One Minute of White Supremacy: The Ferguson Transcripts and the Murder of Michael Brown

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

It took “less than a minute” (Grand Jury Hearings vol. V, p.272 [subsequent references by volume and page number]) according to (then) Officer Darren Wilson for him to kill Michael Brown. In that moment, the relations of force that the police—meaning the entire apparatus of social control—try to prevent us from seeing became starkly visible. Ferguson has become a symbol because it depicts the ongoing strength of white supremacy. A majority African-American city is ruled by a white minority, funded by fines and other charges levied on the majority by the police. Unsurprisingly, then, this system is enforced by casual violence that has now been found legal, even when it results in death. The grand jury’s refusal to indict makes this system visible.

As much as we are outraged by what happened, it is therefore vital to display carefully and methodically how unreasonable and illogical those proceedings were, which I do here in substantial detail: these are the kind of talking points we need to win over still more people. For Ferguson matters because white supremacy has become visible at the local and national level, not just to the “usual suspects,” but to a new coalition that connects Occupy veterans with African American networks and people entirely new to activism. It worries the dominant. Even the St. Louis Rams players who performed “Hands Up” at their game with Oakland were at once threatened by St. Louis police. Ferguson provides a means to “crack” white supremacy (Holloway 2010), to break its apparent naturalness and to see ways towards alternatives.

St. Louis Rams players do "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!"

St. Louis Rams players do “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”

We need to use the grand jury proceedings as a mirror to show them their own system and, by extension, themselves. The twenty-four volumes of their proceedings with supplementary photographs give us, as it were, a picture of whiteness as it actually goes about ordinary business.

After reviewing thousands of pages of grand jury materials, what happened in that minute was this in my view:

 A police officer puts his car sharply into reverse after a real or imagined slight from an African American pedestrian. The car almost hits that pedestrian, Michael Brown, causing the car door to hit him as Officer Wilson tried to open it. A brief tussle at the car window followed, causing Wilson to shoot twice, one of which may have fatally wounded Brown. He ran away for no more than 150 feet, bleeding. He was shot again, and by now was fatally wounded. He turned around, raised his hands, staggered back the way he had come perhaps 20 feet. As he died, he falls into a volley of shots. Less than a minute has elapsed.

This simple, terrible story has been obscured because of what we can see in the transcripts:

  • the blatant contradictions in statements made by the police
  • flagrant improprieties and uncertainties over physical and verbal evidence.
  • the suppression of any image or understanding of Michael Brown, even in the manner of his death.

This is a systemic failure, not a local issue in St. Louis. For the election of Barack Obama has not changed the underlying structures of what Joe Feagin and Sean Elias call “systemic racism,” which “refers to the foundational, large-scale and inescapable hierarchical system of US racial oppression devised and maintained by whites and directed at people of color” (Feagin and Ellis 2013: 936). As Angela Davis has argued, the penitentiary system was a vital pillar for the white supremacy created after the abolition of slavery (2007). Legal scholar Michelle Alexander has called her analysis of the New Jim Crow at work in today’s prison-industrial complex, a “racial caste system” which is “creating and perpetuating a racial hierarchy in the United States” (New Jim Crow: 16).

In short, white supremacy and racial hierarchy are not incidental parts of the justice system as we now have it but are constitutive of it. What Ferguson has made visible cannot be simply “fixed” by a review of the grand jury system or other tinkering.  White supremacy is the system. Many (white) people are not ready to go there yet. We have to help them.

A counterhistory of the grand jury hearing

In light of all this, I want to offer my sense of the grand jury hearings, based on thousands of pages I have looked at so far. It suggests that late in the one minute encounter, Michael Brown was already dead or dying when he staggered towards Darren Wilson. That there is no way to be clear whether Brown ever touched Wilson’s gun. And for all the delay, by the time Darren Wilson finished testifying, on the fifth day of the hearings, his non-indictment was already presumed by all.

Who am I to ask, let alone answer such questions? A citizen who might have served on the grand jury or another such grand jury. These proceedings are not like a trial where legal direction from a judge is supported with opening and closing arguments from prosecutor and defender. It’s up to the jury to decide. And so we should.

At the outset, let’s note that the release of grand jury documents has been partial at best. First, many photographs of Michael Brown taken at the scene, at the morgue prior to autopsy and during autopsy were shown to the grand jury but not released. In addition, in a highly unusual process, the jury were shown media interviews, read transcripts and listened to audio-recordings of interviews and witness statements that were not described or released. So this role play cannot be exact but it can be close. It matters because, while the media are prepared to see the verdict as questionable, their narrative is, as ever, unwilling to see the systemic issue.

