New America Media - Fri, 11/28/2014 - 01:00
Photo: Music therapist Keeley St. Clair sings with Lake Oswego, Ore., residents Tom Moore (left) and Robert Russell at the Adult Community Center. Respite classes are led by music, art and horticultural therapists. (Vern Uyetake/Lake Oswego Review) PORTLAND, Ore.--Art Martin... Jason Alcorn http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 00:05
I lived on farm housing east of Lamont until I was about 11 years old, but more than four decades later, I still remember the hard lessons I learned there.Next to a labor camp where farmworkers lived off and on... Leonel Martinez http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 19:59
Before Michael Brown and John Crawford III and Eric Garner and Aiyana Stanley Jones and Akai Gurley there was Oscar Grant. The transit police killing of the 22-year-old at Oakland's Fruitvale Station on New Year's Day in 2009 sparked national outrage when video of it went viral. Finally, there was recent proof that black men face an outsize risk of death at the hands of law enforcement. For killing Grant, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted for involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison. He only served 11 months.
While covering the trial, my colleague Julianne Hing wondered how best to pursue justice for black victims of police killings. "Criminal prosecutions are a necessary salve for families who want personal accountability for their deepest losses and courts remain the most public venue to demand justice for police officers' violent behavior," she wrote. "But for many organizers and academics who work on police brutality issues, they are not the most effective. Prosecutions so often end in acquittal, for one--as the painful verdicts for the cops charged with attacking Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Abner Louima and Rodney King all illustrate this."
ProPublica analyzed the FBI's data from 2010--the year of Mehserle was convicted--through 2012 and found that young black men are 21 times more likely than their white peers to to be killed by police.
Yet it's extremely rare for officers to face indictments, much less receive lengthy prison sentences.In California, for example, a 2013 analysis of on-duty officer-involved shootings by The Center for Investigative Reporting found that since 2005, only three officers -- including Mehserle -- have been prosecuted.
What follows is a far-from-exhaustive, intensely human look at how the data bears out. The guiding question: Can law enforcement be held accountable in a justice system that's set up to support their actions?
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 17:41
Did the legal system fail to deliver justice for Michael Brown when a St. Louis grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed him? Or, was it working exactly as it's designed? These are the questions many are asking in the wake of yet another defeated attempt to punish yet another cop for the killing of yet another unarmed black man.
Accountability for police violence is so rarely found in the courts that many are urging for a more expansive definition of that elusive justice. What's more, individual prosecutions of police officers are ill-suited, activists say, to deal with the root of the real problem: racism, and an irrational fear of black people.
"We work to hold individual police [officers] accountable," says Monifa Bandele, a member of the New York City chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), "But if we don't really dissect the cancer that is racism in the U.S. it's just going pop up in other parts of the body."
There's an undeniable emotional allure, and even a public mandate, to turn to the courts for accountability for the black boys and girls and men and women whom police kill. "It is the only outlet that's available right now. It is the only venue we have as a community," says Sheila Bedi, a professor at Northwestern University's School of Law, describing the bind that black people and their allies are in. "Where else are communities supposed to look for justice?"
Yet Bedi, herself a practicing civil rights attorney, minces no words about the legal system. "In terms of a social good, the criminal justice system was an accomplice to Michael Brown's murder."
She, like many, predicted that the grand jury would decline to indict Darren Wilson. In fact, that Wilson would escape indictment was accepted knowledge among those well-acquainted with the workings of the U.S. criminal justice system long before Monday's announcement came down. "The system is not about justice for black and brown men, as it's been proven over and over again," Bedi says.
A 'Reasonable Fear' of Black Boys
The matter of whether Wilson's killing of Michael Brown constituted a crime was never an open question to his family or to protestors who took to the streets in Ferguson. But the legal standard to determine what makes a killing a crime, particularly if a police officer is involved, all but ensured that Wilson would not be indicted. While the Department of Justice has an open investigation into Wilson's shooting of Brown, media reports have predicted little chance at a federal lawsuit. Should the Brown family choose to file a civil lawsuit against Wilson, the legal bar there will be tough to reach as well, say legal experts.
