Politics & Policy

The Ferguson Collapse

Protesting the Ferguson shooting in St. Louis, October 12, 2014 (Scott Olson/Getty)
Evidence discredits the progressive narrative.
The “Freedom Summer” of 2014 started with a bang but appears to be ending with a whimper. Before the investigation had even begun, the progressive narrative of the death of Michael Brown had crystallized: A white police officer murdered a young, unarmed black man trying to surrender with his hands up — the latest example of the systemic racism that renders black Americans de facto second-class citizens.

But that story has all but collapsed. Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Brown in early August, recently told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and feared for his life when Brown reached for his gun. FBI forensic analysis has confirmed that, as Wilson claims, two shots were fired in the car, and Brown’s blood was found in the vehicle, on Wilson’s clothing, and on the gun. The Washington Post reports that “seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account” that he fatally shot Brown when the young man moved toward him in the street. And, according to the official court autopsy report, Brown probably did not have his hands raised in the “Hands up, don’t shoot” position that has become the defining meme of the protests in Ferguson, Mo. An eyewitness who claims to have seen the shooting from beginning to end further corroborated Wilson’s account in an anonymous interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The forensic and eyewitness evidence seems to be coalescing around a particular account — or, at the very least, suggests that Wilson did not murder Brown in cold blood. Alas, St. Louis County grand jurors face heavy pressure to issue an indictment. There’s a real fear that the protesters who have taken to disrupting the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, brawling with St. Louis Rams fans, and burning the American flag will, in the event that the grand jury refuses to indict, demonstrate their devotion to justice by enkindling a variety of local establishments.

But the jurors should not be cowed by that threat. What happens next in Ferguson may well be, to quote Al Sharpton, a “defining moment,” though not in the way he, other progressives, and Ferguson protesters mean. To their minds, the case required little scrutiny: Michael Brown was a new Emmett Till; Ferguson, a new Selma. But that determination was made well in advance of a careful sifting of available evidence — evidence that shows that the events of August 9 do not lend themselves to a convenient racial parable. If the grand jury, having heard and weighed the available evidence, believes that Darren Wilson is not criminally culpable for his actions, they should not indict him. The judicial system cannot be used to assuage imagined racial grievances.

Michael Brown’s death, unfortunate though it was, is not part of an ongoing civil-rights struggle. The racial antipathies that animated the South in the 1960s are largely vanished — an extraordinary accomplishment that is rarely, if ever, acknowledged by those who point to present-day bigotry. Moreover, the racist justice system that some Ferguson residents decry is nowhere to be seen. The results of a police investigation, closely observed by a suspicious community and national media, have been brought before a grand jury (also under the scrutiny of a nation), which has, by all accounts, slowly and deliberately considered the available evidence. There is no indication that the system has worked otherwise than normally.

Unfortunately, racial demagoguery, too, is pretty normal in America.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More

Ilhan Omar’s Big Lie

In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official ... Read More

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Merciless Sympathy

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**. Who will bell the cat? Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category ... Read More