Officer Darren Wilson gunned down Michael Brown, age 18, in the street. Brown had no weapon. Wilson shot him at least six times, twice in the head.
A predominantly White Grand Jury failed to indict the White officer. This is nothing new in America. It is a perpetuation of the terrorism rained down on African-Americans since they arrived in this country. Black citizens have very good reason to fear the officers and courts not only because of that history but because they live terrified every day that their son, or father, or husband, or uncle is going to be the next victim. Missouri has just vividly illustrated the injustices of the past and reminded us that the majority of White people in our nation simply cannot bring themselves to hold Black life as valuable as their own.
The prosecutor said more than once in his statement to the world that this was a “horrible tragedy.” He seems content to blame, as the majority of the Grand Jury members did, the victim for having been shot six times.
The refusal to indict is a miserable failure. Yes, the execution is a horrible tragedy but now, coupled by a reluctance to do what is just and bring to trial the police officer who killed Mr. Brown, it is a damnable indictment upon Missouri and our nation. Mr. Brown’s parents deserved to know, the Black communities of this country deserved to know (since they have borne this kind of violence and hatred from the inception of this nation), and we should all know why Officer Wilson felt so threatened that he would fire his weapon multiple times into the body of an unarmed Black man.
By the way, ours is a society that has no problem with a White man carrying openly a gun or assault rifle in Target or in crowds or at a Presidential rally, but defends the shooting of a twelve-year-old child of color in Cleveland who carried and brandished a plastic pellet gun near a rec center, and defends a man who guns down an unarmed eighteen-year-old in the street. America loves its guns, tolerates them in the hands of White men, but reacts in a killing second when they see a Black person-child-teen-adult with a gun or a fake gun. God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, they feel threatened if a Black man doesn’t have a gun! We have not witnessed justice in Missouri. What we have witnessed is a wicked perversity demonstrated by the show-me-state.
Justice demands acknowledgement of the racist dimensions at work in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Repentance, to use an old biblical term, is needed. And I say that especially to both the jeering rightwing bigots and the Christians who in their apathetic segregated congregations turn not their cheek, but simply turn indifferently away. We should know by now what is needed. Micah the prophet said it.
God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
The refusal to hold accountable a White police officer who killed an unarmed Black man cannot be reconciled to that scripture. Until a whole bunch of White churches start taking that seriously, they may as well use their bibles for a doorstop at the entrance to hell. If, however, White Christians saw the face of Christ in their Black brothers and sisters, they would not tolerate this. We might actually make some progress toward justice for all.
Rise up, not to riot and kill and pillage, but to vote, protest, demand and create change, hold persons accountable and create a just society. Yes, we should seek the better angels in all persons, but at the same time call out the devil when he shows up, even with a badge.