In Ferguson: Between Law, Justice, and the Pursuit to Exist

mcculloughThese last couple of days I have been struggling to keep afloat. Scrolling through my social media feeds, it only becomes harder to remind myself of the principles of love, patience, and understanding towards others’ misguided sense of privilege and entitlement to speak on what they truly don’t know–the Black American experience. I’m reminded that white allyship can only go so far, that the pain I feel can’t be adequately expressed to them, because there is a certain level of understanding people of privilege can have–and that it has its limits, and this week we have seen those limits materialize.  

I have read more articles than I wish I had, and seen more posts on social media that emphasize the simple point of looking only at the case. No one is blind to the facts. Yes, there is the physical evidence, and how eye witnesses recanted their initial statements. But the fact that police went unusually long before even willing  to hear eyewitness accounts–and then denied some–shows a clear bias. And the initial responses were not in favor of Wilson. This wouldn’t be the first high profile racial case where eyewitness testimony could be bought off or intimidated away. If court cases prior are to be our precedent, let them be our precedent, and let them be adequately represented.

These arguments favor the current systems of power in place that were founded on the principle of inequality–American history can testify to this. To the people behind these arguments, only a certain set of facts should be considered, because to them, the court of law is inherently just. To them, the courts should not be questioned. It was this thinking that allowed Jim Crow, through law, to go unchecked for 60 years, because the Supreme Court said so. It was this status quo mentality that allowed centuries of law, policy, and court cases–Dred v. Scott–to firmly ground the doctrine of race based slavery, and free-blacks to be denied basic Constitutional Amendment rights. To place 100% of our trust in a system where its origins are based in perpetuating inequality–by race, gender and class–goes against the very nature of progress and the tradition of those we look up to. Right now, we have laws that could protect Darren Wilson, allow him to go  free after killing an unarmed teenager, and then escape an actual trial. In Ferguson, there is no law to protect young black men who are confronted alone by the police in the dead of night. There is no law that will take their word into account–and grant them the same weight of Darren Wilson–when eyewitness testimonies are to be questioned.

If we are going to say we know how the law works, then we ought to know the system is incredibly flawed and unequal, and favors people on power/privilege dynamics. To understand racism means to know how powerful it is. To know racism is to know how it has been able to so easily manipulate facts in its favor, and how the inconvenient facts can be–and often are–omitted. So if we want to discuss facts, lets discuss facts–all the facts. Lets talk about how evidence showed Mike Brown 148 ft from the car, as opposed to the initial 30 ft. Lets talk about the photos showing Darren Wilson immediately after the altercation, without a scratch. Lets discuss the role of a prosecutor in a grand jury trial, and how Robert McCulloch’s words resembled that of a defense attorney–in favor of Wilson, rather than the man in charge of prosecuting him. And then show how his personal experiences made him extremely biased in such a case towards Wilson’s acquittal.

Why a grand jury? Why a behind closed door hearing, that concludes not with a verdict, but a decision to actually allow Wilson to face justice? We were just attempting to try Wilson. All we wanted was for him to  be given the same chance under the same system that we lose so many African Americans to unjustly. To have his day in court, we asked. I would like to see the 100,000 lives locked up in New York for nonviolent offenses be given the same grand jury experience Wilson received for killing an unarmed teenager.

At no point in all of this–from his body being left out for four hours, to leaks given before the trial in favor of Wilson, to an organization that raised money for Mike Brown as well as the Prosecutor for his case, to a behind closed door grand jury–was the memory of Mike Brown given a fair chance, or a sense of humanity.

In juxtaposition, on so many levels, we see how power and privilege permeated the criminal justice system in favor of a white police officer. If you can’t see how powerful the force of racism was at every level of these events, then we can’t have an honest conversation based on real hard truths. And then we can’t talk about what justice really is–only just how unfair-systems define it.


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