Comfortable with Killing: Are Ordinary Citizens Willing to Prevent Another Mike Brown?


By Mark Naison

If the death of Michael Brown reflects normal police protocols in the US, we need to change “normal police protocols” and not only in Ferguson.

What upsets me most in my conversations about what happened in Ferguson is not arguments asking for people to withhold judgment until there is a full investigation, or those suggesting we should give the police officer the benefit of the doubt, it is how many people seem comfortable with killing some one who commits a crime or gets in a altercation with a police officer even if they are unarmed. Some of those whom make such arguments seem to think that summary execution of suspected criminals, whether by police or ordinary citizens, is perfectly acceptable. They seem more driven by a desire for revenge than for justice and place preservation of their own safety above all else. They not only don’t lose sleep over the death of Mike Brown, they positively welcome it.

Now to be fair, not all people I have been in discussions about what happened make such arguments, but enough do to sadden me and upset me. Because if ordinary citizens feel this way, there will be no pressure to change police practices to avoid deaths like Mike Brown’s.


Mark Naison is Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University.

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