By Marjon Carlos
Darren Wilson’s Exoneration
I am typing this from Dallas, Texas, where I fled post-haste after the news broke of Darren Wilson’s exoneration for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, late last Monday night. I was emotionally and physically depleted, and while I had prepared myself for this anti-climatic outcome, I grew numb as the news proceeded to upend the world and internet in all its entirety. My friends asked me to join them in protest; I couldn’t move from my apartment. I instead poured myself into my work, slept not a wink, and rushed onto a plane headed for my parent’s home at the crack of dawn on Wednesday, where I sunk into my bed and family life. I held and played with my baby nieces, made cornbread, and joined in on only subtle conversations about politics around an elaborately set Thanksgiving table.
This is not my nature, though. I am not passive nor am I quiet about such palpable injustices as the Mike Brown tragedy. Race, culture: these are my passions, as much as style and writing are. In fact, in my work, they all inform the other. It is not an odd sight to see me at a fashion dinner or event, debating heatedly with friends over current events or the racial implications of cultural phenomena. For me to remain mum on the subject of America’s very visible race problem was uncharacteristic. But perhaps, as I rationalized in a missive posted to my Facebook wall—my lone commentary since now—I had prepared myself for this outcome days before the decision even went public. I knew that defeat, on some level, was imminent when I came across a small story on the newswire about Darren Wilson’s secret wedding last month to a fellow Ferguson police officer.
There was something about that news, something about the perceived finality of marriage that made my stomach drop, my blood boil, and my faith deflate.
Objectively speaking, the idea of marriage assumes a future—a future forged by two individuals who, as the time-old adage claims, “have the rest of their lives in front of them”. The vast possibility of time and space that marriage bestows allows for future plans to be made: rough ideas, no less, but all concocted with a sense of faith that the union will endure. There is a confidence in making such a life-long decision, a belief that it will beat all odds—those odds being, in Wilson’s case, indictment of murder. After reading on and discovering Wilson’s lawyer had been one of the witnesses at the ceremony, I thought to myself, someone, something must have bolstered the couple’s decision to progress with the ceremony, to move forward with their lives.
And I guess that’s what really fueled my listlessness: the very idea that Wilson was able to move on while the world, and especially Michael Brown’s family and his former community of Ferguson, Missouri, were not.
True, since international uproar over the Ferguson decision went public U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has decreed he will be developing legislation to eradicate racial profiling for good and President Obama has called for over $263 million to be thrown behind plans to provide police body cameras and proper training. These are all veritable efforts to demilitarize local police and surveil race relations between police forces and the communities they are assigned to protect. Wilson has even resigned from the Ferguson Police Department amidst the turmoil, but he does so with, as the besmirched former officer put it in his exclusive broadcast interview with George Stephanopolos, a “clear conscience”.
Wilson’s pursuit in a new chapter astounds me not only because it seems cavalier, presumptuous but because it relinquishes all of the responsibility onto us—the greater public—to make sense of this tragedy. Extracting himself from the very turmoil he wrought makes it seem as if Michael Brown’s death happened within a vacuum; that Wilson’s actions were routine and not instead apart of a broader conversation about race and the legal system in this country. And I haven’t even touched upon the botched grand jury hearing that legal professionals, the media and general public have parsed apart in the last week to reveal the glaring holes and omissions in the prosecutor, Robert McCullough’s case…
Wilson’s attempt at building a new life—a million dollars richer, mind you—is about evading an issue of racial enmity that is boiling over on an international scale. No, Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown alone did not set the tone for racial unrest in this country, but bore from it. By evading this truth, by vilifying Michael Brown, his community, and those that stand in support of them, by forging on with life’s plans, there is a refusal to confront a tragic history of these senseless deaths of black men and women. There is a real sense of impunity that destroys certain people’s lives, while building others’.