The media frenzy about police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York have a disturbing connection that has not been mentioned. In all cases the men involved acted in the shadow side of their masculine energy. Let me break it down. In the Ferguson incident, Michael Brown the young man who was killed, started the chain of events by stealing a box of cigars and pushing aside a store clerk who tried to stop him. He was then confronted by a police officer, apparently refused to move to the sidewalk and engaged the cop, Darren Wilson, in a physical altercation which ended up with Michael being shot to death. Michael’s stealing and assault of the store clerk and his subsequent confrontation with Darren Wilson point to impulsive and aggressive behaviors that can be attributed to masculine energy in excess. Officer Wilson over reacted to the aggressive behavior of Michael and pursued him leading to his shooting of a clearly unarmed individual. Did Wilson act out of a vengeful need to recapture his manhood because he was disrespected and punched by Michael? Again, Wilson’s masculine energy was inappropriately expressed with excessive force. The result. One life lost, one career ruined and a community outraged over the apparent racial aspects of the incident.
In Staten Island, Eric Garner was selling untaxed cigarettes on a street corner. A crime, although petty, it is against the law and known to Garner who was a previous offender. When confronted by officer Daniel Pantoleo he did not follow the officer’s instructions and his refusal led to the cop taking him down in an apparent choke hold which subsequently killed him. Garner made two decisions. The first one was to consciously break the law. The second was to refuse Ponteleo’s commands because he didn’t want to be arrested. Garner’s decision to break the law is once more an expression of an excess of masculinity – I can risk defying a law for my own gain. As for Officer Pantoleo, we do not have the audio portion of his confrontation with Garner, but we can easily hypothesize that Pantoleo’s sense of his mamboed was challenged by Garner’s verbal refusal to obey. Why else would the officer have made the decision to employ an illegal choke hold to bring down the offender who was unarmed, not physically aggressive but simply refusing to do what the officer demanded. Pantoleo over reacted as a result of his excessive male energy driven by his personal need to be instantly obeyed and respected. The result, Garner is dead, Pantoleo will most likely lose his job and another community is outraged over the racial aspects of the incident.
Let me be clear.. I am not attempting to negate the racial implications inherent in these cases. In both instances a white police officer’s actions led to the death of a black man. However, I believe there is an additional narrative to be considered concerning how men can express their masculinity. Men need to learn how to more appropriately act in the light not the shadow of their masculine aggression. Aggression which can often lead to violence needs to be expressed as non-violent assertiveness. Men can fully embrace their masculinity without resorting to violence to preserve it.