It was one year ago, August 9, 2014, when Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson did his job.
It would ultimately cost him his ability to be a police officer. And he now hides in anonymity in suburban St. Louis, fearful of the “Black Lives Matter” movement (and the many credible death threats against him) that his lawful actions that day inadvertently unleashed.
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson’s upcoming book, “Antidote: Healing America From the Poison of Hate, Blame and Victimhood,” which is now available to pre-order from the WND Superstore, deals directly with anger fueling the “Black Lives Matter” and the same anger that fueled Michael Brown’s decision to bull rush Wilson and try to take his life.
To be released on November 24, 2015, the following is an excerpt from the first chapter of “Antidote,” published on the one-year anniversary of that confrontation in Ferguson.
DEATH ON CANFIELD DRIVE
By Jesse Lee Peterson
If he slept at all the night before – and that much is doubtful – Michael Brown woke up at his grandmother’s apartment on the morning of August 9, angry. He did not know this would be the last day of his life. He probably didn’t care.
How do I know this? I know it in part by researching Brown’s history, in part by observing his actions later that day, and in part by having been where Michael Brown was. When I was younger, anger drove me almost as hard as it drove him. Many of the same things that angered Michael, angered me. For years, I drank deeply from a toxic spring of hatred. I consumed the poison. I wallowed in it. Thank God, I lived long enough to find the antidote. Michael did not. The poison – not Officer Darren Wilson – killed him before he had a chance.
In 1999, when Michael was no more than three, his parents separated. Not much had held them together anyway. They had never married. By all accounts, it was a nasty split. Michael moved with his mother, Lesley McSpadden, to a new neighborhood and a new school.
Growing up, sometimes Michael would call his father and ask to be “rescued.” That was not easy. “And the two different families, we really didn’t get along, so it was kinda hard for me to go pick him up,” said Michael Brown Sr. in one of his more honest moments. “I had to have a family member go get him and bring him over to the house.” The tension unsettled Michael. How could it not have?
Lesley and Michael Sr. were still in their twenties when they split up. But in time, each would have a new partner and form a new family, or what passed for a family, in Ferguson, Missouri. The younger Michael did not meet his father’s new wife, Calvina, until his mother threw him out of the house and dropped him off on his father’s front porch. He was sixteen. For three months he stayed with his father and Calvina, sulking in his room and refusing to go to school.
Meanwhile, Michael’s mother had hooked up with a fellow named Louis Head. The media routinely designated Head as Michael’s “stepfather,” but a police report after Brown’s death listed him as “McSpadden’s Boyfriend.” Whether husband or boyfriend, Head brought little to the relationship beyond a bad temper and a lengthy rap sheet. Michael would never feel comfortable in any of these households. This helps explain why he ended up living most of the final year of his life with his grandmother, Desuirea Harris. At least there he would not have to compete with a new spouse or a new boyfriend for a parent’s attention. No one talks much about the hostility between men and women that infects black families, but believe me, it is there. When their men walk out, as they do too often, women grow angry and bitter. “The women work,” an older neighbor of Brown’s said of the area. “The guys stay home, smoke dope and walk around harassing people. You can’t say nothing to them. They’ll cuss you out.”
Single black mothers often take their frustration out on the son who resembles the man who abandoned them. They turn the child against the father by saying the father is “no good,” or, “He doesn’t love you.” This constant disparagement makes the child feel unloved, and it destroys him emotionally and spiritually. A mother might curse her son, smack him, tell him he will amount to no more good than his old man. The boy cannot help but absorb that message. From all appearances, this seemed to be the kind of environment that produced Michael Brown. No wonder he needed to be rescued.
Later in life, these boys may tell the world how much they love their mothers, but many of them do not mean it. I certainly did not. When my mother separated me from my father, all I felt was anger; it was the sentiment I knew best. That anger was so consuming it took over my soul. I projected it everywhere, toward my mother and father, toward my teachers and friends, and especially toward white people. By having others to blame for the sorry state of my own life, I did not have to blame myself. Such was my life before I learned to forgive.
