The killing of Michael Brown and the injustice of the grand jury ruling in Missouri—as well as the violence in Ferguson and elsewhere in this decision’s aftermath—make one thing clear. It is time to accelerate the movement for nonviolent change resisting the structural violence of racism and all forms of oppression—and it is time to accelerate the building of a culture of peace and nonviolence where every person matters.
Our society’s unwillingness to confront the violence of systemic racism is intimately tied to its deeply entrenched culture of violence. Violence is any physical, verbal, institutional, or structural behavior, attitude, policy or condition that disrespects, dominates, dehumanizes, diminishes, or destroys ourselves, our fellow beings, or our world. We see this violence at play both in the horrific killing of Michael Brown and in the tortuous inability of the system to establish justice in this case.
But we also see this chronic violence in the larger fabric of our society that has made such a miscarriage of justice possible. The racial disparities of systemic mass incarceration of people of color, especially African-American men; the growing militarization of the police in the United States; the catastrophe of poverty and economic inequality; and the choice that one U.S. administration after another has made to invest our finite resources as a nation in war-making rather than in job creation and economic opportunity – these and many other realities are the factors that cloyingly frame the context of the tragedy of Ferguson. These events in Missouri are not exceptional or isolated. They are, instead, emblematic of a system-wide experience and pattern of violence and injustice.
But it is not enough to simply call out this reality.
We are, instead, urged and motivated by this cataclysm to respond and act – courageously, relentlessly, and nonviolently.
We are called to commit ourselves to doing the nitty-gritty work of building a world where such violence is no longer permissible or even possible. We are called to connect the dots between all forms of violence, including poverty, war, the climate crisis—but also police brutality, sexual assault, attacks on and exploitation of immigrants, gun violence, and every form of “Us” versus “Them” separation that justifies domination, exclusion, and chronic discrimination.
And we are called to build out a culture of care, concern, compassion, cooperation, and community.
We honor all those who have responded with powerful and relentless nonviolent discipline in the midst of the current crisis, just as we honor all who, through history, have seized on active nonviolence—a powerful and creative middle path between passivity on the one hand and violence on the other.
All of these historic and current examples inspire and strengthen the ongoing work to spread the power of nonviolence for social and personal transformation. At this critical moment we are all being called to study nonviolence, practice nonviolence, and join with others in building a movement to challenge and transform all violence, including the systemic violence on display in Ferguson.
Together we can connect to pool the courage and creativity necessary to struggle profoundly for a world where everyone matters.
Campaign Nonviolence –a long-term movement to mainstream nonviolence and build a culture of peace free from war, poverty, the climate crisis, and the epidemic of violence.