Thanksgiving.

I would precede that word with “happy,” but happy doesn’t seem to be the mood around the nation this year. And, while we are grateful for the time off of work, “happy” isn’t the overall mood of my house right now. We are sad, sombre, that not only is Michael Brown not alive to spend Thanksgiving with his family and friends, but the man who killed him is not facing the public for his crime.

Before I say much else, I want to apologize. While I have been sharing all that I can about Ferguson in an attempt to help people I know become more understanding on the issues at play here, I have not, as of yet, written anything about it from my own mind. Please know that this is not because I wish to stay silent, nor is it out of a desire to avoid argument with people whom I know will not agree with me. But rather it is because I have been unable to process  what has happened in such a way that I can say anything coherent. I have tried. Several times. And have failed. But now so much time has passed that I feel I must speak. Too much longer would be an injustice in and of itself. So, I am sorry for not saying anything before now. I have not abandoned my duty as an ally; I just needed time.

To give this piece some semblance of order, I’m going to start with the obvious. That the police officer who shot Mike Brown was not indicted was wrong. It was absolutely wrong. Regardless as to whether or not you think he would have been or should have been convicted of any of the charges sought, he should have been indicted. Instead, Darren Wilson essentially got a private trial with friendly prosecutors where he was allowed to defend himself, and evidence for both sides of a case were presented without a judge and in the absence of the adversarial process, brought by a prosecutor with deep ties to the police.

That is a mockery of the indictment process, as should be obvious to anyone looking at this trial. There is certainly probable cause to believe that Wilson violated the law, and the public and Mike Brown’s family deserved a public airing of the evidence to determine whether there was reasonable doubt that he was justified. That’s how the process is intended to work, but police/prosecutor collusion and racism kept it from working. It is wrong.

Second, I’m pulling out my giant, condescending, index finger and pointing it right at the libertarian community. There are a lot of positive examples of libertarians speaking out against Mike Brown’s shooting and the lack of indictment. And that is what I would expect. Reason has done great coverage of the process nightmare that is Ferguson and police violence all over the country.

But there are others, lurking in comment boards, on social media, and around the internet that are using this opportunity to either outright be racist or to show their racist leanings. To these people, I say: You disgust me, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

You don’t have to be a radical, anti-police anarchist to understand that what happened here is a collusion of state power of epic proportions. You don’t have to be a “social justice warrior” to know that police officers target black people for the same “offenses” that white people commit in the same numbers, and that black people are jailed more frequently and are more frequently a target of unwarranted police violence. I don’t even feel the need to cite examples here. Get off your lazy ass, stop listening to your racist friends, and Google it and see for yourself.

Libertarians. Bah. You who pride yourself on “individualism” and rights, yet are so quick to blame all of the Ferguson protesters for rioting when you know damn well that a few people can cause a lot of chaos. You who more than anyone should be aware of how monstrous state power is, are letting your racism override your good sense and love of liberty. If your racism wasn’t enough, your ignorance to your own state of mind is deeply disturbing. And that you let it trump your principles should deeply, deeply disgust you.

Quick aside here. Isn’t it funny how those who want to claim that white people have no collective responsibility for racism want to say that black people are collectively responsible for “black on black” crime? Huh.

To those of you—libertarian and not—who have remained silent, I am deeply disappointed in you. If you consider yourself to be an ally of people of color, then silence is really not an option for us. People around the country are speaking out against systemic racism, yet systemic racism is getting in the way of them being taken seriously. Media chooses to focus on the rioting rather than the peaceful protesters, who are much more numerous. White allies have a responsibility to use their power to help amplify those voices. To engage and not just shut out those who are racist. To help spread the words of people, especially people of color, who are writing about what has happened here. We have power, and with that we have the duty to use it well and to help those who do not. It’s hard. But what is right is not always easy.

I want to touch base again about the idea of the rioting. There is much more to be said there. One of the most consistent and troubling things I have been seeing are calls for peace from white people attempting to calm down what they see as unnecessary violence happening in Ferguson.

First, I must point out that the majority of the protests happening in Ferguson and around the country are peaceful. Much of the media has been focusing on the rioting partially because it’s more exciting, but probably also more because it fits into the “angry black people” vision that is more comfortable with most of white America. If you’re going to be critical of the media, don’t just be critical of it when it is telling you things you don’t want to hear.