"The law recognizes that police officers are going to make mistakes, allows for them to do so, and acknowledges that life [may be] the cost," says Katherine Macfarlane, a professor at Louisiana State University's Paul M. Hebert Law Center who, prior to her appointment, defended New York City and police officers against civil suits, including excessive force claims. Those protections for cops are enshrined in legal doctrines that first allow a police officer to use force--including deadly force--against an apparently unarmed suspect if the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect "poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others," Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote in his opinion for the 1985 case Tennessee v. Garner. That case concerned the killing of 15-year-old Edward Garner, a black boy who was unarmed and holding a purse and $10 when a police officer shot and killed him while responding to a report of a nearby home robbery. As it was, the Supreme Court found the police officer's actions unconstitutional--Tennessee law at the time allowed for an officer to fatally shoot a fleeing suspect in order to secure an arrest. The Supreme Court raised the bar for when force could be an option, but also may have inadvertently supplied every subsequent accused officer the defense they needed to utter in order to be set free: "I feared for my life, or the lives of others."
Indeed, Wilson said a version of this when he sat before the St. Louis grand jury. "[Michael Brown was] obviously bigger than I was and stronger [and] I've already taken two to the face I didn't think I would. The third one could be fatal if he hit me right," Wilson said of his decision to reach for his gun during his interaction with Brown, according to transcripts of the grand jury proceedings published by the New York Times.
Separately, police officers sued for excessive force are to be judged based on a standard of "objective reasonableness," which was set forth by the Supreme Court in its 1989 ruling in Graham v. Connor. Determining whether an act of alleged excessive force violated the law means asking whether another reasonable officer would have acted similarly. If an officer "reasonably" believes they are in danger, they are legally allowed to use deadly force.
"In most police cases there's deference given to police officers," Macfarlane says. "In excessive force claims in particular the jury doesn't get to judge the police officer's actions with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. A juror will be asked to consider whether an officer acted reasonably under the circumstances, which might include stress and very short timeframes in which to act."
The objective reasonableness doctrine "is protective of officers and their need to make split-second decisions," says Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law. "Excessive force and other legal doctrines make it very hard for those who have been injured to recover."
In a culture where fear of black people, and in particular a fear of black men and boys, is a socially acceptable more, the colorblind legal doctrines nonetheless authorize police officers to shoot and kill black people. Even when those black males are teen boys. Even when they are unarmed. Even when what spooks the police officer is the flash of their partner's muzzle.
If, as in the U.S., white supremacy is the prevailing power structure, and anti-blackness the flip side of that coin, "then the reasonable fear standard will always work against those who are deemed sub-persons," argues Falguni Sheth, a professor of philosophy and political theory at Hampshire College.
If we wanted to be honest with ourselves, Sheth says, "we have to pull it apart and say: Look, this is the world that is the result of all these horrible histories. The history of slavery, the history of Black Codes, the history of Jim Crow. So the reasonableness standard has to be accompanied by the question: reasonable for whom?"
It could be more aptly described as "a reasonable standard for those who have a fear of blacks and who have arms," Sheth says.
The 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman--not an officer himself, but a neighborhood watchman who'd deputized himself as a citizen cop--is a prime example of this, says Macfarlane. "The jury in the Zimmerman case could understand his illogical, subjective fear of a young black man and think of it as reasonable. It seeps into the police force, and every aspect of our culture."
The Real Work
The ability to be wholly unsurprised in and yet simultaneously outraged by the criminal justice system is a recurrent paradox in an era where the arc of the universe is taking its sweet time bending towards justice.
"Disgusted, full of rage," said activist Patrisse Cullors, describing her state of mind Monday night after a Ferguson grand jury declined to indict Wilson for killing Brown as she expected."[My] heart is broken," added Cullors, the director of the Los Angeles-based police accountability and prison reform group Dignity and Power Now and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter.
