All posts by NorthStar

Blogger, Political and Policy Analyst and Attorney

Change has come to Ferguson.Eric Holder’s visit has brought Change and calm to Ferguson.

 

But has this impacted the St Louis Police department, following another killing of a young black man?

He came, he met students, community leaders and federal investigators.

Attorney General Eric holder, met Captain Johnson, dubbed the new Sheriff in Town by the local press, in a local diner.

In another positive development an Officer, named by the local paper(see below) who threatened to shoot and kill a protestor has been suspended without pay indefinitely.

St. Ann officer removed after pointing gun, threatening Ferguson protesters: http://bit.ly/1moZ5Cj via @STLtoday

Theatre or meaningful progress?

A bit of both.  Both crucial in this tender box community following the shooting death of an unarmed 18 year old. By Darren Wilson, a local police officer. Mike Brown was killed after being shot six times by the said officer.

It is imperative that folks know that there is a process aimed at the pursuit of justice for the slain teenager. This will re-establish trust, build foundations and bridges in the community.

We await to hear the outcome of the grand jury. On whether or not the Shooter, who killed Mike Brown, would be indicted. New witnesses have come forward, following Eric Holder`s arrival in Ferguson.

The president was very cautious in not jumping to conclusions. He is both the Head of Government but also knows too well, the perils of being a young black person in racist societies. Especially in America.

As the chief law custodian, the DOJ works for him, s he said in his own words. But as he put it, on Monday this week, those who enforce the law have a duty to obey the law. America, he said was a nation of laws.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/18/president-obama-provides-update-latest-iraq-and-ferguson-missouri

There was a conference call between the Eric Holder and civil rights leaders across the country.

According to MSNBC, this also involved the attendance of other senior advisers.

This is significant. It helps folks feel that the administration is tuned in and knows exactly what is going on.

That it not only understands their pain but something practical is being done about the injustice.

These actions by the two most senior  American officials in the United States have struck the right balance.

More of the same please for the many slain African Americans across the country.

Darren-Wilson-229x300

As UN Chief Brands Missouri racial violence as akin to apartheid, and another black man is shot dead by the St Louis police,what next for justice in the troubled State

The UN Human Rights Chief, said she condemns the excessive use of force by the police and called for the right of protest to be respected.  She also stated that the United States is a freedom loving country and one thing that they should cherish is people’s right to protest’.

See links(http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/20/world/missouri-racial-violence-recalls-apartheid-u-n-rights-chief-says/ http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/08/19/uk-un-rights-pillay-idUKKBN0GJ1UP20140819

Pillay went on to say that coming from apartheid South Africa, she ‘had a long experience of how racism and racial discrimination breeds conflict and violence’. She indicated that these are familiar scenes to her and that there were many parts of the ‘United States where apartheid is flourishing’.

Citing,the poverty and high prison rates among African Americans. She concluded with a deadly indictment that ‘apartheid is also where law turns a blind eye to racism’.

Pillay, a former South African Judge, has been the UN Human Rights Chief for the past six years.

So what next for the troubled St Louis?

  1. Justice needs to be seen to be done in an expedient manner by the authorities.
  2. The arrest of Darren Wilson the police man who shot Mike Williams would help towards that end.
  3. Second the de-escalation and de-militraization of the police should be instituted by the authorities.
  4. Third the Federal government has to take over the process and investigation.
  5. The community need to be at the forefront of policing.
  6. The police should not impede the press in covering this monumental event. Especially in a country such as the united states with a long history of freedom of speech and association.

Whilst law and order are a given that need to be maintained, the absence of any visible modicum of justice, inevitably breeds more anger and consequent hostility to the local police force.

Whilst scores of rioters have been arrested, for various trangressions, and no visible movement towards, arresting Darren Wilson, the demonstrators see the continued crack down as a further injustice. Rightly or wrongly.

One hopes that the very able efforts of Eric Holder and his visit to the region today will lead to both justice and peace.

Darren-Wilson-229x300 Press report of the picture of Darren Wilson the police officer allegedly at the heart of the current shooting of unarmed teenager Mike Brown, in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri.

Mike Brown Killings does Governor’s Nixon’s call for the National guard help or hinder healing,peace and justice

Speaking on CNN State of the Union earlier Sunday, with Candy, Governor Nixon of Missouri, appeared like a man intent on regaining and maintaining control of the situation in his state.

He appointed Captain Johnson, a son of the soil and commander of the state troopers, to take charge. After a bumbling local police chief Jackson, made error after error.