The prosecutors at the grand jury hearing relied on the shared understanding that white supremacy was business as usual with the grand jury, consisting of nine whites and three African Americans. McCulloch’s smirking manner at the announcement was entirely consistent with their way of conducting the jury hearing. They would leave the room when CDs were playing, make little jokes and comments, point out their own frequent mistakes for laughs, and do everything they could to signal that this was not a serious proceeding because the verdict was always known in advance.

The first sessions of the hearing began with a set of illustrated lectures from the crime scene investigators and the forensic pathologist. Photograph after photograph was placed on a stand in a darkened room, a format that tends (as art historians know) to reduce questions. These displays were followed by Dorian Johnson’s evidence, who accompanied Michael Brown to the store and back on the last morning of his life. His testimony was then in effect refuted by Wilson’s testimony, attested to by first a Ferguson police sergeant, then St. Louis detective, an FBI investigator, and finally Wilson himself. From this point on, through nineteen more days, there was no doubt that the jury would come to what prosecutors repeatedly called the “right” decision, without going quite so far as to say that this would be no indictment.

To begin at the beginning, the long display of photographs without human subjects, often including a ruler or an identifying placard, broke up the sixty-second or less event into an extended series of objects. Prosecutors offered a visual narrative of the killing using photographs at the beginning and the end of the proceedings to convey an irrefutable sense, not of Darren Wilson’s guilt, but of his justified use of force. By showing a long sequence of crime scene photographs detailing twenty evidence points, the event came to seem much longer than it actually was. It came to seem reasonable within the logic of the force of law.

Grand Jury materials: Evidence Placards

Grand Jury materials: Evidence Placards

High resolution photographs presented the appearance of clarity, and authority. In the opening session, a crime scene investigator displayed a long sequence of photographs, taken to give an overall sense of the scene, a mid-range and then close-up. Unlike the revelatory insight provided by photographs in the TV dramas that we watch, there is nothing special about these pictures. Instead they turn horror into the normal, measured and categorized. Prosecutors spent a long time discussing the plastic placards with the investigator, taking the eyes of the jury away from the blood and bullets to the restoration of order.

Nonetheless, these photographs by themselves tell us very little that we did not know already. On the last day of the grand jury hearings, 210 photographs of the scene were displayed to the jury, providing a 360 degree panoramic overview of the crime scene, attached to five easels with removable tape so that they could move them around if they wanted to do so (vol. XXIV, p. 2, p.29). You do not need to be a visual culture specialist to see that a sense of power and control results from such a display.

The photographs were supplemented with extended witness testimony from firearms experts, pathologists and others, who went through their professional processes in minute detail before finally getting to the matter in hand. Such testimony would be excessive for a jury trial, let alone a grand jury indictment hearing. Remember that “[m]ost grand juries see only one witness per case: the arresting officer,” according to Columbia Law professors Fagan and Harcourt. To a nation now reared on C.S.I. and N.C.I.S., physical evidence is material and real, and supports even the lurid and stereotypical verbal accounts of the police involved.

Ferguson prosecutor Robert McCulloch repeatedly referred to the “physical evidence” when announcing that there would be no indictment. It was held to outweigh unreliable—because spoken by African Americans—eyewitness testimony. A witness was even brought in for several hours to testify that a statement she had given to the FBI about witnessing the scene was untruthful (vol. XI, p. 62ff). So prosecutors devoted hours to refuting testimony that had not been presented to the grand jury by way of saying that all witness testimony from that “bad” area and “those people” was not to be trusted (my scare quotes).

Cars, bullet casings, blood splatter and even Michael Brown’s body were treated in a dispassionate, categorizing fashion to make this short incident seem dense with unknowns. In his evidence, the pathologist spent a great deal of time establishing how he distinguished between entrance and exit wounds, making the whole issue seem a question of technical determination rather than life or death. Very little discussion followed from the crime scene investigator displaying twenty-four photographs of the body at the scene (images 73-97. Vol. II 122ff.) The living Michael Brown does not appear in the transcript. He is reduced to a character, the “violent youth.”

