Regardless of the grand jury’s decision, America’s response to the shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., this year has been, predominantly, one of outrage. Officer Darren Wilson has fallen so far out of public favor that his unpopularity became an uneasy punchline in a Saturday Night Live skit (albeit one that didn’t air) in which a chef with a similar name has it pulled from the cover of his newly-published cookbook.

Thirty years ago today, on Dec. 22, an altogether different story played out on a New York City subway car, when a white man shot four black youths he believed were about to mug him — and instead of being reviled, he was celebrated. Before his name was known, newspapers dubbed him the “subway vigilante,” and many New Yorkers hailed him as a hero. When Bernhard Goetz finally turned himself in…

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