Second, even if that ratio were somehow skewed, it strikes me as fundamentally tangential to what the actual problem is: Injustice in Mike Brown’s shooting. Even if there were violent protests, and even if that were wrong, the first injustice here was the fact that white people have been throwing brown people into prison for decades upon decades. They have been inflicting violence upon them en masse for centuries. This is just the latest, and it is just in a different form. The characters have changed, but the story is still eerily familiar.

How can you tell people who are being murdered and kidnapped en masse that peaceful protests are the answer? That is fundamentally ignorant of what is happening to black people in this country. If you want to stop the violence, then, it seems most prudent—and most just—to speak out against the behavior which is inciting those riots. But most people calling for peace don’t actually care about ending violence. They want people to shut up.

Third, and perhaps most controversially, given the full context of the Mike Brown shooting, there is certainly a strong part of me that feels that violence is both just and necessary. Why should people feel the need to behave by the rules of a society that is slaughtering them and robbing them at a chance for a good life? To protect those that are quietly benefitting from that collusion? Ha.

But, the takeaway here is that if you feel a need to “call for peace,” you probably just shouldn’t. Or, at the very least, call for an end to the violence that our society inflicts upon black people. If they don’t read this once a year already, white people should be re-reading “Letter from Birmingham Jail” right about now.

For those of you who don’t know, I got married this month, on the First of November, to a man I have been with for nearly seven years. My husband is a lot more extraverted than I am, and, as such, spends a lot of time out with his friends. Sometimes late. Being the worry wart that I am, I ask that he let me know when he’s leaving where he his, and that if he’s going to be home later than usual to let me know. I do this because he often returns late at night, and I’m worried about him.

When he fails to do these things (which happens; no one’s perfect, especially when they’re inebriated), I worry myself sick. Not because I’m afraid he’s gotten lost or been robbed or something to that effect, but because I’m afraid that a cop has decided that him walking home late at night is something to be suspicious of. And that because my husband is black, he will not ever make it home.

This is our reality. It’s time for some people to accept it—and work on changing it.

  • Thank you. It’s voices like this throughout this whole controversy that make me proud to be a Libertarian. For the record, I’m a Black man, and I get that there’s levels to this. One thousand times, thank you.

  • Tyler Crock

    Well said Mrs. Gina Luttrell! You can also add the Cato Institute to those that have spoken out against the police in Ferguson.

  • Puzzled

    The Libertarian Party put out a statement signed by Nick Sarwark.

  • Puzzled

    Question – how does the reference “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” make sense in this context? You write here – and I can’t disagree – that people are wrong to demand that the protests be non-violent when the system they are protesting is fundamentally violent. But MLK in that letter refers to nothing other than non-violent protest, despite the violent oppressive system that existed in Birmingham. So aren’t you disagreeing with him?

    • The general idea expressed in the letter is a response to religious leaders in Alabama pleading with MLK to “wait” until society is ready for the changes the civil rights movement was asking for. And MLK basically says “When you’ve suffered injustice for as long as we have, and of the nature of our injustice, telling us to wait is immoral.”

      I am paraphrasing, of course, and while the situations are not identical, they are analogous.

      • Puzzled

        Well, I agree with that analogy. But I can’t get over the idea that MLK would reply by saying that yes, we should act now – but we should act in a way that brings about negotiation, as he said in the letter, and that violent protests just bring about more hatred, and don’t push people to the table. Note – I actually agree with you, and I think that towards the end of his life, MLK moved in that direction (Malcolm X is my back up plan.) I also think his focus on non-violence took advantage of context and pushed people to the negotiation table because they were aware that, should he fail, there were more violent factions to deal with. The problem here is that there doesn’t seem to be an MLK-like faction to negotiate with. I wish Sharpton, Jackson, or someone similar would step into that role. But I still agree with you that to criticize the violence on moral grounds is wrong when it’s in response to a violent system – and think that this criticism, when it’s not purely racist (animals/savages/etc.) is based on institutionalized racism being “the way things are” and the riots being unusual.

        I also think it’s a complaint borne of privilege – those making it can’t picture having no hope of change and no option but rioting. They can’t figure out why people don’t just sue or something – precisely for the same reason they can’t picture punching a cop who tells you to get out of the street or disobeying an order from a cop (a toxic idea to begin with) because of the chance you’ll be shot in the back when you’re on the ground. They’ve never had an interaction of the sort that’s common in Ferguson.

