The Underdogs Answer with Violence

Did police officer Darren Wilson shoot 18-year-old Michael Brown in self-defense? There will probably never be a legally defensible answer to that question because there will never be a trial. That was the decision of the so-called “grand jury” in Missouri. These amateur judges unanimously decided in secret session that the evidence didn’t warrant further investigation, ergo a trial was unnecessary. They decided the case would not be publicly investigated and tried as is possible in a nation governed by law.

That decision surprised no one, thus exposing the cynicism of the whole system. The jury that was to decide the fate of a white police officer who shot a black youth to death was predominantly white. Experts in the U.S. agree that grand juries hesitate, one might say, to put white policemen in the dock. The amateur judges who make up a grand jury are constantly influenced by their upbringing and views of society. Currently, that obscures their view of the facts. Many Americans share that opinion of the grand jury process; it hasn’t emerged only since the Ferguson decision. For that reason, a good half of the United States has long since done away with the grand jury system. Moreover, these secret hearings have no legitimate place in a constitutional democracy even if their findings are later made public.

In Ferguson itself, unrest broke out immediately after the grand jury decision was announced; shots were fired, businesses were ransacked, and houses set on fire. People protested and blocked streets in many other cities as well. Sadly, the protests quickly turned violent, another fact that certainly should surprise no one.

The United States will never be able to escape the near-inevitable and endless sequence of verdicts and riots as long as it fails to take serious steps to make its society more equitable. The majority of American citizens demonstrably lacks the will to combat both open and latent racism in order to achieve social equality in such a wealthy society. Examples of this inequity are legion, whether one looks at health insurance or educational opportunity. All this is currently reflected in the wrangling over immigration reform.

So we’re looking today at what will become commonplace in the future: America’s disadvantaged reacting with naked violence to being disadvantaged.

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