As everyone has become aware, Wilson characterized him as looking “like a demon” (vol. V, p. 224), who lived in a dangerous neighborhood. Wilson also saw him as a “Hulk Hogan,” a cartoon-like wrestler-entertainer (vol. V, p. 212). Of all Wilson’s testimony, these were in fact the parts that rang true to me. In his narrow world, church and television form the imaginary possibilities. Combined with the overweening belief in white supremacy that has always been interfaced with the fear of black force and masculinity, it may very well be that Wilson could only “see” Michael Brown as non-human, speaking in what he called a “grunting, like aggravated sound” (vol. V, p. 228), unable to comprehend that the young man was mortally wounded. Wilson did not even try to take a pulse after Brown collapsed or call for an ambulance. No emergency medicine was offered at the scene. The double-bind here is that the law as it stands might allow this as self-defense: Wilson did perhaps fear for his safety, if not his life. Can a racist worldview be admissible? Let’s hope a civil rights prosecution says not.  

The pointless, lonesome death of Michael Brown

In less than one minute, Michael Brown had suffered six “entrance wounds” and two “grazes” from the Sig Sauer P229 .40 weapon carried by Darren Wilson. The crime scene detective noted that Brown’s shirt was raised and his pants were down (vol. III, p. 71), for which no explanation was offered. His friend Dorian Johnson accompanied Brown on the fateful morning and was at the scene throughout. When he saw the body, he testified that “his pants are down by his knees, you could see the blood spilling from his top part, not out of his head” (vol. IV, p. 163). The forensic pathologist displayed 59 photographs of his wounds (not released) prior to removing his clothing and a further 52 after its removal (vol. III). His discussion concentrated on the trajectory of the bullets, the precise dimension of the holes in Brown’s body, and the resulting damage.

The wounds were all to his upper body, mostly on the right hand side. None were in his back but one was in the back of his arm, which might suggest he had been shot from behind. When the pathologist mentioned this, the prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh immediately acted out a variety of scenarios in which a person moving forward could have the back of their arm to the front (vol. III, p. 199). While technically true, it is not the kind of examination expected from someone seeking an indictment.

The holes in his body caused by the bullets were substantial, about 10×10 millimeters. The largest was approximately 18×10 millimeters.  One wound in his right arm was 3×1 centimeters, about twice the size of the box. The exit wounds, in the cases where the bullets did leave his body, were larger still. One shot left his face via his right eye. As soon as the wounds were introduced to the discussion by the pathologist, the prosecutor jumped in with a diversionary remark: “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV” (vol. III, p. 122). And with each major wound other than the shot through the brain, questions followed as whether a person “could be mobile for a while?” (vole III, pp. 144, 150, 159). As the answer was “yes,” the prosecutor minimized the devastating impact of the bullets.

Most importantly, she steered discussion away from the pathologist’s finding about the two wounds that hit Michael Brown in the right lung. In one instance, his lung was punctured directly, causing a 2cm hole, and in the other, the lung was punctured by his eighth rib, causing a 0.5 cm hole (vol. III, pp. 143, 147; Autopsy report). Both wounds would have been fatal absent immediate medical attention, leading to the victim passing out within 10-15 seconds because the accumulating blood in the chest cavity immobilizes the heart, even as the patient cannot draw breath. The autopsy found 400 milliliters of blood in his pleural cavity, about two cups (Autopsy). Further, the medical examiner testified that “if you’ve been running and your heart was going really, really fast, you’re going to pump out blood quicker” (vol. III, p. 182).

That is to say, there is no way Michael Brown was shouting taunts to Wilson once he had been hit in the chest and he was seconds from losing consciousness and then life. When Dorian Johnson described the scene, he said that the very first shot “struck Big Mike in the chest” (vol. IV, p. 106). He was standing right next to Brown and says he saw blood from the chest area. The Ferguson police sergeant who took Darren Wilson’s first statement noted that Wilson also believed that his first shot struck Brown in the stomach (vol. V, p. 33). As no shot did in fact hit the stomach, this might have been the chest. Wilson later changed his story in this (and many other regards), saying he did not know where Brown was hit. Brown’s blood nonetheless splashed on his hands. So Brown may have been struck in the chest at the car. At least two shots were fired in the car and the other appears to have hit his hand because there was soot from the gun in the wound (vol. III, p. 116).

Or the chest wounds may have been part of the second set of shots, as described by Johnson: “he [Brown] kind of jerked and that’s when he stopped running. He just kind of stopped and turned around at the officer. And now he’s face-to-face with the officer, but not so close” (vol. IV, p. 120). It seems likely to me that the moment where he stops and turns is when he realized that his injury was catastrophic, imminently fatal.