Eight days before he died, Michael Brown graduated from high school. The media treated his graduation as a bridge crossed, a sign of brighter things to come. This is the same story the media tell every time they choose to turn a violent lost soul into a victim. Michael knew better. He knew the graduation was a bridge to nowhere. He had attended a chaotic high school, learned almost nothing, finessed his way to a degree through some half-baked alternative program, and entered the world unskilled, unready, unarmed. This is a story the media do not want to tell.
At eighteen, no longer in school, Michael did not see a life full of promise. He saw a life full of anxiety. For all of his heft – six foot four and nearly three hundred pounds – he was still a scared little boy. He could bluster all he wanted to, but inside he was feeling empty, angry, and unloved. He had no idea what he wanted to do or what he could do. As an adult, he had no idea what to do.
Without parents to give him direction along the way, he grew up feeling lost on the inside. Despite his size, he lacked the discipline to play football or any other sport. A good coach can sometimes turn a young man around. Michael never had such a coach. On the threshold of manhood, he had no idea of how a real man lived his life. Telling him to go out and find a job and perform well enough to keep a job was like telling him to grow a pair of wings and fly.
In an age when fatherlessness is epidemic throughout the culture, many white young men enter the world no better prepared than Michael. There is, however, a difference between those white teens and boys like Michael, a fatal difference. Michael had an excuse for his failings that they did not. Michael was black. From the time he was a little boy, the people around Michael were telling him that the white man kept the black man down. He heard this at home, among his friends, on television, at school, and maybe even at church. Barack Obama’s mentor, Jeremiah Wright, was far from the only preacher preaching hate. This hatred may have made Michael’s own failings seem less painful and less personal, but it was crippling him.
Just before noon on August 9, Michael and his friend Dorian Johnson, both high, walked toward a convenience store on West Florissant Avenue, a few blocks from the apartment where Brown had been staying. Once inside, Michael grabbed a pack of cheap cigars that dopers like to hollow out and fill with marijuana. They call them “blunts.” On that day, Michael was feeling angry enough and entitled enough to take the cigars without paying. He was convinced that the white man had screwed him and owed him. I know the feeling. I’ve been there.
The merchant may not have been a standard-issue Missouri white man, but to Michael he probably was white enough. Michael had been told that these foreigners got help from the government to start a business, help that had been denied to the black man. How else to account for the man’s success and that of others like him in a black neighborhood? Michael could not believe this dude would try to stop him as he left the store. He was likely sick of all the storekeepers spying on him, following him, doubting him, now even confronting him, Michael Brown, the biggest, baddest dude in his small southeast corner of Ferguson. They may have thought they were better than he was, but he would show them.
Without thinking of the consequences, Michael grabbed the fellow, shoved him up against a display case, and exited the store. To hell with them all! This was one angry young man. He and Johnson headed back down West Florissant on foot, then turned onto Canfield Drive, where his grandmother lived. Michael had just committed a crime that could have sent him to prison, but if he was worried, he certainly did not show it.
Michael walked down the center of Canfield Drive as if he owned it, flaunting the cigars as he walked. Johnson, half his size, walked in front, knowing Brown had his back. Michael had no fears of what Grandma might say or do. He knew there would be no repercussions even if word got back to her. (It is the rare grandmother willing or able to exert the force necessary to control a wayward grandson.) Michael could not have made a bolder statement of who he was and what he was about than he did that August day. He was showing his dominance. To the outside world, he may have seemed a loser. But on Canfield Drive, he was the alpha male. He was daring anyone to say otherwise. He expected no challenge.
And then, to Michael’s surprise, Officer Darren Wilson drove by. Earlier that morning, a local woman had called 911 when a gunman threatened her. That call, of a type much too common in this neighborhood, had drawn Wilson to the area. Another call followed from a frantic mother whose baby was sick. That call kept Wilson in the neighborhood and set up his tragic encounter with Michael.
