Friday, November 28, 2014

America's Third Rail

Race is America's third rail.  As this nation wobbles its way towards its two hundred and fiftieth birthday a decade or so from now, it remains so.  One hundred and fifty years, give or take, removed from the War between the States, which saw America tear itself asunder over race, it remains as volatile and divisive an issue on November 28, 2014 as it was on December 20, 1860.  

I did not bear witness to the events of August 9, 2014 that resulted in the death of an eighteen-year-old man named Michael Brown.  I possess no firsthand knowledge of what young Mr. Brown did or did not do in what proved to be the final minutes of his life.  I possess no firsthand knowledge of what Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson did or did not do during the fateful encounter between these two strangers that resulted in Officer Wilson killing Mr. Brown.  

And you know what?  Neither do you.  Neither does anyone else.  

I have been practicing law for more than two decades.  A component part of my practice is the defense of local law enforcement officers in civil rights actions.  I am fortunate to have a person I love as much as anyone in the world serve the people of these United States, including me, as a federal law enforcement officer.  Do I have a pro-law enforcement bias?  Indeed I do.  Albeit for reasons that are more personal than professional - and significantly so.  

I availed myself of the opportunity the other evening - and again on Wednesday afternoon - to read the testimony that Officer Wilson provided to the grand jury on September 16, 2014.   Am I willing to accept that his sworn testimony as to what occurred was truthful?  I am.  Am I as willing to accept that his sworn testimony as to what occurred was entirely accurate?  I am not.  And I am not for reasons having nothing to do with the veracity of Officer Wilson and everything to do with the way in which the mind of the average person reacts when confronted with sudden, extreme, life-threatening stress, which is precisely the type of stress that Officer Wilson described encountering on August 9, 2014.  

It has been said that, "Law is not justice and a trial is not a scientific inquiry into truth.  A trial is the resolution of a dispute."  The source of that quote, Edison Haines, also rather famously observed that, "With every  civil right there has to be a corresponding civil obligation."  Regrettably the latter speaks of a precept lost with equal alacrity to the miscreants in Ferguson, Missouri who looted and rioted and destroyed businesses owned by African-Americans and Caucasians alike during their multi-night, planned protests and to those who rejoiced at the grand jury's decision.  Fools everywhere and on both sides of the issue.  

Respectfully, what is needed on this issue is less Al Sharpton, less Ted Nugent and significantly more Ben Watson.  Of the three, only Mr. Watson appreciates the observation of a very wise man that, "Very often the difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the habit" and just how dangerously far past the former we the people of these United States are when it comes to race.  

Race is America's third rail.  



The Omnipotent Q said...

Nicely written, Adam.

Couldn't agree with you more on your main points.

I am firmly in the "I don't know" camp. Too many people made up their minds the night this incident happened, and they remained closed. And still are.

Adam Kenny said...


Thanks for popping by and for the comment. I hope you/yours had a good Thanksgiving.

We live in an era where too many of us are afraid to take the old Twain-ism about being happy to say, "I don't know", to heart. We rush - not simply to judgment - but to an iron-clad conclusion, which we hold to in a death grip that would do a Black Friday shopper proud.