Searching for Answers

It’s been two days since the Ferguson grand jury verdict.  I’m still searching for answers, trying to make sense of the decision.

When I first heard that Darren Wilson was not indicted I was upset – we all were – but I also felt…content.  I believe in the American justice system and I figured the jurors made the right decision based on the evidence.  My immediate inclination was to trust the jurors and not the outraged public.  We didn’t have access to all of the evidence, physical and testimonial, and the jurors had spent months examining every element of the case.  They must have come up with a just decision.  They must have.

I clung to that hope in the hours after the decision; I clung to it as protesters took to the streets in Ferguson and riots erupted.  I clung to it as I started to sift through the evidence myself.  I still cling to it.  I hope with all my might that somewhere in the testimony there are accounts that corroborate Wilson’s story and the grand jury’s decision.

I’m not done reading all the accounts, but with each page I lose hope that there is justification for the killing of an unarmed teen.

Maybe it’s my refusing to believe we live in a socially unjust society that fuels my hope of Brown’s murder being in some way justified.  Equality seems like such a basic tenet and natural right, there’s no way others don’t share the same belief and commitment.  It can’t be possible.

Society, I think, echoes my sentiments.  Many believe we live in a post-racial society though that’s clearly not the case.  But it’s easy to believe and it’s an enticing idea.

Accepting that no actions or deaths are racially related is easy.  Race induces “why” questions.  A post-racial society faces “how” questions.  It’s much easier to find answers and solutions when one is answering “how” instead of “why”.  For instance, and pertinent to Ferguson, “How can the actual chain of events be uncovered?” and the answer is “Have the police wear body cameras.”  A simple question, a simple solution.  It fails to address the root cause.  The questions many are now asking themselves are “Why did Darren Wilson fear for his life when Michael Brown was both unarmed – and Wilson admitted to not fearing Brown being armed – and over 100 feet away?”  and “Why is that not seen as ‘probable cause’ for indictment?”

If one believes society has moved to a point where race is no longer a factor, then those questions need not be asked.

But we haven’t moved to a post racial society.  Racism exists no matter how much some may deny it.  The “why” questions must be answered and the root caused addressed.  And that’s not easy.

The “why” question also forces us to face an ugly truth: racism still exists in many facets.  As much as we’d like to believe that we’ve evolved past it, we can’t let that blind us from reality.  Kanye West might have put it best in “Never Let Me Down” when he asserted that “racism’s still alive, they just be concealin’ it”.  Racism is still alive and though we’ve moved past the days of de jure discrimination, like Jim Crow laws and segregation, we still haven’t triumphed de facto discrimination, which can be seen in the segregation of neighborhoods in cities, the lack of class mobility for minorities, and, of course, the discrimination in the eyes of the police and the justice system.

Why does the justice system discriminate against minority populations?

Why is the death row population 42 percent black, many times the percentage of African Americans in society at large?

Why does being black inherently place someone under more scrutiny than if that same person were white?

Answering “because of racism” isn’t enough.  That’s the tip of the iceberg.  What lies underneath?  I’m not entirely sure, but as I continue to read the documents presented to the grand jury, I will continue searching for answers and I urge everyone to do the same.  Only when we understand the causes and why this happens can we come together to create a solution.

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