If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, Darren Wilson has escaped prosecution for the death of Michael Brown and Ferguson is rioting. With international protests reacting to the failure of the grand jury to indict Darren Wilson, this narrative has already reached proportions not seen since the Trayvon Martin shooting. But why?
Why has the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, received so much attention?
To start, here’s how the typical white cop kills black man narrative goes.
- White cop(s) kills Black man.
- The news has a mild uproar, with police brutality, crime, and racial profiling being bandied about by different viewpoints.
- The characters of the killer and the victim are explored in biased and exaggerated detail.
- The cop(s) are charged minor crimes or not charged at all (many are forced to resign).
- News dies down until the next killing.
And this narrative has occurred with depressing regularity, lasting on a couple weeks. However the Darren Wilson killing Michael Brown narrative is special because it happened in Ferguson. A community where a mostly white police force is policing a mostly black community, has a history of racial profiling, and a severe lack of trust between the two groups. Then protests in Ferguson are met by the racial politics of the United States and now the Ferguson will be synonymous with the riot and it’s two citizens Michael Brown and Darren Wilson.
But Fergusen isn’t about Darren Wilson or Michael Brown. They were just the inciting incident to expose their community and the tensions underneath.
Let me explain, a narrative can only begin with a inciting incident (except for Boyhood, when just existing helps) that introduces the narrative’s problem to shake up narrative’s characters and setting puts them on the plot’s path. Imagine the match above is the inciting incident, the rest of the story is the barrel of TNT and the explosion. However while inciting incidents are the start, they are only there to bring forth the weight and depth of characters and the world they live in.
Take World War 1. Anarchist kills a high-ranking leader, and boom, the greatest war the world and seen at that point.
Here’s the thing, there have been assassinations in the past, prior to Gavrilo Princip’s dumb luck. However the causes of World War 1 had been building up since at least 1870 and all Gavrila knew was that his gunshot was answered by four years of gunfire that nearly broke the world.
However inciting incidents are not lucky breaks. Unconsciously, we understand that a inciting incident is needed to justify the inception of any narrative we want to have, i.e. the Gulf of Tonkin Incident led to the Vietnam War. More recently, the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar by ISIS were just a manufactured inciting incident.
The Yazidis were not better or worse than the other groups being attacked by ISIS, nor their suffering any worse than the atrocities that ISIS or for that matter any faction within the war were committing. However there plight was used by Obama to justify launching airstrikes against ISIS (the Yazidi have been saved, for now anyways) , a mission that is expanding and doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.
Narratives need a inciting incident to start, you can’t burn down a forest until you have a match. And as for Ferguson, let’s hope this narrative plays out differently than the ones before, however unlikely it may be.
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