Farcical debate about Ferguson


photo by Souffle/Tribune News Service

Police arrest people in the street outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, on Nov. 25.

Earlier this December, Ferguson officer Darren Wilson was found innocent of the shooting of Michael Brown. Or, pardon me, he was found innocent of the murder of Michael Brown. Actually, neither of those statements are true in any way, but if you had only heard about Ferguson from debates online, you’d hear those and half a dozen untruths.

The Ferguson “debate” has become a hot topic around the country and in the halls of Lake Braddock, with people heatedly discussing the facts of what exactly happened the night of Michael Brown’s death and the aftermath of the court’s announcement regarding officer Wilson. The problem is that many of these people don’t really know what the facts are, and this touches at the heart of what is wrong with this debate: Nobody is really debating, but rather just screaming incoherently at each other.

These are the facts: On Aug. 9, Brown was shot to death by Wilson following an altercation between the two. Prior to the incident, Brown allegedly robbed a nearby convenience store, according to surveillance footage released by authorities. Wilson was one of a number of officers in the area instructed to be on the lookout for Brown.

Everything else following that fateful occurrence is pure conjecture, such as allegations that Wilson washed the blood off his hands. One accusation parroted by many is that Wilson did not call for backup nor reported the shooting until much later. This is completely and utterly false, as reports show that he did call for backup following the incident.

With the massive amount of misinformation and confusion surrounding the case, and the protests and riots that followed, one would think that people would at least bother to fact check their arguments, but this is not the case. A quick search on Twitter for #ferguson will show dozens of people claiming that Wilson was pronounced innocent (when he was only not indicted), that Brown neither assaulted Wilson nor committed the robbery, that the grand jury was all-white, and that the rioters illegally burned flags (forgetting that flag burning is a constitutionally-protected form of free speech). This doesn’t even include the dozens of thinly-veiled posts claiming that the people of Ferguson, which has a 60 percent black population, somehow “deserved this.”

There is no doubt that changes need to be made to the justice system to prevent the unnecessary deaths of more people, white or black. But these changes won’t come about through angry, half-true tweets, but through education and knowledge about what’s going on in our country. By refusing to do something as simple as fact checking the accusations we make, we only set back change another generation. So think about that, before you click tweet.