Social Workers Against Criminalization Launch New Initiative in the Wake of Protests

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New York Many in the New York social work community honored the reclaiming of Dr. King’s legacy, also known as the Day of Resilience and the Pledge of Resistance, by announcing the launch of Social Workers Against Criminalization (SWAC).

The emergence of SWAC is an acknowledgement of the ways in which social workers have often participated in and perpetuated institutional racism and state violence while simultaneously recognizing the capacity and responsibility that social workers have to support the already existing resilience of oppressed communities, through trauma informed care, political education, policy, and organizing initiatives. SWAC promotes the professional obligations of social workers to dismantle the structures that perpetuate state violence and mass criminalization while increasing our accountability to those most directly impacted.

Ferguson Action, activists, and community groups nationwide have come together to declare 2015 as the Year of Resistance and Resilience, directly confronting state violence against communities of color. In reclaiming the true legacy of  Dr. King, Ferguson Action announced January 15th as the day to take the Pledge of Resistance; January 18th as a Day of Resilience; and January 19th as a Day of Action.

We join collectives and organizations led by directly impacted communities such as the people of St. Louis fighting for freedom, in lifting up the call for resilience, healing and sustained organizing efforts needed for the long road of resistance to state violence, mass incarceration, and mass criminalization.

“State violence against communities of color is directly linked to the oppressive system of mass incarceration in the United States, our systemic practices of over-policing and criminalizing people of color, and the inhumane use of the death penalty in this country. The nexus between these three things can no longer be denied or ignored as Black people lose their lives every 28 hours at the hands of vigilantes or law enforcement. Social Workers are bound by a Code of Ethics that compels us to respond to torture and mass trauma experienced by communities of color, both historically, and in our present day reality,” said Shreya Mandal, Founding Member of SWAC and longtime human rights advocate in New York.

“The dominant narrative in this country is that terrible things would not happen to people of color if they would simply not ..resist arrest.. or fill in the blank. We all have been socialized to internalize this message that places responsibility for these tragic consequences, whether it’s murders, child removal or school suspension, solely on the individual. For instance the message is that Michael Brown and Eric Garner died while resisting arrest, and were therefore responsible for their own demise. It is hard for many to accept that people of color are arrested for what goes mostly ignored when committed by whites. The work of SWAC is to create opportunities for our profession to reflect upon the messages that we receive and interrupt the idea that responsibility of these acts rests solely on the individual,” said Sandra Bernabei, President of NASW-NYC.

“Humanity must learn to respect the differences among each other and leave one another alone. If we can just accept our differences, I believe that life would be a whole lot better than it is today. We must learn to respect each other and to stop antagonizing and bullying each other. SWAC promotes this goal in its initiatives,” said Larry Coldwell, Founding SWAC member and NYC Social Worker.

The visibility of state violence has reached a boiling point. Americans have awoken to the long history of police violence and extrajudicial killings of Black people evidenced by the recent deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO; Tamir Rice in Cleveland, OH; Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY; and Akai Gurley of Brooklyn, NY. As social workers we have a responsibility to stand up to injustice and to support the texture of this conversation, including the elevation of the lesser known names of Aiyana Jones of Detroit, and Shantell Davis and Kyam Livingston of NYC.

These incidents and thousands of others are reflective of the systemic problem of institutional racism and the continued criminalization of Blackness and poverty by the very institutions that are sworn to serve and protect. SWAC is proud to stand in resistance against mass criminalization and supports the efforts of social workers to build upon the resilience of communities of color.

Media Contact

Twitter: @SWAC_NYC                                                                                   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialWorkersAgainstCriminalization
Email: SWAC.NYS@gmail.com

Social Work Students Respond to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and the Neutrality of Social Work Program Administrators

UC Berkeley Social Welfare graduate students stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and we are speaking out against nationwide police brutality and systemic violence against the Black community. As students and as social workers, we feel a responsibility and an obligation to issue a statement in support of the community action and the demands issued by the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Our criminal justice system continues to fail the Black community. It is intolerable that the lives of Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, McKenzie Cochran, Kimani Gray, and countless other Black men and women were taken by individuals who took an oath to protect and serve them.

tumblr_mz6ujyfZXV1qm0yhvo1_500The criminalization of and violence against Black men and women speaks to larger systems of racism and oppression that we, as social workers, are ethically bound to interrupt. Students questioned the school’s response after the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare administration had not formally issued a statement.

