From Darren Wilson’s testimony, after the altercation in the car was over and Michael Brown had started to run away, he says this:

When he stopped, he turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise and had the most intense, aggressive face I’ve ever seen on a person. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon. That’s how angry he looked.

According to Wilson’s testimony, that’s when he started shooting.

It sounds an awful lot like South Carolina State Trooper Sean Groubert’s initial testimony about why he started shooting at Levar Jones after pulling him over for a seat belt violation.

Before I could even get out of my car he jumped out, stared at me, and as I jumped out of my car and identified myself, as I approached him, he jumped head-first back into his car … he jumped out of the car. I saw something black in his hands.

The only problem for Groubert is that in that case, there was an actual video of what happened.

YouTube video

In the case of the murder of Jordan Davis, Michael Dunn’s basic defense was pretty much the same: Davis made him fear for his life. At least there was a jury trial on that one and Dunn was convicted of first degree murder (even though it took them two tries to do it).

In discussing the Groubert shooting, Leonard Pitts sums up what’s going on in all three of these situations…at minimum.

So let us accord him the benefit of the doubt because in situations like this, people always want to make it a question of character. And the shooter’s friends always feel obliged to defend him with the same tired words: “He is not a racist.”

He probably isn’t, at least not in the way they understand the term.

But what he is, is a citizen of a country where the fear of black men is downright viral. That doesn’t mean he burns crosses on the weekend. It means he’s watched television, seen a movie, used a computer, read a newspaper or magazine. It means he is alive and aware in a nation where one is taught from birth that thug equals black, suspect equals black, danger equals black…

The Groubert video offers an unusually stark image of that fear in action. Viewing it, it seems clear the trooper is not reacting to anything Jones does. In a very real sense, he doesn’t even see him. No, he is reacting to a primal fear of what Jones is, to outsized expectations of what Jones might do, to terrors buried so deep in his breast, he probably doesn’t even know they’re there.

When I read Darren Wilson’s words, it seemed obvious to me that he was also reacting to that primal fear buried deep in his breast. That’s what most racism looks like these days. And that’s why so many unarmed black boys are dying.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.