The Search for Justice and Equality

Once again, this nation faces the questions of justice and equality stemming from the killing of a young African American man by a law enforcement official. The tragic killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by Officer Darren Wilson was sadly a story so similar to those we have seen before.

I have to make my standard comment that “I wasn’t there” and I haven’t read or heard all of the evidence that the grand jury heard so I can’t make a judgment as to Officer Wilson’s guilt or innocence. But, I can say that there were many aspects of the grand jury procedure in this case which raise questions as to the objectivity of the entire endeavor and those should raise concerns for all of us.

There is no justification for violence, looting and damage to property. But, the anger that is felt after the grand jury decision needs to be recognized and confronted.

Regardless of what one feels about this legal proceeding and regardless of the great strides towards equality that have been made in this country, it remains true that African Americans, particularly young African American males are, in many situations, subject to profiling which leaves them vulnerable. That any citizen of this country should feel unsafe on the streets because of their race is unacceptable and must be addressed.

While we may not know what happened in Ferguson that night, we do know that this country must confront the reality of racism as it affects all of us. The question is bigger than just Ferguson. As President Obama said on Monday night: “We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is in too many parts of this country a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.”

We must continue to address the issue of racism in a pro-active way rather than just respond when a tragic event occurs. We must make progress in our goal to be a nation of equality and justice for all.

May the family of Michael Brown be comforted by real change in this country.

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Search for Justice and Equality

  1. Thank you for these thoughts, Rob.

    Some questions that I continue to have are, although officer Wilson may have acted within his legal right to exercise deadly force in self defense (and I’m not suggesting he did, but if technically this is true), does that make it right? In other words, just because he can, should he? Why are police officers permitted to exercise deadly force? Without strict scrutiny of the practice, isn’t it possible that they may prefer to utilize deadly force over other tactics that may be more appropriately warranted?

    When thinking about an altercation between two persons disproportionately armed, I think of David and Goliath. Although Goliath was a huge and imposing person, David had every confidence that he could defeat him. Not because he matched him in strength or braun, but because of his skill with a deadly weapon. Goliath never actually stood a chance. The same self-assurance that David had, armed with his slingshot and the knowledge of his abilities, was surely present in officer Wilson, despite the substance of any preceding altercation. When it came down to it, he knew that he had his gun (and several other means of self defense to choose from, for that matter). But, as an officer of the law, possession of that gun must be coupled with something even more important: a responsibility to use it only under the most unusual circumstances, and even then in a way that does not necessarily seek to kill but to render an aggressor neutral. Was it necessary for Michael Brown to be lethally shot six times when he was obviously unarmed? Granted he may have been physically imposing, and by some accounts physically aggressive with officer Wilson. But in the end, he never stood a chance. Officer Wilson had every assurance he could “control” Michael Brown. But, perhaps responding out of anger (and emboldened by centuries of prejudice against the value of African American life), officer Wilson went much further: he killed Michael Brown. In that moment he took on the roles of judge, jury, and executioner of a young man whose most egregious crime was this: succumbing to the weariness of being systematically hassled by law enforcement just for being black. What can we do to make these practices end?

  2. You raise excellent questions Will and these are types of questions we need to explore not only for this case but for the situation in general. I wish I knew exactly what we could do but we need to do something because regardless of what exactly happened here or in any other specific situation, the factors you raise allow for these types of tragic events to occur. I believe that law enforcement officers must be given the opportunity to do their job properly to protect innocent people but there have to be limitations and there have to be protection for all.

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