The late evening of Aug. 9, 2014, I couldn’t sleep. I was due to substitute-anchor MSNBC’s “UP with Steve Kornacki” and should have been asleep. But after looking at my Twitter feed and reading the rage under #Ferguson, I felt compelled to type a reaction to the killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Tying the shooting to the inane whine of certain politicians about a “war on whites,” I decried the next morning the death of yet another unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer.
In those early hours and early days, there was more unknown than known. But this month, the Justice Department released two must-read investigations connected to the killing of Brown that filled in blanks, corrected the record and brought sunlight to dark places by revealing ugly practices that institutionalized racism and hardship. They have also forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.
The report on the Ferguson police department detailed abuse and blatant trampling of the constitutional rights of people, mostly African Americans, in Ferguson. Years of mistreatment by the police, the courts and the municipal government, including evidence that all three balanced their books on the backs of the people of Ferguson, were laid bare in 102 damning pages. The overwhelming data from DOJ provided background and much-needed context for why a small St. Louis suburb most had never heard of exploded the moment Brown was killed. His death gave voice to many who suffered in silence.