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Institutionalized racism

A Legacy of Hate


By Sevgi Fernandez 

No longer are the threats thinly veiled
No longer is your judgement of our little boys and girls spoon fed to us with a sprinkling of sugar to mask the coal that you plant in our hearts

The coal that with time and proper feeding seeps slowly through our beings raping us of hopes, dreams, pride and future

You have come full circle now

Openly feeding the currents of ignorance 

Nourishing the streams of fear, spawning a new generation of creatures who embrace inhumanity, who would sooner claw out their eyes than truly open them

“Let’s make America great again!” your rally cry as you latch on to the desperate 

As you leech any morsel of decency from the masses of drones who blindly follow

Your alternative facts, a glimpse into the alternate reality that is the 1%

Your past immigrant 

Your present dictator

Your future, a legacy of hate

……………

Please join our organization Together We Stand a nonprofit dedicated to dismantling racism, discrimination and police brutality nationwide, through Advocacy, Education and Legislation 

Togetherwestand.nationbuilder.com

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @TWSrevolution

#TogetherWeStand

#TheRevolutionIsHere

The Luxury of Colorblindness 


Written by: Sevgi Fernandez
 It is a luxury to walk through life not having to constantly be aware of your race. As a mixed woman, racial labels have followed me wherever I’ve gone, and I’m keenly aware that the darker a person’s skin, the more this statement is true.  
“I am Colorblind” or “I don’t see color”, are statements many of you have either heard or have said yourselves. I truly believe the only people who can “choose” to be colorblind, are whites. It is a luxury not to have to think about race. In a workshop I held last fall, we watched the documentary, A Conversation with White People on Race. Some of the statements, although simple, were profound. For example, a thirty something white man said, “I don’t think about being white, I just don’t.” This was followed by a middle aged white woman who said, “I really did not know I had a racial identity. I had no idea what that meant, how that shaped my outlook on life, my sense of optimism, sense of belonging, sense of safety.”

 

Now, I can all but guarantee that every single black person on this earth, knows they are black and is reminded of that fact each and every day. I think black people are very aware of our racial identity, and we are aware of how our racial identity dictates how safe we are, what type of education we can get, what type of healthcare we receive and what types of jobs we can attain. Race is of course not the only factor in any one of these, but it’s often the deciding factor.

Racism is a social construct developed to oppress. It has evolved over the centuries, but in essence, the process of labeling and stereotyping a person based on the color of their skin to keep them subservient to the dominant white race, has stayed the same. I’m going to share a pivotal event in my childhood that truly awakened me to the fact that the world saw me in the context of “race” not “person”.

Standing in line at school, the red faced white boy in front of me asked,“What are you?’

“Im half black, half white.” I said, feeling a little uncomfortable. The boy then scathingly stated,

“Well at least I can respect HALF of you,”And he turned to laugh with his friends. At that moment I felt a myriad of emotions jumping rapidly from one to another, shame, embarrassment, humiliation and when I landed on rage, my 12 year old fist connected with his 16 year old face. I’m not sure who was more shocked!

I share this as a way of illustrating that even as children we are shown we are different, we are less than. That certainly wasn’t the first time I became aware that my race, my skin color, played a part in how people would treat me, and still to this day, as a 43 year old soldier in the war on racism, I know that the future holds much more of the same.

We run every person through a set of implicit and explicit biases that we have developed over time. Implicit and explicit biases have been part of history since our inception. We are seeing the implications of these biases throughout the world and here in the United States. It seems to me that as we make more strides in this country towards tolerance, inclusion and equality for all i.e. electing our first Black President and legalizing same sex marriage, we become more divided as a society as race and racism become more prominent.

The effects of this systematic racism are apparent in the African American community across the country, wherever you look. It’s in the hopelessness of our youth, in the violence within our communities, and at the hands of the police. It’s in the educational system that is set up to fail our children and the healthcare system that is either unattainable or so discriminatory many fear ever seeking out the care they so desperately need. Rather than educating and nourishing the minds of our young people of color, the system is feeding the school to prison pipeline. So it is unlikely that you will come across a black person who says they are “colorblind”.

Black people have been systematically oppressed, discriminated against and brutalized simply because of their race since they were brought to this country as slaves. The system was set up to deny what should be our human rights, and that system is still at play today. We as people of color certainly believe All Lives Matter, yet All people haven’t had the daily struggles faced by blacks in this country. All people aren’t being shot, hung and choked to death by police. These are facts that cannot be denied. The reality is that our lives truly don’t matter outside of our own communities for the most part, and as we internalize the racism and oppression, they begin to matter less and less to us.

I do believe there are a great owing number of whites who are concerned about this racial divide and equality for people of color. I see more whites challenging themselves and asking the hard questions regarding their white privilege and implicit biases everyday. I think the movement from the black community over the past year specifically, has garnered much needed attention in mainstream and social media. This has enabled our messages related to the extreme state of racism and inequality in this country to reach whites whom otherwise would have continued on unaware. I am seeing more and more whites participating in protests and dialogues on the issues and I work along side many whom I respect deeply for their courage, commitment and humility, their ability to ask questions, to be wrong, to learn. It is quite exhilarating and gives me great hope. So although our country is arguably as polarized as it was 60 years ago or some may even say, 400 years ago, today a revolution is underway. Today people, be they black, white, yellow, red, brown or all of the above, are coming together as one, to challenge the machine that is Institutionalized racism. Each day that a step is taken together, a brick in the foundation of white supremacy that this country was built upon is removed.Until we can all have the luxury of being colorblind, because the day has come when in fact, All Lives Do Matter, and they matter Equally, the statement and movement Black Lives Matter is relevant and necessary.