Cullors has organized on police accountability and prison reform issues for years and knows that Brown's police shooting death will hardly be the last she'll protest. After all, in the three and a half months between Brown's August 9 killing and Monday evening's grand jury announcement, police around the country have killed 25-year-old Ezell Ford, 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr., 12-year-old Tamir Rice and 28-year-old Akai Gurley, all of them black.
Given the track record--in the last year, grand juries and district attorneys have declined to indict officers who killed 16-year-old Kimani Gray, 22-year-old John Crawford III and 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, all of them also black--Darren Wilson will not be the last police officer to escape criminal charges for killing an unarmed black boy or man. The criminal justice system has proven itself to be disinterested in defending black people's humanity.
"We cannot indict our way out of white supremacy," Cullors says. And in the coming days, as public pressure likely shifts to calls for a civil rights lawsuit or pressure on the Department of Justice, neither can people "solely call on the DOJ to take action against law enforcement," Cullors says. Change, she says, will come from people who take to the streets to shut cities down. "We must demand for all government officials to sit at the table with us to move towards greater accountability. Every law enforcement agency must be under constant scrutiny by the people they serve and the bosses [who] govern them."
Bandele of MXGM agrees. She says the group will continue to train people in other cities to conduct their long-running police observation program, and to fight for legislation like the anti-racial profiling policy community groups won last year in New York City. "When things happen like Amadou Diallo, like Sean Bell, you would think people would give up," Bandele says, letting out a short laugh at the absurdity of the political reality. "But we know you can't give up. There's no option. We can't live like this. We can't live and have people shot in our community."
She isn't ready to give up on a political strategy that includes going after cops in court either. "No one is saying [the courts] are the only field you can play in to get justice," Bandele says. "We are at such a crisis level that we have to double down on whatever we have available to us. We've got to play them all."
New America Media - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 17:12
Nota del Editor: Un nuevo estudio dado a conocer esta semana encuentra que más del 11 por ciento de los niños hispanos no tienen seguro médico, en comparación con 7.1 por ciento de todos los niños en todo el país.... Anna Challet http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 14:57
As people of conscience continue to mourn the slaying of Michael Brown and protest the St. Louis grand jury's decision not to indict his killer, Officer Darren Wilson, we're also in search of solutions.
That's why Colorlines, in partnership with EBONY.com, The Guardian U.S., The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The St. Louis American and St. Louis' Riverfront Times, has helped launch FergusonNext.com and #FergusonNext, a website and hashtag that invites users to share their ideas about how to make change.
On FergusonNext.com and via #FergusonNext on Twitter and Tumblr, you can share your solutions to the perfect storm of problems that lie beneath cases like Michael Brown's. In 750 words or less, take on racial segregation, law enforcement reform, court reform, and other issues. On the website you can also find the partners' latest work and donate to the Brown Siblings Memorial Fund.
The core question of the project: "How can we work together to find justice?"
Join us in finding the answers.
New America Media - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 14:44
Ed. Note: On Nov. 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced that he would take executive action to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Following his announcement, New America Media hosted a national telephonic press briefing for ethnic media reporters,... Staff http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 14:35
At the end of Thursday’s hearing last week by the House Armed Services Committee examining the US strategy towards ISIS, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey declared, “We’ve got our assets focused like a laser beam on learning... Pakistan Link http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 13:14
In the second installment of Officer Darren Wilson's interview with ABC, he revealed that not only is his new wife, fellow Ferguson police officer Barbara Spradling, pregnant, but that he'd also like to move on from the aftermath of his killing Michael Brown by giving back to others.
"I would love to teach people. I would love to give more insight on ... into the use of force and anything I can," Wilson told ABC. "Anything that I can get out of this career I've had so far and of the incident, I would love to give to someone else."
