If it was not evident by that lengthy testimony following his killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Darren Wilson has a knack for eyebrow-raising quotes. Just one week before the anniversary of Brown’s tragic death, The New Yorker published a profile on the former Ferguson police officer who elevated the #BlackLivesMatter movement to one of rightful outrage. Interviewed in the confines of his secluded St. Louis home, Wilson offered his thoughts on race relations and life after the ordeal.
Twitter wasted no time with their reactions to the controversial choice to profile Wilson, with sentiment ranging from disgust, to refusal to read the article, to criticism of the reporting:
They did the same they’re doing with darren wilson that they did with Zimmerman. Amerikkka loves to humanize child killers.
— StopKillingOurKids (@Equal_Lefts) August 3, 2015
The only Darren Wilson profile I want to see is one of him in orange prison scrubs getting his mug shot taken.
— Drew Gibson (@SuppressThis) August 3, 2015
This Darren Wilson article is the biggest form of #exposuretrolling I’ve seen to date. I am disgusted. Just completely disgusted.
— #SandySpeaks (@LeslieMac) August 3, 2015
If the @NewYorker were bold, they would’ve had a black writer do the story on Darren Wilson and not Jake Halpern, another white man.
— deray mckesson (@deray) August 3, 2015
If reading an extensive piece on Michael Brown’s assailant is not on your agenda for today, simply browse these quotes from Wilson below:
1. He told me that he had not read the Justice Department’s report on the systemic racism in Ferguson. “I don’t have any desire,” he said. “I’m not going to keep living in the past about what Ferguson did. It’s out of my control.”
2. The towns in what is called North County tend to be poorer, and to have a higher percentage of black residents, than other towns in the St. Louis area—such as St. Peters, the broadly middle-class, white town where Wilson grew up. North County also has more crime. Wilson felt that working in a tough area would propel his career. “If you go there and you do three to five years, get your experience, you can kind of write your own ticket,” he said.
3. He granted that, in North County, the overt racism of past decades affected “elders” who lived through that time. “People who experienced that, and were mistreated, have a legitimate claim,” he told me. “Other people don’t.” I asked him if he thought that young people in North County and elsewhere used this legacy as an excuse. “I think so,” he replied.
4. “I am really simple in the way that I look at life,” Wilson said. “What happened to my great-grandfather is not happening to me. I can’t base my actions off what happened to him.” Wilson said that police officers didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on the past. “We can’t fix in thirty minutes what happened thirty years ago,” he said. “We have to fix what’s happening now. That’s my job as a police officer. I’m not going to delve into people’s life-long history and figure out why they’re feeling a certain way, in a certain moment.” He added, “I’m not a psychologist.”
5. “Everyone is so quick to jump on race. It’s not a race issue.” There were two opposing views about policing, he said: “There are people who feel that police have too much power, and they don’t like it. There are people who feel police don’t have enough power, and they don’t like it.”
6. “When I left Jennings, I didn’t want to work in a white area,” Wilson told me. “I liked the black community,” he went on. “I had fun there. . . . There’s people who will just crack you up.” He also liked the fact that there was more work for the police in a town like Jennings—more calls to answer, more people to meet. “I didn’t want to just sit around all day,” he said.
7. “There’s a lack of jobs everywhere,” he replied, brusquely. “But there’s also lack of initiative to get a job. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” He acknowledged that the jobs available in Ferguson often paid poorly, but added, “That’s how I started. You’ve got to start somewhere.”
8. “They’re so wrapped up in a different culture than—what I’m trying to say is, the right culture, the better one to pick from.” This sounded like racial code language. I pressed him: what did he mean by “a different culture”? Wilson struggled to respond. He said that he meant “pre-gang culture, where you are just running in the streets—not worried about working in the morning, just worried about your immediate gratification.” He added, “It is the same younger culture that is everywhere in the inner cities.”
9. Wilson told me that Ferguson’s force had a few bigoted members, but he denied that racism was institutional. The Justice Department’s numbers were “skewed,” he said. “You can make those numbers fit whatever agenda you want.”
10. “Neither one of us knew what the reaction was going to be the next day,” Wilson said. “You know, a typical police shooting is: you get about a week to a week and a half off, you see a shrink, you go through your Internal Affairs interviews. And then you come back.”
11. I asked Wilson what he would do if the Ferguson police force offered him his job back. He seemed startled. “I would—um—” “I would want to do it for a day,” Darren said, finally, to show people that he was not “defeated.”
12. You do realize that his parents are suing me?” he said. “So I have to think about him.” He went on, “Do I think about who he was as a person? Not really, because it doesn’t matter at this point. Do I think he had the best upbringing? No. Not at all.”
13. “I only knew him for those forty-five seconds in which he was trying to kill me, so I don’t know,” Wilson said.
14. At one point, I asked Wilson if he missed walking outside and going to restaurants. He told me that he still ate out, but only at certain places. “We try to go somewhere—how do I say this correctly?—with like-minded individuals,” he said. “You know. Where it’s not a mixing pot.”