Dark smoke cloaked the town of Ferguson, Missouri last night. Storefronts and cars went up in flames. Rioters threw rocks, batteries and bottles. Thieves waited until chaos was in full force and looted any business that wasn’t already burning.
Bedlam in Ferguson was the result of a much-awaited decision on the indictment of officer Darren Wilson for any charges related to 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death, and the decision was not to indict.
The country’s response to the decision was one of shock and in some instances outrage, but in a case as polarizing as this, there was bound to be an emotional response. Here on campus, the mayhem represents a racial conflict that, if left unsolved, will become a heavier and heavier burden for our generation to carry.
The grand jury’s job was not to charge Wilson, but rather to determine whether there was enough evidence to send him to criminal court. Nine out of 12 jurors must agree on the decision to not indict for the decision to hold, and last night, nine of 12 decided there was not enough evidence to take Wilson to trial.
Years of criminal justice statistics show that our system is guilty of racial discrimination. For example, one in three black men will face prison in their lifetime. 65 percent of inmates serving life for non-violent crimes are black and only 18 percent are white. For more numbers, just Google “discrimination in the criminal justice system.”
In his official statement, President Obama acknowledged the need for criminal justice reform, but more importantly, he acknowledged the hopefulness of the situation: America is more than capable of making reformative change.
“We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life,” the President said. “And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change.”
The Brown family released a similar statement regarding positive change: “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
The Brown family’s final remark was “let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”
If you believe that justice was not served, exercise your first amendment rights to speech and assembly. Today at Tommy Trojan, a group of students will “stand in solidarity” against the lack of an indictment; if you think an indictment was deserved, join them.
If you believe more can be done to eliminate racial discrimination in the justice system, write a letter to your congressman. The Brown family is suggesting legislation to require officers to wear body cameras; it that’s legislation you support, speak up.
Violence, vandalism and directionless noisemaking is not only ineffective and irresponsible, but also disrespectful to the Brown family.
The jury has made their choice. Do not sensationalize this case without taking responsible measures to fix the problem at large. Educate yourself, and if you think action is necessary, take action. To do anything else would be to further cloak Ferguson and the rest of the country in smoke.