The Corner

When It Became Racist to Call Michael Brown Big

It became a theme on the left last week that Officer Wilson’s characterization in his grand jury testimony of Michael Brown as “Hulk Hogan” and “a demon” was implicitly racist, reflecting age-old stereotypes of the “giant negro.”

Michael Eric Dyson repeated this charge in a typically gaseous New York Times op-ed on Sunday:

The trove of documents released after the grand jury’s decision included Officer Wilson’s four-hour testimony, in which the 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound cop said that his encounter with the 6-foot-4-inch, 292-pound teenager left him feeling like “a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.” He used the impersonal pronoun “it” when he said that Michael Brown looked like a “demon” rushing him. To the police officer and to many whites, Michael Brown was the black menace writ large, the terrorizing phantom that stalks the white imagination.

These clashing perceptions underscore the physics of race . . .

Where to begin? First of all, Michael Brown was indeed a big guy. Would the convenience store clerk’s wholly factual description of Brown shoving and menacing him by way of his sheer size advantage also have been a product of a terrorizing phantom stalking his imagination?

As for Wilson, it is true that he, too, is a big guy. But the Hulk Hogan line comes from his description of trying to fight off Brown when Wilson is sitting in his car and Brown is standing outside, presumably giving him all the leverage. This is more about the physics of physics than the physics of race. Here’s the passage:

A: And at that point I tried to hold his right arm because it was like this at my car. This is my car window. I tried to hold his right arm and use my left hand to get out to have some type of control and not be trapped in my car any more. And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.

Q: Holding onto a what?

A: Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm. And as I’m trying to open the door is when, and I can’t really get it open because he is standing only maybe 6 inches from my door, but as I was trying to pull the handle, I see his hand coming back around like this and he hit me with this part of his right here, just a full swing all the way back around and hit me right here. (indicating) After he did that, next thing I remember is how do I get this guy away from me. What do I do not to get beaten inside my car,

Dyson’s version of Wilson referring to Brown as “it” is characteristically misleading. From the context, it is clear that Wilson is using “it” to describe Brown’s expression or his face, and he refers to him as “he” in the very same sentence. The description is of how Brown looked to him during the desperate struggle in the car:

Like I said, I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding onto it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again. At this point I’m like why isn’t this working, this guy is going to kill me if he gets ahold of this gun. I pulled it a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door panel and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time. When I see the glass come up, it comes, a chunk about that big comes across my right hand and then I notice I have blood on the back of my hand. After seeing the blood on my hand, I looked at him and he was, this is my car door, he was here and he kind of stepped back and went like this. And then after he did that, he looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up. At that point I just went like this, I tried to pull the trigger again, click, nothing happened.

Anyway, read the whole Dyson op-ed, but only if you have a limitless appetite for meretricious nonsense. 

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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