The silence has been deafening, and it has been particularly felt by the Black community throughout the institution. This lack of support on campus for students of color is disgraceful, and completely unacceptable, especially for an institution such as Berkeley that prides itself on diversity, inclusion, and a history of activism.

We join our social work colleagues from Columbia University, Portland State University, Washington University, Smith College, and numerous other schools and organizations that have made public statements to call for community members to demand social reform. As students at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, we too will use our voices to break the silence that pervades our academic community and act on the principles of social justice that we have been discussing in our classroom.

We are in solidarity and thankful to participate in the actions and healing spaces that Berkeley students and community members have organized: The Black Student Union action on December 4th, the walkout organized by the Black Student Union at Berkeley HS on December 10th, the organizing efforts that brought the Millions March Rally from Berkeley to Downtown Oakland on December 13th, and the December 15th  “Not On Our Watch” silent protest organized by the Black Staff and Faculty Organization (BSFO), a response to the effigies which were hung in Sproul plaza. Our goal is to uphold the #BlackLivesMatter movement’s focus on disrupting white supremacy, and we must acknowledge how Black people are mistreated in the United States, including on the UC Berkeley campus.

We invite the Berkeley Social Welfare administration as well as other Schools of Social Work to discuss how our programs can better model social work praxis and include the #SSWBlackLivesMatter organizing movement in their plans for Spring 2015. We will continue to mobilize, and we are prepared to take action on our campus and within our community – because at the end of the day, #BlackLivesMatter.

Media Contact

Ariana Allensworth | ariana.allensowrth@berkeley.edu

UC Berkeley MSW Graduate Student Body

Why I Can’t Breathe

In this age of personal responsibility and expressive individualism we are witnessing a rare expression of solidarity from athletes who generally avoid weighing in on social issues. I can’t breathe were the chilling last words of Eric Garner who died at the hands of New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo. These words have become the rallying cry for protestors across the country and around the globe who believe it is time for a change in the way African American communities are policed.

Columnist George Will writes in today’s Washington Post about “overcriminalization” in the American Society—that Eric Garner’s crime was not one that necessitated an armed response. Crime is rampant in many inner-city neighborhoods where education is shameful and jobs are scarce. Drugs have become the commodity of convenience for wealth creation and escape from the brutal circumstances of life. Treating young black people as mostly criminals does nothing to change these realities.

Like many other men of color, I have had my encounters with the police. But for the grace of God I could be dead or rotting away in a prison cell. My first traumatic encounter with police occurred after my employer was killed in a robbery in the pharmacy he owned. I was 18 years old and had worked in his store part-time for three years. I had grown to be very close to that 35-year-old Jewish man. He was my friend as well as employer.

The day my father died, it was he who consoled me. The day he was killed in the robbery I was attending classes studying mechanical engineering at City College of New York. The police were waiting for me when I got home. They took me to the police station and grilled me for hours. I was in shock from learning about the death of Gerald Ginnis yet I was being traumatized by the police who believed that I was somehow involved in the shooting. I can’t breathe.

My next encounter occurred as I walked the streets of my Bed-Stuy neighborhood in Brooklyn returning home from choir rehearsal. I was about 20 years old. I was the director of the choir and I was reviewing the music in my head when I turned the corner and looked directly into the barrel of a cop’s gun. His hands were shaking and I started praying in my mind. I dropped everything in my hands and put them behind my head as he instructed. I was put into a patrol car and driven to a hardware store where the proprietor was asked if I was one of the men who robbed his store. What if he had said yes! I can’t breathe.

Another encountered occurred in Atlanta where I lived while completing my M.S.W. at Clark Atlanta University School of Social Work. My wife and I had bought a house during our stay in Atlanta and after graduation I lived in Manhattan working on my doctorate at Columbia University. During one of my visits back home, two police officers knocked on my door as I was packing for my next morning’s flight to New York. My wife had already left for her job in Chicago.

They said they had traced me to my address and that I had an outstanding warrant for writing a bad check to the Dekalb County Motor Vehicle Department. It was written on a credit union account and I explained that I never had a checking account with a credit union. They insisted that I had to appear before a judge and I could do that in night court and be back in time to catch my flight. They held me over night. I pleaded with them to run my social security number to no avail. I was threatened with disappearing in the jail if I protested any more. At the time I was working on my dissertation about incarceration and it was my first experience being locked up. I can’t breathe.

