St. Louis County Judge Carolyn Whittington allowed the grand jury an extended deadline to determine whether or not to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson. On August 9th, Officer Wilson gunned down Mike Brown, an 18-year-old Black teenager headed to college the following day.
The grand jury (which is composed of six white men, three white women, two Black women, and one Black man) was supposed to make a determination last week. However, Judge Whittington extended the deadline until January 7, 2015; 60 days past the six month minimum.
And yet again, Ferguson reveals just how egregious and embedded white privilege is.
White privilege describes unearned advantages given to white people (and people who appear white) due to their perceived race and skin color. America, founded on racism and discrimination, created (and maintains) a tiered racial hierarchy that touches a plethora of socioeconomic indicators. White privilege manifests itself in many ways–the criminal justice system being the most disturbing.
The overall judicial handling of Mike Brown’s murder is smeared in white advantage. Here are some clear examples.
1. Officer Darren Wilson is still not charged.
The most striking example of white privilege is the nauseating fact that Officer Wilson has yet to be charged for the blatant murder of Mike Brown. The evidence is concrete. The witnesses are consistent. The public pressure and outrage are mounting. And yet, despite a brief detainment, Officer Wilson is free.
2. I can still call him “Officer Wilson.”
Yes, Officer Wilson has not been dismissed, suspended, or fired from the police force, despite irrefutable evidence that proves police misconduct.
3. I don’t know where Darren Wilson is.
It’s understandable if Officer Wilson were charged. Then he deserves the right to a fair trial and protection. But considering that he’s technically a free man and still a public servant, why are his whereabouts unknown?
4. Officer Wilson has hundreds of thousands of dollars at his disposal.
The beauty of crowdfunding went haywire when Officer Wilson’s supporters raised almost $400,000 on his behalf, outpacing crowdfunding for Mike Brown’s family which raised over $300,000 at the time. At first reluctant to do so, GoFundMe eventually shut down the Wilson crowdfunding page after intense backlash.
5. Predominately white grand jury.
Do the math. 12 grand jurors, 9 are white. That’s 75%. The crime took place in a town that’s close to 70% Black. Do the math.
6. Almost everyone in power is white.
From the prosecutor, to the upper rungs of law enforcement, and the elected officials in between, everyone holding substantial judicial equity is white. County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch is particularly troubling, given his deep and personal ties to law enforcement.
7. The failed attempt at character assassination was swift.
Almost immediately, media smeared Mike Brown and the Ferguson Black community with misleading headlines, uneven story angles, and skewed facts. The first and most vivid example is when AP, ABC, and AOL misreported chants from a non-violent peaceful crowd. Leading with the headline: “Missouri Crowd After Killing: ‘Kill All Peace,’ the crowd was actually chanting: “No justice, no peace.”
The Ferguson police dept. was also complicit in perpetuating the mongrel narrative. They claimed that Mike Brown committed a robbery. Against expert advice, they released video surveillance allegedly showing Mike Brown roughing up a storeowner. But then, that same video showed a person resembling Mike Brown paying for cigars that were reportedly “stolen.”
8. The Ferguson police dept. is just swimming in white privilege.
All in all, it seems the Ferguson police dept. has no clue how to handle the fallout. From the rapid militarization of Black neighborhoods, to hiring an all-white crisis management team, to releasing spotty “evidence” against expert advice, the Ferguson police department’s missteps have only fueled public outrage. It’s clear they have no understanding about the Black community. It’s clear that cultural competency and common sense are not taught or valued in the highly segregated town.
And this is the highlight of white privilege. The ability to survive, thrive, and willfully remain ignorant of Black bodies.