Sometimes, there are moments so stark that they have the power to encapsulate an ugly truth in a single frame. This is one such moment.
Today in Saint Louis, around 100 people demonstrated in support of Darren Wilson, the officer who gunned down Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The mostly white crowd gathered at a local watering hole popular with police, held signs and raised money for Wilson. Many suggested Wilson was the victim of a rush to judgement, and some insisted the episode had nothing to do with race, but rather with a police officer doing his job, as evidenced by this gem:
“They are saying it’s murder because a white officer killed a black man,” said Karen Kennedy, who attended the rally with her daughter Katie. “I don’t know where that comes from."Despite the troubling implications of supporting a police officer who gunned down an unarmed teenager with six bullets, all was relatively peaceful.
And then came the moment. A counter protest developed in response to the gathering of Wilson supporters, and many of them began chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot," a reference to the fact that, according to both witnesses and an autopsy, Brown had his hand raised in the air when he was shot.
In response? Wilson's supporters began chanting, "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!"
Here is The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, who captured the moment on Twitter:
And there it is. A nearly all-white crowd chanting to a nearly all-black crowd, "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!" Contemporary racism encapsulated by an attempt to package it as support for the police, exposed by calls to shoot black men.
At one point tonight, Michael Brown protesters chanted "hands up, don't shoot!"— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 24, 2014
Darren Wilson supporters responded: "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!"
There are no words.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.