The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is heartbreaking. He was a young black man, on his way to school next week and his life was tragically cut short by a police officer. The details are sketchy. We’ve been told two very different accounts of what happened on Saturday afternoon, but one thing is clear: Michael Brown is dead. 

According to St. Louis County Police Department chief Jon Belmar, “the shooting occurred after an officer encountered two people—one of whom was Mr. Brown—on the street near an apartment complex in Ferguson. Mr. Belmar said one of the men pushed the officer back into his squad car and a struggle began. Mr. Belmar said at least one shot was fired from the officer’s gun inside the police car. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said authorities were still sorting out what happened inside the police car. It wasn’t clear if Mr. Brown was the man who struggled with the officer.The struggle spilled out into the street, where Mr. Brown was shot multiple times. Mr. Belmar said the exact number of shots wasn’t known, but “it was more than just a couple.” He also said all shell casings found at the scene matched the officer’s gun. Police are still investigating why the officer shot Mr. Brown, who police have confirmed was unarmed.”

The account is drastically different from witnesses. Those who observed the altercation say Brown did nothing to instigate the shooting, and appeared to be surrending when he was killed. They say he was walking in the middle of the street with a friend when the officer drove up and ordered them to the sidewalk. Media outlets report that “Brown’s friend told the officer they were just minutes from their destination — and they would soon be out of the street” and “after a verbal confrontation, one witness says the officer got out of his squad car and fired a shot.” Some reports say that Brown was killed after a struggle for the officer’s gun occurred. 

By all accounts, there are more than a few holes that need to filled here. Why did the police officer, whose race has not been disclosed stop the boys? It isn’t far-fetched to assume they were victims of good old-fashioned racial profiling. Also, why was shooting the last resort? Did Michael reach for the officer’s gun? If not, why not simply chase him down or alert other officers? An investigation is pending and the officer involved has been placed on paid leave.

Now, there is another thing to deal with. RIOTS. They’ve been taking place since Sunday. And they are horrible. While I understand that folks are upset over what happened to Michael Brown, I do not condone looting. Especially the looting of businesses in our own neighbors. Granted, we own very little in our communities, but the innocent businessmen and women should not suffer for the injustice committed by an entirely different entity. Gas stations have been set on fire. Businesses robbed and destroyed, but the “outrage” has not stopped there.

I have friends who are literally afraid for their loved ones living in Ferguson because they have had to fight off people attempting to break into their home. How the hell is robbing your neighbor going to aid us in our fight for equality?

Many have stated that anyone in opposition is victim blaming. How?! It is simply stating that an alternative solution is necessary for us to see progress.

I get it. We are tired. Tired of the injustice. Tired of racial profiling. But what will robbing your neighbor solve? Absolutely nothing. More people could be hurt or even killed. It’s not the way to go.

Emotions are high and we are angry, but we cannot legitimize THEIR actions by responding from an emotional place. That’s exactly what rioting does. When combating systematic racism, we have to channel our emotions to spark effective long-lasting change. Otherwise we’re just giving our oppressors an excuse to rise against us.

If anything, rioting and looting is TAKING AWAY from our fight for justice. When has rioting ever accomplished anything? Protest and demands for justice can take on many different forms and this well-placed anger and passion would be better served addressing the continued injustice as opposed to providing another convenient excuse for the abuse and death of more people of color. They want us to riot, think about it.