Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Legally Innocent And Forever Judged Guilty

As a white Republican, do I even have a right to comment on the Grand Jury's decision in Ferguson last night? What about the subsequent violence? Was I out-of-line to tweet that I fail to understand how the rioting could possibly improve race-relations? Does my belief that the Grand Jury saw evidence about the case that the  general public had no way of seeing, and therefore that we should trust their judgment, make me a racist?

Eighteen years ago, I accepted a black man's marriage proposal, and would have married him if he hadn't broken our engagement. He taught me a little about the collective memory of African-Americans. "There isn't one of us in the South," he informed me, "who can't point to a tree where the KKK lynched one of our great-grandfathers." As white and Republican as I am, I took his words very seriously.

Perhaps I'll never fully understand the fear black men experience when a white police officer confronts them. And certainly, the racial make-up of Ferguson's police department in no way corresponds to the racial make-up of its general population. I do get those points. That said, I don't believe Darren Wilson should be indicted simply because he, as a white man, shot a black robbery suspect who pummeled him with his fists. I could be wrong. I wasn't there, so I really don't know what happened.

And those protesting this decision, which the Grand Jury reached after a very lengthy deliberation, don't really know all the facts either. Popular opinion convicted Darren Wilson back in August, sentencing him to relinquish his law enforcement career. The Grand Jury's findings may have spared him from legal consequences, but he will always suffer as Michael Brown's murderer.  As an American, I disagree with this popular conviction.

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