"Sin grows with doing good," wrote T.S. Eliot, the major twentieth-century poet who was born in St. Louis, the city of which Ferguson is an outgrowth.
"My conscience is clear," said Darren Wilson, the Ferguson officer, after the grand jury verdict and before resigning with full benefits.
"I did not mean to hurt Mr. Garner," said Daniel Pantaleo, the New York cop, after the grand jury verdict and while remaining on job with full benefits.
Both officers firmly believed they were doing good. Both grand juries believed that the deceased-Michael Brown and Eric Garner-were in the wrong.
A large number of Americans, mostly people of color, agree with T. S. Eliot. They believe that the cops sinned in imagining they were somehow doing good.
As investigations of particular incidents continue, America must ask itself:
- How could and for how long white cops will keep on killing black and brown unarmed men and children?
- What makes juries vindicate the killer cops?
- Why does the nation prefer to remain in slumber?
- Who will wake the nation?
- When will America begin to see itself from the eyes of a widow or a wailing mother?
Unless we seek answers to these questions, sin will keep growing. The bullets and the chokeholds will kill more black and brown men and children, and sin will keep growing.
Preachers will keep on preaching. Pundits will keep on barking. Politicians will keep on pacifying. And sin will keep on growing.
There is only one way to stop America from sinning. America's redemption lies in the words of a black man, spoken nearly five decades ago:
"We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
We must become a person-centered society in which all persons are valued and respected. Or else we must prepare for the day when the wretched and despised rise up against those who persist in sinning.
Shakeel Syed is Executive Director, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California