What fate now awaits Blacks of America?

The fires that have raged in Ferguson, St Louis, Missouri; the disbelief, tears of frustration and anger etched on the faces of thousands; the violent scenes of looting; and the daring confrontations between police and ordinary Americans are but public revelations of the deep mistrust in the criminal justice system of the land of the free and home of the brave.

The decision by a St Louis County grand jury to spare police officer Darren Wilson criminal charges for his August 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown was no less unexpected as it was a savage blow to millions in America itself and around the globe ––  those who had yet desperately hoped this unsettling matter would not have gone the way of the Trayvon Martin vs George Zimmerman case.

For St Louis prosecutor Robert McCulloch, “no probable cause [existed] to file any charges against Darren Wilson”, as he pronounced that the most credible eyewitness to Brown’s shooting had said that the young man had charged at the officer just before the final fatal shots. It’s concerning that the testimony of scores of other witnesses who swore the African American youth was attempting to surrender to the white police officer appeared to the authorities to have been less than solid –– as worrying as the fact that an officer of six years’ experience would fire one dozen shots at the unarmed Wilson.

We leave it to the legal experts to pour over the decision of the St Louis grand jurors, who met for 25 days over three months, taking testimony of 60 witnesses, and determine whether indeed they they had acted correctly in separating fact from fiction. Still we cannot help but wonder if, in this case that lacks not for ethnic consideration, justice could have been truly served by a 12-member jury of nine Whites and three Blacks.

Loud voices against the responsibility of review of a grand jury to indict or not have not be unheard, nor the alternative sugggestion that that decision should have been put before a special prosecutor. The truth is, in the latter case the outcome will not have been guaranteed to be different –– and the debate on the pros and cons will no doubt go on.

Yet, unfortunately, there is a real fear that any emendment or redemption in this sad matter may come to be overshadowed by the outrage of protesters on the Ferguson streets which became aflood with wanton recklessness, looting and unnecessary acts of vandalism. While we sympathize with the disapppointed and hurt, we can but strongly condemn the lawlessness that can only serve as a diversion from the matter at heart.

Surely, this anarchy is not the voice of those thousands upon thousands of Americans who would like believe they can live free of harassment and injustice, safe in the assurance that those who have vowed to serve and protect do so without favour of race or colour. Those who persist in engaging and spurring anarchic action would do well to realize they are dishonouring the life of Brown and the wishes of his grieving parents who have pleaded for peaceful protests in the aftermath of the verdict.

What of the underlying problems? The unresolved issues of race and the American justice system are at the core of St Louis grand jury ruling last night. President Barack Obama, speaking after the announcement, admitted: “We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation.”

Those challenges do indeed include the deep mistrust between the police and citizens, particularly African Americans ––  more so males among them. The root of discrimination still runs deep. We’ve no doubt heard countless stories from no less a person than outgoing United States Attorney General Eric Holder, and other high profile figures
of colour.

America obviously needs to perform some soul-searching, finding most urgent solutions to the systemic biases that continue to breed skepticism and apprehension about its order of justice ––– which the historic election of the country’s first African American president on November 4, 2008, has regrettably failed to correct.

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