Now, in the wake of Ferguson, we have some work to do. On Twitter, academics have been organizing classroom topics under the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus. Here’s my suggestion to add to the list. The entire testimony of Darren Wilson is available online, along with the rest of the grand-jury evidence. Those are our primary sources. Whatever your disciplinary lens is, you’ll find something worth saying once you engage with those documents.I offer a few examples in the piece, then suggest we all go ad fontes. To the sources!
UPDATE: Over at Slate, Katy Waldman expands on similar themes.
Of course, Wilson’s characterization of Brown doesn’t really fall into this tradition of literal, deranged belief. Instead it emerges, if unwittingly, from a long history of equating blackness with devilry. Literature is rife with examples: In Othello, the Moorish antihero is relentlessly compared to a demon. (When he swears that Desdemona has “gone to burning hell” for her unfaithfulness, another character rages: “O, more the angel she/ And you the blacker devil!”) Rudyard Kipling’s odious poem “La Nuit Blanche” has the narrator recount a ghastly dream in which “a huge black Devil City”—possibly representing Africa—“poured its peoples on my path.” Nor is contemporary culture immune from the association: In 2013, the History Channel infuriated liberal viewers for airing a miniseries, The Bible, that cast Satan as a Barack Obama lookalike.