Darren Wilson claims Ferguson wasn’t about race, then mentions race

Jomilla Newsom

Jomilla Newsom

This week the New Yorker featured Darren Wilson in a profile. If you don’t know who Darren Wilson is, he is the man who shot and killed Mike Brown in 2014. If you don’t know who Mike Brown is, well I’ll assume you’ve been living under a rock the past year.

The profile explores Wilson’s life following Aug. 9, 2014 and what he thinks of the aftermath of what many believe to be a racially motivated incident.

Wilson, whose very name propelled a movement in the Black community calling for justice, doesn’t think race has anything to do with, well, anything.

The thing that stood out the most to me was the story he tells about a fellow field-training officer whom he went to for advice. Mike McCarthy, a 39-year-old Irish American with short brown hair and a square chin, is a third-generation policeman who grew up in North County. Most of his childhood friends were African American.

“If you just talk to him on the phone, you’d think you’re talking to a Black guy,” Wilson said. “He was able to relate to everyone up there.”

Wilson said that he approached McCarthy for help.

“Mike, I don’t know what I’m doing,” Wilson said. “This is a culture shock. Would you help me? Because you obviously have that connection, and you can relate to them. You may be White, but they still respect you. So why can they respect you and not me?”

‘Them’ as in Black people? I know we have to realize that everyone wasn’t raised the same, but I find it kind of sad that a White man had to ask another White man how to relate to Black people. Why couldn’t Wilson just be himself instead of asking the ‘cool cop’ how to fit in? Character flaw? Maybe if he treated them with respect like any other human being, then they would have respected him back. But maybe if Wilson didn’t feel like he connected to the people in Jennings, then he shouldn’t have started working in a place where the majority is Blacks. About 14,000 Blacks live in Ferguson, compared with more than 6,500 Whites, according to U.S. Census data for the Missouri city.

Eventually, Wilson said he “got the hang of policing the neighborhood.”

Wilson said that, despite what he’d said about experiencing “culture shock,” race hadn’t affected the way he did police work. But examining how fast he reacted to Brown during their 45-second encounter, many believe race and a lack of communication training had everything to do with the death of the unarmed teenager. If Mike Brown was White instead of Black, things might have gone a little differently that day.

Wilson basically says he didn’t want to leave the Black community, even though he was initially feeling out of his comfort zone—because Black people were so entertaining. And with all the crime they produced, he had more work to do. I mean those weren’t his words exactly that’s just how I took it, his actual statement was:
“When I left Jennings, I didn’t want to work in a White area,” Wilson said. “I liked the Black community. I had fun there. There’s people who will just crack you up.”

He also liked the fact that there was more work for the police in a town like Jennings—more calls to answer, more people to meet.

“I didn’t want to just sit around all day,” he said.

But perhaps the most obvious indicator that Wilson, somewhere in the back of his mind, knows it really is about race is his effort to stay away from Black people. Since the incident, Wilson has been laying low and staying out of the public eye.

“We try to go somewhere (how do I say this correctly?) with like-minded individuals,” Wilson said. “You know. Where it’s not a mixing pot.”

And there is his refusal to examine why a nation erupted in protests and civil disobedience following the shooting — his refusal to take a critical look at why Brown’s death hits so close to home for Black communities.

When asked if he thought Brown was truly a ‘bad guy,’ or just a kid who had gotten himself into a bad situation he responded: “I only knew him for those 45 seconds in which he was trying to kill me, so I don’t know.”

Overall I think the profile was useless and a waste of time if Wilson wasn’t going to be honest. But I’m not surprised at all. I wouldn’t expect honesty from a man in his predicament, especially in a time like this. But I would respect it.