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 13:13
Black Friday used to be known as a retailers' cash cow and the (sometimes deadly) kick-off to Christmas shopping. Since the 2008 recession, however, the biggest shopping day of the year appears to be turning into a symbol of one long holiday weekend of national protest--and this year striking Walmart employees with support from fast-food workers have company. Inspired by Ferguson and galvanized by the grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, disparate calls are gaining steam for an economic boycott this Friday in honor of Michael Brown. This Black Friday could mark the popular merging of low-wage labor fights for economic justice with social justice fights for human and civil rights--all concerns that affect working class communities of color.
"Our campaign is separate from the Walmart protest but we stand in solidarity and support their efforts," wrote Mike Latt* in an e-mail to Colorlines. Latt is president of marketing for Blackout for Human Rights, which is leading a national social media (#BlackOutBlackFriday) and offline campaign to boycott stores this Friday. Latt told Forbes that the nonprofit, formed by "Fruitvale Station" director Ryan Coogler, wants to, "encourage those sick of the status quo to spend their Black Friday doing something more useful than shopping."
Other hashtag campaigns drawing similar inspiration from Ferguson, Forbes reports, are #NotOneDime and #HandsUpDontSpend. In St. Louis, the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition and other groups according to the local Fox affiliate, are separately calling for a weekend boycott November 19-December 3, 2014.
St. Louis labor leader Bradley Harmon of Communications Workers of America on a recent WorkWeekRadio podcast (9:40-12:39) connects the dots between Mike Brown's death, the grand jury's decision and disenfranchisement among St. Louis's youth:
Before Mike Brown got shot 47% of young black men in St Louis couldn't find work and...that's what Gov. Nixon should've declared a state of emergency about a long time ago....So many young people are being left behind by this economy. And then when Mike Brown was shot that's another example of the way that government is failing working class people. The kind of interaction that Mike Brown got from the government, the services that he needed, the school that he went to, the social services that should have been there when his family was having hard times...the kind of support that should've been there for his family wasn't there from the government and the kind of interaction that he did get from the state of Missouri, the city of Ferguson and the St. Louis County government was bullets from Officer Darren Wilson.
Listen for more, as well as a statement from imprisoned Mumia Abu-Jamal (1:05-2:54) reacting to the grand jury decision, below:
Calls for a national economic boycott this Black Friday to protest police brutality are coming at a time when even mainstream press debates whether Ferguson shows that cops who kill get off too easily.
* Post has been updated since publication to correct the last name, Latt, not Ladd.
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 11:05
At the behest of Tamir Rice's family, Cleveland police released audio and video of the shooting that claimed the 12-year-old's life at a local playground four days ago.
In it, Rice is shown walking around a park with a BB gun in his hand, looking fairly bored and talking on his cell phone before a police cruiser pulls up. The two responding officers appear to shoot the boy immediately after leaving their moving police car. Those officers were identified as Frank Garmack, 46, a six-year veteran of the force, and Timothy Lowman, 26, who had only been with the department since March. Both officers are on administrative leave, which is standard after fatal shootings.
"We are honoring the wishes of the family and releasing this and also in the spirit of being open and fair with our community," Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said at a press conference this afternoon. Tomba called the shooting an "obvious tragic event."
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 11:00
Emerald Garner is thinking about her father, Eric, this holiday season. But among the many happy memories she has of him, his death isn't one of them. Eric Garner died this past summer in an NYPD officer's chokehold, footage of which quickly went viral and put him in a long line of black lives ended prematurely due to state violence.
"I can't tell him what I want to tell him," the younger Garner says in a recent video. "I can't speak to him, I can't let him know that I love him anymore."
Her heart-wrenching message was filmed in a video released this week by Blackout for Human Rights, a coalition of activists, artists and concerned citizens that has come together in the wake of protests in Ferguson, Mo. The coalition's organizers are calling on viewers to stand in solidarity with Emerald this holiday season by boycotting major retailers.
The coalition describes itself as a "network of concerned citizens who commit their energy and resources to immediately address the staggering level of human rights violations against fellow Americans throughout the United States." Its members include well-known filmmakers like Ryan Coogler ("Fruitvale Station") and Ava DuVernay ("Selma," "Middle of Nowhere"), actor Jesse Williams ("Grey's Anatomy"), musician Childish Gambino and advocacy organization Color of Change.
