Officer Darren Wilson vs. George Zimmerman

August 21st 2014

Alece Oxendine

The Ferguson Police have been widely condemned for withholding the name of Officer Darren Wilson for almost a week since the death of Mike Brown. Had they made it unquestionably clear to the public that they were going to hold Mr. Wilson accountable for potential wrongdoing, much of the tension in Ferguson may have dissipated. With that being said, there was a potential upside in the police’s lack of transparency: public outcry was not directed towards one person, but rather a system that failed Mike Brown and too many black and brown young people like him. With Officer Wilson’s name unknown, protesters had the chance to spark a national conversation about police brutality and unequal application of justice in America, avoiding the standard killed vs killer debate. I would argue and hope that this kind of conversation can lead to long term changes.

Mike Brown / Ferguson Protestors

The best example of the downside of learning too much too fast about a suspected killer was the death of Trayvon Martin. As soon as the news broke of the murder, we knew of both Martin and George Zimmerman-the man accused and acquitted of killing Martin. A quick Google search will bring up over 23 million hits on Zimmerman, as opposed to 9.7 million for Martin. So on Google, Zimmerman is more popular than Martin. In addition, people who supported a Zimmerman conviction were left devastated after he was acquitted. I would argue that we (I included) became too focused on punishing Zimmerman rather than challenging and changing the system that protected him. My speculation is that the public outcry toward Zimmerman might have led to the Ferguson police department withholding the name of Office Wilson for as long as they did.

Now there is a blood thirsty hunt to find out everything we can about Officer Wilson. There’s still a lot of information we don’t know and plenty of speculation so it’s crucial not to jump to conclusions until we all have the facts. But hopefully, we can keep the focus on the root cause of why Mike Brown was shot in the first place as opposed to merely punishing just one man.