One indictment wouldn’t come close to dismantling a power structure that is dead set on reinforcing the insignificance of Black lives in America.
Many of us watched the aftermath unfold on cable news, wondering if we were bearing witness or merely acting as voyeurs as we watched the unraveling of a community’s last hope for a dignified outcome.
Mike Brown wasn’t just denied justice last night. The people of Ferguson were set up. That set-up is part of an ongoing punishment inflicted on Black Americans for daring to demand that their children’s lives are valued. From prosecutor McCulloch’s defiant and suspiciously timed announcement, to the strange emptiness of President Obama’s speech, it was clear–if it wasn’t abundantly clear before–that something is terribly wrong in America. What ails us are not the desperate acts of confused, angry, hopeless young people in Ferguson, Missouri. No, it’s deeply embedded in our systems of justice, governance and education. It’s also deeply embedded in our families and ourselves.
Tim Wise took to Facebook this morning to break down the set-up:
There was something sadly fitting about watching flames and smoke engulf Ferguson’s street lamps, prettily decorated with strings of Christmas lights and red bows. There is no Thanksgiving for Mike Brown and his family. No holiday for which they will be whole again. That is what we must uphold as the most evident truth here. A life has been snuffed out and a family has been shattered. A black male is killed by police or vigilantes every 28 hours in this country. Every 28 hours.
The only way out of this deep, inhumane hole is to make this about more than just holding police officers accountable. About more than acknowledging that prosecutor McCulloch is woefully biased, to put it mildly. We need to make this about holding accountable the people who give them license to shoot with impunity in the first place, those people who respond with indifference. It’s also about holding ourselves accountable for our everyday biases.
Darren Wilson is a bottom rung racist. He is a small part of the grand scheme that is systemic racism. One indictment wouldn’t come close to dismantling a power structure that is dead set on reinforcing the insignificance of Black lives in America. But it would have signaled a change, a step - however small - toward something better.
The question remains, can we still send the message that we will do everything in our power to hold racists, top to bottom, accountable? Many of us are asking ourselves how to process this great injustice and move forward. For the long-term, we need to do a better job of recognizing, supporting, and amplifying the work of Black-led community groups and making sure our local media is shedding light on communities just like Ferguson that are targeted by police violence. But there are also very tangible things we can do right now:
- Show up today. Attend a demonstration, a march or just take a few moments to dedicate space on your twitter or Facebook to all the people who will show up today and tomorrow and the next day. Click here for a listing of actions in the U.S. and around the world.
- Support a petition to secure justice for Mike Brown and a requirement that all police officers wear body cameras.
- Know your rights. Read about your rights when dealing with police officers with the National Lawyers Guild and learn about trainings in your area.
- Know your responsibilities. Learn from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and others who share what we can do when we witness an arrest or police action.
- Work to end racial profiling. Join advocates who are petitioning lawmakers to end this harmful police practice.
- Work to de-militarize the police. Contact your local and state lawmakers about the use of military-grade weapons and tactics in everyday policing.
- Hold media outlets accountable. Check out ongoing media justice campaigns by Color of Change, Media Matters and others to ensure that media outlets are held accountable when they perpetuate dangerous rhetoric and bias.