Black athletes have decided this is an issue that is worth taking a stand for. They realize that for the grace of God they could be in a very different place as black men in America. And even as they achieve fame and notoriety, many in society still see them as less than human. They have watched as a black man elected twice as President of the United States has been vilified, castigated, called a liar and damn near a thug. They know that some of them are viewed as thugs. They have brothers and friends who have been profiled and unjustly accosted by the police.

LeBron James said he is wearing the shirt in solidarity with the Garner family. I am just glad that he and others are using their celebrity to bring attention to the injustice of the grand jury verdicts that exonerated Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo. Cheers to the St. Louis Rams’ players, to Darren Williams and others on the Brooklyn Nets, to Derrick Rose, Reggie Bush, Kyrie Irving, the Georgetown men’s basketball team and everyone who protested. When Kobe Bryant dons a protest shirt, you know that something major is happening.

Social workers know the importance of telling our stories, of processing our pain and humiliation and channeling those feelings into actions that are positive and meaningful. The struggle against injustice, bigotry, and marginalization continues. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Most black men do not know what it feels to be normal in the American society. I am not sure that day will come during my lifetime. Until it does, I will be waiting to exhale.

Why the Grand Jury Decision in Ferguson Will Continue to Lead to Violence

Everything I say below has been said before, but I want to make it clear that mine is yet another voice from outside of the United States added to the millions of others who are despairing about the events currently unfolding in America.

There is a recurring dream I have where someone I trust betrays me and the betrayal fills me with hurt and anger. The specifics of what that person has done changes from dream to dream but the feeling of intense pain is consistent.

when-you-areIn my dream, I pour my heart out to the person who has hurt me, explaining why their actions have caused so much damage. The offender responds by ignoring me and turning their back. The simple gesture of them turning their back on me almost hurts more than the original betrayal and the pain intensifies through sheer frustration as my suffering remains ignored.

Watching the protests, both in America and London, at the decision of the Grand Jury not to prosecute the Police Officer who shot Mike Brown, I was reminded of that dream. As I watched Mike Brown’s Mother receive the verdict, I saw a second wave of pain flow over her, almost as if she were receiving the news of her son’s death for the first time. Whilst most of us knew that the verdict would not have gone any other way, we all, deep-down held hope that for once- just for once- the outcome might be different.

But of course it wasn’t different, and now citizens across America, as well as those watching the events on television all around the world, are left with feelings of confusion, anger and frustration.

The verdict seems to have re-taught us a lesson which we hoped was out of date. The verdict taught us that some lives are not as valuable as others and that the law does not protect everyone equally. To know that your son, if he is a black male, can be shot and killed by a Police officer whilst he holds his hands up in surrender, and then know that the law will do nothing to prosecute his killer, is the ultimate sign that the law will not only hurt you, but it will ignore your pain.

When placed in the situation where your demands for justice are rejected through “legally accepted channels”, what options are you left with?

I, personally, would never advocate for violence. However in the face of such apparent powerlessness, as we see in Ferguson, I understand why people may resort to rioting.

The facts are this: Firstly, a young man was killed by the state. Secondly, history and personal experience tells us that the police, courts and politicians do lie, again and again. Thirdly, the statement given by Darren Wilson was flawed, and at the very least Mike Brown’s family should expect a thorough investigation and fair trial.

Without this, we cannot simply ask people to accept the verdict and move on. If we ask people to accept the verdict then we are asking them to accept that Mike Brown deserved to die. We would be asking them to accept the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner. All of these deaths were unjust and collectively we know and feel that injustice deep-down. We know, as Andrew Boyd says, that our “destiny is bound with the destinies of others.”

Serious work must start now to create a law enforcement system that people can trust; that people know not to be racist and that does not kill an unarmed man. If these problems are not addressed then peaceful protest will no longer be an option for many for whom the injustice hurts too much.

The Trayvon Martin Case Foreshadowed An Increase in Police Homicides of Minorities

With the recent decisions of no indictment involving the police officers responsible for the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford to name a few, America could not be anymore divided in how we analyze these events through our own filters. Current poll data articulates that 65% of minorities believe there is a racial construct within our police and legal system which disproportionately affects minorities while reporting the opposite belief by White Americans at roughly the same percentage.

