This morning is the funeral for Michael Brown, the African-American teenager gunned down in Ferguson, Mo. by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. A profile of Brown in today’s New York Times says that the 18-year-old “was no angel,” citing the following reasons:

  • “He lived in a community that had rough patches”
  • “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”

In other words, he sounds like a very normal 18-year-old boy. The implication that these things somehow led to—or even justified—Brown being killed by a police officer is as insane as it is offensive to his memory. To run a piece like this (which to be fair does discuss the positive aspects of his life as well) on the day of his funeral likewise seems very disrespectful and distracts from the sadness of burying a young man who should be getting ready to go to college.

The dangerous implication that Brown’s relatively typical teenage boundary pushing somehow meant that he brought his death on himself has upset a huge swath of readers, who have taken to Twitter to voice their displeasure in both powerful and clever ways:

So we've defined "no angel" down to mean drank while underage and smoked pot? That effectively makes 92 percent of Americans "no angels."

— Jeff Fecke (@jkfecke) August 25, 2014

I'm no angel. Don't shoot the messenger.

— Phillip (@Lluminous_) August 25, 2014

I hope @nytimes doesn't find out about the time I stole beer from my dad when I was 20. I guess I was no angel...

— Biern (@pisan569) August 25, 2014

Hell, let’s just ask @nytimes to publish the irrelevant but salacious details about everyone who’s the victim of any crime. #noangel

— Evan Sutton (@suttnutz) August 25, 2014

There is not a human on earth who won't look like "no angel" under scrutiny. This is because "angels" do not exist

— Molly Crabapple (@mollycrabapple) August 25, 2014

"So-and-so, who was sexually assaulted last week, was no angel." "The X family, whose house was torched last week, were no angels."

— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) August 25, 2014

I'll be honest: my 3 year old daughter is no angel. She can be a real brat. Still, even I would say it's wrong to summarily execute her.

— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) August 25, 2014

Now to read the NYT Darren Wilson profile. I'm sure they'll note that he, too, is "no angel," right?

— JeffSharlet (@JeffSharlet) August 25, 2014

Hey @nytimes I need to know if I was executed will I be "no angel" in my writeup bc I kiss on the first date & I shoplifted in the 4th grade

— Boy Toy Troy (@pterosaur) August 25, 2014

George W. Bush used coke and weed, got a DUI at 30, lied about WMD and tortured people. @nytimes never once said he was "no angel."

— mike (@mikesbadtweets) August 25, 2014

[via NYT]