On the heels of President Barack Obama’s uplifting State of the Union address comes news that will dash the hopes of many.
According to numerous published reports, the Justice Department is on the brink of announcing that it will not file federal civil rights charges against former Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot to death unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Aug. 2014.
While the Justice Department continues another civil-rights investigation into accusations of discriminatory traffic stops and excessive force by the Ferguson Police Department, Attorney General Eric Holder will have discretion on whether the Justice Department will close the case against Wilson.
Tradition suggests he will back the findings of his prosecutors, who are still working on a legal memo to explain their recommendation.
For many of us, however, no explanation will suffice. While we did not see the shooting, we recoiled in horror at the lack of humanity that followed.
For African Americans, especially, the sight of Brown’s uncovered corpse lying motionless in the sun for four and a half hours awakened ancestral memories.
It made us shut our eyes against recollections of tortured black bodies hanging from Southern trees. It took us back to a time we thought had disappeared long ago.
Like a nightmare, Michael Brown’s death awakened us. It made us sit up from our slumber and stare into the darkness of reality.
Michael Brown’s death prompted us to mourn. Not because we knew him but because, in him, we saw our fathers. We saw our sons. We saw ourselves.
What began as quiet weeping turned into tortured screams. No matter what he might have done, we knew in the quiet of our souls that no one had the right to take him so brutally, especially someone whose job was to protect and serve.
In Michael Brown, we saw a man so devalued by the system that they measured a red mark on his killer’s face, but did not bother to measure the crime scene.
In Brown, we saw a man whose death was of so little consequence that the coroner’s investigator felt no need to take pictures of the street.
In Brown, we saw a man whose dignity mattered so little that they allowed his dead body to rot in the summer sun.
It was an image we found hard to let go.
That’s why protests exploded across the nation, why die-ins became the preferred mode of protest and why black youths shouted to the rafters that black lives do indeed matter.
And so, as we learn that Wilson will not face federal civil rights charges, we can at the very least rest on the beautiful words our President spoke.
We can rest on the fact that the Justice Department continues its civil-rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.
We can rest on the fact that Brown’s death awakened millions from their slumber.
But we can never rest until we get justice, because without justice, we can never truly have peace.
Listen to Solomon Jones weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. on 900 am WURD.