However, I would challenge future pollsters to parse out additional data on party affiliation when polling White Americans because it is my the over polling of conservative white Americans may create a skewed and unfair depiction of White America. Before we can develop solutions and move forward, we must first define the problem and acknowledge the symptoms in order to design and implement interventions to reduce risks. However, this process proves to be even more difficult due to our inability to discuss racial issues in a country whose prosperity and place in this world was made possible as a result of racial injustice.

252311-masked-french-special-unit-policemen-leave-after-the-assault-to-capturIt’s been almost three years since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and the relevance of his death could not be more apparent today. I remember one of my white friends asking me “Why Trayvon Martin…what so special about him”? I didn’t take offense to the question because I knew it was coming from a place of “I really don’t understand, and I want to know what you think”. Translation: What is the significance of his death, and why is it so important to you?

I reflect on Trayvon’s death because it foreshadowed a future that struck fear into many black families across the nation. George Zimmerman, a man with no police authority and no legal right to follow or detain anyone, established a legal precedent lowering the bar of jurisprudence in the killing of a minority. Despite illegally following Trayvon with a firearm, Travyon was denied the right to fear for and defend his life as any other reasonable person would do.

In past case law, the reasonable person test is the standard applied when looking at the actions of a suspect or victim in self defense cases which asks the question “what would a reasonable person do under the same set of circumstances”. However, this standard was was not applied to Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman. In review of the facts, it would be reasonable to conclude that any person being followed by a stranger at night, first by vehicle then on foot, on their way home would fear for his/her life, and they should retain the right to defend his/her life as provided by law. I can only imagine the fear Trayvon felt wondering if he maybe leading a murder, rapists, or pedophile to his family’s home. Also, this case changed the trajectory of how police departments and prosecutors would respond to future cases demanding legal action as a result of public outcry. Without public protest, there would not have been a trial for a non-law enforcement/private citizen who killed another American citizen, and the bar is becoming even lower for seeking indictments in the rise of police involved homicides of unarmed minority American citizens.

The Trayvon Martin case came with a scary realization for many minority families. If a regular citizen with no police authority can gun down an unarmed person, what will this mean for minority interactions with the police? The Trayvon Martin case also set a new legal standard for the victim by establishing the good black person versus the criminal black person. Basically, if you are a criminal, have a criminal record, history of drug abuse or drugs in your systems essentially the police or anyone with presumed credibility can come to your home, neighborhood, work or retail store and shoot you dead with no questions asked.

The killer only has to articulate they feared for their life or that the dead victim threatened them. For some reason, the killers in these situations are not drug tested or histories released unlike the victim who can no longer speak or defend themselves. It appears one can murder without fear of having a trial and can be cleared by their local police department who may choose not to preserve any evidence on the slim chance there maybe a trial.

The media attention of the Trayvon Martin case and his treatment as a victim publicly exposed the persistent racial divisions between black and white America. If you can honestly substitute a white woman, a white man, or yourself as a place holder for “what appeared to be a big black man” describing Trayvon, proceed to add back in George Zimmerman following you in his car, then following you on foot with a gun, and still arrive at the same conclusion, then race is not a factor in how you analyze events.

Supporters of Officer Darren Wilson view Mike Brown as the antithesis of Trayvon Martin, and they argue Brown was a violent criminal seen on camera being threatening toward another minority then attacked a police officer inside of his patrol car. Let’s say for the sake of argument this version of events is true. The question we should be asking is whether Darren Wilson used deadly force on an unarmed fleeing suspect once his safety was no longer being threatened. After Brown fled from the police car, what actions could Darren Wilson have taken to apprehend the suspect and minimize the loss of life as well as the potential loss of life of bystanders from shooting a hail of bullets?

Police officers do not have the authority to shoot fleeing suspects who are not in the act of harming another person despite what prosecutors lead the grand jury to believe. There is a fleeing felon law provision which exist only for the Bureau of Prisons in apprehending escaped convicts. Police officers with proper training would have call for back-up, set-up a perimeter, called in the K-9  units to track the suspect, put out a city wide alert with description of the fleeing subject, and followed in his police vehicle to keep a visual of the suspect.

In this case, Officer Wilson was unaware of Mike Browns’ involvement at the convenient store, and his involvement resulted from Brown walking in the street. Police officers possess the ability to obtain warrants for a crime based on a suspects physical description and clothing without having a name. Officers are trained not to go on a lone pursuit after a suspect because it increases the risks of your safety being compromised. There were many tools and options at Darren Wilson’s disposal as police officer other than exiting his vehicle and immediately begin shooting at a fleeing suspect. What if one of the stray bullets killed an innocent bystander?

