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Signs of Intelligent Life in the Comments Section

This New York Times reader’s response to the Ferguson verdict restores a bit of our faith in the internet’s unruly discussion forums

Light Brigading via Flickr

There is one thing on the collective mind of the internet today: Ferguson. Amidst the avalanche of tweets, posts, articles, vines, Facebook posts, and comments, there is no shortage of discussion in all corners of the United States. While comment sections on news articles are usually the last place for measured, considered takes on a divisive issue, the comment below—which was posted last night by commenter “Ken H” in response to The New York Timeslead story on the Ferguson verdict—perfectly and almost poetically sums up the ugly reality not just in Ferguson, but in U.S. race politics at large. It proves that, every now and then, there are signs of intelligent life in the comment section.

We are sinking in minutiae. Before us is a forest of injustice, of poor and malicious policing, legalized brutality, and discriminatory laws. Yet we are looking tree by tree by tree, case by case, bullet by bullet, kick by kick—and the depth and terror of the forest has disappeared.

When the law is written and interpreted to allow so many young, unarmed black youth to be killed by the police with impunity then we should examine the law. When police officers' training leads to so many instances of deadly force when deadly force could have been avoided then we need to examine that training. When police officers are hired and retained who fear or disdain so many of those they are supposed to protect, then we need to examine those personnel policies. When "stand your ground" laws allow untrained and unvetted citizens to carry and use guns to kill then those laws should be examined.

Whether Darren Wilson was guilty or not guilty of a crime is not the same question as whether he should or should not have shot Michael Brown. How closely our laws and policies mirror fairness and justice determine that. This case and the many that have preceded it are a clarion call to legal reform.

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