Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

13Dec/140

Four Black mothers share pain of losing sons and a resolve to achieve justice #BlackLivesMatter

Many thousands of people will be out on the streets marching today, in cities across this country. The rallying cry is justice for families and communities whose women, men and children have been killed at the hands of law enforcement officers, and others acting with a sheer disregard - contempt even - for Black life.

Just this past week, four mothers of African American men and boys murdered at the hands of police officers, and one acting in a vigilante law enforcement spirit, sat together for the first time for an interview and discussion about their families' experiences, and their continuing quest for justice for their sons.

The four mothers included:

  • Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, 17 years old when he was killed by a 'neighborhood watch' person in Florida
  • Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Gardner, 43 years old when he was killed by a police officer in New York City
  • Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, 18 years old when he was killed by a police officer in Missouri
  • Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, 12 years old when he was killed by a police officer in Ohio

From the CNN piece...

Their sons -- Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner -- have become symbols of a raging national conversation about police brutality and racial injustice.

The mothers of these four unarmed black men and boys felled by bullets or excessive police force have no doubt their sons would still be alive if they were white. No question, they say.

Describing the role of racial profiling in the killing of her son, Sybrina Fulton describes...

The main reason why he was shot and killed was because this neighborhood crime watch was looking for an African American who had been breaking in houses around there, and he picked the wrong teenager. My son was not breaking in any houses, my son was not committing any crime.

Anderson Cooper then 'innocently' asks... "How do you change that perception?", presumably speaking of our greater society.

Fulton's reply is very telling, and clearly explains the wide gulf (more here and here and here for starters) between African American and white perceptions of law enforcement, our respective reactions to the recent high-profile killings of African Americans by law enforcement, and the urgency required for responding to this pattern:

Well, I actually think we need a little divine intervention. Because, I don't really believe that people are going to just change overnight. And it's a more deeply rooted hatred that people have for African Americans. And if you're not an African American... A lot of people don't understand. They don't quite get it. They just think that we are complaining about something that doesn't really exist. And we are living this every day.

I won't spend much time on this, but here's one of the problems I have. Isn't it kind of ironic that Anderson Cooper, one of the most widely recognized news personalities of our time, a white man whose recognition among many is as someone who 'gets it' - and on such a huge network as CNN no less - is asking with his characteristically concerned and innocent tone, how 'you' change that perception? And I get that he was probably using 'you' casually, but I'm not feeling it. His institution represents the problem involved with 'changing that perception'.

I absolutely appreciate the news coverage, and the opportunity to have this group of mothers tell a part of our community's story, but this passive-when-it-wants-to-be news approach is insulting and offensive. Andersoon Cooper, and CNN for that matter, both know exactly how to change that perception. Instead, however, and as a great deal of their Ferguson coverage illustrates, they reinforce that larger societal perception of Blacks as being violent, lawless and to be feared.

The stories of this group of mothers, though, is absolutely worth listening to. The spirit in their voices is powerful, and their steadfast determination not to let the brutal killings of their sons - our collective sons - be forgotten is absolutely admirable.

Let's be clear that lynching is not a thing of the past. This nation's government and legal systems, with media complicity - just have a more sophisticated way of allowing - even encouraging, one could argue - these sorts of horrendous acts of racial terrorism and brutality.

6Dec/140

Defending Black Lives Against American Law Enforcement Terrorism: We Must Reform These Systems

As this past week ended, millions of people throughout the world continued to follow the intensifying and brutal response by law enforcement officers to African American women, men and children on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and dozens of other communities throughout the US. Much of this attention has been sparked by the recent and high-profile killings of African American men and boys at the hands of police officers, and the lack of any form of accountability for the officers in most of these cases.

Most recently this week, tens of thousands (likely more) of individuals throughout the country watched and subsequently protested the Staten Island, New York grand jury decision not to indict the officer responsible for killing Eric Garner this past summer. Demonstrators also protested the unfolding tragedy in Cleveland, Ohio, where a rookie and unfit police officer (according to the officer's prior employment records) shot and killed Tamir Rice, an unarmed 12-year-old boy, within 1-2 seconds of approaching the scene where the boy had been playing with a toy gun. All of this follows the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and multiple other killings of Black men by police officers in other cities within the last week.

Yesterday's Democracy Now broadcast further analyzed the multiple failures and unjust responses by the NYPD to Eric Garner on that summer afternoon, including the minutes before Garner's encounter with the police, the actual police killing of Garner, and the aftermath. They also explore the circumstances and poor police department track record coming to light in Cleveland.

Below are brief descriptions and the relatively short video clips from yesterday's Democracy Now broadcast (transcript available on the DN site).

Did the NYPD Let Eric Garner Die? Video Shows Police Ignored Pleas to Help Him After Chokehold

While much of the nation has seen the cellphone video showing the New York City police officer’s chokehold that led to Eric Garner’s death, a second video shows what happened after Garner last gasped, "I can’t breathe." The video shows Garner lying unresponsive on the sidewalk as police and medics do nothing to help him. A bystander can be heard saying, "Why nobody do no CPR?" Eventually they lift his body onto a stretcher. New York Daily News columnist Harry Siegel writes about the video in his latest article, "The lonesome death of Eric Garner: When men are treated like pieces of meat by cops and medics, trust erodes."

 

A Racist and Unjust System? A Discussion on Policing in Wake of Michael Brown and Eric Garner Deaths

As Rev. Al Sharpton calls for a march on Washington next Saturday to demand action from the federal government on police brutality and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio orders the retraining of the city’s police force, we host a roundtable discussion on policing and race nationwide. We’re joined by three guests: Graham Weatherspoon is a retired detective with the New York City Police Department; Mychal Denzel Smith is a contributing writer for The Nation; and Harry Siegel is a columnist at the New York Daily News.

 

The Killing of Tamir Rice: Cleveland Police Criticized for Shooting 12-Year-Old Holding Toy Gun

More than 100 people packed a church in Cleveland, Ohio, for the memorial service of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy shot dead by police last month. Rice, who was in sixth grade, was killed after a 911 caller reported seeing the boy with what turned out to be a pellet gun, which the caller repeatedly said seemed fake. Video shows Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shooting Rice immediately after leaving his cruiser, from a distance of about 10 feet. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department has found a pattern or practice of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” by the Cleveland Police Department. We speak with Democratic Ohio state Senator Nina Turner, whose district includes Cleveland.

We are also joined by three others in our studio: Graham Weatherspoon is a retired detective with the New York City Police Department; Mychal Denzel Smith is a contributing writer for The Nation; and Harry Siegel is a columnist at the New York Daily News.