Statement on the Michael Brown Case and the Continuing Struggle for Equality in America
- Dale Eisman
The grand jury decided there was not sufficient evidence to charge Officer Darren Wilson with a crime. It did not declare him blameless. Its decision is not a vote of confidence in law enforcement in Ferguson nor a rebuke to those who’ve questioned Officer Wilson’s actions and taken to the streets to demonstrate their concerns. An investigation of federal civil rights violations is ongoing and must be pursued vigorously; the Brown family may still seek civil damages.
So this case is still open and the national soul-searching it has triggered is not over. The best way for all of us to honor Michael Brown’s memory now is to reject violence and embrace the real work needed to ensure that the review and the discussion continue – in Ferguson and across the country. Here are a few suggestions.
- We must insist that government at all levels provides real community policing, with cops on the beat who live among, understand and look like the people they’re charged with protecting. When police roll down the streets in armored vehicles, outfitted like troops heading into battle, no one should be surprised that they’re treated as an occupying army.
- Congress should launch a comprehensive review of our judicial system, with a national accounting of how our courts handle cases of possible police violence.
- We must attack the economic inequality that has consigned millions of Americans, particularly in communities of color, to second class citizenship. We need incentive programs that bring good jobs with solid career prospects to young people in every neighborhood, along with major investments in education and job training. We need Congress to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 and states and localities to adopt a living wage of $15.
- We must bring every citizen into our democracy, with aggressive moves to boost voter registration and turnout. Because they’re convinced government has given up on them, too many of our citizens have given up on it. In Ferguson, a community with a substantial African-American majority, just one of the city’s six council members is African-American; in municipal elections this year only 12.3 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast ballots. That’s unacceptable.
Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy that could and should have been avoided. It’s also a bitter symbol of the work that remains to be done in this country to offer equal justice and true civil rights to every citizen. We cannot deceive ourselves that our democracy provides “justice for all” when there is systemic inequality in law enforcement, in our judicial system, and in our economy.