Ferguson and My Confession

On Monday night at about 8:45, I got in my car to go home. I turned on NPR because I knew that the grand jury announcement in the Darren Wilson case would probably be airing. I fully expected to hear that no indictment would be handed down because . . . well anyone who was paying careful attention to this case could see that everything was headed that way for a while. My suspicion was confirmed, but my expectations were not met.

I thought for a moment I was going to cry. Then I was angry. I don’t know if Darren Wilson should have been convicted of anything. To my untrained eye, it seemed that it was worthy of an indictment so that a proper trial with a defense and a prosecution could be heard. I heard repeatedly that the way the prosecutor presented the case to the grand jury was highly unusual. It appeared as if this is what he wanted from the beginning, and he got his wish. My father (who at one time was a prosecutor) expressed concern over the procedure, saying that any time law enforcement is involved in a case, a special prosecutor from outside the area should be brought in to avoid even a hint of a conflict of interest because normally the local prosecution works extensively with law enforcement.

But I’m not going to get into all of the details. Frankly, I’m not qualified to break down this case. I’m going to talk about my reaction. When I saw riots in the streets, I became even more sad. I completely understand the frustration. I can say that destruction of property and violence were unwise, but I speak from a privileged position. Plus, I know that when I have perceived injustice against me and my own, a deep rage rumbles¬†within my gut, and if the situation were different I have no trouble envisioning myself rioting in a similar fashion.

Then, like so many, I got on social media. Then I got scared. Am I willing to announce to people I care about who I know feel very differently than me on this issue that I too do not believe that justice was served? I too believe that the system does not treat everyone equally. Because of my fear, I halfway spoke. I chose to validate frustration but I softened it with a qualifier, “I don’t know if this was the right decision.” It’s true I really don’t know, but the way I said it was not an admission of my own limits to weigh in on a legal proceeding which should be obvious considering the words JD don’t appear behind my name and I’ve never set foot inside a courthouse. It was a cop-out.

So for those of you who feel this far more personally than I do, who have witnessed the system working against themselves and their communities, I’m sorry that I was too afraid to stand with you even in this very small way. That was cowardly.

I’ve heard throughout my life that all it takes for injustice to reign is for good people to be silent. I don’t know if I’m a good man. Like everyone else, I see good and evil motivations and actions in my life. But on this issue, no I’m not going to be silent any more. There is such a thing as white privilege. The system does not always promote justice. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, there is a deep racial problem in this country that did not go away in the 1960’s. I’m choosing not to be afraid any more.

Comment if you like. I will watch the comments and will delete anything uncivil.

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2 comments

  1. Anonymous · · Reply

    Very well written

  2. This was inspiring Jon. Issues such as these can feel so complicated, and make me want to be silent, not risking a disagreement, or worse, a fight. I tell myself, “I don’t have all the facts. I’m not an expert in law. I don’t understand the complexities of the problem.” Partially true, but one thing I do understand is the feeling of injustice. I can think of few worse feelings, and thankfully one I haven’t experienced often.

    Thank you for being courageous and taking a stand. I agree wholeheartedly that silence allows injustice to reign.

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