Officer Wilson saw the young men walking in the middle of the street. At first, Wilson did not demand much. He just asked Brown and Johnson to get out of the street. With no respect for authority and even less for a white cop, Michael spat back, “F*** what you have to say” and kept on going. Shocked, Wilson decided to check Brown out more closely. It was then that he noticed the cigars and realized Brown was likely the guy who had just robbed the convenience store. Wilson called for support and backed down the street to cut the pair off.
At this point, I suspect, Michael stopped thinking altogether. I never lost it quite as he did, but I have gotten close. I know how it feels when all the suppressed rage against the white man explodes in a sudden burst of anger and energy. When Wilson tried to exit the car, Michael cursed him out once again, pushed him back into the car, reached through the open window, and started punching him in the head. Wilson would later describe Brown as having the face of a “demon.” When Wilson reached for his gun, Michael grabbed for it. Two shots went off. One of them grazed Michael’s hand. If Michael had not crossed a bridge when he graduated from high school or even when he robbed the convenience store, he had now.
There was no turning back. Michael was either going to die or go to prison. There were no other ways for the day to end. His first instinct was to run. This was what all boys everywhere learn to do when they get in trouble. But if not quite a man, Michael was no longer a boy. He had a reputation to uphold. He was not going to let this white man – a cop or no cop – intimidate him in the middle of Canfield Drive, not after the gunshots had alerted the neighbors. They would be watching.
Incredibly, Michael made the conscious decision to turn around and confront the armed Wilson. Forget the “hands up, don’t shoot” line that the media promoted and perpetuated. The myth would have insulted Michael. He was in no mood to surrender. A lifetime of slights and insults had enraged him beyond reason. He ignored Wilson’s commands to stop and charged the startled officer.
Wilson fired repeatedly as Brown rushed him. As Wilson knew from experience, an angry, charging three-hundred-pounder is no more “unarmed” than a bull in a bullring. The initial hits to Michael’s right arm scarcely slowed him down. The closer Michael got, the more accurate Wilson’s aim grew. Finally, a shot to the top of Michael’s head as he lunged toward Wilson ended the showdown on Canfield Drive. The neighbors who had not seen the shooting already knew the story line. Two years earlier, the media had walked them through it in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. There, they were told, this innocent little “boy,” on the way back from getting his “brother” some Skittles and iced tea, was stalked and shot by a racist thug named Zimmerman, who, if he wasn’t exactly white, was white enough.
The neighbors never learned just how closely Trayvon’s life – and death – paralleled Michael’s. When Trayvon was three, his father, Tracy Martin, had left home too. For the next twelve years, Trayvon spent most of his time at the home of Alicia Stanley, Tracy Martin’s second wife. When Trayvon was fifteen, Tracy left Alicia for a woman named Brandy Green, and Trayvon lost his home again. The boy was shattered. Alicia had been his rock. “I’m the one that went to them football games,” Alicia told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I’m the one that was there when he was sick.” After the shooting, Alicia was treated as if she did not exist. The same was true for Brandy Green. For the sake of the cameras, Tracy had to be reunited with Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s birth mom. It made for a better image.
Once he had to leave Alicia’s home, Trayvon’s life became unglued, and there was no one around to put the pieces back together. A conversation on Facebook between Tracy Martin and his sister-in-law Miriam showed just how unsettled Trayvon’s life had become.
TRACY: i need time to myself 2day!!!!!! my son think imma damn fool! this is the part i hate in our father to son relationship! when you start telling lies about nothing you gone walk you ass into an ass cuttin! be honest with your old boy [meaning, the father] and you wont have to get yelled at like a negro in the streets!
MIRIAM: That’s right and when you finish cutting his ass send him to home to Auntie & Uncle house so we can get on him too. You know how we do it.
