Radical Justice In Ferguson

Am I a radical for sharing on Facebook recently the call for justice in the death of Mike Brown and the similar scenarios we see over and over again of a black person being killed, simply for the crime of being black? Some definitely think so.

Ferguson Timeline

Soldier in Afghanistan targeting terrorists? Nope, police officer targeting peaceful protesters.

Here is a timeline copied from somebody on Facebook, edited a little:

  1. Policeman murders unarmed teenage boy
  2. Policeman leaves the scene
  3. Teenager’s dead body is left in the street for four hours
  4. Policeman is not arrested or held or disciplined; his identity is concealed; he continues to receive his salary
  5. Neighbors of murdered teenager protest and ask for justice
  6. Autopsy is delayed.
  7. Officer is identified but not arrested or disciplined.
  8. Police chief shows video of another teenager robbing a store.
  9. Chief admits that the robbery had nothing to do with the teenager who was shot.
  10. Protests increase and calls for justice get loud
  11. Martial law begins and curfews are enforced. This includes detaining media without cause (illegal), removing any identification and refusing to show their badge (illegal), using tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters while perched on armoured vehicles with assault rifles, and leaving the protesters to protect the businesses from looters while that is what they say they are there for. Meanwhile, when white people peacefully protest, police along with everyone else yawn and aren’t too worried.
  12. The U S Attorney General calls for a second autopsy before the first becomes public
  13. The family hires a private doctor to perform an autopsy so they can know something immediately about what happened.
  14. The private autopsy finally becomes public Sunday night and demonstrates that the teenager was shot six times (twice in the head), probably from in front – at a distance.
  15. The Governor calls in the National Guard – not in order to arrest the policeman but to control the anticipated outrage of the crowds when they hear about the autopsy.
  16. The official autopsy has still not been made public.
  17. The family cannot have a funeral because the body has not been released.
  18. Several journalists and protesters have been arrested.
  19. The policeman who shot the unarmed teenager six times has still not been arrested.

Distractions

The police know what they’re doing in how they’ve handled the media, with the arguable exception of rushing to martial law so quickly. We need to avoid the distractions, some of them set out by the police themselves. The issue is that a black person was killed by a white police officer who was supposed to be protecting him and there has been absolutely zero accountability.

 

It doesn’t matter if he stole $50 of goods from a convenience store. Even if Wilson knew that – which even the police say he didn’t – it still would justify at most a fine and maybe a night in jail, not 6 bullets while Brown yelled that he didn’t have a gun with his arms up in the air.

It doesn’t matter that Brown was a big man. I’m 2 inches shorter, a lot weaker probably, but nobody is thinking about associating my height with deserving of police execution.

It doesn’t matter that some people are upset enough by this to loot or riot. It doesn’t matter that others are coming from out of town just to take advantage of the chaos. I understand why those rioters are very upset, although I do think they’d be much better off making their point with the same peaceful protest that most are relying on.

They are all just distractions to keep us from facing the uncomfortable truth that there is a deep systemic problem of racism. Do not let yourself be distracted.

Radical?

How radical is it to see a problem with the chain of events above? To me, it shouldn’t be radical.

Sure enough, though, some will call me radical for thinking a murderer should be arrested and given as fair of a trial as they can muster. Some will call me radical for thinking that it is worth my time to give what voice I can to point out these injustices. Some will call me radical for saying that imposing martial law because of peaceful protesters is not only unethical and illegal but also ineffective if your goal is really to keep the peace.

If this counts as radical, I am proud to be a radical precisely because I think I am still far short of the radical nature of Jesus who tore down every single wall he encountered that said one group was superior to another. Jesus had women disciples, some who even financed him. He chose a violent nationalist Zealot and a Roman-oppression-supporting tax collector to follow him in his core group. He ate with prostitutes and broke the law repeatedly to save others. He made sure everyone was fed, whether they deserved it or not. He used language incredibly subversive to the Roman Empire and to oppression in the Jewish religious structure. He defied the political and religious partisanship of his day and called us to something bigger. He revealed his identity to Samaritans, healed Romans, and told all of us that God’s Kingdom is here and it cannot be limited to our special in group.

And we – the powers of this world – killed him for it. We didn’t like him messing with our status quo. We liked it better when we could say that Samaritans are worse than Jews, just like blacks are worse than whites. We liked it better when we could just focus on that one thing she did wrong in the past to make us feel good about stoning her to death, just like we do when we victim-blame Michael Brown. So we got rid of Jesus, thinking it would stop his radical notions from continuing. But it didn’t work. He busted out of that grave and his radically-equal Kingdom is still growing like a mustard seed into a great tree that nobody will be able to cut down. Jesus, alive through his Church, is still challenging racism and nationalism and sexism and religious bigotry and any other wall we put up between ourselves and others who share the image of God.

Black lives matter just as much as white lives. If that statement makes me a radical, so be it.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    We are all made in the image of our creator (all humans without exception). So why are you calling for the stoning of Darren Wilson (no direct or close relation)? Why should we think that pre-judging a police officer sworn to do justice (sorry, but do you actually have all the evidence now?) in a racially charged and possibly motivated tragedy is an effective means toward a solution to racist discrepancies that will unfortunately continue? How is a prejudiced pronouncement of the charge of murder going to bring justice when the mode of bringing that charge is unjust? How does your judgement of the officer reflect the love of Christ? Is it because you see yourself as part of the evil “powers” of this world system (as your last paragraphs suggest)? if you claim redemption in Christ you should be free of those powers. i don’t know for sure that I’m free of their grasp, but if I judged you as guilty of a heinous crime without godlike knowledge I might be inclined to think I were under their spell.
    The Emerging-Christian: RWW

    • I am not calling for the stoning of Darren Wilson. That was an easy question.

      • Richard Worden Wilson

        Judging him as having committed murder is equivalent to calling for his stoning.

        • Huh? I know I’m not an expert in the American justice system, but I didn’t know that murder carried a death by stoning punishment. I oppose the death penalty anywhere, whether it is a police officer executing a teen without a trial on the streets or even when somebody is found guilty of murder (most likely 2nd degree or voluntary manslaughter in this case). I have no interest whatsoever in having him killed.

          Plus I’m not even calling for a guilty verdict, at least at this point. I’m just calling for an arrest, the same as would have happened within hours if the races were reversed.