        The only valid complaint about the violence, then, would be that it’s not actually effective at the stated goal.

  • Jill Stone Pyeatt

    Thank you, Gina. You’ve expressed my outrage quite well.

  • Keri

    Gina, thank you for your thoughts. And thank you for all of the great links. Sometimes it is easy to drown in your “white privilege” (for lack of a better term) and not realize that you have the power to help. I hope that is the reason for so many libertarians making the wrong choices when they discuss this situation. I am devastated by the goings-on in Ferguson and the disgusting lack of justice. And it would be nice if it just all went away. But I know that for those people affected by the injustice, it never goes away. I just hope they can find some peace. Thanks again.

  • DST

    “That the police officer who shot Mike Brown was not indicted was wrong. It was absolutely wrong. Regardless as to whether or not you think he would have been or should have been convicted of any of the charges sought, he should have been indicted. Instead, Darren Wilson essentially got a private trial with friendly prosecutors where he was allowed to defend himself, and evidence for both sides of a case were presented without a judge and in the absence of the adversarial process, brought by a prosecutor with deep ties to the police.”

    Nope.

    If this had happened in a state without grand juries, one in which prosecutors simply file an information listing the charges, this case still wouldn’t have been brought. The reason the prosecutor in this case used the process he did was because he believed that there was no probable cause in the first place. In a state without grand juries, a similarly weak case most likely wouldn’t have made it trial because the prosecutor wouldn’t want to earn the ire of a judge or his superiors.

    If a prosecutor feels political pressure, he might bring a weak case, as Angela Corey did against George Zimmerman. What the prosecutor in the Darren Wilson case did was try and split the proverbial baby by bringing it to a grand jury under circumstances favorable to the defense. But again, the only reason to file charges or to seek an indictment in cases like this is political, which in my opinion, should be professional misconduct for a prosecutor.

    • Dan S.

      ” But again, the only reason to file charges or to seek an indictment in cases like this is political, which in my opinion, should be professional misconduct for a prosecutor.”

      It’s not just your opinion, it is professional misconduct. Prosecutors are subject to much stricter ethics than private attorneys, they are NEVER supposed to bring a case forward simply because of political pressure. The Zimmerman case was weak, however, there was still a good enough chance that he could be convicted where it was still proper to bring it forward. This case however had no chance of a conviction, anyone who understands the law can see that. Because of that, bringing the guy to trial simply because the public wants it is the antipathy of justice. Our criminal justice system is one of the harshest things the state can do to a person, it can ruin lives, and it is not something that you throw around to score political points.

  • Dan S.

    1.Prosecutors are only supposed to bring charges when they actually believe that a crime has been committed and that a reasonable likelihood for conviction exists. It is absolutely antithetical to any notion of justice to say that a prosecutor should bring charges simply because significant public pressure exists. Prosecutors are not like private attorneys, they are not supposed to argue a position in an all out manner if doubt exists, they can lose their license for this and many prosecutors have been disbarred for being overzealous (see Mike Nifong who indicted the Duke Lacrosse players).

    You don’t just bring someone to trial for the hell of it. It costs taxpayer money and results in incredible distress to the defendant. If a grand jury couldn’t indict him there is no way a jury would convict him. Given that, it is not only judicially imprudent, but morally wrong. Our justice system has the power to destroy lives and it is not something we should be throwing around to score political points no matter how apparently noble the cause. Can’t you see where such a precedent would be bad and result in harm ultimately to disadvantaged groups?

    2. “Why should people feel the need to behave by the rules of a society that is slaughtering them and robbing them at a chance for a good life?”

    What the fuck? Do you realize how ridiculous you sound? Our government is not Nazi Germany, people are not being “slaughtered” wholesale. Cops only kill a few hundred people a year in a country with over 300 million people. This kind of bullcrap thinking is only going to increase the kinds of attitudes that lead African Americans to feel disenfranchised by society.

    There is almost never a good excuse for people to be burning businesses and looting. Anyone who gives a sober look at the facts can see that this case was by no means a blatantly racist act which would justify such conduct. Mike Brown was not Emmitt Till and trying to play this case up to that level is an insult to actual incidences of institutional discrimination. And proclaiming our government to be so out of line that violent disobedience is warranted is an insult to the people who actually have had to live under murderous regimes.