Double standards on black/white shootings

Reading news reports of the reactions of members of the black community to
recent high profile shootings of blacks by whites,
specifically those of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride,
and, in Ferguson MO, of Michael Brown
there are several common threads in those reported reactions.
First, many blacks demand that
the past of the (white) person who fired the shot
be an open book, available for their examination
for anything in the persons past
that could be considered as bias against blacks.
Second, many blacks decry any attempt to examine
the past of the (black) person who was shot
as an attempt to "smear" the person who was shot.

Am I the only person who finds such to be an absolutely blatant double standard,
one that could only favor blacks over whites?
Yet the media plays its part in reporting the two reactions described above
without pointing out the double standard.
It looks to me like the people who are making those demands and the media
are co-participants in wrongly legitimizing such a double standard.

For specifics, consider the following news stories (emphasis is added):

ID of officer who killed teen festering issue
By Associated Press
Washington Post, 2014-08-14 (Thursday)

FERGUSON, Mo. — The police chief of a St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death said Wednesday he won’t be pressured into publicly identifying the officer despite mounting demands from clergy, protesters and even hackers.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who has been the public face of the city torn by Saturday’s death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, told reporters the St. Louis County investigation of the shooting could take weeks to complete. In the meantime, he said, his department welcomes Justice Department training on racial relations in the suburb, where two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black while all but three of the police force’s 53 officers are white.

“Unfortunately, an undertow (of racial unrest) has bubbled to the surface,” said Jackson. “Race relations is the top priority right now.”

The mystery of the officer’s identity has fanned the discord, with Jackson arguing that revealing that detail could bring retribution to the officer whose life since Saturday has been countlessly threatened.

But civil rights activists and the attorney for Brown’s family,
all pressing for calm amid nights of unrest since Brown’s death,
counter that

knowing the officer’s name may help the area to heal,
allowing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others
to dig into the officer’s background
for any prior brutality.


Missouri shooting victim called quiet, respectful
by the Associated Press
Washington Post, 2014-08-13 (Wednesday)


“Big Mike,” as some of his friends called Michael Brown Jr.,
wasn’t the type to fight, family and neighbors said,
though he lived in a restless neighborhood where police were on frequent patrol.
His parents and neighbors described him as

a good-hearted kid with an easy smile
who certainly wouldn’t have condoned the violence and looting
that spread though his north St. Louis suburb following his death.

On Friday, 2014-08-15, the Ferguson P.D. released a store surveillance video
showing a man, identified as Michael Brown, Jr.,
robbing the store just minutes before he was shot.
The reaction to that release from some was quite negative.
Some examples:]

Face the Nation Transcripts August 17, 2014: Nixon, Brooks, Rogers
CBS News Face the Nation, 2014-08-17


[CBS News Moderator Bob] SCHIEFFER:
Governor, you removed the local police department basically from
having anything to do with this situation.
How badly did they -- what -- I just don't get it.
Everything -- everywhere they turn, they seem to do the wrong thing,
and the last thing being releasing that video,
which seemed to just really inflame people.

Do you think that made the situation worse?

[Missouri Governor Jay] NIXON: We didn't have any knowledge about that.

The Justice Department also indicated they didn't think it should be released.
And I think it had an incendiary affect.
When you release pictures, and

you clearly are attempting to besmirch the victim of a shooting,
shot down, a young man in his own street,
and at the same time, you're releasing information
to try to make it to tarnish him,

then, properly, there was a lot of folks that were concerned about.

And I do think it flamed it back up
and has caused us to have to deal with some of that.
But those are real emotions.
People need to grieve and they need to speak.
But we also need to keep the rule of law and peace.
And we're trying to balance all three of those.


Meet the Press Transcript - August 17, 2014
nbcnews.com Meet the Press, 2014-08-17


Well, governor, there was peace. There was peace on Thursday night after you appointed the county police to come in and take over. The state police, rather, their takeover from the county. But then the local police chief who released that video, what justifies releasing the video about the convenience store, while there's still no details about what happened with the shooting itself? That is what caused everything to erupt again on Friday night and eventually led to the curfew having to be imposed.


Yeah, we and our security team and the highway patrol did not know that was going to be released.
I don't think the attorney general knew that.
And quite frankly, we disagree deeply I think for two reasons.
Number one, to attempt to in essence disparage the character of this victim,
in the middle of a process like this is not right. It's just not right.
And secondarily, it did put the community and quite frankly the region and the nation on alert again.
These are old wounds. These are deep wounds in these communities. And that action was not helpful.

