“A riot is the language of the unheard.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I rushed home last night, in time to see the announcement. Some sunken sliver of me must have hoped I’d hear the unexpected. So much for slivers. No matter the evidence, I knew no indictment was coming. Didn’t we all?
I am from Missouri. I love Missouri. Long for it even. The rolling landscape, the rivers, the green, the limestone cliffs, the deep home of the place. But I am also repelled by the fear-talk I hear in the houses of my family, the flip jokes / racist jokes, the open use of the n word. Not so long ago I sat in a family kitchen, where a police officer was getting ready for his night shift. He stood at the sink, rinsing out the insides of a soda can, talking about how he was going to get some “fuckin’ n-er crack heads,” as his brother in law shouted from the living room, “fuckin’ A!”
My cousin’s 18 yr son recently got a large red Confederate Flag tattooed on his shoulder. I called his mother and said, “He’s going to get himself killed.” His mother said, “Oh he just likes the Dukes of Hazard” and then, “he’s 18, what can I do?”
And now Ferguson, Missouri is burning.
Ferguson has been coming all my life.
I wasn’t there when Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown. But I know this: I know that an unarmed black boy was killed by a white police officer and then, unspeakably, left bleeding in the street for 4 hours while his family and his community looked on, helpless. No sliver of hope.
I see them, I hear them, and I’m listening.
I saw the DA’s presentation to the media too, and knew almost from word one that no indictment would be returned. His speech was incredibly detailed and thorough and unassailable. The grand jury (seated long before the incident) reviewed mountains of evidence, three independent examiner reports and autopsies, evidence from 60 witnesses, many of whom were discredited by the physical evidence. By the letter of the law, every base was covered, the officer was well within his legal parameters, the grand jury had no other option.
But on the other half of the screen was the crowd, waiting and hoping. And I began to wonder if not the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, the one that promises equality and justice, had been violated.
Beautifully said Joe.
We have the rule of law, but I believe we are missing our compassion, our soul.
Beautifully expressed. I’m currently reading “Devil in the Grove” by Gilbert King, the story of Thurgood Marshall and ‘the Groveland Boys’ back in 1949. Sadly, it would seem that things haven’t changed much in 65 years …
People used to ask me what it felt like to go home. I would often answer, “Like going back in time 50 years.”
All of Missouri is not this way. Of course it’s not. This is my experience within my family, and it’s always felt ominous and shameful — there’s no way to live every day with words like this and have it not come to something horrific.
It’s always sad when the letter of the law seems to be at such odds with the intent of the law. In this case I’m doubtful that such a problem exists, but then I haven’t access to the evidence, be it tampered or not. I can only rely on what I’ve heard and read from the media. Given that, I’m totally convinced that the results of the grand jury were both inevitable and totally wrong.
I give you the brilliant Carvell Wallace. I adore you, Carvell.