Michael Brown

Michael Brown, 18, was unarmed when he was shot by Officer Darren Wilson on the street in Ferguson, Missouri after a confrontation. A grand jury declined to indict Officer Wilson. In his grand jury testimony, Wilson’s description of Brown was rife with racist allusions. As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie points out, “ Wilson’s physical description of Brown, which sits flush with a century of stereotypes and a bundle of recent research on implicit bias and racial perceptions of pain. In so many words, Wilson describes the “black brute,” a stock figure of white supremacist rhetoric in the lynching era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The southern press was rife with articles attacking the “Negro Beast” and the “Big Black Brute,”…To the white public, the “black brute” was a menacing, powerful creature who could withstand the worst punishment. … Add to this what we know about implicit bias—that most people perceive blacks as more violent and dangerous than other groups—and you have a Darren Wilson narrative that reads like a textbook case of racial projection.”

“He was just staring at me, almost like to intimidate me or to overpower me,” Wilson said. It was then when Brown, according to Wilson, reached into his police SUV and punched him. “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” Wilson, who is 6′ 4″ and 210 lbs., said of Brown, who was 6′ 4″ and 292 lbs. at the time of his death. Wilson said that Brown went for the officer’s gun, saying: “You are too much of a p—- to shoot me.” He said Brown tried to get his fingers inside the trigger. “And then after he did that, he looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.” Wilson testified that his gun went off twice inside the vehicle. Brown then began to flee and Wilson followed. But Brown turned around. “He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back toward me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running,” Wilson said. “At this point,” Wilson said, “it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.” It was then that Wilson fired multiple rounds at Brown, from roughly 8 to 10 feet away. Wilson said that he witnessed one of those shots hitting Brown. “And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean, I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped,” he testified.

Researchers have found that whites are more likely to attribute superhuman abilities—like enhanced strength and endurance or the ability to deflect bullets—to blacks than any other group. "A Superhumanization Bias in Whites' Perceptions of Blacks," published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, examines the idea that black people have been historically dehumanized, "from constitutional denial of full legal personhood to enslavement." This “Superhumanization” of Blacks may also explain police fear of blacks and why people consider Black juveniles to be more ‘adult’ than White juveniles when judging culpability.