/2014:

Chauncey DeVega looks at the ways in which Darren Wilson's carefully crafted testimony to the grand jury featured old tropes about the threat of black males in Shorter Darren Wilson Testimony: Michael Brown was a 'Giant Beast Negro' That Had to Be Killed WARN 11/25/2014:

Wilson's tale is also a reminder of how the near past of Jim and Jane Crow lives in the "post racial" present of the Age of Obama.

A black man is President of the United States of America.

But, a white cop can use language and white racial logic of 19th and early 20th century lynch law--with its fixation on "negro fiends", "imps of the inferno", and "noble" defenders of white society--to avoid going to trial for taking the life of an unarmed black teenager, while also being elevated to hero status (and financially enriched) by those sick and morally deranged white folks who want to live vicariously through the act of killing a black person.

Dred Scott is buried several miles away from where Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. Scott, in one of the most infamous United States Supreme Court decisions, was deemed to not have any rights that a white man is bound to respect. Almost 150 years later, Darren Wilson used the same white supremacist logic, and in doing so offered a version of events that would have been a perfect fit for a 19th century newspaper article about the lynching, disembowelment, and vivisection of a black victim of spectacular white violence.
Digby takes up the same theme in Black bodies are not weapons: Why white supremacists insist Michael Brown was “armed” Salon 11/26/2014. She reminds us of one of the more recent incarnations of these racial images, the so-called "superpredator":

Back in 1901, a writer described a “black brute” as almost “demoniacal”. Over a hundred years later, Officer Darren Wilson told the Grand Jury,”the only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

It’s doubtful that Officer Wilson ever read that moldy old racist literature. But it’s fair to assume that he was more directly influenced by a more modern sociological theory called the “superpredator“:

[I]nfluential criminologists in the 1990s issued predictions of a coming wave of “superpredators”: “radically impulsive, brutally remorseless” “elementary school youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches” and “have absolutely no respect for human life.” Much of this frightening imagery was racially coded.

In 1995, John DiIulio, a professor at Princeton who coined the term “superpredator,” predicted that the number of juveniles in custody would increase three-fold in the coming years and that, by 2010, there would be “an estimated 270,000 more young predators on the streets than in 1990.” Criminologist James Fox joined in the rhetoric, saying publicly, “Unless we act today, we’re going to have a bloodbath when these kids grow up.”
Panic ensued as states around the country rushed to pass laws to incarcerate young offenders for as long as possible in as brutal conditions as possible. These alleged monsters were indeed “demoniacal”, not even human. It was, needless to say, utter nonsense. Violent juvenile crimes rates had begun to fall even then and ended up at the end of the decade below the levels of the mid-80s. Today they are much lower still.

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