Streaming Note: What Killed Michael Brown?

We’re pretty cheap, so it took a celebratory night (46 years of fairly amiable tolerance of one another) to splurge on Prime’s “stream for pay” documentary: Shelby Steele’s What Killed Michael Brown?. We’d seen reviews* that sounded interesting. Steele’s voice and perspective define the film; it is directed by his son, Eli. It is polished, its music, use of historical footage smooth.

He interviews citizens from Ferguson, he compiles a brief but clear description of that fatal afternoon, uses clips of George Stephanopoulos’ interview of Darren Wilson. He notes Holder’s arrival in Ferguson after the shooting, the response of residents to his statements. A repeated presence is Al Sharpton, who seems to represent those who force incidents into patterns presented as “poetic truth” – prejudged, premade narratives that ignore the shifts in culture (and reality) over a hundred years. While the central focus is the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, it interweaves personal narrative to quietly honor the strength and integrity of his father’s choices. He traces his parents’ lives (we see the Kentucky community in which his father was born in 1900 and from which he joined the great northern migration as an orphaned boy at 14; by emphasizing the house ownership rate in the black communities of his youth and showing houses his parents bought in the forties and fifties in Chicago, he tells us much about a culture and a time, about the incremental nature but powerful force of economic liberty and responsibility). Less of his own life is described, but, born in 1946, he lived through the transition: he came of age in the Great Society era: we hear LBJ, we see the projects when as a young man he worked in St. Louis, and we see them implode.

But the touchstone for him lies in his parents’ choices: their civil rights activism reflected their values in the forties and fifties as were their hard-won and steady movement toward a secure home. He returns to the self-made man, a concept central to his father’s life as it had been to Frederick Douglass, two generations before. His argument, characteristic of a Hoover scholar, is familiar, if subtle, personal and complex. His father was not helpless, but the Great Society assumed helplessness; that assumption was destructive but accepting it was also a choice and also destructive. Steele seems intent on communicating what he has learned over a long lifetime, wisdom and appreciation that connects his father, his own maturation, and the present to the importance of making one’s self, accepting agency. (* Links of reviews below fold.)


National Review:
Podcast (Fairly lengthy, Steele lets himself go)

7 thoughts on “Streaming Note: What Killed Michael Brown?”

  1. Where is there room for beurocratic grift in self agency? Where do generations of lefty, Democrat social justice grifters fit in to carve off for themselves a good chunk of tax money, every year until pension(s) time?

    Making poverty is the buisness. Biggest, best in the country. Not only immune to outsourcing, but that helps.

    Industrial cities went from industriousness, to welfare factory farms.

  2. Your description reflects the DIGNITY of the African-Americans who marched for civil rights in the 1950’s/1960’s.

    A dignity robbed by this: the Great Society assumed helplessness.

    If anyone owes reparations, it is the white Progressives and grievance-grifters of all colors who sold them helpless victimhood, under the systemic-racism narrative.

  3. What Ritchie said. Not only are the ones who owe it, they should be the ones who pay it if we are stupid enough to do this. Count me out of that transaction.


  4. Another point I’ve heard him make at different times is that blacks need to accept there won’t be justice, there will never be some kind of balance between what was taken and what is. The reparations could never satisfy. That used to irritate me, but I think, now, that he’s right – reparations don’t make sense, of course. But the truth is we all have to accept the natural limits – we are going to die, everything isn’t “fair,” sin and death are a part of life – as well as beauty and grace. All the attempts at reparation will do is make us more aware that we aren’t really able to understand or achieve justice in that kind of way.

    Anyway, I have begun to think his argument is more like that of his fellow Hoover wise man, Sowell, and he’s really talking about accepting the constrained vision. And that has always seemed to me more like accepting the 14 lines, the rules of a sonnet because that can give you focus – if you think you aren’t going to die, you don’t focus as well, if you wait for perfection, well you spend your life waiting. If you accept the constraints, you can live a fuller life. (And those constraints are not arbitrary like the 14 lines but are real, eternal, natural.) Oh, well. I have lots of regrets and love Foster’s choice of Neptune’s wit above, but too much curiosity about the other paths sometimes gets in the way of enjoying fully the one I’m on.

  5. Michael Brown died of stupidity, period. Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York are engaged in an experiment to determine what happens when you shift the burden of being stupid from the stupid person to whichever innocent bystander happens to be in the vicinity of the stupid person’s latest demonstration of the amazing power of stupid. This is not to say that societies’ ability to protect the rest of us from stupid was ever fool proof (literally), but at least an attempt was made and the determined stupid were sporadically segregated to milieus largely away from the non-stupid.

    I predict that the experiments will be hailed as a great success by the media right next to the stories “investigating” municipal revenue shortfalls and increasing unemployment.

  6. My wife dragged me out of bed to watch the ball drop in Times Square. The New Years Eve programming on NBC was over-the-top woke. Among other things, there was a blurb celebrating the heroism of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, etc., juxtaposed with 60’s civil rights marches. I guess we’ll have to get used to it. The Left controls the moral landscape, and will continue to invent “objective morality” in real time. The Right will always play catch up, because it believes in the illusion of objective morality even more firmly than the Left. That is its Achilles heel.

  7. The “Afro-American” population in North American are apparently from 2 distinct populations from Nigeria and West Africa. One, a minority I believe were kidnap victims. These are socially “normal” and include the entire range of intelligence and skills. The majority population were asocial, distractable, “defectives” that were a “burden” that was “transfered” into the Atlantic Slave trade.

    As near as I can tell, the Nigerian “slave” system was akin to a debtors’ prison. If a person fell into desolation, they “lost their freedom” and were assigned to a successful family/clan. That desolation might result from bad luck, illness, crop loss, etc or due to general incompetence. The Grand Father in the link (above) delt with the persistent failures. The Grand Father had a life-long friend (convicted of “murder”) who was a fine companion and a good worker. The useful and productive “slaves” were kept and often treated as one of the family. Those that didn’t cooperate and weren’t supporting themselves, were “transferred” into the Atlantic Trade.

    Thus, the kidnapped segment of the population were “normals” but the majority sold/transferred to the Europeans were “defectives” who were non-productive and asocial.

    On the next street is the border to a municipality that was Afro-American since before Illinois Abe took that job in Washington. Residences were everything from grand to tar paper, although with better insulation than the equivalent model in the Mississippi Delta. Violent crime is almost non-existant. It is a “community”. I suspect that this population is mostly descended from the “normal” kidnap victims.

    Mikey Brown came from the disordered urban portion of the population that I suspect descended from the asocial, feckless portion of the Nigerian “slave” population who were unable to perform a useful function, were unable to cooperate with others, and who were traded for patterned cloth, steel implements, or rum. I would guess that this population had a wide range of intelligence but were hampered in their inability to be useful or cooperative.

    I have no idea about the genetics of these populations. Generally, they don’t seem to mix, although there have been families that moved out of the “city”. Mikey Brown was unemployed, had no future plans, and had worn out his welcome as a “guest”. I don’t think he had much potential to join a functional community.

    The stories suggest that Mikey Brown was a disordered bully with no future plans or prospects. I suspect that if he hadn’t got dead, he would have ended up back in the “city” and eventually in prison. Mikey didn’t seem to be the type to fit into a productive community. I suspect that Mikey was part of the product line handled by Ms. Nwaubani’s Great Grandfather. Yep. Mikey died of stupidity, and there are a lot of them. He was too lazy to run and too dim to think of any option except a suicidal charge at an armed and alert police officer. The “hands up” was a shrug (what else can I do?).

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