In response to the masses of Americans protesting the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson’s streets, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon recently pronounced, “If we are going to have justice, we must first have, and maintain peace. This is a test.” Like so many other leaders who have uttered this phrase—Nixon fails to realize that a peace whose foundation is not justice is not real peace: it is a falsity peddled by ingenuous leaders to pacify and quell justified rage, to lull an oppressed people into complacency, and is not an option for those seeking justice. 
Calling for peace before justice is a tired technique used by those in power to delay addressing the demands of the disenfranchised and oppressed. It is a tactic Israel has used for decades in delaying Palestinians’ demands for freedom and an end to Israeli colonization. The 1993 Oslo Accords implemented a ‘peace’ void of justice—deferring the ‘hard’ issues of Right of Return, the status of Jerusalem, and permanent borders for five years. Today, 21 years later, Palestinians have seen their rights further violated and their land stolen at a higher rate than ever before—actions that directly contradict any stated intent by Israel to address Palestinian demands.
Nixon’s language also begs the question: What is he testing? Whether Black Americans can behave well enough to be rewarded with respect? Whether they can follow directions to stay home during curfew, and thereby merit the rights they are accorded as fellow humans? Whether they can be ‘good’ citizens and stop vocalizing their outrage, and then the police force might address its trigger-happy tendencies? The problem with all these scenarios (aside from being nauseatingly condescending) is that they predicate the implementation of rights on ‘good’ behavior—a behavior determined by those in power. This is a tactic frequently used by Israel against Palestinians—most recently during negotiations to lift the seven-year blockade Israel and Egypt are imposing on the Palestinians of Gaza. Israel maintains that there must be ‘quiet’ and their security needs met before beginning to discuss Palestinian demands of opening the borders, rebuilding Gaza’s economy, and prisoner release. The contingency of justice on good behavior is a dangerous thing. This predication moves a ‘right’ from being a set of conditions granted to everyone, by virtue of their being human, to a set of conditions that are awarded, conferred, earned, and given. They are debatable; a privilege to be taken away due to bad behavior. They are conditional.
A peace not built on a foundation of justice is a synonym for concessionary quietude, while rights continue to be violated and people continue to be dehumanized. It patronizingly calls on the outraged to hush up and swallow their rage before the issue of justice can be discussed. As John Oliver brilliantly put it, Nixon’s address to the people of Ferguson was reminiscent of “a pissed off vice principal trying to restore order at assembly.” But the people protesting in the streets of Ferguson are not high school students, upset they have been assigned homework over winter break. Rather they are people who are angry that black bodies are casually gunned down by an overly militarized police system—that their lives are viewed as less than those of others, and treated with suspect and violence. From the rage over the stratospheric killing and destruction in Gaza to the rage over the killing of Michael Brown in Missouri and everything it represents—there is a general reaction by the public for those outraged to ‘calm down’ and ‘quiet down’.
When we live in a world in which one country can systematically commit genocide and war crimes against, and ethnically cleanse, an occupied people, all while implementing a system of apartheid, with complete impunity, it is appropriate to rage.  When wearing a hoodie on the wrong day can get you killed, it is appropriate to rage. When children are slaughtered by the hundreds—some in their sleep, some while playing soccer on the beach, some dead due to a lack of electricity, never knowing a day of freedom in their precious lives—it is appropriate to rage. When an unarmed teenager is shot six—SIX—times and left to rot in the brutal August sun, it is appropriate to rage. When some opportunistic and violent techie develops a Google app game through which players can simulate bombing Gaza, it is appropriate to rage. When Palestinians and Black Americans (among many, many other disenfranchised peoples) need to continuously work to convince the world of their humanity and their deserving of dignity, equality, and value—it is appropriate to rage against these systems of systematic oppression and dehumanization.
In fact, it is healthy to rage—it demonstrates that one is human and aware of his/her humanity. That one is aware of one’s worth. The act of raising one’s voice with others in a group setting gives rise to a feeling of belonging and positive mental health, reinforcing an understanding of self worth. Knowledge of self-value is of utmost importance in the face of daily dehumanization. From a collective, holistic viewpoint of humanity—understanding where systems have failed to respect people on an individual and communal level is vital. Just as a sore throat might be your body’s signal that something is not quite right with your health, so outraged, protesting groups signal that something is not quite right in our world. Protest and vocal outrage are visible reactions to visible violence—however most disenfranchised groups suffer from less legible, daily violence such as routine humiliation and verbal abuse. Suppressing this rage is to suppress reclamation of and expression of humanity and self-worth. To not feel outrage in the face of such unrelenting dehumanization and disregard for human life is to lose touch with one’s own humanity.
To accept the status quo of peace without justice is to accept a reality in which one’s life is valued less. And this is never acceptable. Those of us who seek justice know that rights are never readily conferred from those in power to the oppressed. They must be wrested through continuous struggle—through an unwavering determination to be treated as equal, as a human deserving of dignity and freedom. As the old protest chant goes—no justice, no peace.
 In an attempt to stay focused, I use the term ‘justice’ here to mean the meeting of an oppressed people’s demands, within a framework of human rights and dignity, to redress the wrongdoing at hand.
 I use ‘rage’ as a term encompassing all manners of self-expression of anger which do not violate the rights and/or dignity of others.