Above all, was the reportedly cynical release of an unrelated video of the slain teenager in a shop. At the same time as releasing the name of the shooter of the teenager.Daniel Wilson.

An apparent picture of whom(not officially or independently confirmed and whose authenticity cannot be endorsed) is circulating.

See link (http://blacklikemoi.com/2014/08/kkk-reportedly-raising-money-cop-gunned-michael-brown/) .

http://blacklikemoi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/16/Darren-Wilson-229×300.jpg

He praised the efforts of Captain Johnson and appealed for inclusive community policing.

Asked why Captain Jackson had released the video, the Governor said he was not aware and that he had serious conversations in that regard.

A church service, since followed, which Captain Johnson attended. And a peaceful demonstration followed. Later, following reports of apparent vandalism and what the police termed as pre-meditated, the police ordered the crowd to disperse. Reports of arrests followed, apparently for failure to disperse.

Reporters and media houses reported that the governor has signed an executive order calling in the national guard.

So the question then becomes, does this hinder or help the efforts to bring calm and justice to the community and the family of Mike Brown.

History of the national guard being deployed is not new in the United States. It happened in LA during the Rodney King beating. Who has since passed(RIP).

The national guard is trained in a military fashion. In a matter of  a local or national civil issue, a single incident or shooting of a civilian, would undoubtedly create another victim.

And then there will be a reaction and  a counter reaction from the public and security forces respectively. That would not be helpful.

The option is two fold. An expedient investigation.With an eye on peace and calm.

Starting with the arrest of the shooting officer. Who by all accounts is a potential suspect for murder. Then follows a clear explanation of where the investigation is heading. Most of all involving the community leadership across the board, national and local, in the planning and policing of the demonstration.

That means that the current local and city management has to be replaced or  very scrutinized and supported. Transparency is the key.

The bottom line is that folks see this through the prism of what President Obama calls a set of experiences. That goes back hundreds of years. Initiated by the sin of slavery, to the injustices of the 50s and 60s, the imprisoning of thousands of black males and females, lack of opportunity and disproportionate police brutality.

All this is crystallized into a sentiment that somehow the value of African American /black lives is of less importance.

And therein lies the problem. This is an opportunity to start over by real actions that heal. More of the same might inflame matters.

Peace and justice should prevail by all of us working together as equals.

 

10 immediate things to allow healing in Ferguson,St Louis Missouri #mikebrown

  1. Release details of shooting investigation.
  2. Arrest officer Daniel Wilson as a Murder suspect.
  3. Fire Captain Jackson
  4. Retire the Mayor
  5. Minimize or lift the curfew to limit any further unnecessary arrests and escalation.
  6. Call a grand jury to hear whether the shooting killer Daniel Wilson is indicted or not.
  7. Engage community organisers to protect property.
  8. Embed community organisers and the community police in peaceful demonstration.
  9. Call a new election for mayor and other public positions.
  10. Appoint Captain Johnson as the Ferguson Police Chief
  11. In the immediate future activate job, training and education schemes for the youth.

 

Ferguson, St Louis Missouri Killing of #MikeBrown

Police killing of unarmed teenager

Police killing of unarmed teenager, Mike Williams in Ferguson, St Louis, Missouri strikes a very raw nerve.
A week ago, Mike Brown was reportedly gunned down by Daniel Wilson, a Ferguson PD officer. Multiple times. His body was reportedly left in the street for hours.

Eye witnesses claim he was shot whilst having his hands up in apparent cold blood. What has since followed are scenes reminiscent of the Jim Crow era at the height of the civil rights movement. Residents were angered by the shooting and the lack of information from the Ferguson Police department.

They congregated and demonstrated. But police showed up with military vehicles, snipers, dogs, helicopters and assault rifles. Tear gas and rubber bullets were trained on demonstrators most of whom had their hands in the air, in the common surrender position.
This created chaotic and violent scenes on the streets of this small mid-western town. The national media and later international media transmitted rolling coverage. The police attacked, arrested some reporters and dismantled their equipment. They were later released without charge.

The attorney general,Eric Holder, condemned the violence on both sides but tasked the police to respect the right of protesters to exercise their constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and speech.President Obama weighed in and confirmed that the federal government was investigating.

The Missouri governor replaced the local police chief with an African American state trooper to oversee law enforcement. Captain Johnson.
The police refused to release the name of the officer concerned until six days later. But also released an apparent video of the slain teenager, taking cigarettes from a local shop. Jackson, the police Chief gave the impression that the two were connected.

