Instead of finding Officer Darren Wilson not guilty of any crime associated with killing Michael Brown – a result that most African-Americans would have expected, a grand jury decided that Brown’s death didn’t even warrant a trial.
The incident between Wilson and Brown, and the lack of consequences, highlights the inadequacy of the protests by people of color regarding their safety in the face of police power. In the 1950s and 1960s acts of passive resistance were very effective in changing the social status of ethnic minorities and solidifying their citizenship privileges. Unfortunately since then the blatant acts of discrimination that passive resistance is most effective at combating have been largely eliminated; marches, speeches, and sit-ins have become white noise.
Something new, something different must be done.
The fact that a change in tactics is necessary naturally leads to the question of militancy – that is: how violent should the new tactics be. This is especially tricky because non-violent tactics were so successful in the past and because the people who lived through that era are still alive to tout the social revolution of that time. But the idea of a more assertive kind of activism makes those in leadership positions, especially white people in those positions, nervous.
That nervousness comes from the fact that there are more people that have been harmed than helped by Caucasians. And the fact that there are far more people of color on earth than not. Looking simply at numbers gives insight as to why a country like France started tightening their immigration policies once African immigration increased. Hitting more close to home, the fact that Latinos are projected to surpass Caucasians as the majority ethnic group in the United States sometime in this century.
No consideration for the lives of people of color + new tactics on the horizon + a majority of non-whites = a sticky situation.
I proclaim myself to be a liberal not a revolutionary, nor do I wish harm upon anyone. So I do not write to incite revolts and pogroms. But if this is the reality that people of color must live in (where their death at the hands of law enforcement agents is not deemed worthy of a trial) we cannot be surprised if some people act violently. That is the lesson of the 1992 Rodney King riots.
And the simple fact is that a lot of negative feelings could have been avoided by simply allowing a trial to go forward. Any evidence that allowed the grand jury to decide not to go to trial could presumably also be used to instill reasonable doubt and allow for Wilson to be acquitted. I know, logically, that a grand jury made the decision (after looking at the evidence found in the investigation) and I wouldn’t advocate a change in the country’s criminal justice system.
Still something must be done about the value of certain lives in our country. And I suspect that a change in tactics is forthcoming.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.