The grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. decided not to indict former police officer Darren Wilson on Nov. 24. This decision was a miscarriage of justice. A grand jury indictment does not decide innocence or guilt; it merely moves a case on to a trial, where the accused can face justice before a jury of their peers. No indictment for Wilson means that justice for Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager who was shot six times by Wilson, will have to come through different avenues, if justice comes at all.
These events seem far away – Augustana is hundreds of miles from Ferguson. Yet physical distance is truly the only thing that separates our campus from what is going on in Ferguson and in cities where protests have been organized across the country. Racism and police brutality are everywhere, and Augustana is no exception.
Racist comments on Yik Yak, Facebook and other social media shows that racism does not just happen in Missouri. It happens in our dorms, our classes and on our entire campus.
Racism is not just a white cop shooting a Black teen. Racism, and racist behaviors, manifest in everyday life on a regular basis. Even kind, wonderful people can do and say racist things. But racism is never justifiable, regardless of how unintentional. Racism has no place on our campus. Despite our best efforts, it exists on our campus anyway.
We must call out people for their racist attitudes, actions and words. We must accept call outs about our own racist behavior and beliefs with grace, not excuses. We must examine our own biases and behaviors, and work to change them in every area of our lives possible.
Being an ally means taking the privileged space occupied in society and making it safe for the oppressed. This is a difficult, uncomfortable concept for many to grasp. It requires justice, not equality. Everyone is not being treated the same, is not being given the same accommodations.
If we want to achieve equality, we must first make justice happen. Racial inequality and racial injustice exists in the United States. Denying this is white privilege at its finest. Those with white privilege must take the back seat in deciding what justice looks like, because as the oppressors it is not our place to determine this. In an apology, the person who has been wronged may set the grounds for how reparations are made.
The demands for justice being made by Black people and people of color in the United States are not unreasonable. Our addiction to our privilege prevents white people from seeing this clearly.