In a further interview, about five hours later, he retracted those sentiments. He said that the two were not connected. And that the shooting officer did not know that there was an apparent shop incident. He appeared uneasy and shifty in his demeanor after repeated questions from the press.

The family reacted with anger, shock and disbelief. Their attorney classified this as an attempt to character assassinate Mike Brown after ‘assassinating’ him physically. His cousin re-enacted the universal sign of surrender, that mike brown was reported to have remonstrated at the time of shooting. This inflamed the situation further locally, nationally and in the media. Especially social media.
The timing and manner of release both the name and the inflaming video was both devious and symptomatic of callousness and abject lack of remorse. The perception created is that there is no value placed on the lives of African Americans.

Coupled with the toxic history of injustices and racism, the environment hit a raw nerve.

Something the governor repeated at a news conference. This spread to various cities in the country. In New York, Baltimore and Howard University among other locations.

The tensions remain and bigger questions have now been asked. The militarization of the police, the abuse and mistreatment of African Americans by law enforcement officials, social economic injustices and the lack of representation at all levers of powers in communities.

There have been three other assistances in LA when a woman was beaten by a police officer, a murder investigation in New York and a young man shot and killed in a super market while buying a toy gun.

Mike Williams’s death has opened an old wound that threatens to grow larger and larger.

A chronic wound both on the bodies and psyche of America.

RIP Mike Williams.

Racial Stereo types in employment

Racial Stereo types in employment

Racial stereo types in employment are prevalent. These range from negative language to pre-conceptions that permeate and influence decision making.
Especially at pivotal moments in people’s lives. Promotion, recruitment and pay rise. One of the most common one is being branded defensive, aggressive, chip on the shoulder, bad attitude.
Particularly among people of African descent.
You may have heard the phrase angry black woman or man. A label that failed to stick. One might argue that being a wife of US president comes with a price and benefits. But Michelle is a Harvard educated lawyer in her own right and was a senior official in the health sector.
Usually this is in response to concerns being expressed by minorities when they express concern about their mistreatment.
In cases that I know of, this accelerates ‘performance investigations’ which are aimed at proving that initial abuse, bullying or harassment was not the issue but re-focus that on performance.
Considerable research has been done on this and it really reveals a litany of detrimental effects for the complainants and the employer in question.
This also has the overarching of a cloak of suspicion, derision, criminality and negativity. And there a few high profile cases in the public domain where this has led to loss of dignity, life or freedom. These are Oprah Winfrey (Swiss incident when sales assistant profiled her as not being able to afford a bag), Trayvon Martin (RIP) shot and killed by vigilante cop wanna be in Florida. He had been told not pursue him but felt that he was up to no good in a nice neighbourhood. And finally the Harvard professor who was arrested for coming into his own home. Despite providing ID to the police officer. He turned out to be a presidential advisor.
The above underscores the gravity of how pre-conception can be devastating to the target involved. So what does one do when faced with persistent and pernicious stereotype.
Educate, inform and if that fails, challenge the stereotype, of course wisely taking into account the particular circumstance of the case.

 

Harvard Review on police Racism

Online, United States — March 29, 2014 4:58 pm

In Defense of the Police

By

Two years ago, on February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead on his way home from a local convenience store by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Following Zimmerman’s acquittal last summer, the national race narrative was dominated in part by a conversation that black parents feel compelled to have with their sons—in which they remind their boys to defer to and be polite with police, walk with their hands outside of their pockets, and keep their hoods down. Calling for a national conversation on race, President Obama fanned the flames: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” White Americans were polarized; some sympathized, while others’ knee-jerk response was to push back against the resurfacing claim that racism still profoundly affects American life.

Though George Zimmerman was only a neighborhood watch volunteer, his actions resurrected a common sentiment that law enforcement officers are racist. This widely held belief, reinforced by highly publicized news stories on police abuse and by anti-police music, blinds many to the societal racism in which the police and all other Americans operate. In reality, the police are no more prejudiced than anyone else. Yet by directing the public’s attention toward accusations of police racism, the media diverts attention from the racial biases of society as a whole.

“It Ain’t No Secret…”

The media and popular culture have written one storyline to describe the police, focusing on inflammatory stories of police racism, while often neglecting significant details. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has been at the center of the media firestorm for the past fifteen years. The criticism it has faced is representative of the larger public perception problem faced by police across the United States.

