The three reasons why the Grand Jury is right

There are three reasons why it is wrong to think that the Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson should have been charged with murder and brought to justice by the Grand Jury, which on the contrary has declined to indict him.

Maybe the American police forces are somewhat trigger-happy, and perhaps the criminal dynamics make black young people more likely to be involved in such situations than their white counterparts. But the Grand Jury did not intend to defend a possible racial prejudice here, as those shouting protesters in white masks say, in the umpteenth paradox of the Obama era, the first black President of the United States.

The Ferguson’s tragedy has nothing to do with racial prejudice. Here is why: the depositions and all the evidence show Michael Brown as a young man who was robbing a convenience store, who assaulted the cop trying to grab his gun, and who was never shot in the back. The second reason is that the level of safety measures and precautions currently adopted by the US police in certain neighborhoods is so extreme that they may mistake a toy gun with a real one and shoot on sight, as it happened some days ago in Cleveland.

Maybe the police forces are sometimes quick to use their guns. But it is not true that, as Toni Morrison said on the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, this happens only when there is a black guy involved. For example, on January this year, the twenty-year-old Dillon Taylor, a white man, was shot two times and killed by a police officer in Salt Lake City because he had refused to raise his hands in a parking lot. Joseph Hamley met a similar fate in the morning of March 7, 2006 in Arkansas. In 2004, the 21-year-old college student Victoria Snelgrove was hit in the eye and killed by a police projectile, a pepper-spray pellet, fired to disperse crowds celebrating the Boston Red Sox victory over the New York Yankees. Enormous tragedies, both for white and black people.

But it is also true that, as the Wall Street Journal reports, and this is the third reason, although black people are just 13 per cent of the American population, they are responsible for a majority of all murders in the US, and more than 90 per cent of black murder victims are young black man killed by other blacks. Nobody protests when a black young man is killed this way. Blacks commit violent crimes at seven to ten times the rate that whites do.

That is to say: the fact that racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are making the police more alerted and aggressive toward the blacks is an effect rather than a cause. After the Grand Jury’s decision, Ferguson is devastated, and yesterday not many people chose it for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Also very few locals decided to open their shops today, “Black Friday”, the day with the best sales of the year. Another damage for the hard-working middle class suffering from the violence of the rioters.


This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (November 28, 2014)


About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.