Militarized streets have some bearing, of course. But they deflect attention from the real, unchanging reason #MichaelBrown died: racism.
Petty shoplifter or not, a young black man is always more likely to be seen as trouble than his white peer.
That said, 13 years of continuous war in Afghanistan and Iraq have undoubtedly left America with a lot of surplus military hardware.
And it’s being dispensed – at peppercorn prices – to police forces throughout the country as part of the 1033 Program, which is named for a section of the National Defense Authorization Act. So, there’s congressional approval for military equipment worth at least $4.3 bn to go to the police, according to some media reports. (Click here to read an excellent Newsweek piece, filed Aug 13, 2014).
The 1033 Program has enabled some forces to buy MRAPS, for instance, for less than $3,000 a piece. The standard price for a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle would be at least $700,000.
I’ve been in MRAPs. You’ve got to wonder what they’re doing on the streets of Smallsville, small-town America. Or Marine-issue camouflage, military-grade body armor, short-barreled assault rifles.