A Different World

Issac Bailey blog | Don't prejudge Michael Brown shooting, but don't ignore larger lessons, either

Months ago, I urged people to not rush to judgment in the Bowe Bergdahl case, no matter the accounts from his fellow soldiers because we had not heard his side. Some dismissed me because they were looking at it through a political lens. Since then, we know more about that situation, including questions about his state of mind - but we still don't have his side, and we still don't know the full story.

I often tell people to slow down in situations like these, going all the way back to Duke Lacrosse, and we all know how that turned out. Sometimes things are as they initially appear, sometimes not.

We don't know how the Ferguson shooting will turn out, but I'll say it again: Slow down. If what you want to believe is the truth, the evidence that comes out will eventually confirm that reality, meaning there's no reason to jump to conclusions now. I don't think, though, that it is too early to critique the behavior of the police, which was heavy-handed and inflamed rather than calmed things, from the way they felt it necessary to look like an occupying force and piece-mealing the release of information instead of providing all or none of it. No matter what caused the shooting, the way officials handled the aftermath made things worse.

And while that's true, there was still no excuse for the minority of protesters who turned to looting and rioting, which made the situation worse still. They were not honoring the memory of the slain teen, but instead sullied it. It should not be overlooked, though, that many other protesters have been volunteering to clean up the streets and standing guard in front of stores to protect them from looters.

Do I have my suspicions about what caused the shooting? Of course; that's human nature. Here's what I don't have: All the information I need to come to a solid, definitive judgment about what happened. The temptation is to get into debates with people who have come to a hard conclusion, which can quickly lead to seeming as though you have a definitive position even when you know you shouldn't.

Each of us can speculate. The teen could have attacked the officer; or the officer could have murdered an unarmed teen while his hands were raised because he did not value black life; or the cop could have panicked in the heat of the moment and accidentally killed him; or the teen could have panicked, thinking the cop knew about his recent alleged theft from a store, and attacked the officer to try to get a way; and on and on and on ... The speculation can be endless because history is littered with examples of each of those things. But at this point, that's all it is.

There are multiple independent investigations going on. If that wasn't the case, I'd say we all would have a right to be angrier. But they are happening, and there's little reason to believe that each of them will be tainted.

Either way you slice it, though, this is just the latest example of why we all better commit to solving this incredible racial divide and mistrust, no matter if you sympathize with the cop or Michael Brown. This isn't good for the country.