In the last two years of his life, Trayvon shuttled between one house and another – his mother’s, his father’s, his uncle’s, Brandy Green’s in Sanford. A few months before he died, his mother exiled him after he had been caught fighting at school. “She just kicked me out,” he told a friend online. When the friend asked why, Martin answered, “Da police caught me outta skool.”
His friend said, “U a hoodlum.”
“Naw,” replied Martin. “I’m a gangsta.”
No one in Trayvon’s family knew him well enough anymore to even notice his anger or his outlets for it – drugs, burglary, guns, truancy, and street-style mixed martial arts. It was only George Zimmerman who got to see the real Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman had alerted the police that Trayvon, who was high at the time, was wandering aimlessly in the rain. As neighborhood watch captain, Zimmerman tried to keep an eye on Trayvon after he took off running. But like Michael Brown, this now six-foot-tall street fighter had enough of running away. He circled back, sucker punched Zimmerman, and was beating the life out of him, MMA-style, for nearly a minute when Zimmerman finally pulled his gun and shot him.
The evidence was never in doubt, yet the state prosecuted Zimmerman to satisfy the media, the politicians, and the race hustlers. Predictably, they all refused to accept the verdict when a mixed-race jury acquitted Zimmerman, sending the message to Michael Brown and people like him everywhere that “nothing had changed.” Benjamin Crump, the Martin family attorney and later the Brown family attorney as well, had the nerve to say, “Trayvon Martin will forever remain in the annals of history next to Medgar Evers and Emmett Till, as symbols for the fight for equal justice for all.” Crump was one of many to compare Martin to Till, a fourteen-year-old Chicago boy lynched in 1955 in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. Evers, a brave civil rights leader, was shot in the back by a racist assassin in 1963 Mississippi. Martin was shot in the chest while bashing in the head of a neighborhood watch captain who had done nothing but look at him suspiciously. Michael Brown and his neighbors knew the Trayvon story by heart.
The media told it and retold it at every opportunity. The people in Ferguson just didn’t know the story they were being fed about the little boy with the Skittles was false. They had heard all their lives that the white man had it in for them. When Dorian Johnson said the cop had shot Michael in the back or shot him as he was trying to surrender – whatever – they were prepared to believe him. Those who knew Brown well were probably not surprised. They might have thought he had it coming, but they were not about to share that thought with the media. Because of their anger against white people, they would pretend Brown was a good guy killed because he was black. Sad but true, the hatred of white folks runs deeper than whites want to believe. It creates a kind of community among the haters.
Within a half hour of Brown’s death, an activist was rehearsing the neighbors in the “hands-up, don’t shoot” gesture. Those half dozen or so neighbors who saw what really happened chose not to talk to the media. They knew that “snitches get stitches.” Later, though, they did have the courage to talk to the grand jury. It made all the difference. At least it should have.
Brown’s death, like Trayvon’s, could have been a teachable moment. The media might have said that when a child is shuttled between relatives all his life, when he is trapped in a series of failing government schools, when he is instructed in ways big and small about the evils of the white man, bad things happen. But this was not a story the media wanted to tell any more in 2014 than they did in 2012.
The reporters and editors preferred to tell a story that would make them feel better about themselves. In their version of events, a racist cop shot a poor young black boy, a “gentle giant” with dreams of college, despite his willingness to surrender. To tell this story, the media had to ignore Wilson’s account, Brown’s life history, the convenience-store video, the brave grand jury testimony of eyewitnesses on the scene, and all the forensic evidence. Still, by projecting racism onto white people – Officer Wilson or cops in general – the media could assert their own moral superiority.
