I was born and raised in St. Charles, Missouri. Anyone who may know the geography of this area would know that St. Charles is just a little over ten miles away from Ferguson, in St. Louis County, Missouri, the new “ground-zero”. But what separates St. Charles County from St. Louis County is the muddy Missouri River. After the demise of Northwest Plaza in St. Louis County, the premiere mall of my youth, I always joked to my brother, a long time resident of St. Louis County, “What, you want me to cross the BRIDGE????”
I was raised in a family whose roots run deep in St. Charles, from my first ancestors coming to this area from Hanover, Germany in the mid 1800’s. We farmed the land and raised families and attended parochial and public schools in the area. When you look at the ancestry of St. Charles, you would find that a very great many of the people in this county are related somewhere along the line.
St. Charles really began to boom as a bedroom community for St. Louis County and its industrial giant, McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft (now Boeing). Probably half the kids I went to school with (back in the dark ages of the 60s and 70s) had one or more parents who worked at McDonnell-Douglas (probably one since most were two-parent families with a stay-at-home mom). The racial make-up of St. Charles County has always been mostly white. There were no blacks in my parochial grade school and very few in my high school. Although my father was born and raised in Arkansas, below the Mason-Dixon Line, I never was exposed to any sort of prejudice. The blacks in my high school were no different from the whites and there are some that I still consider my friends. Two black classmates have gone onto fame; Curtis Brown, who played seven years in the NFL and Art Holliday, a television anchor for the local NBC affiliate.
The events of the last week have torn a hole in the hearts of most citizens; both black and white. I admit my perspective on the actions of the police are somewhat biased. I was a law enforcement officer for almost 30 years. In the past, I have been accused by a black person of being prejudiced just by virtue of the fact that I stopped their car for speeding. I have been accused by a black person of being prejudiced because, as was standard procedure, I did not make an arrest during an investigation until I had enough facts to present to the prosecutor. I have been accused by a black person of being prejudiced because I stopped him after he presented a non-driver’s license to a clerk in front of me and then got in the car and drove away. None of these accusations were true and each time I was accused, it made me just a little bit angry. In these incidents, my actions were deemed to have been caused by a prejudice that I did not have. I was judged by the color of my skin to be guilty of acting biased, when, in fact, no bias occurred.
I find myself shaking my head and wondering what exactly does the black community want? The chant “No justice, no peace” rings out, but it seems as though it is not really justice that is wanted, it is revenge. If it was true justice they wanted, wouldn’t they allow for a full investigation before acting hastily? Wouldn’t they want the police to make a full investigation into a crime in which their loved one was accused or would they want a rush to judgment? Unfortunately, I’m afraid the violent factions of the black community will only be satisfied when and if the police officer is charged with murder. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if the investigation proves that the officer acted in what he felt was a defense of his life? What happens then? I shudder to think about it. Do we make the officer a sacrificial lamb to quell the unrest? Missouri State Statutes state that it is completely legal to use deadly force in the defense of your life or the life of someone else. Did the officer fear for his life? I wasn’t there but I’m going to assume that he did. Why else would he want to destroy another person’s life, his life, the life of his family and community? If the officer had been black, would there have been such a hue and outcry? I don’t think so. There have been instances where a young black man shot and killed a white person, but the white population hasn’t resorted to rioting and looting and burning our businesses. Two years ago today, 23 year old Megan Boken, a stellar graduate of St. Louis University, was shot and killed in her vehicle in a quiet commercial area of St. Louis, while talking on the phone. The assailant was later identified as a young black man who wanted her cell phone and was later tried and convicted. The white community didn’t riot then, they allowed the judicial system to do their work.
Sgt. Mike King of the University City Police Department (very near Ferguson), was sitting in his patrol car on the night of October 31, 2008 when he was shot and killed by a young black man. “Sergeant King was shot and killed from ambush as he sat in his patrol car at the intersection of Leland Avenue and Delmar Boulevard. A known criminal approached his vehicle on foot and opened fire without warning, fatally wounding Sergeant King. The suspect fled the scene but was arrested five days later following a traffic stop by members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. During his trial, the subject stated he targeted and ambushed Sergeant King because he wanted to start a racial revolution by murdering a police officer. On April 13, 2011, the subject was sentenced to two life terms in prison for murdering Sergeant King.” (From the Officer Down Memorial Page). The white community didn’t riot then either.
Black on black crime is rampant in north St. Louis county and city and it is almost daily that I awaken to the news that another shooting has taken place somewhere in these communities. I don’t see the black community rioting over these deaths. Black spokespersons have raised the issue that the community of Ferguson is 67% black but only 3 of its 53 officers are black. But it is has been pointed out that you cannot hire black police officers if there are none to be hired. The black community isn’t satisfied with that answer either nor have they offered any solutions to this problem, only criticisms.
The law-abiding black community doesn’t want their businesses destroyed, and the Governor has bent to the wishes of other members of the community. He pulled the local police out and inserted a black Highway Patrol Captain to be the head law enforcement in the area. That did not work as the lawless members of the black community did not respect him either and continued to loot, steal and destroy the business in their community. The Governor has instituted a 12 a.m.to 5 a.m. curfew with the caveat that if it wasn’t obeyed, force could be used to enforce his rule. Some members of the black community refused to honor this order chanting “No Justice, No Curfew”. Force had to be used after an individual was shot by someone in the unruly crowd. Does the black community not realize that the paramedics and EMTs won’t respond to an area unless it is deemed safe for them to do so? It seems as though it makes no difference what is done to accommodate the wishes of this segment of the black community; certain individuals feel they are above the law and should be allowed to act in whatever manner they feel fit and ignore the mandates of law and the Governor.
The whole thing is just so sad. I’m sad for Michael Brown’s family. No parent should have to lose a child. I’m obviously sad for the officer and his family. One mantra of the police is “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six”, but this is really just a hollow saying, as none of us want to be placed in this situation. I’m sad for the residents of Ferguson; they will for a long time be remembered as the community that imploded due no fault of their own. I’m sad for the merchants in the community who have lost their livelihood due to the lawless violence inflicted on them. I’m sad for the employees of those businesses who now have no job and may have no income. And I am sad for the rest of us whose thoughts and feelings may be forever changed due to these events.
Michael Brown’s parents have called for peace. If the members of the black community really want to honor his memory, shouldn’t they honor his family’s request?