The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson by a white police office is a miscarriage of justice and sets the country back forty years. It says to me, that my life as a black man in America and the lives of my children are not valuable. It also says to me that a white officer can shoot me or any one who looks like me if he only says he was in fear for his life – even if the facts and eyewitness accounts contradict that.
In Ferguson, I was hopeful that the grand jury would do something- even if only a small reprimand – to send a message to police officers around the country, that it is not okay to shoot an unarmed man 35 feet away from you with his hands in the air and ready to surrender. But this did not happen. And while many in the nation (like myself) were grieving over this miscarriage of justice another grand jury in New York refused to find any wrong doing in the choking of a black grandfather who was accused of selling cigarettes but was not a threat to anyone. Those two decisions made me feel as if someone punched me in the stomach and knocked all the wind out of my body.
I am still grasping for air and I am still shocked and saddened.
My concern is this: if there is never any police sergeant on the scene to tell misbehaving officers to stop using excessive force; and then the justice system does not step up to the plate and say this wrong and you will be punished, then how can any black man in America feel that he will receive fair treatment on the streets or in a court of law?
It now seems obvious, that there are two justice systems in America, one for white people and one that denies black persons due process.
There is one thing, however, that gives me a reason to be hopeful.
Many protesters throughout the nation were also white men and women (and other races as well) saying that this is wrong. If enough Americans can continue this protest and insist that these killings stop and everyone be treated fairly, then perhaps one day we can have a country that protects all its citizens.
Ronald Burris, PhD., is Associate Professor of Church History American Baptist Seminary of the West