We know that those promising violence in Ferguson represent the extremes: anarchists and nihilists on one side, the Ku Klux Klan on the other. But we also know that lawlessness and violence can never bring about justice. They are, in fact, the handmaidens of injustice. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
And now we know that Officer Darren Wilson will not face charges in the death of Michael Brown. A St. Louis County grand jury began examining the evidence on August 20 and decided in recent days that there was no probable cause to indict Wilson on any of the four possible charges: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Wilson may face civil action, including a civil rights investigation by the US Department of Justice, but he will not be criminally indicted by the State of Missouri.
What we don’t know is what the reaction will be, both in Ferguson and across the country. We do know that the suspicion and hostility between police departments and African-American communities will persist and if possible even deepen. We don’t know whether violence will flare, what the police reaction will be, when Americans will begin to speak honestly to each other about race, or when the gulf that still looms between black and white will be bridged.
What we do know is that an 18 year-old man named Michael Brown is dead, and that his family still grieves for him. What we don’t know is whether he has received justice, or ever will.
Mark Gordonis a partner at PathTree, a consulting firm focused on organizational resilience and strategy. He also serves as president of both the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Diocese of Providence, and a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Mark is the author of Forty Days, Forty Graces: Essays By a Grateful Pilgrim. He and his wife Camila have been married for 31 years and they have two adult children.