What happens next in Ferguson may well be, to quote Al Sharpton, a “defining moment,” though not in the way he, other progressives, and Ferguson protesters mean. To their minds, the case required little scrutiny: Michael Brown was a new Emmett Till; Ferguson, a new Selma. But that determination was made well in advance of a careful sifting of available evidence — evidence that shows that the events of August 9 do not lend themselves to a convenient racial parable. If the grand jury, having heard and weighed the available evidence, believes that Darren Wilson is not criminally culpable for his actions, they should not indict him. The judicial system cannot be used to assuage imagined racial grievances.
Michael Brown’s death, unfortunate though it was, is not part of an ongoing civil-rights struggle. The racial antipathies that animated the South in the 1960s are largely vanished — an extraordinary accomplishment that is rarely, if ever, acknowledged by those who point to present-day bigotry. Moreover, the racist justice system that some Ferguson residents decry is nowhere to be seen. The results of a police investigation, closely observed by a suspicious community and national media, have been brought before a grand jury (also under the scrutiny of a nation), which has, by all accounts, slowly and deliberately considered the available evidence. There is no indication that the system has worked otherwise than normally.
Unfortunately, racial demagoguery, too, is pretty normal in America.