On Tuesday, August 9th, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted, “Today, we remember #MikeBrown and recommit to ensuring truth, transparency, and trust in our criminal justice system. #BlackLivesMatter.”
Remember Mike Brown? Okay, Mrs. Harris, if you say so.
Does the phrase, “Hands up, don’t shoot” ring a bell?
This lie began on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. The narrative is that Michael Brown, an African-American “gentle giant,” was brutally murdered by a white police officer (Darren Wilson), who shot him execution style while his hands were up in surrender. This was another instance of a racist white cop killing an innocent black man. At least that’s what they wanted us to believe.
But that’s not what happened.
Anyone familiar with the case today knows what really happened. Brown was caught on camera robbing a convenience store and shoving the attendant minutes before the shooting. When Wilson arrived on the scene and tried to get out of his police car, Brown shut the door on him and leaned in the driver’s side window, going for the officer’s gun. When the gun went off, Brown ran. While Wilson was pursuing Brown, Brown turned and charged at him, leaving him no choice, but to act in self-defense. There were no hands up. There was no surrender.
More than a half dozen black witnesses confirmed Wilson’s testimony, as well as the autopsy report. Those who said Brown was shot from behind, with his hands in the air, lied.
This distortion of truth was fuel to the fire for a movement already burning with hatred. Lies like these caused feelings of animosity toward law enforcement. They tricked people into believing police officers are the enemy – that they’re racist and out to get black people. These things simply aren’t true.
Even former President Obama, a supporter of Black Lives Matter, said, “The overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally…When anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety.”
The myth of Michael Brown is a dangerous one. It has the power to stir up intense hate. If you don’t believe me, look no further than Micah Johnson, the man who shot five Dallas police officers in 2016. It’s an extreme example, sure, but he did it because of the Black Lives Matter Movement. He said he was angered on their behalf and “wanted to kill white people, especially police officers.”
So when Senator Harris tweets that we must remember Mike Brown, let us remember the gross distortion of truth that took place that day in Ferguson. Thank you for reminding us how powerful a myth can be. Maybe we’ll learn from our mistakes and stop letting false narratives shape our perspectives.