From "Michael Brown Spent Last Weeks Grappling With Problems and Promise" — today's NY Times piece about Michael Brown. Who, by the way, was buried today, two weeks after getting killed by a police officer.
Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor. […]
From "Darren Wilson Was Low-Profile Officer With Unsettled Early Days" — today's NY Times piece about Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown.
As a teenager, Darren Wilson lived in St. Peters, Mo., a mostly white city of 54,000 about 20 miles west of Ferguson, where his environment was chaotic. He was the eldest of three children of Tonya Dee Durso, who, records show, carried out financial crimes, including against Sandra Lee Finney, who lived across the street and had believed they were friends.
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Michael Brown was "no angel" and had a "troubled" past. Darren Wilson, whose background was much, much more "troubled" than Michael Brown's — in fact, someone interviewed in the article actually says "…he did have a troubled childhood" — had an "unremarkable" life and an "unsettled" past.
These may seem like small details. But that subtle word distinction matters in helping to provide a panoramic context. After repeatedly hearing that Michael Brown was "troubled" and "no angel" and "battling demons" and "an amateur rapper" it colors your perception of who he was…which in turn makes him seem less "innocent"…which in turn makes him more deserving of whatever happened to him.