This narrative suited the race hustlers as well. They needed to keep black people angry. They wanted them to believe that the white man was out to get them, that nothing had changed in the last fifty years, and that if it weren’t for Al or Jesse or whoever, things would be much worse still. Said attorney general Eric Holder of Michael Brown’s death, “There is [an] enduring legacy that Emmett Till has left with us that we still have to confront as a nation.” The media played right into his hands. Politicians like Holder love the bogus narrative. As they interpreted events, local police were as racist as they always had been. The federal government still needed to intervene to punish wayward cops and remind them that “black lives matter.” Of course, black lives matter to politicians – especially in election years.
Brown’s family needed the bogus narrative more than anyone else. It got them off the hook. It freed them to play the victim. For all the abuse a mother might throw at her son, she will almost always defend him blindly from accusations of wrongdoing, no matter how legitimate, especially if white people are doing the accusing. McSpadden was no exception. “I know my son far too well,” she said on CBS This Morning after the grand jury decision came down. “He would never do anything like that. He would never provoke anyone to do anything to him and he would never do anything to anybody.” As to the undeniable video of Brown attacking the store clerk, she offered, “If something happened in that store – and that’s a big if – that could have been dealt with.” Sure, mama, “a big if.”
Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, sent McSpadden a letter of encouragement. “Trayvon was not perfect,” she wrote. “But no one will ever convince me that my son deserved to be stalked and murdered. No one can convince you that Michael deserved to be executed.” Fulton preferred to blame both of these deaths on “senseless gun violence.” Neither mother would take any responsibility for the self-destructive anger that consumed both their sons. It was so much easier to blame guns, the police, the white man.
On the night of the grand jury announcement clearing Officer Wilson, Brown’s mother stood atop a car outside the Ferguson police station, yelling incoherently to a large crowd of protesters. Once the decision not to charge Officer Wilson was broadcast, she began weeping uncontrollably. Now husband – or whatever (the police report showed that they were not married) – Louis Head and others embraced her in a show of solidarity. Then Head turned toward the mob and yelled, “Burn this b***h down.” McSpadden and Head took no responsibility for the rioting and looting that ensued.
Michael Brown Sr. meanwhile appeared on CNN and called Officer Wilson a “murderer.” He also said that if his son had been white, Wilson would have said hi and kept on driving. With these kinds of parents as role models, Michael Brown didn’t have a chance. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and bad parents raise rotten children. Michael Brown is dead because his parents failed him, and because he failed himself. Recently I received an e-mail from a father whose son was killed under similar circumstances. He wrote after hearing me on Kilmeade & Friends, Fox News radio program. “Rev. Jesse,” he said, “when I heard you on the radio, I needed to tell you I agree. It is tough to say and come to the realization your child is to blame. One day – maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, when all the dust settles – Mrs. Brown in a very private moment will say to herself, ‘Michael killed Michael.'”
With the race hustlers and the media egging them on, the members of Brown’s family did not have the cohesion to pull together in the face of tragedy. The various couplings and uncouplings had created much bad blood over the years, and that blood boiled over in an ugly incident on West Florissant two months after the shooting. According to the police report, Pearlie Gordon, the mother-in-law of Michael Brown Sr., was selling “Justice for Michael Brown” merchandise when twenty or thirty people pulled up in cars, jumped out, and rushed them. At the head of the cavalry was McSpadden, “You can’t sell this s***,” she told Gordon. Gordon explained who she was – namely, the mother of Brown’s wife Calvina – and told McSpadden that unless she could document a trademark on the Michael Brown name, she was going to continue to sell her wares. McSpadden’s mother then piped up, “You don’t know my grandson like that. I’m gonna tear this s*** down,” and she proceeded to do just that. Someone then hit Gordon in the back of her head, and the people with McSpadden, Louis Head included, began wrecking the booth. “That’s Calvina’s mom. Get her ass,” McSpadden yelled, then ran up and punched Gordon. Others did the same. McSpadden’s posse made off with fifteen hundred dollars in merchandise and four hundred dollars in cash and fled the scene before the police arrived. Although no one much wanted Michael around when he was alive, apparently everyone wanted a piece of him when he was dead.
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