It's estimated that black buying power will reach $1 trillion by 2015 and organizers hope that this boycott will underscore the economic significance of black people whose lives are routinely threatened by law enforcement. The boycott is the first of several planned actions. You can find more on Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook.
New America Media - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 10:56
Reaction from Asian American civil rights groups and leaders remains overwhelmingly negative to the grand jury decision not to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown (Photo by Debra Sweet).Many called for a national dialogue on racism... Asam News http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 09:51
The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES) of New Orleans presented BY! NOLA! (Believe in Youth, New Orleans, LA) Leadership Summit on Adolescent Health, to reveal the findings from its newest survey, on November 18, at the Loews Hotel... Louisiana Weekly http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 09:45
As many as 200,000 Medi-Cal recipients will be shocked to learn they are losing their health care benefits at the end of this month. In Los Angeles County alone, close to 100,000 Medi-Cal families received or will receive termination notices.... Alhambra Source http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 07:48
The family of a 12-year-old boy who died Sunday morning from a police-inflicted gunshot wound to his stomach is asking the mayor and the police department to release video of the incident. What's known of this still-developing story is that the tragedy unfolded Saturday afternoon when two officers responded to calls of a "man" pointing a gun at people in the park. The replica gun was a toy. There are reports that dispatch did not relay crucial information to the officer, however, that the gun "was probably fake" and that the guy was "probably a juvenile." The officer, on the force less than a year, fired twice and at least one bullet hit Tamir Rice, reports say.
Today at 1 p.m. EST, police "will provide additional updates and audio and visual evidence from the use of deadly force," according to a November 25 post on a Cleveland Division of Police Web site. The medical examiner's office, which ruled Rice's death a homicide, has so far denied requests for more information, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group. The officer's name has not yet been released.
Rice's killing comes as Cleveland's police department is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether it regularly uses excessive force. Cleveland residents have been protesting both the Tamir Rice shooting and the Ferguson grand jury decision.
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 07:43
During last night's protests for Mike Brown in New York City, this happened on CNN. And it was awkward:
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 07:17
More ABC US news | ABC World News
After a series of "auditions" with news anchors, first reported by CNN's Brian Stelter, police officer Darren Wilson appears to have selected ABC's "World News Tonight" or anchor George Stephanopolous for his first interview since fatally shooting Michael Brown on August 9.
Watch the teaser above. The interview airs tonight at 6:30 p.m. EST on "World News Tonight."
Colorlines - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 07:01
This is what I'm reading up on today:
- Protests continued in cities across the country in response to a Ferguson grand jury's failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson for Mike Brown's killing.
- Demonstrations also continued in Ferguson, where 44 people were arrested on Tuesday.
- Darren Wilson gave his first public interview to ABC in which he repeated his racially incendiary descriptions of Mike Brown as a "demon" with superhuman strength. Rachel Maddow compared it to the 1990's hysteria over so-called "super predators."
- Another woman from Bill Cosby's civil suit has publicly identified herself.
- Your favorite movies are probably leaving Netflix at the end of November.
- Why your family will drive you crazy at Thanksgiving.
Colorlines - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 21:10
The Darren Wilson grand jury has decided that the officer will not be indicted for the August 9 fatal shooting of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown. The decision comes within the context of intense local and national protesting and organizing. So what does the lack of an indictment in the Michael Brown killing mean? Here's what leading activists and thinkers told Colorlines immediately after the decision was announced:
How do you feel about the decision? The decision to not indict Darren Wilson is infuriating, frightening, and maddening. This country has shown time and time again that black life is without value. I also know that the indictment or non indictment of one officer will not end the rampant terror police departments enact upon black communities. We can not jail or indict our way out of white supremacy.
What can we do to move forward? We must continue to be in the streets, lobby for new laws and push for the demilitarizing of police departments as well as reducing their budgets. We need to believe that safety does not have to rely on a badge or gun, but rather healthy communities that are provided with jobs, shelter and proper education.
