On the surface, the situations in Staten Island and Ferguson – two instances of a grand jury’s refusing to indict a white cop for the death of a black man – are quite similar. But other than that one factor the situations are dramatically different. Actually, there is one other significant similarity – Al Sharpton is busy hustling for his bitterness business in both situations, and for him that particular business is always brisk. But with those similarities aside, I want to point to the stark difference for a moment.
This is not a trifle. Our ability to see the difference is the measurement of whether we are prepared to think biblically about race in America — and all the early returns indicate that we are nowhere close to ready.
As a preface to what I’m going to say, I want say that it is perfectly reasonable to call upon the prosecutor in this case to do what was done in Ferguson, which is to release the evidence was presented to the grand jury, and which they apparently found so compelling. I say this because this could conceivably be a case where Proverbs 18:17 pulls a rabbit out of a hat, but it is awfully hard to see how that could happen. This whole Eric Garner mess appears to have all the characteristics of a travesty.
That said, I want to state my point near the very beginning so that if someone wants to get mad, they can start in on it now. Anyone who cannot see past the “refusal to indict” and “white cop/black victim” is an essential part of the problem. Anyone who links Ferguson and Staten Island as parallel situations is living out the very antithesis of King’s dream — “the content of their character” is trumped, always and everywhere, by the presence of melanin.
And anybody who says that “white people don’t get it” is an essential part of the problem. The fact is that white people who know what justice is do in fact “get it.” White people who don’t know what justice is don’t get it. The same goes for black people who know what justice is, and again for those who don’t know what justice is. Knowing how justice is supposed to work is not a function of skin pigmentation.
Think about this for just a few moments. What were Michael Brown and Eric Garner doing moments before they died? Hint: they both were involved with tobacco. Michael Brown was robbing a shopkeeper, walking out of a store with somebody else’s cigars. He was being a punk, a thug. Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes, which meant tax-free cigarettes. He was interrupted by the police, because New York City insists on having a piece of that action. Eric Garner was not being a punk; New York City was being a punk.
When Michael Brown was stopped by Darren Wilson, he was stopped by a police officer who was doing exactly what a police officer ought to be doing — in this case following up on a reported theft. When Eric Garner was stopped by cops, he was being stopped by representatives of an officious and busy-pants nanny state, doing exactly what cops ought not to be doing. This is the same kind of thing that could have happened to someone being arrested for selling illegal Big Gulps.
I know why theft is against the law. Why is it against the law to sell cigarettes this way? When you multiply petty laws you are simply multiplying opportunities for contempt for the law to grow. And the more you multiply petty laws, the more the leeches in charge will feel like they have the right to “crack down on” those scofflaws who have managed to hang on to some of their own money. This was bad, but at least we aren’t using SWAT teams to deal with cigarette vendors. Or armored assault vehicles. Yet.
And so now the problem is that the Feds are coming in to fix everything. But they have already demonstrated their incompetence to deal with this kind of thing by their shameless pandering in the Ferguson situation. To add to the Tom Wolfe Bonfire atmosphere of everything, you have Al Sharpton parading back and forth like a rooster with an attitude, not to mention major tax liabilities. But the only real access the Feds have to the situation is by making it a civil rights issue. That means they have to racialize it whether or not it had anything to do with race. They only have the right to investigate it if they prejudge it.
But suppose Eric Garner was not taken down for the color of his skin. Suppose he was taken down because he was trying to do something he should have had every right to do. Suppose the problem there was not race, but a soft despotism that wants to tax the air you breathe. Suppose that Michael Brown had been a big Bulgarian, and he wound up just as dead. But all this is to suppose that the official media narrative on all this is dead wrong.
Take note. All the people who will take charge of this investigation, in order to ensure that justice is done, don’t appear to have the faintest idea what that word means.