Justice is an abstraction, which is to say it is not found in nature. It does not flower on a stem, or carpet a field, or sink roots and grow branches. When we speak about justice in human affairs, we mean some degree of fairness -- if a company or person has stolen our money or our health, a fair trial of the matter can compensate us for the money, and offer some compensation for the loss of our health. But in a case of murder, compensation is not possible. We cannot give life back to its owner. The life of a human being is gone, we know not where. The Christian religions believe in a life after death, of course, but its existence is unproven. As far as human knowledge reaches, this life is what we certainly have, and it may be all we have. If we bring a charge of murder against Officer Wilson, we can deprive him of liberty, and in some states deprive him of life. But none of this replaces or compensates Michael Brown, or his family or his fellow citizens.
We can all easily imagine the deprivation his family feels: all the attention and love of raising him through high school is now wasted. He will not complete a technical course in college and become a plumber or electrician. He will never decide that he needs a business course to go with his plumbing experience and start his own business, which will employ several more plumbers. He will never marry and become the father of adorable grandchildren (although I have none, I'm reliably informed that all grandchildren are adorable). He will pay no more sales tax, no income tax or corporate tax. He will cast no votes. He will never become a backyard barbecue expert or learn enough carpentry so that he can add a room to his house to accommodate a growing family. He will never sing in his church's choir or a barbershop quartet or take up needlepoint. All that he might have done is gone with him. No justice is possible.
So Michael's parents can't hope for justice. They will settle, as Trayvon Martin's parents have, for working to reduce the chances that other boys' parents will suffer what they have. It's good of them. Very good of them. But it's not justice.
Something has to be done about the way Michael Johnson died. Officer Wilson recognized some of the implications of what he had done very soon after he did it. Hence his absence from the scene at the moment. But he will have to come back. He might have started with a moment of temper, during which he made a mistake. But somewhere between the second and the sixth shots, it stopped being a mistake and became, under the law of our land, murder. Clearly America's police forces aren't accustomed to thinking of themselves as capable of crimes, much less capital crimes. It is good that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General are taking an interest in the case, and I hope their efforts will produce some semblance of … accountability. But that won't be justice for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, or the hundreds or thousands of other black citizens whose lives have been cut short because of America's endemic racism.
The only objective that even exists in the same universe as justice is to make damn good and sure it never happens again.