I was among the many who hoped Trayvon Martin’s death would make the key difference many now hope Ferguson will, and got plenty of hate mail for being too “hasty” in judging George Zimmerman. Black bodies are indeed devalued. Race does play a role in whether or not a black man gets killed by a cop (or someone like Zimmerman pretending to be one).
However, Wilson apparently didn’t single Brown out because of his black body, but because that black body had just nabbed goods from a store and also assaulted its owner. It is also clear that Brown defied an officer’s reasonable request, and then battled with him. We may never know whether Brown reached into the car or whether Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck. But we do know that Wilson fired the lethal final shots upon Brown coming back toward him. Firing these shots was indeed impulsive; and one wishes someone who could fire in such a moment never had been trusted with a gun. But Wilson did not, as some have claimed, shoot Brown in the back as he ran away.
“But he didn’t deserve to die!” many stand at the ready to assert. And of course he didn’t. But we must consider the contrast with, say, Amadou Diallo killed in a lobby for pulling out a wallet. Or Martin killed for resisting a baseless detainment by a self-declared neighborhood patrolman. Or John Crawford killed in Ohio for examining a BB gun at a Walmart.