Johnson continued: “at that time Big Mike’s hands was up, but not so much up in the air because he had been struck already in this region” (vol. IV, p. 122). Yes, “hands up” but no, not above his head because he could not have lifted them so high due to his injuries. Other witnesses also testified to this pose (vol. XI, p. 149-50), although some did not. The “step” towards Wilson that Johnson saw (vol. IV, p. 124) became a “charge” in the policeman’s eyes (vol. V, p. 109). It was already been too late. Wilson mistook a dying man for a phantom of his imagination, the demonic black alter-ego of Hulk Hogan and sprayed yet more bullets, hitting him in the face and the top of the head as he fell. I can see no other explanation for why Brown was hit in the top of the head, other than that he had already fallen, a view shared by Dorian Johnson (vol. IV, p. 125). Wilson added insult to injury by shooting a dying man.

Obscuring the narrative

Why was none of this discussed or raised by prosecutors? First, because they don’t care why the police fear for their lives, it is just enough to say that they do. Second, because Wilson’s version of events was not questioned in any depth, whereas Johnson’s was discounted from the first. A grand juror opined to him that “I think you don’t have as much of a good vision as you say” (vol. IV, p.110). The black point-of-view is inherently not to be trusted.

Next, prosecutor Sheila Whirley drew out a remark from Johnson referring to his police record that had been discussed in the media in order to have him fully detail all his interactions with the police, including incidents where he was not charged (vol. IV, pp. 171-76). As she must have known, that was enough to have his evidence discounted. Soon after, a juror characterized the Canfield area of Ferguson, where Brown lived and died, as being “known for gangs, violence and guns” (vol. V, p. 186). At this point, on the fifth day of hearings, the juror refers to the person under investigation as “Darren.” Later that day, Wilson was careful to refer to the neighborhood as “an antipolice area for sure” (vol. V, p. 238), naming gangs, drugs, guns and violence.

Even by this early stage of the hearings, the narrative was set: a (white) police officer had been set upon in a bad (African-American) part of town, feared for his life, and responded with judicious use of deadly force. It is a narrative that has served white supremacy well in many places at many times. It clearly registered with the grand jury. At the eighth day of hearings, one juror asked prosecutor Alizadeh about Robert McCulloch’s statements that the jury process would last as long as needed to examine all the material: “Is the NAACP, or these other, you know, coalitions, confirming what he is saying to the people of Ferguson?” (vol. VIII, p.11). She replied strikingly: “If we wanted to, we could present this case as we do any other case” (vol. VIII, p. 13). She summarized this as having a detective present the evidence as s/he saw it and then the jury would decide. Given the attitude of the St. Louis detective, who appeared three times in the hearings, even this procedure might have resulted in no indictment.

Alizadeh instead stressed that the “importance of letting all sides be heard on this matter” was their priority, which I can only take to mean that the usual prosecutorial frame was not enough because it might have produced an indictment. Prosecutors and jury bonded over the course of the trial, feeling under pressure to generate a result. Alizadeh told jurors to “keep yourself safe” and often told them what “good people” they were (vol. X, p.61). So the prosecutors were fully aware that a different approach could have established a very different narrative and a different result.

They intervened at all times to ensure that it would be less likely to stay in jurors’ minds. Right after Dorian Johnson had described the death of Michael Brown, prosecutor Alizadeh jumped up and asked for a recess to rest the hand of the court reporter, who otherwise did not seem to need such breaks. On the last afternoon, Alizadeh set out a formidable bar to indict: “You must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not act in lawful self-defense and you must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not use lawful force in making an arrest” (vol. XXIV, p. 141). Michael Brown has gone. It’s all about Darren Wilson.

Crimes and Contradictions

No pressure was placed on discovering or even addressing why the crime scene and evidence were so compromised. It was noted by many witnesses that people came out protesting almost at once. It is therefore unclear whether cartridge casings were found where they originally fell and so on. Far more troubling is the lackadaisical approach of police to the evidence and the prosecutors’ reticence about all kinds of contradictions in this evidence.

A Ferguson police sergeant arrived at the scene on August 19, 2014, to take control. He testified that he found Darren Wilson sitting in his car (vol. V, p. 25). Later that day, Darren Wilson testified that he did not re-enter his vehicle after killing Brown (vol. V, p. 235). Why was this not questioned? He might have brought Brown’s blood into the car, whether by accident or design, or otherwise altered things.

