Alright, maybe you didn't think Michael Brown was the poster child for black oppression. Maybe you think Darren Wilson had a reasonable belief that his life was in jeopardy and was justified in shooting Brown to death. I happen to disagree. The fact is we really don't know what happened that August night in Ferguson, Missouri. And thanks to Robert McCulloch, we will most likely never know.

But we do have actual video evidence of Eric Garner being strangled to death by Daniel Pantaleo. And yet, astonishingly, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo for manslaughter. How can that be? How can there not be at least 12 grand jurors out of 23 who were able to see what every person with half a brain clearly saw?

The mind boggles.

This was not a he said / she said. There was no exculpatory evidence that muddied up the waters. This was a young man being placed in a chokehold by a police officer for committing the heinous crime of selling illegal cigarettes. Running a red light or rolling a stop sign carries a harsher penalty. The medical examiner concluded it was homicide. The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds more than a decade ago. And yet, despite all that, a cop walks free while another life is snuffed out.

Please spare me the usual, "Why did he resist?" bullshit. I don't want to hear it. And, yes, stop playing that ridiculous Chris Rock video "How not to get your ass kicked by the police." You do know he's playing you, right? Or are you that stupid? What part of "get a white friend" didn't you get, bright eyes? If you're sincerely interested in what Chris Rock really thinks, his tweet summed it up perfectly: "This one was on film."

Still laughing? I didn't think so. That's because there's nothing to laugh at, except perhaps the criminal justice system. Once more it has thoroughly failed to do its job. A 12-year old boy is gunned down in Cleveland; a young man is choked to death in Staten Island. Both are captured on video. The common denominator in both is the skin color of the victim and the occupation of the killer.

Yes, there are a lot of good cops out there. The vast majority of them observe the law and respect the communities they serve. And, no doubt, many of them are appalled by this decision. But, let's face it, a certain percentage of them no more belong in a uniform than I do teaching physics. A bad cop with a badge and a gun is a tragedy waiting to happen. And America has seen way too many of these tragedies.

I honestly do not know where we go from here. When something so obvious as this is dismissed, what justice can there be? I do not know what it feels like to be an African American male in this country. I have never been stopped in a mall or pulled over while driving for no other reason than the color of my skin. And any white man who even attempts to "identify" with the plight of the black man is a fool.

But, speaking strictly as a white man, I am deeply embarrassed by the events that have unfolded in the last ten days; indeed the events that have unfolded over the last six years. Prosecutors behaving like defense attorneys, grand juries failing to use the common sense God gave them, states enacting voter suppression laws. I have never seen this nation as polarized as it is right now. When a certain segment of the population loses hope, where can they turn?

Ask yourself this question and try to be as honest as possible: If you were a black man or woman, would you ever trust a cop or a jury again? Would you? Be honest. I know I wouldn't. Hell, I'm white and I'm not that fond of cops.

No matter what happens in the future - whether the Justice Department brings civil rights charges against Pantaleo or not - this decision will be a stain, not just on New York, but the whole country, as well. And, like most stains, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.


Anonymous said…
Hear, hear
Prof. Walter Jameson said…


Today is not the day to continue with the disagreement over Ferguson. Today is the day for the expression of moral outrage. What we've witnessed with this grand jury decision on Staten Island (where else, right?) should offend the sensibilities of anyone who has a conscience.... of anyone who has an intellect...of anyone who possesses common sense .... of anyone with a G-damned pulse. You want a modern-day example - a shining example - of racial injustice in the raw? THIS is it! I am so f**king outraged by what has taken place here that I can barely think straight this morning. My only hope is that the Justice department will come in quickly and right this abomination with federal indictments for not only this criminal bastard with a badge, but also for the several EMT personnel that stood around and did nothing while Eric Garner lay dying.

Our "justice" system has been made into an international laughingstock by at least 12 individuals - and a DAs office - on Staten Island. People of good will everywhere pause in a state of disbelief on this day.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
Prof. Walter Jameson said…

Yet, in Orangeburg County, South Carolina - South Carolina, for cryin' out loud! - they seemed to have gotten it exactly right. It took a little while, but they got there....
steve said…
We don't know what was going through these grand jurors' minds (assuming of course they each had one), but we've hear all too often after high profile trials, "the jury's hands were tied," "although the jurors felt this way, the law said another and they were forced to..." etc. Most jurors are not exerts in law and are intimidated into following a judge's instructions, but a juror's hands are never tied. Our primary duty as jurors is not just to determine guilt or innocence based on law; it is to do the right thing, no matter what the court's instructions or the law says. Trial by jury is perhaps the greatest check & balance against tyranny written into the Constitution, but most citizens just check their rights at the door when they enter the jury box. Yes, a jury can even sit in judgment on the law itself if need be! Our jury system is a sleeping giant.
steve said…
Sorry for the typos. Line 2 "but we've heard." Line 3 "are not experts in law."