Police Abuse

Shelby Steele: What Really Killed Michael Brown?

A new documentary argues that Great Society liberalism laid the foundation for 2014's police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, there was Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Brown's death inspired the fledgling Black Lives Matter movement, and "Hands Up. Don't Shoot," a line derived from accounts of Brown's final words, has been a rallying cry at protests against police violence ever since.

But Michael Brown probably never spoke those words. An exhaustive Department of Justice report later concluded that the claim that "Brown held his hands up in clear surrender" came from sources who later "acknowledged that they didn't actually witness the shooting, but rather repeated what others told them." And that account was "inconsistent with the physical evidence," which instead corroborated Officer Darren Wilson's claim that Brown attacked him and tried to grab his gun.

In contrast to other police killings that have energized Black Lives Matter and nationwide protests—including that of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot while wielding a plastic gun; of Eric Garner, who died while an officer held him in a chokehold; and of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—there's no reason to believe that by shooting Brown, Wilson was acting unreasonably, concluded Barack Obama's Justice Department, because he was under attack.

Writer and filmmaker Shelby Steele went to Ferguson to investigate the meaning of Brown's death and the reaction that it inspired. His new documentary, a collaboration with his son Eli, is called What Killed Michael Brown?

Born in Chicago in 1946, Steele, a former college professor who specialized in Russian literature, is the son of a truck driver and the grandson of a slave. His views on how to correct America's racial injustices were deeply influenced by his experiences in the late 1960s and early '70s working in a poverty program in East St. Louis. Steele believes—provocatively—that what killed Michael Brown is the "liberalism that put him in public housing, that expanded welfare payments so that his family broke up, the fatherless home, the terrible education, terrible schools, terrible public housing, uh, the destructive school busing." In place of today's increasing focus on identity politics, Steele believes we need to emphasize citizenship and the experiences we have in common if we are to deliver fully on America's promise as a land of opportunity.

NEXT: Maybe the Election Results Were Kinda Good for Libertarians?

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  1. O man, he is so unwoke that even his grandfather slave will lose his blackness.

    1. Grandpa Steele was just another Uncle Tom house nigger. Real gangsta niggas vote Democrat and demand respirations from whitey! #BLM

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    2. He’ll be written off as an Uncle Tom. Oh wait, the resident troll already did.

  2. Steele believes we need to emphasize citizenship and the experiences we have in common if we are to deliver fully on America’s promise as a land of opportunity.

    Where are the handouts? No handouts, no votes.

    1. See, what statists of all stripes don’t want is opportunity. They want people to just do as told. Opportunity breeds independence, in thought as well as deed, and both are detrimental to government.

  3. Chelsea Handler will set him back on the black path.

  4. TL;DR. What killed Michael Brown was suicide by cop.

  5. So, nothing to do with acting thuggish?

  6. From another interview:

    “Liberalism’s great sin was to steal responsibility for black problems away from black people, leaving them vulnerable to destructive social forces, such as the drug epidemic of the 70s and 80s. It was the suffering of blacks that justified liberalism’s demand for power, but this only relegates blacks to permanent victimhood and alienates them from the power to uplift themselves.”

  7. “including that of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot while wielding a plastic gun;”

    Yeah, no. I saw the video of that one myself. The Air Soft gun was in the waist band of his pants, not in his hands, when the cop car raced in on him, and his hands never went near it before he was shot.

    1. People also hallucinate that a thug could had rigged up something harmless to do something dangerous. I mean, every toy gun must be a terrorist device when no one “has time” to reach for it.

    2. You should watch the enhanced video the grand jury watched of Tamir Rice reaching to his waistband and pulling the pellet gun out as he walked toward the police who thought he was further away. Along with the communication by the police during the incident it is really revealing and gives you the facts instead of the nonsense. Both are readily available if you care to know the truth.

  8. This is a nonsensical take.

    I know it Steele’s bread and butter (since the 1980’s pretty much this has been the niche that many black conservatives have used to achieve relevance in the Republican Party in comparison to the black conservatives that preceded Goldwater), but it always ignores the fact that much of the history of black people protesting in American History can be traced back to police officers taking the lives of the young and the unarmed, even prior to the Great Society Reforms of the 1960’s.

    The Black Power Movement was primarily a revolt against police brutality and that was before the social impact of the Great Society Programs took place.

    The question of welfare making the situation worse or better, is something worth hearing, but acting like it’s the root of the problem is a joke and it’s intellectually dishonest. It’s propaganda to people who really aren’t educated enough to have a contextual understanding of the relationship between black people and police for most of American History.

    1. Maybe police should be required to engage in recruitment practices and get out to knock doors and try to make contact with all real people in their district to offer an interaction and invitation to a recruitment event, but in plainclothes and without weapons. Kids can hopefully catch wind of them in a way that is not racist.

