Its now been a week and a half since the Ferguson ruling.

The issue has been discussed by a variety of people from multiple angles, but I want us to have one final discussion. We won’t turn this into a heated debate or a hostile environment. Instead, I want everyone to have one calm, cool and collected opportunity to hear why so many believe the case is racially driven and speaks volumes about racism in America. If you can’t fathom why the case is racist, just keep an open mind in thinking through some of the points I want to make.

First, let’s talk about Ferguson itself. It’s a predominantly Black city with two-thirds of the town’s population being African American. While that’s 66 percent of the population, only one member out of six on the city council is Black. Three Black police officers serve on a 53-person staff, and Blacks account for 86 percent of vehicle stops in the town.

Now, let’s talk about police officer Darren Wilson’s recounting of the story. He starts by saying he heard about a robbery of cigarillos from a store. Later, he sees Michael Brown and a friend walking in the road, asks him to walk on the sidewalk, and Brown replies “fuck what you have to say.” Wilson proceeds to stop the car, asks Brown to come over, and Brown heads to the car. But he doesn’t simply head to the car — Brown then slams the door shut on Wilson and begins punching him through the open driver’s window. Then, mid-fight, Brown proceeds to stop punching Wilson to hand over the stolen cigarillos that Wilson heard were previously stolen. Using this time to recover, Wilson grabs his gun, points it at Brown, and Brown replies “You’re too much of a fucking pussy to shoot me.” After fighting for control over the gun, Wilson fires a shot that sends Brown running. After this, Brown comes charging back to Wilson, puts his right hand into his waistband (implying Wilson believes Brown had a gun), and refuses to get on the ground per Wilson’s instructions. This causes Wilson to fire six shots into Brown.

Doesn’t this story sound a little strange to you?

I’ll highlight some commentary made in a Vox article. Why would Brown, someone who recently stole cigarillos from a store, act so aggressively noncompliant with a police officer wanting him to simply walk on the sidewalk? Why does Brown — mid-fight — decide that it’s a wise decision to stop fighting to hand his friend the stolen cigarillos in front of a police officer? Why would Brown antagonize an intimidated officer to shoot him? Why would Brown reach into his waistband to pull out a gun when evidence indicated that Brown never had a gun? It almost seems that Wilson is trying to connect Brown with the theft and frame him as particularly dangerous in an attempt to justify his actions.

Furthermore, numerous eyewitness accounts contradict Wilson’s claims — including whether Brown charged Wilson when the gun was fired.

Let’s also not forget that there’s evidence directly contradicting Wilson’s statements. Brown was shot 150 feet from the car as opposed to the 10-foot distance Wilson claimed separated them. Brown’s DNA was also discovered in Wilson’s car, contradicting the testimony that Wilson and Brown’s altercation occurred with Brown outside the car.

Does any of this definitively prove that Wilson shot Brown due to race? No. But let’s think things through. This is a town where a few whites rule a majority of Blacks. Wilson is a man who previously belonged to a police force disbanded for racial tension. His recounting of events is bizarre at best, and evidence directly contradicts his claims.

Given the facts, it certainly seems likely that race played a factor.

Notice how I’m not saying racism was the sole factor. I’m not asserting Wilson thought “I’m going to shoot this man because he’s Black.” However, lying somewhere between Brown’s conscious and subconscious lays our society’s purported notion that Blacks are more threatening than whites. I believe that if we could repeat the situation with 50 Michael Browns and 50 white counterparts, more of the Black men would be dead than the whites.

I’m not unsupported in believing this. In America, young Black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police officers than young white men.

That’s an indicator of institutionalized racism — subtle racism that’s facilitated by policies and practices that are particularly harmful to minorities. Institutional racism happens all around us. The same applies to the Ferguson case. The police system isn’t intended to harm African Americans more, but statistically, it does.

We also see evidence of institutional racism in the judicial proceedings of this case. Despite evidence contradicting Wilson’s statement, he wasn’t even tried because the court failed to indict him — something that happened in only 11 cases out of 162,000 in 2010. Wilson didn’t need to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for an indictment. All that’s needed to be indicted is a legal threshold of probable cause. Given this, in a public statement, the National Bar Association couldn’t understand how a jury couldn’t indict Wilson. The details behind the case don’t match the indictment decision — something that could be explained by the rejection that institutional racism exists.

Let’s just assume Wilson was indicted and the case did go to court. Does evidence exist to declare Wilson as guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? Honestly, I don’t know, and I could very well see there not being evidence to prove murder.

Institutional racism is one of the hardest things to prove, but does that make the situation any better? Enough evidence exists to believe Brown’s death was influenced by race. It speaks to how easily racism can occur in our society with almost no repercussions, and that in itself is disheartening.

But let’s take this further. Let’s assume the evidence indicating this case as racist isn’t actually pertinent. What if Wilson wasn’t being racist?

It doesn’t matter.

Because this case didn’t occur in a vacuum. It fits under the enormous umbrella of cases where race could have been a factor in a shooting. RememberTrayvon Martin? Cases where death is potentially race-driven happen frequently (remember that Black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead than white men?) It doesn’t matter whether Wilson definitively shot Brown due to racism; it just matters that there’s a reasonable possibility. If it didn’t happen in this case, there are hundreds of others, and it is happening in some of them. What’s worse is that this form of injustice is designed to go unpunished.

This case speaks to the larger societal problem that Blacks encounter more frequent and horrific police encounters, which speaks to the even larger problem that racist undertones exist in our society.

That’s why this case is so important: not only does it reveal fundamental flaws on a micro level, but it’s a huge problem on a macro level revealing the existence of institutional racism.

I make absolutely no claims that I can understand the hardships that Blacks are experiencing while mourning the Ferguson case. However, from observing the pain, riots and injustice felt in the community, I feel the responsibility lies on more than just African Americans to speak on this case.

Michael Schramm can be reached at

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