An officer who can not do a risk assessment under pressure and cycle through the options at their disposal should not be a police officer. Retreating, surveying the scene, and calling for additional back-up are all options available to officers who want to minimize risks to their own life and the loss of life for others. Officers jumping out of their vehicles without arriving at a safe distance to assess the scene with guns blazing fail to take measures to minimize risks to themselves and others. In my opinion, Darren Wilson was not operating in effort to apprehend a suspect because he had already chosen to use deadly force before exiting his vehicle. Officers are not trained to wound when they pull their service weapon because they are trained to kill, and this tells me that Officer Wilson had already decided he was going to kill Mike Brown when he fired the first shot.

This case has become about what Mike Brown did to cause his death instead of whether Darren Wilson followed police procedure, whether the evidence corroborated his account after exiting his vehicle, and whether his actions were consistent with the discharge of his duties under the law and departmental policy. Instead, the prosecutors’ office focused largely on Darren Wilson’s account and eye witness testimony while leaving out pesky items such as forensic evidence and police protocol.

Did Wilson call out his stop of Brown and his friend to dispatch? Did Wilson have any communication with dispatch prior to Brown’s death? Where is the radio traffic and 911 recordings for the time of the incident? Where is Darren Wilson’s text messages and call logs following Brown’s death? Where were the shell casings found? Did he reload his weapon?

In other cases such as with John Crawford and Eric Garner where there is video evidence disputing initial reports by the police, officers in these cases still escaped a grand jury indictment. George Zimmerman’s exoneration from murder has set the standard so low that it will be virtually impossible to prosecute a law enforcement officer with a history of abuse of authority and use of force who kills an unarmed citizen.

The prevailing arguments give the impression that the police should not be questioned because they are charged with protecting us or officer safety is an automatic defense that does not need to be corroborated by evidence and police protocol. Many Americans who do not see the institutional racism and constructs disproportionately affecting minorities either are unaware, want to ignore, or want to rewrite the American history documenting the utilization of police and the criminal justice system by the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) to harm black Americans.

According to documents on PBS,

The Klan grew quickly and became a terrorist organization. It attracted former Civil War generals such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the famed cavalry commander whose soldiers murdered captured black troops at Fort Pillow. The Klan spread beyond Tennessee to every state in the South and included mayors, judges, and sheriffs as well as common criminals. The Klan systematically murdered black politicians and political leaders. It beat, whipped, and murdered thousands, and intimidated tens of thousands of others from voting. Read More

In the past, society was able to develop interventions because there was the acknowledgment of racial bias operating within our criminal justice system. What makes current times even more scary is the argument that we are in a post-racial society while dismissing the existence of racists and racial bias within police department and our legal systems across the country. Failure to implement measures, safeguards, and consequences within these systems will result in more loss of freedom and life that will disproportionately affect minorities. With the advent of for-profit prisons who are suing States for failure to maintain full capacity of their prisons, the current racially biased system is further incentivized to maintaining the status quo and resist change.

There is no doubt that progress has been made because black Americans no longer fear death for stating one’s opinion. However, progress is not an event rather than a continuum in which we must stay the course. We must always strive to be diligent in our assessment, reassessment, collection of data as well as establishment of benchmarks to prevent making the same mistakes of our tainted past. Even if you believe there is no racial construct within our police and criminal justice systems, you should still be advocating for the institution of measures to prevent it.

The poor collection of data on use of force, abuse of authority, citizen complaints, and mapping of high risk areas using GIS technology should be a priority in order to implement effective interventions that protect both citizens and officers. Body cameras are a great intervention tool to help protect both the officer and citizens in their interactions with the police, but it will also be ineffective if body cameras are not being used in the departments with the highest rates of incidents and complaints.

Freedom Winter: The Failure of Truth to Keep Black Men Breathing

Like much of our nation’s civil rights history, the experiences of freedom summer of 1964 can be and have been used to illuminate all of the progress we have made and direct our gaze away from the stagnation that surrounds us today. Look, it seems to say as it shows us old poll tax cards and Klan uniforms. Look at how far we’ve come since then. By shining a light on the barbarities of our past, we are invited to juxtapose them with our present and marvel at how we ever could have harbored such hatred and oppression.

