Black mothers in Las Vegas are angry. Several white students created an Instagram account that pictured their sons, and it threatened to perform another Columbine mass shooting while using racial slurs. Even if it hasn’t made much national news, this naturally shocked the community. The matter was quickly investigated, security tightened at the school, and three students responsible for the account were caught and charged.
One would think this is the closest the community gets to making lemonade out of lemons. Nobody was physically injured, the responsible parties are charged, and the first one has already accepted a plea deal and awaits sentencing for one felony count. This might be a good chance to consider the lessons learned and how to move forward and make things better so this doesn’t happen again.
But, no. Instead, the parents of the threatened students are angry at the justice system! They don’t like how the person pled to a single felony count. The anger that these parents feel is justifiable in many ways, but their attacks on the system are not. They seem to think that their anger entitles them to bully the justice system into whatever sentence they want. But their anger is so blinding it seems they don’t even know what would be just…except that they should vent their rage indiscriminately at the justice system and whoever questions them. For example, these mothers even seemed angry at the reporters asking for their name.
This is rather ironic since it was angry people ignoring the justice system and taking matters into their own hands that resulted in mobs, posses, extra-judicial killings and lynching throughout the sad parts of America’s history. The protections for the accused and even the pleas they take to lesser charges are a feature and not a bug in the system that protects minorities as well as white terrorists. Due process helps prevent abuse of power, false confessions, kangaroo courts, and lynching; it channels the rage from the victims into more constructive avenues away from retribution and blood feuds. This helps everybody, but it is especially helpful for traditionally marginalized groups that were often unfair targets of the criminal justice system, as the fictional “To Kill a Mockingbird” showed so powerfully.
On a larger note, this anger is the problem with political discourse in general. From the comments on social media, to analysts like Matt Walsh, and voters on every side, anger is enshrined, bottled, and worshiped as the key principle that makes a person’s opinion right and righteous. But at best the outrage sweepstakes clouds thoughtful analysis; it often replaces thoughtful analysis altogether. And so often, as in cases of these mothers, it obscures important truths. The parents have a right to be upset that their children were targeted, but they should also consider the prompt response from law enforcement and school officials who prevented this from being the next mass shooting and quickly brought the individuals to justice. This makes the case a cause to celebrate justice instead of bemoaning that their angry thirst for revenge wasn’t satiated.