More significantly still, much emphasis was placed on Brown supposedly grabbing Wilson’s gun. DNA evidence was used to support this contention. However, after Wilson fired his first shot, he had Brown’s blood on his hands (vol. V, p.224). Although this is not specified, it must have been Brown’s blood because Wilson had no cuts observed at the hospital (vol. V, p. 176). Given that twelve subsequent shots were fired by Wilson with Brown’s blood on his hand, how can we know how Brown’s blood got onto the gun? The same applies to Brown’s sweat because Wilson testified to grabbing Brown’s arm and fending off blows with his hands. In St. Louis in August at noon, we can be sure Brown was sweating. Brown’s fingerprints were not found on Wilson’s gun belt or other equipment (vol. XI, p. 125). The gun itself was not fingerprinted, only tested for DNA, which could have arrived there in a number of ways (vol. XI, p. 131).

In short, none of the physical evidence can be relied upon to back up Wilson’s story. Nor did the police secure the gun in a normal “takedown” procedure, which involves no less than three officers and would have been photographed (vol. V, pp.90-91). Incredibly, Wilson drove himself back to Ferguson police station unaccompanied (vol. V, p.29). His gun belt remained in the trunk of that car until the grand jury asked about it. He washed all the blood off his hands, carefully cleaning even his cuticles, because he feared that Brown’s blood was a “biohazard” (vol. V, p. 172). This can only mean that he presumed Brown had HIV/AIDS or some other highly infectious disease. However, as there were no cuts on his skin, he was not at risk unless he licked his hands or inserted them into some bodily orifice.

He then put the gun, not in a plastic evidence envelope, but in a standard manila envelope, which he kept with him and later took to the hospital. Only then was it turned over (vol. III, pp. 31-2). Wilson kept on the trousers he wore during the crime to and from the hospital, finally surrendering them at the police station only on his second stop there, despite the fact that blood had been seen on them (vol. III, pp. 27-8). When first asked if he wanted to go the hospital, Wilson said no. However, after speaking with the attorney provided by the Fraternal Order of Police, he did request to go to the Emergency Room (vol. V, p. 248). This is the picture that Wilson himself says best reflects his injuries:

Photo selected by Darren Wilson as best representing his injuries. Taken by crime scene investigator.

Photo selected by Darren Wilson as best representing his injuries. Taken by crime scene investigator.

He testified that Brown hit him twice with a “full swing” (vol. V, p. 213) and felt that “the third could be fatal” (vol. V, p. 216). As repeatedly described, Brown weighed 289 lb. and was 6 feet 5 inches tall. With the best will in the world, it’s hard to look at Wilson’s face and see the impact of two punches from a man that size. One of the few good things to come out of the video of footballer Ray Rice (height 5 feet 8 inches, weight 206 lb.) striking his wife is that it dispelled the entertainment version of violence. If a person hits you hard, once, you go down cold. Nor was any evidence presented that Brown’s hands had bruising caused by punching.

In the photograph that he himself selected, Wilson is pink all over his face. It was hot, he was in trouble. He has a circle under his left eye but he had begun work that day at 6.30 a.m., so that might be caused by tiredness. Wilson also claimed that while the blows were raining in, he held off Brown with his left hand and calmly reviewed the “force triangle” that would dictate his response. He had mace but was concerned that it would get in his eyes. He had no Taser. He did not think he could use the flashlight or baton. So he went for the gun, or to use his carefully tutored phrasing: “My gun was already being presented as a deadly force option while he was hitting me in the face” (vol. V, p. 232). Given the time frame, this “review” cannot have lasted for more than a few seconds.

Wilson changed his evidence on several subjects. When the Ferguson police sergeant first testified on tape about Wilson’s statement to him, he did not mention the provocative phrase “you’re too much of a pussy to fight me,” later attributed to Michael Brown. At the grand jury hearing, he then testified that Wilson had told him Brown uttered the phrase after the first shot had been fired, when he turned around to face Wilson (vol. V, p. 34). The sergeant said he had no notes on this and had just remembered it. Wilson himself, however, testified that Brown said “you’re too much of a pussy to fight me” as they were struggling with the gun in the car, after he had warned of his intention to shoot (vol. V, p. 214) but before a shot was fired. At best, Wilson’s memory on this critical incident seems flexible.