For White America, these sorts of retrospectives—along with Disneyfied films like The Help and Remember The Titans—have the often unintended consequence of helping us to absolve ourselves of our collective past sins and to treat the Civil Rights Era and all that came before it as a separate chapter in American history. White America compartmentalizes and cordons off the actions of our parents and grandparents, operating under the false assumption that we are less prejudiced and less hateful than they were. That we are somehow above all that.

Words from the children of The Freedom Summer in Mississippi

Because that’s what the job is for.
To keep a little freedom bubble
From rising to the surface
And spreading
Everywhere

Pop
Pop

So the job of a cop
Is to stop

Stop
Stop

Those words are 50 years old. They did not come from poets or civil rights workers, but from children. Children who were born and raised in the suffocating stillness of segregation once attendant to the farthest reaches of the Deep South. These were the children of a gross and unfathomable iniquity. They were the grandchildren of sharecroppers and great-great grandchildren of slaves who had toiled in these Delta fields under the hot Mississippi sun longer than memory could recall.

Their words survive today because they were the fruit of Mississippi’s Freedom Summer—written down on lunch bag colored paper with black and green marker at voluntarily attended Freedom Schools by wide-eyed activists who were only beginning to comprehend the ubiquitous and lethal terror that accompanied their students every moment. Right now those words are encased in glass at the Mississippi State Archives in Jackson as a testament to the bravery and humanity of those children, as well as that of their families and the volunteers who worked with them. But, in another sense, the Freedom Summer exhibit is there to illustrate the differences between then and now.

White America draws a million little lines in the sand between Medgar Evers and Mike Brown—between Alabama’s George Wallace and Missouri’s Jay Nixon—between Birmingham cops with fire hoses and Ferguson cops with armored SWAT vehicles—all in an effort to convince ourselves that there’s nothing to see here. So we can just forget about it all and get on with our lives that were never negatively effected by a society that valued our skin color above all others. Put all of those lines together and you have the explanation for why fewer than 3 in 10 white people thought the shooting of Trayvon Martin raised important questions about race or why 85% of whites thought the protesters in Ferguson went too far. In the words of one Ferguson resident, “I feel for everyone involved, [but] I think the protesters just need to go home.”

But the protesters can’t go home. The black men can’t go home because there’s no telling if they’re ever going to get there without some jackbooted thug of a police officer pulling him over for a seatbelt violation and shooting him for doing what he was told or choking him to death for selling cigarettes on the sidewalk. The loved ones of those black men can’t go home either for fear that one night they get there and their father-brother-son-husband-boyfriend-best friend never makes it back because they were murdered by a cop for the crime of walking around a Walmart with a cell phone in his hand and a toy gun on his shoulder in an open carry state.. And once the deed is done and the black man is dead, no one can go home because they know that justice will never be served unless they can somehow lead the eyes of the world to constantly peer over its shoulder.

The truth is not enough. It never has been and probably never will be. All of the members of the Green County grand jury saw the tape. They saw John Crawford pick up an already unpackaged BB gun. They saw him meandering up and down the aisles by the garden center with the toy gun casually slung over his shoulder and talking on the phone with his girlfriend as customer after customer after customer walked by him without apprehension.

They heard the absurd and erroneous set of circumstances being described by a convicted thief and fraudulently enlisted “ex-marine” to a 911 dispatcher and they saw that these claims bore no resemblance to what they saw on the tape and they watched as Beavercreek’s finest stormed into that Walmart and shot John Crawford twice without even the slightest attempt at deescalation or communication beyond violent shouting. Those grand jury members saw all of that evidence that pointed to the inescapable truth that Officer Sean Williams had killed an innocent man in cold blood and they still declined to indict him.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.00.07 AM 1

There is a rage that has begun boil over—it is the rage of people who have been reminded with alarming frequency that their lives mean nothing in the eyes of those who hold power. As I type this, the streets of Ferguson are burbling with a white hot anger that has been compressed and condensed over the past few weeks and which has burst forth once more as word is being spread that another body could be awaiting ceremonial pickup from an ambulance that isn’t bound for a hospital, but for a morgue. 50 years ago we had a Freedom Summer down in Mississippi and now, we must prepare for a Freedom Winter.

All of the idealism and hope of the Civil Rights Era has withered away under a half century teeter-totter of progresses and regresses and the torrent of unjustly slain black men’s bodies that has fallen upon us recently. What is left from those long ago days is little more than a 400 year old frustration that has been left to fester and ferment in our “post-racial” nation. A frost is coming America. Bundle up and pray it thaws fast.

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