Moments after the Nov. 24 prime-time press conference held by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch to announce what was, effectively, the indictment of black Twitter, Michael Brown, the media and anyone else not named Darren Wilson, CNN ran, on continuous loop, a raw, emotional reaction from Louis Head, Brown's stepfather, in which he was seen holding his wife, Lesley McSpadden, and then yelling to a crowd of protesters, "Burn this motherf—ker down!"
And if you think what he said is outrageous, keep in mind that Head is being held to a higher standard than anyone else involved in the Ferguson, Mo., tragedy. At that moment he was upset. And rightfully so.
He was grieving not only the loss of his stepson but also the loss of faith in a system that was supposed to protect him and his family. Surely he was angry that McCulloch, the prosecutor who should have been fighting for his stepson, had just stood in front of a podium and piled on to the criminalization of Brown. So Head yelled words that I am sure came from the pit of despair and brokenness that no one should ever have to feel—but he didn't hurt anyone.
There were no videos of Head organizing people gatherered in front of the Ferguson police headquarters or pictures of him throwing Molotov cocktails. Just a man with tears in his eyes, consoling his wife, who had just heard that the man who killed her son would go free. In the alternative world of common nonsense that is Ferguson, news now breaks that Head is being investigated. And in yet another sad chapter of this entire tragedy—both of actual proportions and of beliefs in a police and judicial system—Head now issues an apology.
To say that Ferguson is bizarre is an understatement. It’s been a three-ring circus of characters, violence, demonstrations, forensics, press conferences, tweets, looting and fires. It has become the axis of a revolutionary movement to organize a generation long considered to be self-absorbed and apathetic. And it has become a linchpin in the new civil rights movement that is no longer willing to sit by as young black men across the country are gunned down by police.
So don't put the blame on the stepfather who lost his son and says, "Burn it down"—try to understand his anger.
Anger doesn't slide through conscious thought on the way out of the mouth—it rages inside the blood until it bursts. What happened in that moment was an explosion of emotion.
What happened the day Wilson and Brown met might be up for discussion, but the bumbling of the case since then isn't. To say that Ferguson authorities lean toward the protection of officers is putting it lightly. To say that the prosecuting attorney didn't add to the mayhem that occurred after he announced the grand jury decision is delusional. To hold a press conference in the dead of night when everyone is home and brimming with anticipation, knowing that the city has experienced this before, is calculated.
If anyone should be investigated for inciting a riot, it should be McCulloch, but that won't happen. To date, after all the missteps, incendiary comments and outright deception by law-enforcement officials, there has been only one apology to come out of Ferguson—and that is from the man whose stepson's killer had just been set free.
Apologizing for having a reaction to this tragedy would be the equivalent of apologizing for vomiting when you're sick to your stomach. You can be sorry for ruining your friend's couch, but not for how the couch got ruined.
The wine fermenting in the story of Ferguson is steeped in the bitterness of racial injustice, which started long before Louis Head's reaction. It is embedded in this country's DNA, which was here long before Darren Wilson approached Michael Brown and the Ferguson police chief refused to release the officer's name. Long before the video was released of Brown in the store with the cigarillos. Long before the scene of Brown lying in the street with blood running from his head. And we are all drunk off of it if we believe that Head's words incited this incident or that he should ever have had to apologize.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is associate editor of news at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.