The Long, Brutal History that Predicts Darren Wilson Will Get Off Scot Free

Darren Wilson will probably get let off. And, appalling as that is, it’s an outcome that won't surprise any black person, including yours truly.

Protesters carry signs as they march in the streets of Clayton, Mo. on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 near the St. Louis County Courthouse during a protest against the Aug. 9, 2014 police shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Protesters want prosecutors to file criminal charges against the white police officer who fatally shot Brown. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Darren Wilson will probably get let off.

It’s an outcome that will appall many Americans, sparking outrage not only in Ferguson but throughout the country. And despite all of that, it’s an outcome that will not surprise any black person, including yours truly.

Obviously, I hope that is not the case. I truly do hope that I am wrong and that Wilson is indicted by the Missouri grand jury now deciding his fate, which would mean he would at least face a trial and criminal charges over his killing of Mike Brown. But it’s hard not to expect the worst after Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called in the National Guard before the decision officially came down.

This isn’t knee-jerk pessimism at work here. To the black community, a non-indictment for Brown would be predictable. It would be as predictable as the verdict in the trial over the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a verdict that acquitted defendant George Zimmerman, allowing him to continue doing stupid things. Or as predictable as the involuntary manslaughter verdict handed down in the shooting death of restrained, unarmed, 23-year-old Oscar Grant in Oakland. Or as predictable as the acquittal of police officers charged with killing unarmed Sean Bell in Queens, New York by firing 50 shots into his vehicle. As predictable as the acquittal of the police officers who fatally shot unarmed Amadou Diallo 19 times, killing him. As predictable as the acquittals in the infamous police beating of Rodney King. And so on, back to Emmett Till and before.

And those are just the incidents the public knows about. For every Eric Garner choked and squeezed to death by the police or for every police officer caught on camera horribly shooting an innocent black man as he reaches for his license, there are thousands of racially tinged episodes of police brutality known only to the people involved, to the friends and families of the victims, and to pockets of the impacted communities.

Sure, there have been encouraging signs that black lives are slowly becoming as important as white lives. For example, David Dunn, the 45-year-old white male who shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis at a Florida gas station in November 2012 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Some justice also was provided for the late Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old woman shot dead in November 2013 in Detroit by white homeowner Theodore Wafer after she knocked on his front porch for help after her car crashed. Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder this past August and was sentenced to prison for 17 to 32 years.

But these rare moments of justice for black Americans are still overshadowed by moments where we are treated, at best, as second class citizens. A grand jury in Staten Island is still waiting to decide what to do with the officers who played a role in Garner’s death, despite the clear video evidence showing they violated their own police department’s protocol of no chokeholds. Meanwhile, in Florida, Marissa Alexander faces 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the air to protect herself from her abusive, estranged husband. Despite invoking the same controversial “Stand Your Ground” law that helped Zimmerman win acquittal, and despite having her initial conviction reversed on appeal, Alexander was denied a “Stand Your Ground” hearing hearing and faces fresh charges and three back-to-back 20-year sentences from Florida State Prosecutor Angela Corey.

Too many different stories of police brutality against black victims end the same way, with acquittals or lenient sentences for the cops. That’s why most people in the black community have no faith Wilson will ever face trial. Maybe we’re wrong, but history points to us being unfortunately right. And that prediction, if and when proven correct, won’t be one we’ll celebrate.

Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

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