I would like to throw a brick at a cop in Ferguson. Any cop. All the cops. As a black male, I would like to fight back, violently, against the forces that have hunted me all my life, and will hunt my son all his life.
I’m not going to, but that is because history is not on my side. I no longer give a damn about the moral virtues of non-violence, but recorded history tells us that an oppressed minority population cannot succeed through violence. I don’t have a magic staff that can bring locusts and selectively drain or flood rivers, and without such a weapon, being peaceful out there is the only effective and reasonable option. I have just enough education to understand that, and just enough restraint to practice it. I believe in non-violence because it’s the only thing that works.
Thomas Jefferson has a famous quote about slavery. He was talking about the Missouri Compromise, which allowed Missouri to enter the union as a slave state (a fact way more relevant to the current situation than Mike Brown’s alleged shoplifting). On the slavery question, Jefferson offered: “We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” Everybody remembers that part, but here’s the next line: “Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” Jefferson is talking about justice for the slave, and self-preservation for America.
What America has done since 1820 is to gain self-preservation for itself without granting justice to those it oppressed. It’s been a neat trick. Go ahead, name any “justice” statistic: incarceration rates, conviction rates, homicides, homicides by cop, death penalty rates, drug prosecutions, forced plea bargains, diversity in the police force, diversity on the bench, name ANY JUSTICE STAT YOU CARE ABOUT. You have just named a statistic that illustrates how African-Americans are denied equal justice as compared to white Americans.