Jeneé Osterheldt

August 15, 2014

Wanted: Justice for all — and no more Michael Browns

The Ferguson police are trying to distract us. And the demonizing of the victim has begun.

The Ferguson police are trying to distract us. And the demonizing of the victim has begun.

They may have named the officer — Darren Wilson — who shot an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, but that is all they’re telling us. What the police choose to focus on, instead of how Brown ended up dead six days ago, is an alleged robbery.

On Friday they released security camera footage showing a man stealing cigars, arguing with and shoving a clerk. Whether or not it is Brown does not matter to me. The narrative should not change.

Where are the details of the deadly shooting? Where is Wilson’s incident report?

Gov. Jay Nixon was right in saying we should concentrate on how and why Brown was killed: “There are a lot of steps between now and when justice is served,” Nixon said.

The way many cops and the justice system treat people of color does not come with the same privileges that white people have.

James Holmes opened fire in a Colorado theater, killing a dozen people and injuring nearly 60. He lived to see his day in court.

Jared Lee Loughner killed six people in Arizona and wounded 14, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Justice was served, not police bullets.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, was rushed to the hospital to treat his wounds. He may be a white Chechen Muslim, but after setting off bombs and fighting with and fleeing from the police, he is getting his due process.

These were armed men. But unarmed men like Eric Garner in New York, who was suspected of selling illegal cigarettes, a petty crime? They die in choke holds. A teenager like Michael Brown? Shot dead.

Later on Friday, police admitted that Wilson had no idea Brown was a robbery suspect. For all we know, Brown’s biggest crime was jaywalking in the middle of a Ferguson, Mo., street. We still don’t have any answers.

As Kansas Citians of all colors gathered Thursday night at the National Moment of Silence rally to protest police brutality, it was clear we all had questions. But the message was about unifying and taking action to protect our future. This is not simply a cop problem or a black problem. This is a human problem.

Kelly Ann Allen brought her 7-year-old son Kenny to help show him the responsibility that comes with (white) privilege.

“I want to teach him to assert himself in the eyes of authority,” she says. “My black and brown nephews will be treated differently than him, and I want him to know that difference. Bringing him to this rally sends a peaceful message but teaches him lessons that are important.”

When I asked him what he learned this week, he said, “If I see something wrong in the world, I’ll stand up to it.”

One-year-old Kurij Coppage experienced his first protest Thursday night. His mother, Khrystal, along with her husband, wanted to keep the momentum of togetherness going. She works at the Urban Scholastic Center in Kansas City, Kan. The Christian ministry mentors students, often young black and Hispanic boys.

“We want to avoid these kinds of situations,” she says of the Brown shooting. “We want to inform the youth and make changes from within, not outside.”

The protest went beyond Ferguson’s “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” chants. Kansas City musician Les Izmore and others passed around petitions to support a bill that requires cops to wear body cameras with audio. He says we shouldn’t just rely on social media. Speakers encouraged the crowd to fix the problems within, like black-on-black violence, and put their voting rights to use.

“My daughter has a chance to be a part of a revolution, a change in how things are done,” said local rapper Gee Watts, who brought his family to the protest. “This may have started out as a black thing, but it is not so finite. This is about civil liberties and the rights of all of us, as humans. It’s time for an awakening.”

Wake up.

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or send email to “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. On Twitter @jeneeinkc.

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