Advertisement

The violent and destructive protests that rocked Ferguson, Mo. Tuesday after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed black 18-year-old weren't unexpected, but those looking to change the system could achieve more if they looked to the past to guide their actions today.

In a statement from Working Families, which on its website defines itself as "a growing progressive political organization that fights for an economy that works for all of us, and a democracy in which every voice matters," national director Dan Cantor and executive director Valerie Ervin wrote, "Fifty-nine years ago, a 14 year old Black boy, Emmett Till was beaten, tortured and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. His mother decided that his body would be seen in an open casket to allow the world to look in and see the injustice. His murder helped light the spark of the civil rights movement. Three months ago, Michael Brown's body was left in the street for hours after his death in Ferguson, Missouri. Soon, the eyes of America, and then the world were watching. Let this abrogation of justice catalyze a new movement for justice and dignity for all."

Advertisement

Violence and destruction didn't push the civil rights movement forward, and they won't achieve positive results now.

In a statement following the grand jury's decision, Brown's family issued a statement saying, "Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction."

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar summed up the situation at a Tuesday morning press conference when, in talking about police preparedness ahead of the decision, said, "I don't think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community."

Those intent on destruction will do so, as we saw Tuesday, But a far louder cry for action is coming from more reasonable voices urging us to look at the causes of the problem and focus on solutions.

In a press release Tuesday, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good's senior fellow Christopher Hale wrote the violence that led to the death of Brown "was the fruit of the invisible violence that plagues our communities every day. It's the violence of institutions that fail to serve its people. It's the violence that afflicts the poor and makes us indifferent to others' suffering. It's the violence of inaction in the face of failing schools, decaying cities and economic disparities. It's the violence that sows distrust between people and communities because the color of their skin. This violence isn't as evident as the gunshot that killed Michael Brown, but it's just as deadly."

Hale also noted that, "We pray that our nation will take this time to work harder to end injustices, bind the wounds between us and live as children of God, brothers and sisters once again."

As we pause tomorrow to give thanks for what we have, let us also look to what we can achieve if we work together for the common good.

Advertisement
Advertisement