Further, he changed his story as to whether he was aware of the earlier incident in which Brown had stolen some Cigarillos from the local store. When he first spoke to the Ferguson police sergeant, “[h]e did not know anything about the stealing call” (vol. V, p. 52). Questioned on this by prosecutors, the sergeant noted that Wilson had confirmed this (vol. V, p. 58). However, according to the St. Louis detective who later that day conducted the preliminary “cursory interview” (also without notes), Wilson now claimed to have heard the “stealing in progress” call, complete with a description of the clothing worn by the suspect, to wit, black shirt, brown shorts (vol. V, p. 99 and p. 202). By the time that Wilson testified to the FBI and later to the grand jury, in remarks that are all but identical, the robbery was the key to the whole incident.

By contrast, Johnson testified that Wilson pulled up next to them as they walked down the road and said “Get the fuck on the sidewalk” (vol. IV, p.45). When they did not, Wilson reversed at speed back into them (vol. IV, p. 47). He demanded: “what did you say?” and threw the door open “real hard,” hitting them both with it and grabbing Brown around the neck (vol. IV, p. 49). At the scene, after the killing, Wilson just said “they told me to fuck off” (vol. V, p. 31). With the St. Louis detective, he elaborated this into Mike Brown saying “the fuck with what you have to say” (vol. V, p. 101). To the FBI and grand jury, Wilson testified that as he saw the two men in his driver’s side mirror, he had a realization that these might be the two people described in the call about the theft of the Cigarillos. This motivated him to reverse at speed in order to detain them (vol. V, pp. 208-9). In fact, he claimed, Brown hit him with the Cigarillos in his hand, although somehow none broke and fell on the floor.

To be clear, Johnson admitted that Brown took the Cigarillos. There was a tussle at the door of the Tahoe but he did not hear Brown say anything to Wilson as he drove by  (vol. IV, p. 54ff). He did hear Wilson say “I’ll shoot.” For a police officer like Wilson, it is not necessary to say “fuck off” for them to feel slighted—you simply have to look at them without sufficient deference, a crime known as “reckless eyeballing” under Jim Crow and still active in the prison-industrial complex.

What can account for all of these changes? Wilson noted “[m]y statement has been written for my attorney” (vol. V, p. 271). Does it mean that he altered or embellished the account at his lawyer’s suggestion? No one asked. Instead, prosecutor Alizadeh jumped in with the comment: “do you think that if there additional details that you may not give initially , do you think that’s because you’re just now remembering them because you are putting so much thought into what happened?” ( vol. V, p. 273). Needless to say, he was happy to agree. By contrast, when prosecutors identified that a witness was testifying that Michael Brown’s hands were “up” (at waist level), an addition to earlier testimony, they both cross examined her at length (vol. XI, p. 161-62), as did grand jurors.

No Justice, No Peace?  

Professors Fagan and Harcourt remind us: “This St. Louis County Grand Jury decided to return no bill of indictment against Officer Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. This grand jury did not decide that a crime did or did not take place. Another grand jury could return a different outcome should the matter be re-introduced at a later time.” Let’s hope that happens.

I do not know whether the evidence presented would have made a conviction “beyond a reasonable doubt” possible because the bar to convict a police officer is set so high, especially in Missouri. Was there probable cause to indict? As a citizen who might have served, I have to say undoubtedly.

Since then, many of us have marched, chanting “no justice, no peace.” What would justice mean in this context? Of course, it is fair and reasonable that Darren Wilson stand trial for murder and/or manslaughter. I do not think that is justice. Justice would be a condition in which the sight of two African-American men walking in the street did not start a process of police violence against them. Justice would be the possibility that a court would treat all citizens as equals. Justice would be a social order that was not tied to a racial hierarchy or sustained by systemic racism. “No Justice” will be our condition until we choose to end it.


Ferguson Grand Jury Materials:

Alexander, Michelle. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: New Press.

Davis, Angela Y. (2003). Are Prisons Obsolete? Boston: 7 Stories.

Feagin,  Joe & Sean Elias (2013): “Rethinking racial formation theory:a systemic racism critique,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36:6, 931-960. Link (paywall):

Holloway, John (2010). Crack Capitalism. London: Pluto Press.

These are interim reports based on my reading of the documents released from the Grand Jury hearings into the shooting of Michael Brown.

4 thoughts on “One Minute of White Supremacy: The Ferguson Transcripts and the Murder of Michael Brown”

Comments are closed.