Justice: An Independent Variable

A week ago today, I attended a showing of emergent artists at a gallery in small, northern Michigan town. Many guests were surprised by the unofficial welcoming committee outside building, comprised of two young women carrying protest signs. As the night progressed, the women decided to bring their message, signs and all, inside to the gallery showing. Surprisingly, their message had nothing to do with art exhibited; the signs read “Hands Up-Don’t Shoot” and “Black lives matter, too!”

This small protest is indicative of a larger “movement” sweeping the nation, stemming from the streets of Ferguson and New York City. Since grand juries ruled not to indict police officers over the shooting of Michael Brown and death of Eric Garner, protesters, mobs, and looters have taken to the streets, and celebrities, politicians, and so-called civil rights leaders have been quick to condemn the justice system as acting based on race. What really happened?

The Ferguson grand jury was a racially diverse group who met weekly over the course of three and half months to hear over 60 eye witnesses, examine all of the evidence, and dedicate more than seventy hours to pursing truth and justice in this case. The facts are that officer Darren Wilson, while investigating a robbery, acted in self defense when Brown assaulted him by striking him in the head, reaching for his gun and causing a misfire of two shots. As the officer pursued, Brown charged him and reached into the officer’s pants towards the gun, which the officer maintained control of and used to prevent further assault.[1] The entire “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” mantra being repeated is a far cry from reality, and upon examination of the facts, self-defense in the face of violent assault has nothing to do with race, only a love for one’s own life. Only the repeated insistence that race was a factor by men like Atty. General Holder and White House advisor Al Sharpton, coupled with Brown’s parents calls for “real justice” and violence[2], have fueled the firestorm of public response.

The Garner case is perhaps less cut and dry, but it is a far cry from a racially motivated murder. As one reporter summarized, ‘A Grand Jury in New York City did not bring charges against an NYPD officer who aggressively subdued Eric Garner during an arrest. The officer put his arms around Garner’s neck to bring him down- and then released the hold. Garner then had difficulty breathing as other officers put their weight on and restrained him, and he soon thereafter died.

According to the autopsy, Garner’s death was attributable to “compression of the chest and neck” in conjunction with heart disease and asthma.’”[3] Like in Ferguson, after months of reviewing evidence, the Grand Jury found Officer Pantaleo completely innocent of any criminal act. While the death of Garner, like any death, is tragic, it is not a cause to cry “racism” and “police brutality” at every opportunity, nor is it sufficient cause for a federal investigation into alleged NYPD civil rights violations.

What the world has watched unfold in the wake of the grand jury rulings is something Americans should be ashamed of. The looting, violence, destruction of private property, and assaults on the police force that serves us[4] do not speak well of our respect for the rule of law or our ability to function as a self-governed peopled. In the wake of tragic deaths such as these, Americans ought to turn back to the communities the initial criminal acts stemmed from and reach out to those who are grieving, and seek to bless them. We should be asking ourselves how we could show the love of Christ to these communities and help bring healing to the broken. Right now, no one needs a message of social gospel or liberation theology. Rather, the transforming truth of the gospel, by which sinners of all races find reconciliation, restoration, and hope is the message we should be flooding the streets with. Anger and bitterness have no place in land that seeks unity, liberty, and justice. Like the two women protesting at the gallery, the message of this movement, at best, is unconnected from the truth and is simply out of place.

We need to remember that justice is blind; it is an independent variable. It is blind to race, blind to public opinion, and blind to political agendas. Every life does matter, but truth and the rule of law are of equal significance.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] McCoy, Terrance. The Washington Post, “Darren Wilson explains why he killed Michael Brown.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/25/why-darren-wilson-said-he-killed-michael-brown/ 11/25/14.

[2] Street, John. The Blaze.com. “New Video of Michael Brown’s Stepfather Right Before Screaming ‘Burn This Bi***’ Down Could Be Damning.” http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/12/08/new-video-of-michael-browns-stepfather-right-before-screaming-burn-this-bi-down-could-be-damning/ 12/08/14.

[3] Sexton, Buck. The Blaze.com, “Make No Mistake About It – These Anti-Cop Protests Are Occupy Wall Street All Over Again.” http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/make-no-mistake-about-it-these-anti-cop-protests-are-occupy-wall-street-all-over-again/ 12/05/14.

[4] WNBS-10TV. “Fires, Looting, and Vandalism In Ferguson Following No Indictment Of Police Officer.” http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2014/11/25/ferguson-mo.-violence-in-ferguson-after-no-indictment-announced.html 10/25/14.