“And justice for all?”

25 Nov

Image Source: https://ionetheurbandaily.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/mike-brown-street.jpg?w=660

Last night I went to bed shortly after learning of the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict the officer who killed Michael Brown. I was sad and outraged.

I’m not saying that the officer should necessarily be convicted (I’d need to see all the evidence to decide), but I can’t understand how – in a case where an unarmed teenager was shot six times – there isn’t enough evidence to at least charge the shooter and move forward to trial. At least, that’s my understanding of what a Grand Jury is supposed to determine.

As I turned off my light for the night, I thought about Michael Brown’s family – and my friends who weren’t born with white skin.

About 45 minutes later, I was awakened by what sounded like screams coming from my alley. I bolted out of bed, grabbing my cell phone, thinking someone was being attacked and I’d need to call 911. Once I got my bearings, however, I realized I was hearing shouting, not screaming, and there were many voices, not one.

I pulled my shades and looked out to see waves of red and blue light, indicating police were already on the scene. Waking up a bit more, I realized that I was hearing a crowd of people protesting the Ferguson verdict. Because my windows don’t face the street, I could only see the police lights and hear the chanting.

My mind raced – was it a peaceful protest or was it teetering on the edge of a riot? I stood at my window, listening, and finally deducing that the voices and lights were moving – presumably marching down 16th Street to the White House.

I sagged back into bed, contemplating my reaction. I’d instinctively grabbed my phone to call the police and had found some reassurance when I realized they were already involved with whatever was happening.

 

One the whole, police do far more good than bad. And they’ve voluntarily signed up to put themselves in the line of danger to protect and serve their communities. I appreciate their service. But I wonder how different my view would be if I hadn’t been born with pale skin… if I were pulled over because my car looked “too nice” for me to own, if I had to worry that by wearing a hoodie I’d look “suspicious.”

If that were the case, I can’t say my first reaction in a potentially threatening situation would be to call the police. And that’s the conversation I think we need to be having.

Rather simply looking for justice in the conviction of his shooter, wouldn’t Michael Brown’s life be better commemorated by opening a real dialogue about white privilege and racial profiling, so we can begin challenging the thinking that prompts officers to read threats where they don’t exist – and that can prevent minorities from seeing police as their allies?

So let’s keep this conversation going. But let’s also remember that conversations aren’t people. Michael Brown was a “gentle giant,” a student and a son.

While he might not have gotten justice, I hope his legacy brings justice for others.

 

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10 Responses to ““And justice for all?””

  1. msmalarkey November 25, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    It is hard for me to take a stance on the verdict without having read all the supporting documents. I will say, however, that I think that when we (as a society) blindly believe that all authority figures are working towards our best interest, we are being far too naive. Not every police officer is in it to protect and serve, just like not every politician is in it for the betterment of the every man. Does that mean we should condemn them all? Of course not. But if we want to be better, we must do better. We must demand better. Our society depends on it.

  2. Seasweetie November 25, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    Well said. I too cannot understand the decision of the grand jury that there was insufficient evidence for some charge, and that decision made me sad. But rioting and violent protests only help to perpetuate the very unjust stereotypes that this case has showcased. I rather wish that Martin Luther King, such a wise and peaceable man, were here to lead all of us to a clearer understanding of who we are to one another. At this time, I see no leader stepping up to do so. And again, that saddens me.

    • pithypants November 29, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      I hear you. There is no winner in this scenario – just a lot of sadness and destruction. It’s often easy – as a middle class white woman – to overlook the racial disparity that still exists in our country. I couldn’t come up with any immediate action I could take to solve the problem, so I joined the NAACP hoping that my dollars would help the legal fight for equality and that the connection would increase my ongoing awareness of the challenges. Doesn’t feel like much, but it’s something.

  3. thesinglecell November 26, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    *shows up with all the documents*
    This link takes you to the PDFs of every testimony and piece of evidence presented to the grand jury.
    http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/11/us/ferguson-grand-jury-docs/index.html

    As you will see, it’s a crap-ton. That is a lot of stuff for 12 men and women to go through (nine white, three African American/black). In St. Louis County, it takes a 3/4 majority to indict. The vote is secret and the count will not be announced.

    A grand jury is empaneled to determine whether ANY charge should be brought. So in this case, it’s not just whether Officer Wilson should have been indicted for murder, but for any crime at all.

    There are a lot of layers to this situation.. a lot. White privilege, white authority and power over African Americans/black people, simmering tensions, visceral reactions, the psychology of rioting, etc. I was talking with a woman who works for an organization that promotes city living, and she was telling me that, if you laid a map of riot locations from the ’60s over a map of our city, you would clearly see that the riot locations still match up with the most blighted parts of town. In other words, the neighborhoods that fall to a single destructive riot never come back. (Pithy, you might think about how long it has taken U Street to come back after 1968… Ben’s Chili Bowl notwithstanding.) Watching Ferguson the last two nights, I was terribly saddened to think that those who were rioting didn’t care if they destroyed everything forever, including people’s livelihoods.

    I personally have thought a lot about this situation, but have refrained from offering opinions, because at bottom, I was not there, and I do not think that the people who have shared accounts of that incident have done so without some motivation, one way or another. But in terms of the grand jury’s layer, no one’s opinions are valid without knowing what they had to consider.

    • pithypants November 29, 2014 at 7:12 am #

      Glad this means you haven’t disappeared from the blogosphere! Now channel all of this into an post for us. You know you want to…

      • thesinglecell November 30, 2014 at 10:20 am #

        I’m still reading. Not sure about the writing yet. But if you meant to say I basically wrote a blog post as a comment… guilty. 🙂

  4. Lorna's Voice November 26, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    Nicely said.

    • pithypants November 29, 2014 at 7:11 am #

      Thanks. I wish it were more eloquent – I just wanted to get something out there as I was sorting through my thoughts.

  5. maggie moore November 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Did you happen to see that “gentle giant” stomach-butt that little store clerk aside while stealing from him? Just another perspective on the subject. You can call him a young black man and a son (who lived with his grandmother) but you have no proof of the gentleness of this giant. He seemed hellbent on getting into trouble that day and the real question is why? What happened to him that he seemed to want the cop to shoot him? There is a possibility of some psychosis according to texts he had been sending to his mother. Cops have been known to shoot white grandmothers too. Pose a threat and one can get killed.

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