Call for people to act with justice Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Mar. 19, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

People in the Madison area have been coping with the death of a biracial young man by a white police officer on March 6.

The fatal shooting of Tony Robinson, age 19, by Madison police officer Matt Kenny is indeed a tragedy.

As state law now stipulates, the incident is being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Members of Robinson’s family have called upon the community to remain calm and allow the investigation to proceed.

Religious leaders issue letter

A group of 90 religious leaders in the Madison area has called on city and county officials to address racial injustices in social and political systems.

“The racial disparities and the lack of justice and fairness in our social and political systems transcend all boundaries of religious denomination or belief. They transcend political party and affiliation,” the religious leaders said in an open letter released on March 13. “We are all called to address these issues because they reflect upon and impact our basic humanity,” they said.

“We call upon you, the people who have been entrusted with the power to effect change in the policies and practices that undergird and perpetuate the disparities in our communities, to enter into dialog with this community and with us as we do our part to address the attitudes, bias, and prejudices that allow racism to go unchallenged and unchecked in our community.”

Reports from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Race to Equity project outline racial disparities in Madison and Dane County in such areas as education, family income, and incarceration.

The shooting of Tony Robinson brings to the surface some of the racial disparities that have surfaced for years in the Madison area. These issues do need to be addressed by continued dialogue and collaboration among elected officials, the police department, and citizens.

Don’t rush to judgment

However, we must also be careful not to rush to judgment about this case.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval is urging people not to leap to conclusions about the incident. Chief Koval wrote in his blog on March 16 that he is outraged over people judging Officer Kenny without knowing all the facts.

Chief Koval wrote, “While walking alongside a demonstrator this past week, we struck up a conversation and I asked him what would serve as ‘justice’ in the case before us. He replied that justice would only be served if the officer were charged with a crime.

“Really? I was hoping for something along the lines that ‘justice’ is predicated by looking at all the facts before rendering a decision. Justice involves using the benchmarks of honesty, fairness, impartiality, and ultimately transparency before it can be attained. I still hope that this will be the case.”

The virtue of justice

Justice is defined in section 1807 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. . . .

“Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor.”

We should all reflect on the Tony Robinson killing in light of the virtue of justice. Hopefully the state investigation will shed light on what happened. In the meantime, our community should examine whether we are acting with justice in dealing with issues of race, but also not rushing to judgment about the actions of law enforcement officers.

Above all, we should pray for everyone to treat each other with dignity and respect.