The print and electronic media were falling all over themselves to tell the story of the Ferguson, MO shooting last summer: The narrative, though not put in exactly these words, was simple: A Klansman-wannabe whose day job was as a policeman shot an unarmed black teenager out of a particularly malignant form of "white privilege." It was the latter day version of a Jim Crow -- a quasi-slavery system of white oppression that had never really gone away, although it had (usually) been more cleverly disguised.
The story was made particularly horrible by what became its catchphrase: "Hands up, don't shoot!" Brown was portrayed as the compliant, non-threatening and promising black kid (complete in many pictures used at the time in cap-and-gown
) gunned down for no reason but racial supremacy by a cop who had been brought up in a culture that told him there was no consequence for taking black lives.
The Ferguson story was leveraged big time to create commissions, both in Missouri and in the White House, to "study" ongoing racist attitudes -- or, as the more cynical among us might think, to undermine confidence in and respect for law and the means sometimes needed to enforce it. More broadly, it was used as the newest, biggest Guilt Cudgel in the culture war.