Speed Reads

Ferguson

New York Times: Michael Brown was 'no angel' because he smoked, drank, and rapped

Pro tip: When posthumously profiling a teenager whose death sparked a national conversation about race, it's probably best to not shoehorn the deceased into the stereotype of a troubled black kid.

From The New York Times:

Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor. [The New York Times]

Brown, who was shot to death by a police officer earlier this month, was "no angel," apparently because he drank, smoked, and rapped. However, by that metric roughly 80 percent of all American teens aren't angels — since they've consumed alcohol and used drugs, too.

More problematically, though, the description seems to imply Brown was a bad egg who maybe had it coming. As many others have pointed out, "no angel" has a unique connotation when applied to the situation that, though it does not directly link rap music and booze to Brown's death, can easily be read as implying as much.