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Saturday, December 13th, from 3pm-5pm
American Brewery, 1701 N. Gay Street; Baltimore, MD 21213
Join BRJA, Dr. Karsonya Whitehead–author of Letters to My Teenage Sons–and Dr. Ray Winbush–author of The Warrior Method: A Parents’ Guide to rearing Healthy Black Boys–for the December 13th of the month event. We will engage in conversations about the importance of talking to children about structural racism, including various tools for parents. This event will also explore the benefits and challenges for parents and other caregivers of all races in facilitating this dialogue with children of all races.
Over the past months, we have been looking at various aspects of the murder of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. We talked with the family of Tyrone West in August, and with Baltimore youth in September. This month we will talk with parents about how having these crucial conversations with their children will help youth, in age appropriate ways, understand and navigate the social trauma around them sustained by structural racism.
The statement delivered by prosecutor Robert McCulloch was carefully timed and designed to convince white viewers that Michael Brown deserved to die and that his killer should not be inconvenienced by standing trial and the public scrutiny it would bring. The “case” he made for the failure to indict stood on its head the whole purpose of a grand jury investigation. A grand jury determines if there is enough evidence to bring charges of criminal action. The “evidence” described by Mr. McCulloch completely shifted the focus from police officer Darren Wilson to Michael Brown. The process was set up to make Michael Brown the guilty party and to absolve Officer Wilson of all responsibility. Mr. McCulloch also turned on its head the role of the prosecutor. Instead of building a case to demonstrate culpability of the killer, he built a case against the victim and presented that case to the grand jury.
The statement delivered by Robert McCulloch was carefully timed and designed to convince white viewers that Michael Brown deserved to die and that his killer should not be inconvenienced by standing trial and the public scrutiny it would bring. The “case” he made for the failure to indict stood on its head the whole purpose of a grand jury investigation. A grand jury determines if there is enough evidence to bring charges of criminal action. The “evidence” described by Mr. McCulloch completely shifted the focus from police officer Darren Wilson to Michael Brown. The process was set up to make Michael Brown the guilty party and to absolve Officer Wilson of all responsibility.
The impact of this miscarriage of justice goes far beyond this particular case. It builds on and borrows from the whole history of the criminal justice system in the U.S. from Plessy vs. Ferguson to the Scottsboro trials to the Zimmerman case–a history that reinforces the white supremacist doctrine that Black lives are disposable because they are less than human and that white privilege must be protected at all times.
The brilliance of the statement is how seductive its faux objective tone makes it so effective at appealing to white people, even those who claim to embrace racial equity, to believe that the system is fair. It creates a context in which the completely justified rage of a community becomes the focus and target of condemnation, while the reality of violence against Black people and communities is rendered invisible. The refrain that “the physical evidence doesn’t lie” denies the fact that a trial is necessary in order to interpret the meaning of the evidence–that evidence itself is not proof of anything. Officer Wilson’s testimony is rife with racist thinking and language. Yes, his fear was real, but what was it based on? The testimony itself screams out bias. And what about the other part of the theme of “evidence doesn’t lie”? The statement that “people lie”? Is Officer Wilson the sole exception, granted total trust that he does not lie?
A 2012 report conducted by Operation Ghetto Storm shows that “every 28 hours someone inside the United States, employed or protected by the U.S. government kills a Black child, woman or man.” One of the most recent killings was of 12-year-old Tamir Price, murdered by police in Cleveland earlier this month. Every city and town in the USA is a version of Ferguson, Missouri, with the same corruption of the justice system that enables state supported murderers to go unpunished.
It is time for those of us who are white to wake up, stop pretending to be “color blind” and take responsibility to act whenever and wherever we can to break out of our historic complicity in the systemic racism that destroys Black lives every day. Refusing to be seduced into complacency by “white washed” statements like Mr. McCulloch’s is an essential step toward real justice.
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