Michael Brown, 18, was unarmed when a police officer fatally shot him on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo.
Andrew Gaynier, 26, was unarmed when a police officer fatally shot him on Aug. 10 in Dallas, Texas.
Brown's death triggered outrage and demonstrations across the land.
Gaynier's did not.
Brown's funeral Monday in St. Louis was a major story at the center of persisting national debate about police treatment - or mistreatment? - of black Americans, especially young males.
Gaynier's Aug. 15 funeral on in Carrollton, Texas, was not a major story.
Brown was black.
Gaynier was white.
And yes, the deaths of black Americans in encounters with law enforcement generally generate more attention - and ethnic tension - than the deaths of white Americans.
For instance, much closer to home, Denzel Curnell, 19, died of a gunshot on June 20 outside an apartment complex on North Romney Street. Authorities subsequently cleared the Charleston Police officer involved in that incident. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson called the black teen's death a "clear" suicide.
The officer is black.
But black, white or other, the Curnell case touched lots of nerves around here.
The Rev. Joseph A. Darby, first vice president of the Charleston NAACP, wrote a guest column that ran on our Commentary page last week, defending local branch President Dot Scott for expressing continuing concerns about the Curnell case.
Darby asserted: "There are still unanswered questions and gaps in the information on the events surrounding Mr. Curnell's death."
And there is still a vast racial gap in U.S. - and S.C. - attitudes about the police.
OK, so a double standard makes it a bigger deal when cops kill black people than when they kill white people.
Yet there also seems to be a double standard that makes cops more likely to give black than white people a hard time.
Whom do you trust?
Sure, the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the eulogists at Brown's funeral Monday, is a blatant opportunist who habitually sharpens racial resentments. The respect he commands despite his key role in the Tawana Brawley hoax reflects a galling double standard, too.
But Sharpton's record as a charlatan can't erase the widespread perception that too many cops (and not just white ones) are too often suspicious of too many black people - and vice versa.
And no offense to fellow conservatives (and not just white ones), but that isn't just a myth spread by outside agitators.
Over the decades, several black friends of mine have shared personal, credible stories of being, to borrow a vintage phrase, unfairly "hassled by The Man."
That includes random stops, questioning and detainment. That includes verbal and physical abuse. That includes race-based harassment here and in the supposedly more ethnically enlightened Northeast.
These troubling accounts haven't come from activists, and certainly not from thugs. They have come from hard-working, law-abiding, not-very-political folks who don't wear hoodies.
Sure, cops work hard, too, at a low-paying, high-risk job.
And just as nobody should rush to judgment against anybody in a hoodie, nobody should rush to judgment against anybody in a police uniform.
Nobody should give up on improving police-community relations, either.
Andrew Knapp reported in Saturday's Post and Courier that members of a Community Action Team from the Charleston Police Department are working on "strengthening their bond with residents in parts of Charleston's Neck Area and upper peninsula."
Meanwhile, the most deadly risk for black Americans lies not from overzealous police but from criminals.
In the name of the law
Another practical reality:
Obeying police officers is much less perilous than defying them.
Sunil Dutta, an adjunct homeland security professor at Colorado Tech and 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, wrote last week in The Washington Post:
"If you believe (or know) that the cop stopping you is violating your rights or is acting like a bully, I guarantee that the situation will not become easier if you show your anger and resentment. Worse, initiating a physical confrontation is a sure recipe for getting hurt."
But arbitrarily rejecting black Americans' complaints about police conduct - and misconduct - is a sure recipe for deeper racial division.
Back to hoodies:
Mine will be back on the streets again in a few months.
No, that won't be my way to showing solidarity with Trayvon Martin.
It will be a way to keep my ears warm and my head dry.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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