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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Richard Sherman got excited and ranted a bit after deflecting a touchdown pass into the hands of a teammate. Justin Bieber has been arrested for drag racing under the influence. And everyone has an opinion on both of these events, as well as opinions about everyone else’s opinion.

Here’s mine: good people, we are being snowed.

We are at war in two different countries. Climate change has almost reached the point of no return, with no sign of effective action to prevent it. Yet hardly anyone is talking about either of these issues.

As a survivor of campus rape, I should have been delighted by this headline from AP reporter Nedra Pickler: “Obama targets college sexual assault epidemic.” My reaction surprised me, though. As much as I admire Pres. Obama, I felt really ticked off at him. With all of the different causes he could have chosen to take on next, he chooses campus safety? Isn’t that the responsibility of college administrations? I’m not saying the college sexual assault epidemic isn’t important; I’m saying that it is not what the President of our nation should be focusing on. It feels like a ‘safe’ choice, as if the president and his advisors, exhausted by being continually under attack, said to themselves, “Is there anything we can talk about that won’t give the opposition any ammunition?”

A.J. Liebling has said, “The function of the press in society is to inform, but its role in society is to make money.” Sadly, this puts the burden on ‘we the people’ to make sure that we are informed, active, and involved. If we are going to do the job of the ‘free’ press as well as our own, we can’t afford to be distracted by fluffy celebrity stories, nor can we choose our priorities based on what is safe and non-controversial.