No justice. No peace.

November 25, 2014

My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of thoughtful analysis, rallying cries, beautiful poems and prayers.  They are also full of grief and rage and frustration- as they should be.  Let’s pause and acknowledge what just happened:

A door slammed shut, a door that could have led to a better future.  Unlikely though it may seem, especially in retrospect, the law enforcement community could have used this moment and this momentum to transform themselves.  Prosecutor McCulloch might have done his job, which was to build enough of a case against Darren Wilson to make a trial a viable option.  Had the Grand Jury indicted Darren Wilson, last night could have been the first step on a journey toward greater police accountability, toward an acknowledgement of the pervasive racism in our ‘justice’ system and our nation, toward a peace built together.  It could have been a moment when ‘business as usual’ gave way to new understandings and deeper compassion.

Instead, not only was the verdict a slap in the face to everyone who has dedicated time, money, energy and love to the cause of securing justice for Mike Brown, it was delivered in such a way as to ensure that justifiable rage and grief would overflow into violence.  I am not a conspiracy theorist, but it seems to me that the steps the governor took during the lead-up to the announcement, the choice to announce at night, and the interminable and abusive thirty minutes that Prosecutor McCulloch spent saying things that HAD to have been deliberately chosen to inflame add up to a rather sinister plan to trigger riots and looting.  I am not a violent person, either, but I wanted to punch McCulloch.

Frankly, I wanted to punch President Obama, too.  His plea for a non-violent response felt like pure hypocrisy layered on top of a masterful campaign to turn things ugly.  What I wanted to hear my president say?  “We are horrified at this gross miscarriage of justice.  Rest assured, there will be a full investigation at the Federal level.”  Full stop.

This morning, all of us who care are still reeling.  I feel bruised and battered, and I know that my feelings as a white ally can only reflect a fraction of what people of color are feeling…and their pain is only a fraction of what the people closest to Mike Brown will be living with for the rest of their lives.

I think we need to stay here for a moment; we need to pause in the pain, the confusion, the frustration, the rage at the slammed door, the slap in the face.  We need to gather our strength and our resolve for a time.  Because when the way is shut, there is nothing for it but to turn, and find another way.

I don’t know what that other way might look like. I know it is likely to be a lot more difficult to find and to navigate.  Perhaps in places other than Ferguson, there is still hope that we can ease the door back open.  We can have conversations with police officers where we are.  We can talk about racial profiling and body cameras and anti-oppressive training.  We can serve on police oversight committees, and if such committees don’t exist, we can lobby our municipal governments to form them.

If none of that works, well, I have tremendous faith in the generation of brilliant young leaders of color who showed up in Ferguson.  They will find the new way.  The path will be carved out of hard, unforgiving soil; we have to excavate the depths of this nation’s racist history.  We have to be willing to start with ourselves, to crack open our hearts and dig out the lingering traces of defensiveness and privilege.  I am standing by, pick ax and shovel close to hand.

But for now, a pause, and a rallying cry that has turned into a confession:  No justice.  No peace.

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One Response to “No justice. No peace.”

  1. ashleyl2 Says:

    I appreciate your post, Liz. I have had so many emotions over the last 24 hours: despair, anger, the desire to give it up, loss of faith in our “justice” system, deep anger at the layers of racism at work in this case, on and on and on. I cried myself to sleep thinking of what it must feel like to be Michael’s mother, Trayvon’s mother and the mother of the 12 year old killed in Ohio this week. I can never know what they truly feel, but my empathic self slipped up along side them and just hung there for awhile. It was so painful to imagine.

    I know what you mean about spending time in the pain. I wanted to join UU ministers today at UW but will go instead to the Juvenile Detention Center and hold kids in a safe space as they process what it means to be away from their families on a holiday while others celebrate, eat good food, and are together. I can’t do all I want to do, so i must choose what works best so that I can be effective.

    I, too, have faith in our younger people, of all colors, and I hope they can get the chance to live lives of abundance, safety and joy. Meanwhile, I will do what I can to support them into that life. It helps to be together today, virtually, if not actually.

    I am listening to “I Remember, I Believe” sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock. The tenacity and faith expressed in that song is helping me move through the darkness of this day and on into the future. Blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving. I am grateful to be alive, to tell the stories that need to be told, and able to act and “raise my voice for justice.” I have to believe. The alternative is too dark and not an option.
    ~Lisa Ashley, MDiv
    Spiritual Director


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