This problem is often fueled by highly inflammatory individual incidents suggesting police racism. For example, 13 years before the shooting of Trayvon Martin, headlines across the United States were dominated by the story of another innocent black man who had been shot dead. His name was Amadou Diallo. A 22-year-old immigrant from Guinea, Diallo lived in the Soundview section of the Bronx on Wheeler Ave.—one of the most crime-ridden areas of New York City. Shortly after midnight on February 4, 1999, four NYPD officers approached Diallo because they thought he looked suspicious. When he reached into his pocket, the officers mistook his wallet for a gun and shot Diallo 41 times.

However, many people do not know the details of the Diallo shooting. While these details certainly do not make the shooting any less tragic, they do call into question the media’s portrayal of the events. Retired NYPD officer Hector Berdecia said in an interview with the HPR that “a lot of the facts that came up later during the trial and the grand jury hearings were never put out in the media, ever, and the media has a big role in how the community sees cops.”

…Or Is It?

When the four police officers on Wheeler Ave. saw Diallo standing on his stoop, they thought that he resembled a wanted serial criminal. Approaching Diallo, they identified themselves as police and told Diallo to stand still. When Diallo disobeyed, instead moving in the other direction and reaching into his pocket, one officer thought that he saw a gun. He alerted his fellow officers, and together, the four fired 41 shots at Diallo.

News outlets suggested that the number of shots fired indicated deep-seated racism on the part of the police. Yet, as one former FBI special agent, who wished to remain anonymous due to FBI rules, told the HPR, law enforcement officers are trained to stop shooting “only when the threat is no longer a threat.” Though the amount of time it would take four officers to fire 41 shots would vary depending on the weapons used, the agent wagered that the shooting would have been over in a matter of seconds. Arguably, it could have taken this long for the officers to process that the threat was over. Conveniently, the media largely neglected to report these facts. While the police may be depicted as racist in the media and in popular culture, their actions are often driven not by personal hatred but by procedural guidelines and the brain’s inability to function clearly in stressful and potentially dangerous situations.

Still, though police training protocols may explain the number of shots fired, no one knows whether the color of Diallo’s skin influenced the officers’ belief that he was a threat. The decision to shoot needed to be made quickly. As retired Harvard police officer George Downing told the HPR, “You don’t realize when you get that call or you get out of that cruiser, you have a split second to make that decision.” Given the nature of the job, when police officers face potentially dangerous situations, they must rely on judgments made in the blink of an eye. Such rapid decisions are especially likely to be based upon unconscious biases and instincts.

However, even if the officers were motivated by some degree of racial prejudice, their bias would not be unique. The average white American possesses some level of anti-black prejudice. According to a study involving implicit attitude tests, white Americans of all age groups, even the youngest, demonstrate a striking unconscious pro-white, anti-black prejudice even when purporting to view both races as equal. An implicit attitude test reveals unconscious attitudes and stereotypes towards different groups by measuring respondents’ associations of one group of things with another—for example, their associations of black people with good or bad things, as opposed to white people with good or bad things.

Stories alleging police racism blind Americans to the truth that the police are not the only ones still struggling to get past deeply ingrained racial prejudices. Len Levitt, a journalist and writer who has followed the NYPD closely for more than 15 years, commented to the HPR, “I don’t think their [the police officers’] stereotypes are much different from everyone else’s.” In other words, the police are just like the rest of Americans—embroiled in a past fraught with racial tension.

This deeply ingrained and often unobservable prejudice likely comes into play when police pull the trigger on racial minorities like Diallo. Of course, the controversy stirred by stories of individual incidents is compounded by more institutionalized policies, such as “Stop and Frisk,” which appear less justifiable because they are not the product of split-second judgments. Because blacks and Latinos are most likely to be stopped and frisked, and because 90 percent of those stopped and frisked are found to be innocent, many charge that racism motivates police in deciding whom to stop or frisk.

However, it is at least possible that police officers are more likely to stop and frisk minorities because minorities are more likely than whites to live in high-crime neighborhoods. As Berdecia said, “The bottom line is this: you’ve got to go where the crime’s happening … and unfortunately violence is in poor neighborhoods.” Levitt added that the disproportionate targeting of minorities by police has “less to do with race than with poverty.” What appears to be targeting of minorities by police reflects instead the fact that minorities often live in poor, crime-ridden areas—the product of America’s failure to eradicate the racism with which it has wrestled for centuries.

