Not the first time he’s taken the “wrong side” of a shooting transformed in haste into a Teachable Moment about race relations in America. Once the death of Michael Brown was reduced to a microcosm of police discrimination against young black men, Darren Wilson had to be guilty or else that discrimination didn’t exist. The retreat to identity was the natural way to process an incident that was supposed to be simple but became too complex for easy narratives.
No one told Barkley, though.
“The true story came out from the grand jury testimony,” Barkley said, adding that he was made aware of “key forensic evidence, and several black witnesses that supported Officer Darren Wilson’s story…” He continued, “I can’t believe anything I hear on television anymore. And, that’s why I don’t like talking about race issues with the media anymore, because they (the media) love this stuff, and lead people to jump to conclusions. The media shouldn’t do that. They never do that when black people kill each other. ”
He also called those who rioted after the decision was announced “scumbags,” and said “There is no excuse for people to be out there burning down people’s businesses, burning down police cars.”…
“[W]e have to be really careful with the cops, because if it wasn’t for the cops we would be living in the Wild, Wild West in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We can’t pick out certain incidentals that don’t go our way and act like the cops are all bad…. Do you know how bad some of these neighborhoods would be if it wasn’t for the cops?”
And that’s how the great “let’s get Charles Barkley fired from TNT” movement of 2015 got its start. As for what he says about the grand jury testimony, read this AP account from Friday or this NYT story from yesterday if you haven’t yet about how sharply the eyewitnesses differed on key details, like whether Brown was “charging” at Wilson or staggering forward to surrender. Sean Davis is right: The fact that prosecutors, who usually strain to convince the GJ that a crime was committed, took pains to highlight those contradictions is proof enough that they didn’t want to take this case to trial. They knew that Wilson’s defense team would destroy the state’s case by emphasizing those contradictions themselves. Rather than let that play out over the course of another year or two while Ferguson waited nervously for the inevitable acquittal, the D.A. decided to get it over with now.
The other reason to follow those links and read those stories is because, a la Barkley, they put the lie to the idea that views of what happened were mainly a matter of racial identity even for the people closest to it. Imagine the social pressure felt by the eyewitnesses, many of them black, to confirm the “hands up, don’t shoot” version of the shooting, knowing that Wilson’s life was already in danger from people enraged by it and that theirs could be too. Wilson certainly had police protection; the eyewitnesses almost certainly didn’t. They told the truth anyway. That was courageous.