The Murder of Michael Brown


Co-authored by Clarissa Rile Hayward, associate professor of political science at Washington University; and Colin Gordon, professor of history at the University of Iowa

Two years ago today, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death has since become a marker: shorthand for an array of urban and suburban ills, including persistent economic and racial segregation, the racial divide in social and economic opportunities and outcomes, police violence, and the truncated citizen rights of black Americans.

As John Lewis wrote in the wake of Brown’s death, “One group of people in this country can expect the institutions of government to bend in their favor,” but in the “other America,” “children, fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers, whole families, and many generations are swept up like rubbish by the hard, unforgiving hand of the law.”

Brown’s death dramatized these stark inequalities. But as the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and local activists and organizations (such as Arch City Defenders and the Organization for Black Struggle) pulled back the veil on policing in Ferguson and St Louis County, other conspirators emerged.

One was fragmented local government: the very fact that a tiny jurisdiction like Ferguson claimed the authority to police Michael Brown at all. Another was the ongoing fiscal crisis in local government, driven by the desire to exercise home rule, absent the capacity to pay for it. In this larger context, the confrontation on August 9, 2014 was as unsurprising as it was tragic.

Read full article in Jacobin

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