Reality Check

Yet the police continue to receive the bulk of the blame, from both the media and popular culture. In a blatant allusion to the Diallo shooting, Bruce Springsteen released the song “American Skin (41 Shots),” in which he declares, “It ain’t no secret/No secret my friend/You can get killed just for living in your American skin.” Following George Zimmerman’s acquittal of charges of both second-degree murder and manslaughter, Springsteen performed the song in dedication to Trayvon Martin—insinuating, regardless of his intentions, that incidents like the shootings of Diallo and Martin stem from the racial biases of law enforcement officers.

Like Springsteen, other popular artists have capitalized on this wave of anger mistakenly directed at police. Artists like Jay-Z portray the police as bigots who pull people over because of the color of their skin, while others like Michael Jackson claim that the police “don’t really care about” them. Unfortunately, this storyline of police racism taints many Americans’ view of the police, even though the police are no more racist than the rest of the country.

The media and popular culture may appear to be serving a valuable role as watchdogs protecting minorities. However, by intensely criticizing the police, as though law enforcement officers are unique in their degree of racial prejudice, they actually prevent average Americans from recognizing their own racial biases. It is time that Americans stop being part of the problem and start becoming part of the solution.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Erin Shortell Erin Shortell ’17 is a staff writer for the Harvard Political Review. http://twitter.com/e_shortell

Andrew Young Family and MLK intellectual property issue

If true and reportedly accurately, this is deeply unfortunate.

These are two giant men who have been selfless in their fight for injustice and justice for all.

Their legacy is not served if all we hear are intracinal squabbles about material treasure.

And we know they are better than that and we are also better than that as a people.

Yet we are encouraged and know that this too will pass and the legacies of the these two sons of America and the entire humanity will be left intact for the betterment of future generations.

And the strong family bonds that were literary sealed by years of struggle and sacrifice.

And as Mandela(madiba) once indicated, one should not wash one’s linen in public.

This could be relevant here.

Kobe Bryant Says He Refuses to Support Trayvon Martin Just Because He’s Black

This is why we need education.

But first, playing devil’s advocate, Kobe on the one hand appears to be indirectly criticizing the questioner, that he is not supposed to be commenting by virtue of him being African American. This is usually assumed.

However, as a human being, with his star power, he could have said something healing or positive to the parents of the slain teenager.

Travor Martin’s case should concern any human being irrespective of racial background, at the very least.

I recently attended a South African play, in London, displaying the injustices of apartheid South Africa. The requirement of a Pass Book by all ‘natives’(Black Africans), to move from one part of the country to another. One line in the play stated, that having a black skin is trouble in itself. And that line captured the history of race and experiences of millions of black folks in many parts of the world.

Therefore, to deny race as issue in America, Canada and Western Europe, given the well documented trajectory going back hundreds of years from slavery, colonialism, Jim crow, daily discrimination practices to Travon Martin and many more other victims, is a denial of history. Or constructively ignorance of it. And potentially, falsifying history. It is not suggested that this is the case here.

Kobe is entitled to keep his money to himself. But what he cannot do, is appear to diminish an important personal and international matter, relating to an injustice of a slain teenager. Something that even president Obama spoke about, to the effect that if he had a son, he would look like Travon Martin.

   

And any such a hint of that suggestion should be called out. Loud and clear. Notwithstanding who it is coming from. Not even Kobe Bryant.

           

 

Race in our time

The last few weeks have thrown in the lime light the divisive and toxic issue of race.

There have been instances such as the report read out by the home secretary,Teresa May, in the House of commons. It stated the alleged potential corruption in relation to the investigation of the slain teenager, Stephen Lawrence,twenty years ago. Two men have since been imprisoned, after a long on-going investigation and an inquiry, by a retired Judge.Hence its name, the Macpherson report. But the lingering effects of this tragic incident remain specifically in relation to the apparent police handling of the case .  And other culprits still remain at large.

The police on their part appeared to  recognize the anguish caused to the Lawrence family but contend that there having been improvements. Investigations still continue to that end.

Other incidents include the apparent scrutiny, on the basis of race and gender,  two eminent scientists who appeared on the news night programme, about a scientific topic.  This followed a strong rebuttal and condemnation of such action from the University concerned. And accusations of air brushing history followed. The paper concerned has since accepted their qualifications and the concerned columnist issued the same acceptance.

There was another bizarre incident when the referee issued a red card to the wrong black player in the chelsea arsenal football match. Even after the offending player repeatedly informed the referee that he was to blame. There have since  been accusations of racism in the media with some people wondering if he could not tell the difference between two black people.

And finally, a report published by an academic has found that only three black teachers were recruited to teach history. Compared to their white counter parts in the same period.

Interesting times indeed.