      1. “Maybe police should be required to engage in recruitment …”

        Yeah, I can see it now.
        Hey, kids. Come join my gang instead of that small time bullshit in your hood that’ll get ya locked up. No east coast west coast shit and your colors are good no matter where you go. Stop being a chump and get in on it. Comes with bennies like retirement in 20, real medical coverage and not that medicaid shit, homies that have your back, paid criminal defense for when you get sloppy. Still get plenty of drug money in your pocket without having to sling rock all night. How’s that sound?

    2. So what was Michael Brown protesting again?

  9. Wow you didn’t get anything right. This part, “which instead corroborated Officer Darren Wilson’s claim that Brown attacked him and tried to grab his gun.”, combines two moments one at the SUV and one after Brown had run away for 175 feet. Wilson was the one who pulled his gun and pointed it at Brown who like any sane person grabbed at it. This part, “there’s no reason to believe that by shooting Brown, Wilson was acting unreasonably, concluded Barack Obama’s Justice Department, because he was under attack.” is just false. The DOJ doesn’t decide on justification in state homocide cases they only investigate civil rights violations. From where Brown turned back towards Wilson he made it 21 feet. The audio of the shooting lasts 3.5 seconds. That means Brown was only moving at 4 mph or walking pace not charging full speed as Wilson testilied.

    1. Then there is the facts: In March 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice reported the conclusion of its own investigation and cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting. It found forensic evidence supported Wilson’s account, and that witnesses who corroborated the officer’s account were credible. Witnesses who had incriminated him were found to be not credible, with some admitting they had not directly seen the events. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Wilson shot Brown in self-defense.
      Brown ran 150 feet with Wilson in pursuit. Brown turned and started to charge at Wilson who fired at him. Brown stopped twice but continued until he was within a few feet of Wilson when the shots that stopped him were fired. This was all corroborated by witnesses with on witness saying she would have started firing sooner then Wilson did.
      The DOJ did say it was justified. Wilson was investigated by the Prosecutor, the FBI, the DOJ and the prosecutor that took over after the election and all agreed he was justified.
      Everything Wilson said a witness backed up. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    2. Icetrey, you can’t make up your own “facts”. You claim that Brown grabbed at Wilson’s gun after the policeman pointed it at him. (You also claim it is sane to try to grab a policeman’s gun when he or she points it at you – yeah, if you want to get shot!) The fact is that Brown reached inside the police car and tried to take the gun off of Wilson, which he almost did.

      Another fact is that Brown, who was 6′ 4 and 290 pounds, and had just fought with the policeman for his gun, did turn around and run towards Wilson. Your math is screwy. Are you talking about an *average* of 4 miles an hour? It sounds like you’re combining the time that he was running with the time he had stopped because he was shot. You assume that he was still running at the same speed for the full 3.5 seconds while being shot, which is not the case. He slowed down, then stopped. (I question all your numbers until I can verify them for myself.)

      Finally, it is significant that Obama’s DOJ run by the corrupt Eric Holder, could not find civil rights charges to bring against Officer Wilson, because they sure would have if they could have. They don’t like cops. (Obama was just pandering when he announced that they would investigate Wilson for civil rights violations. As a lawyer himself, he probly knew they could not make a case against Wilson.) If they had judged it to be a homicide, that certainly would have violated Brown’s civil rights. 2 years later they quietly announced they did not have any charges. That should tell you something.

  10. This is the documentary that Amazon Prime pulled support for, allegedly because it didn’t meet quality standards. I would have loved to hear the author’s opinion of whether that decision was appropriate.

  11. Does any of the above take place if “public property” is dismissed as a silly concept?

  12. People reported Brown held up his hands because others (who claimed to be eyewitnesses) told them so.
    Sounds a LOT like the (reports of the) gas chambers of Auschwitz to me.

  13. Bring back bus segregation but for every person … COVID 19 and all that … you can study without someone breathing down your neck … “Hey! You wanna see the viral spew someone gave me in second period?”

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    1. Michael Brown was a stupid nigger who would have become a rappist had he not been killed. A rapping rapist. So two travesties died that day. Slavery was the biggest mistake America ever made. It’s like bringing a bunch of zoo animals to your home to help you, but then PETA gets involved and you need to release them out on the street. Now you’ve got a bunch of zoo animals roaming your neighborhood and anytime a cop shoots one all the animals go on a rampage and beat and rape and loot and murder and politicians only take the side of the animals. The moral? Zoo animals belong in a zoo. Put the niggers in a zoo and watch them fuck. Peace out bro.
      Signed
      An African American Vietnam Veteran who received the Purple Heart

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  17. Collateral damage. Both “sides” perfectly happy to let the n*ggers run rough shod and destroy themselves. Not a liberal problem at all.

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