Brittney Cooper, Crunk Feminist Collective
How do you feel about the decision? Devastated.
What can we do to move forward? Revolt.
Imani Perry, professor in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University
How do feel about the decision? The decision is harrowing and yet mundane. Police violence, a lack of due process, surveillance, presumptions of black guilt, and the absolute devaluation of black life are all everyday business in America. The American criminal justice system is so rotten, perhaps it is a fools errand to ever seek justice or fairness from it. Had Darren Wilson been indicted, the odds that he would be convicted would have been minimal. If he had been convicted, it wouldn't have changed the fact that law enforcement is an engine of anti-black racism in this country. Yet this decision is still a terrible blow. It is a green light for an ever more murderous police state.
What can we do to move forward? We must follow the organizers, both Ferguson organizers and national organizers. It is time for us to remember the legacies of SNCC, Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, to hold them close as our inheritance. It is time for us to study the systems of racial and economic injustice in order to best struggle against them. It is time for establishment and bureaucratic civil rights professionals to step back and make space for this rebirth of the freedom movement. It is time for us to join this movement, to listen, to learn, and to keep our hands on freedom's plow.
Deepa Iyer, Race Forward board of directors and former director of South Asian Americans Leading Together
How do you feel about the decision? I am deeply saddened and outraged by the failure of the grand jury to indict Darren Wilson. The legal system too has failed Michael Brown and his family. But I'm also trying to draw courage and inspiration from the protestors in Ferguson who have, for three months now in the midst of a virtual police state, reminded us why we must continue to fight for reforms in the criminal justice system, from police accountability to the demilitarization of law enforcement to anti-profiling laws.
What can we do to move forward? As a South Asian American, I am committed to the struggle for racial justice and my responsibility to our movement has become even more clearer in light of the events in Ferguson.
Dr. Yaba Blay, director or Africana Studies, Drexel University
How do you feel about the decision? I'm frustrated with myself for expecting, if only for a moment, that people who have historically not valued black life, would actually value black life. More than anything, I'm sad. I'm just sad. This is no way to live.
What can we do to move forward?Organize. Organize. Organize.
Mychal Denzel Smith, writer and Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute
How do you feel about the decision? The decision was as expected. The United States is founded on white supremacy and the destruction of black bodies and continues its existence on those principles.
What can we do to move forward? Moving forward, toward justice, is a matter of making the privileged uncomfortable. The marginalized and terrorized communities of America will have to assert their right to existence in every way possible, from politics to the arts, from classrooms to corner stores, and beyond. The fight is on.
Bakari Kitwana, executive director of Rap Sessions and author of the forthcoming "Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era
How do you feel about the decision? The debt America owes the Brown family can never be paid. This verdict reveals the salient message lost on the powers that be: There is no conditioning that can be imagined that can prepare black people to accept that death of an unarmed teen at the hands of a police officer is justifiable. America has just lost the latest generation of black Americans who imagined justice could be found in the land that prides itself on a perverted sense of the rule of law.
The country has no jobs for black youth. No affordable meaningful education. No justice. With every new state sanctioned murder, America is signing its own death certificate. Minus an apparatus of justice, black people are left to mete out a brand of justice of their own.
What can we do to move forward? It is clear the police have been empowered by the state to shoot to kill with impunity. In the reformist lane, that means at the very least disarming the police and requiring officers to live in the communities they serve. In the revolutionary lane, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with the second generation of black Americans to come of age after the civil rights movement. The promises that black folk imagined two generations ago have not been realized. This is a generation to whom America feels no obligation. No obligation to provide jobs. No obligation to provide a living wage. No obligation to get the vampire corporations out of their pockets. No obligation to provide affordable, meaningful education. We have a generation that imagined justice would prevail who just had that snatched away. Much like the second generation that came of age after the civil war, who ushered in the great migration, this is a generation whose backs have been pushed to the wall. They have nothing to lose. In my estimation, no form of vigilante justice is off the table.
Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, co-founder, A Long Walk Home
How do you feel about the decision? Waiting for this [decision] is the ritual of black life in America: dying, grieving, fighting, demanding, mourning, mounting protests, hoping, voting, being disenfranchised, shot at and dying again. Right now, I am wondering how to stop a cycle that African-Americans neither created nor condone and how far from freedom we still remain.
Last time Black America gathered around like this was probably when Barack Obama became president in 2008. How little the word "hope" means right now and how huge the project/practice/principle and radical act that #?BlackLivesMatters means today, as it did then, as it is always has in this grand experiment we call America. Rest in power, beloved prince. #?FergusonGoddam.
What can we do to move forward? We continue to organize with vigilance to dismantle a capitalist, racist, and sexist system that predicates itself on rendering black lives as weaponized bodies, as inferior, and not worthy of state protection and due process. This means we continue to take on the prison-industrial complex, violence against women, wealth inequality, and our elected officials (even those who claim to be with us) with deep, unwavering resistance.
Dorian Warren, Columbia University assistant political science professor, Roosevelt Institute fellow, Race Forward board member
How do you feel about the decision? Deeply saddened for the family of Mike Brown and deeply angered by the lack of justice in this country for black people. I feel like this is the millennial generation's Emmett Till moment.
What can we do to move forward? Mourn. And then organize. Strategize. We have plenty of demands and solutions to change, systematically, racially unjust policing and a criminal justice system that does not value black life. Now we have to organize--over the long haul--to win.
Darnell L. Moore, co-managing editor of The Feminist Wire and member of Black Lives Matter
How do you feel about the decision? That I continue to not be shocked when the legal system fails black folk is a problem. New laws and polices are great, but if we fail to change anti-black ideologies we won't experience the type of transformation necessary to ensure black folk can live free from extrajudicial murder, state sanctioned police killings, and the various affects of institutional racism.
asha bandele, author, advocate, mother
Even as I expected the decision to be what it was, it still hurts deeply. Who can be shown their babies' lives don't matter and expect to feel anything but pain and rage? And fear? The decision leaves me in fear for the safety of the children I love so deeply.
What can we do to move forward? As the process followed the terrible historical arc of cynical, vulgar, anti-justice and racist actions undertaken within American jurisprudence it tells me that we have to be as disciplined, focused, loving and courageous as so many of our progenitors were to ensure we even made it this far up the mountain. I believe in organizing. I believe in agitating. I believe in confrontation and speaking truth even when it's unpopular or frightening. And I believe that all of these done together and with integrity and an other centered spirit will ultimately be lifesaving.
Gary Delgado, Alliance for a Just Society and Race Forward board member
How do you feel about the decision? The preparation, timing, and cautions for peaceful protest all pointed to an unjust decision. I'm angry but not surprised. The most common result of a police murder is the exoneration of cop who didn't get the memo that America is post racial. As Wilson's defenders say, "He was doing what he got trained to do." Now, as communities of color express, a deep sadness, and a glowering rage, men in riot gear are doing what they are trained to do--channeling their fear into defending bricks, glass, and concrete.
Feminista Jones, activist
I did not expect an indictment. I have seen this happen too many times over the years. When police are held accountable for taking the lives of black Americans, I find myself surprised; it is troubling, yes, but honest. This is a great miscarriage of justice and a reminder that we cannot give up our fights for justice and liberation. We must have true freedom and that freedom includes the ability to live without fear of being killed by police simply because we were born black. We are still awaiting news on whether or not Officer Pantaleo will be indicted in the choking death of Eric Garner. Officer Dante Servin goes on trial soon for killing Rekia Boyd in 2012. Joseph Weekley may face a third trial in the shooting death of Aiyana Jones. Officer Randell Kendrick was indicted after a second grand jury reviewed the case. There is more to come.
What can we do to move forward? We cannot become complacent. We must fight for our rights and for the rights of our children to live as free human beings in this country.
