If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they're working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.
"There are certainly passionate differences about what has happened," said the president in his studiously cautious statement. Maybe so. But anyone who thinks the cops in Ferguson are just reacting appropriately to genuine threats should watch this video, in which clearly peaceful protesters are blatantly attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets:
A mostly black American town is under quasi-military occupation by mostly white cops. The images are shocking. But for many black Americans, this isn't an aberration from normal relations with the police. It's a heightened example of normal.