Darren Wilson was not indicted. Our economic, political and social system was.
We knew long before the prosecutor spoke his banal and predictable words that there was no way for anything he said or did to alter the systematic and daily injustices and suffering that produced the killing of Michael Brown.
We know when we allow ourselves to have eyes that see that we live in a system that condemns millions of people to lives of poverty and hardship and early, unnecessary and often violent deaths while a minuscule minority of people accumulate wealth and power beyond the most legendary of Pharaohs (in the world the richest 85 people have as much wealth as half the world’s population. In the U.S. one family, the Waltons, has as much wealth as 43% of American families combined). We know this.
We know too how this inequality is maintained – that those at the bottom, which means the vast majority of us, are deliberately divided by deep race and gender discrimination so that poor and economically insecure whites can console themselves that at least they are not denied basic necessities, locked up or killed, as often as people of color. Darren Wilson told the grand jury that when he saw Michael Brown he looked like a “demon”. Of course he did. This society has been demonizing black men forever. Divide and rule is a very, very old and horrible but effective approach. We know this.
Here is what we don’t know: We not only don’t know what to do about it, we don’t even know how to talk about it. We don’t know how to point to, let alone fight for, a radically different system where each person is regarded as an equal Child of God. We know how to say the words just not how to give them meaning. When progressive religious leaders went to Ferguson and began to sermonize at a mass meeting, the young people who had been on the streets broke it up. It was not as the Guardian headline put it that they “rejected religious platitudes.” It is that they demanded religious truth. That means meaningful action.
That is the sacred task we face. Meaningful action requires breaking out of the issue and ideological and organizational boxes we are comfortable in, so that we can intensity the difficult work of realizing the vision of a much more just social order. It means finding ways to come together to fight for it.
The killing of Michael Brown and so many others indicts the system. Now it is time to put that system on trial so something new and better will emerge. God help us.