Jessica Luther, freelance writer
How do you feel about the decision? I am not surprised by this outcome; all signs pointed to it. That doesn't make it less painful or less frustrating. My thoughts are with Mike's family and the community of Ferguson.
I think moving forward there are some things we can do. First, follow the lead of the Ferguson community and the organizers working there. Continue to listen to them and see what they need and want, what they think is best. Second, look into our own communities because the problems in Ferguson are in your community, too. I live in Austin, Tex. The People's Task Force (http://taskforceatx.org/) is a group whose singular goal is to "hold the police department accountable for any and all police shootings." They are doing the work here. And if you look where you live, you will find people there doing it already. Listen to what they want and need and offer support, and begin to change things where you are. Finally, us white folks need to talk to other white people about the injustices happening around this country, about the fact that the police around the country keep committing violence against black people disproportionately, from the shooting deaths of the unarmed like those of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, or Akai Gurley, to the deaths of the mentally ill like Tanesha Anderson and Kajieme Powell, to the sexual assault of black women at the hands of cops like Daniel Holtzclaw. White people need to tell other white people about the risks that black people take for simply existing in this world, risks that we will never face because of the privilege we carry in our skin. And maybe that will feel uncomfortable but so what. We are talking about people's lives and risking uncomfortable conversation seems like the least we can do.
Barbara Ransby, professor, historian of African-American history, writer and longtime activist based in Chicago
How do you feel about the decision? It is profoundly disturbing but not terribly surprising. The threshold was so low, one would hope a group of jurors would at least consider the possibility of involuntary manslaughter, which suggests at a minimum, Wilson's actions were reckless. Given this decision, we do have to ask, "Do black lives, especially the lives of poor and working class black youth, really matter?"
People have a right be outraged by this. It is another way of denying our humanity to suggest that in the face of rampant police violence across this country and disregard for the lives of young black people, that we should not be upset. What kind of parents, grandparents, teachers and elders would we be to not be upset? And for young people, if they do not speak out for themselves and their peers loudly and forcefully, who will?
What can we do to move forward? Well, if the decision had been different, the next steps would have been virtually the same. Why? Because the underlying problem is racist policing practices, the criminalization of poor black youth, regardless of whether they are engaged in criminal behavior, as well as poverty and the lack of jobs and quality education. So, this is not about one death and one rogue cop. We need to fight for access, resources and accountability. This case is not an isolated one. It is symbolic of the plight of poor and working class black communities all across this country. This is so much bigger than Ferguson and Darren Wilson and we have to remain clear about that. Building broad coalitions, rejecting the idea of outside agitators, and generating creative and sustainable tactics of direct action to push for change.
Joan Morgan, writer
How do you feel about the decision? I expected this decision. Optimism is something that is too dangerous an indulgence in a country deeply and historically invested in using both racism and sexism to maintain white supremacy. I know many feel this is a different political moment. I think what we just saw was a long, condescending rationale that was tantamount to saying to us black and brown people, "Same shit, different day."
How do we move forward? I don't know that the immediate response should be to "move forward". I'm tired of lost black lives being a teaching moment. I think we need to feel every bit of this pain. Every bit of this anger before we move anywhere.
Linda Sarsour, National Advocacy Director, National Network for Arab American Communities
How do you feel about the decision? While the decision was unfortunately not a surprise, it still was overwhelming. I watched the decision unfold with my family including my three children. My 10-year-old daughter, upon learning that Wilson will not be indicted, said, "This is just not fair." I am feeling sad, outraged, angry and frustrated--these are normal emotions that unfortunately are being criminalized by the media and others. I'm keeping my eyes on Ferguson, my heart in the movement and my feet on the streets of New York City because Ferguson is everywhere.
How do we move forward? We need to stay united and use this moment to refuel us to bring true systematic change to our communities. We need to empower each other, take care of one another and remain hopeful. We need to revamp the campaign to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, a bill that would prohibit the use of profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. We need to continue the fight to bring justice for Mike Brown, Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner and the countless others who have lost their lives to police violence.
*Post has been updated since publication to include Linda Sarsour's responses.
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