This is a guest post by Anthony Smith, aka postmodernnegro.
No indictment for Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in his murder of Michael Brown. Not shocked. Definitely not surprised. However, I am sad and angry. To many people this is not understood. But to many in my cohort, this is a part of the cultural furniture of living in the United States of America. We get it. We experience the onslaught of daily indignities that are the crumbs of endemic white supremacy.
As I went to bed Monday night after watching the county prosecutor Robert McCullough announce that there would be no indictment of Officer Wilson a thought came to me: French philosopher and father of deconstructionism Jacques Derrida was right. Justice is a possibility.
Then I began a thought experiment based upon this thought along with recent conversations I’ve been having in the black community about economic development and political engagement. Suppose Derrida is right? Suppose that justice is a possibility. A phantasm that always eludes our grasp in this society. Maybe, at best, we get crumbs of a semblance of justice every century or so.
But this idea. This idea that justice as a possibility got me to think about the work and legacy of early 20th century black pan-africanist activist and entrepreneur Marcus Garvey. You may have never heard of him. Especially if you never paid attention during black history month. Garvey talked about self-determination in the black community. He was one of the early black nationalists, calling for black folks to create their own economy, political systems, and cultural reality separate from whites. It was a radical move for his day (still is actually).
But imagine Garvey and Derrida walking into a bar together. They begin to compare notes. I can imagine Garvey telling Derrida how his claim of justice-as-possibility buttresses his claim of the necessity of black political and economic autonomy. Derrida may ask, in a Socratic manner, “Why do you say this?” I can hear Garvey saying, “Because you say justice is a possibility. I’d add to that by saying that in America racial justice will be an eternal possibility.”
This thought stuck to me: suppose racial justice in America will forever be an eternal possibility. Only a possibility. Never to cross over wholly into the event horizon of actuality.
Then I can hear Derrida protesting by saying, “Deconstruction is justice.” We can attain some relative racial justice if we could only deconstruct the entirety of the American system. In the case of our criminal justice system the issue of mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipelines, communities being policed in a racially disproportionate manner mitigating vast chasms of cultural misunderstandings.
You get the picture. But who wants to begin that project? Especially when you see over and over again the murder of young black men in the media without reprisal by the systems and structures that claim, as their mission, to deliver justice to its citizens.
Before last night I thought there would be no indictment and that we would soldier on, organizing and protesting and calling the Powers into account. But after it was said and done, my soul conjured the thought of the possibility that racial justice in America will forever and eternally be a possibility. A world without end.
What do you think?
Anthony Smith blogs at postmodernegro.com and is engaged in social justice work in Salisbury, NC.