Tuesday, November 25, 2014


It seems there are two mutually incompatible understandings of the word "justice" at odds in Ferguson, Missouri.  The first is based on the adjudication of facts and evidence, to arrive at proof of guilt or innocence.  This is the strictly rational, legal understanding of the word.

The second is larger, more encompassing--and more truthful.  It has to do with social justice, with the assertion of equal rights for all, the fairness of the law itself, and the way it is implemented by police and the judicial system.

My brain is with the former definition.  My heart is with the latter.

I am not surprised, nor can I in good conscience condemn those whose patience is at an end.  There is clear injustice at work when young Black men can be regularly shot and killed with impunity, not only by police but by armed bystanders; when unemployment rates for young Blacks are wildly disproportionate to those of their white peers; when they are routinely profiled, whether in traffic or in stores, as worthy of suspicion; when they are arrested and jailed more frequently, and with longer sentences, for crimes that are often trivial and victimless.

This is a reality in this country which few reasonable people would dispute.  No matter how legally rational and defensible, it is not justice but a mockery of justice.

We are now in the twenty-first century in America, and the historical stain of slavery continues to pervade our social structure.  Racial prejudice is rife, and generally unacknowledged.  We need look no further than the irrational hatred for our first Black president to see its toxicity at work.

I abhor violence.  I hear pleas for peace on all sides.  But when you have struggled peacefully for so long and have met with the same denial and the same resistance, when you have reached such a point of despair that you no longer believe in peaceful methods and no longer care, what alternative are you left with?

It's to be hoped that out of all this anger, all this violence, we will come at least to an acknowledgement that we have a problem that needs to be addressed; to honest public discussion of the issue; and to a new understanding of how "the law" must be applied if we are to have real justice, not just its outer husk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so poignant Peter, I am still awaiting my copy of Pigrims staff but recieved a notice is had shipped today. Steve is off to Denver for two weeks his brother had another difficult heart surgery with pacemaker put in. It gives me time to read at last.
The strange part of racism in these modern connected times, is that we have come so far in parts of the world, in my family we have several interracial marriages and children. Its so common in the world that Steve and I have lived in, sports in a world where there is so much respect between white, black, hispanic, we all lived like family. We forget that this reality is our black friends are treated differently in so many situations. It heartbreaking all the violence and injustice. Is there some strange sociopathic thing that keeps people not able to see others as just like themselves? Then there is human trafficking and child trafficking. I came upon a wonderful photo journalist his article The Price of Precious is heart stopping. How we all play into the injustice
www.marcusbleadale.com who has worked in the heart of Africa . I sent him your blog. He feels the problem is deep inside Conrads Heart of Darkness. I am trying to understand it in my heart. Having trouble feeling human these days?