[The (Democratic) Missouri governor has his head so far up his lower hole
it's not even funny.
He is missing the central point,
that those criticizing the police action have made a key part of their argument
the assertion that Mr. Brown was, and I am quoting here,
"a good-hearted kid with an easy smile
who certainly wouldn’t have condoned the violence and looting
that spread though his north St. Louis suburb following his death.",
and thus surely could not have done anything that would have justifiably caused a police officer
to apply deadly force against him.
That view of Mr. Brown has surely been a key part of the reason why
the protestors feel the killing was unjustified.
When objective, unarguable evidence can be provided that Mr. Brown was not always,
and in fact in particular in the minutes just before the fatal event,
the law-abiding, gentle person elsewhere portrayed,
is it not entirely appropriate to put that evidence before the public,
not with a view toward disparaging character,
but toward giving a necessary counter to the propaganda line
Mr. Brown's allies had been providing?]


Well, should the police chiefs, Chief Jackson then be fired or have to step down?


We've moved the highway patrol in to manage security.
The Justice Department and the detectives in Saint Louis are doing the investigation.
So he--



But he's still, with all due respect governor,
he's still doing things, like releasing that video,
without even reporting to the state police captain, Captain Johnson,
who's supposed to be in charge.


Yeah. Everyone can rest well assured
that we've had very serious discussions about that action
and how much we felt that
it was not the right way to handle the victim's family,
which I had a chance to speak with.
They were deeply troubled.
And when you see your son gunned down in the street
and then you see a police chief begin an attempt to attack his character.

["Gunned down"?
Is that really an accurate way to describe what happened?
Before all the facts are known?
What an asshole of a governor.
Poor Missouri.]

That's just not the way to operate.
And we've made that clear to everyone.
And our hope and expectation is that now that our folks are in charge of security,
and we have these dual investigations going on,
that, that bump is behind us, hopefully.


A Washington Post story contains the following:

“In all my years,
never have I seen something as offensive and insulting
as a police chief releasing a tape of a young man,
trying to smear him before his own funeral,”
[Reverend Al] Sharpton said.
“If that is the young man? That is not robbery.
It’s shoplifting. Call it what it is.”

Okay, enough with the excerpts from news stories.
There are several issues that these reveal.
First is the different treatment of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson.
How on earth can it be perfectly okay for
"the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others
to dig into the officer’s background
for any prior brutality",
but wrong, wrong, wrong,
and, according to this evident creep of a governor, incendiary,
for the Ferguson Police Department to release undisputed evidence
that shows that in the minutes before he was shot,
Michael Brown had a criminal frame of mind,
first stealing (did he not know that was wrong?)
and then physically intimidating a store clerk
who tried to stop him from making this big mistake?
Let me ask that question again:
How is it okay for the NAACP and others to dig into officer Wilson's background,
looking for examples of what they consider previous wrong-doing
that they would then use to claim Wilson had a pattern of misconduct,
but not okay for the Ferguson P.D. to release undisputed evidence on Brown's background?
How would that creep of a governor answer that?

The second issue does not involve Officer Wilson,
but only the Mr. Brown.
Brown's father, family, and friends had portrayed Mr. Brown as
"a good-hearted kid with an easy smile
who certainly wouldn’t have condoned the violence and looting
that spread though his north St. Louis suburb following his death."
Who am I to dispute that, in the circumstances they were familiar with,
that was what he was.
And if he was always that person, than I would agree that
his shooting by Officer Wilson would be hard to explain.
But was he that in all circumstances?
The point of the released store video is to show
that he was not always the angel his family and friends describe.
Now, one might argue that that should be reserved until the trial, if there is one.
But clearly many people are trying to make the case that such a trial is necessary;
indeed, there are numerous reports of people describing Officer Wilson as being a murderer.
But without the release of that video,
the general public would only have the portrayal of Mr. Brown
his supporters are portraying.
I think it was a most responsible act, and, as it turned out, one of courage,
for the Ferguson P.D. to provide the public with factual information
that there was another, not-so-angelic, side to Mr. Brown.

Further, let us recall the hue-and-cry to get the Ferguson P.D.
to release the name of the officer who shot Brown.
Those making that demand, e.g. the NYT editorial board,
often justified it on the grounds of "transparency".
Well, if "transparency" required releasing the officer's name,
does not "transparency" also justify releasing information about Mr. Brown?

Now consider Governor Nixon's assertion
"When you release pictures, and
you clearly are attempting to besmirch the victim of a shooting,
shot down, a young man in his own street,
and at the same time, you're releasing information
to try to make it to tarnish him."
Is it not premature to label Michael Brown as
"the victim of a shooting,
shot down, a young man in his own street"?
Does that, coming from the governor of Missouri,
have the effect of influencing a (potential) jury pool?
Is Governor Nixon sure that Officer Wilson is guilty of something?
We have heard the story from various civilians;
we have not yet heard the story from
the one man with the most complete knowledge of what happened,
Officer Wilson.
Would it not be better to reserve judgement until we hear from him?

And as to why that statement, which surely will come at some time,
is so delayed,
I can only trust what I read,
that it is delayed so the various investigators
can gather and correlate the various stories of eyewitnesses,
without knowledge of what Officer Wilson will say.
That sounds like a good policy to me,
to prevent them from tailoring their statements to what Wilson will say.