 

Why Black Lives Matter Too!

***************** RELEASING JUNE 19, 2016 ******************  
We are pleased to announce our soon-to-be-released multi-contributor anthology, “Why Black Lives Matter (Too)”! Recognizing that the fight for social justice and equality is bigger than any one person and that there is room for diverse talents and expertise of anyone who is committed to freedom, this multi-contributor anthology comprises curated essays written by 50 social justice advocates from across the nation.
Our release date, June 19th, is set to coincide with Juneteenth—also known as Independence Day or Freedom Day—a holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African American slaves throughout the Confederate South.
Book Summary: The Black Lives Matter movement evolved as a protest against police brutality against unarmed Black men. This book extends beyond police brutality to revolutionize the national conversation about racial injustice and inequality and advocate for freedom and justice for all Black Americans. Addressing a range of hot button issues and racial disparities that disproportionately impact the Black community, this is a call to action that will challenge you to confront your long-held values and beliefs about Black lives and confront your own white privilege and fragility as you examine racial justice and equality in a revolutionary way.
All proceeds will benefit The Sentencing Project, a leader in the effort to bring national attention to disturbing trends and inequities in the criminal justice system through the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns and strategic advocacy for policy reform. Our gift to the organization will support their efforts to promote reforms in sentencing policy, address unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocate for alternatives to incarceration.
Stay tuned, and please consider purchasing this book, when available, to support the vital work of The Sentencing Project.
#VoicesForEquality #WhyBlackLivesMatterToo

Corruption in SF District Attorney’s Office

  
Diverse World Coaching is sharing this letter we received from a social justice advocacy group:

I am writing on behalf of a national organization dedicated to racial equality and social justice. We are deeply concerned about San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascón’s treatment of Gurbaksh Singh Chahal. 

There is growing concern not just in the Bay Area, but across California and nationally regarding what is clearly a pattern of racism and discrimination. Chahal is a very successful businessman, and through his success has amassed a celebrity-like following globally for people that look up to him for inspiration. This also serves the political agenda of George Gascón, to target people of color that are in the limelight, for his own political aspirations.

 

George Gascón has been on a witch-hunt to revoke Chahal’s probation, for the last 2+ years and has wasted millions of tax payer dollars in doing so. Gascón had originally filed 3 charges to revoke Chahal’s probation, and then dropped 2 charges in the last 48 hours before his hearing since they were all false. The last one left, remaining is a person, by the name of Laura (Soobeen) Bae, making an accusation of domestic violence, even though when sources close to the SFDA’s office shared documents, it was Chahal that asked her to stop stalking him.

 

George Gascón’s office stated that the alleged victim presented a laundry list of requirements to be furnished by Gascón’s office in return for a falsified testimony. The list includes as follows:

 

1. U Visa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U_visa)

2. The ability to work under that visa once in the U.S.

3. A First Class plane ticket for the long flight from Korea

4. All hotels and housing paid

5. A daily monetary allowance 

 

We have worked with many victims of violence and have yet to see anything come close to this. Victims of violent crimes are usually more concerned with getting the proper therapy and mental health support, yet this seems to be a concerted effort to skirt the immigration system. 

 

Other sources inform us that on Monday April 25th, the office of Brian Stretch the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California will begin investigations into the corruptive practices of George Gascón and the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

 

We cannot allow our elected officials whom we charge to uphold the law, to act in such unethical ways with no checks and balances. No one is above the law, least of all those we rely upon to see it through.

 

Sources close to Chahal; state he plans to sue the City San Francisco once he is victorious and cleared of these false allegations tomorrow. While he has no need for financial gain, his only option to stop this witch-hunt, is to sue the City of San Francisco since George Gascón has immunity for his corrupt behavior. Hopefully, Brian Stretch from the US Attorney General’s Office, will pursue the necessary criminal charges we need against Gascón and his D.A.’s whom also participated in prosecutorial misconduct.

 

As witnessed on social media, there are various racial allegations that have been brought to our attention about the obstruction of justice within Gascón’s office. We certainly hope to see that you take this matter seriously and will take the proper steps to ensure a full and unbiased assessment and investigation occurs. 

 

 

 

 

 

Together We Stand

Winter 2016

Together We Stand is more than a Facebook Group, more than an organization, it is a Movement. Our mission is to proactively dismantle racism, discrimination and police brutality through education, advocacy and legislation. This is our very first newsletter, and we welcome you to our family.

2015 In Review

I started this group with the hopes of creating a forum where people could have open, honest and respectful dialogues on the difficult issues surrounding racism in this country. Never could I have imagined what was to come. Since our inception in August, Together We Stand, (TWS) has evolved from one person, into a group of over 1,200 amazing members, all of whom have shown their commitment and dedication to ending racism, discrimination and police brutality.

We have advocated on behalf of many, some who are no longer here to advocate for themselves, and some who needed others to join in their fight for equality and justice. Here is a list and brief summary of a few of the cases we have assisted in:

Laquan McDonald

The murder of Laquan McDonald by officer Van Dyke, and the subsequent handling of the case by the police, prosecutors, and local government was nothing less than abhorrent. We have called for the resignation of both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Prosecutor Anita Alvarez and are following the campaign of Prosecutor Alvarez in 2016 and plan to continue challenging her throughout. TWS sent out numerous letters to state and local government along with law enforcement, denouncing the terrible racial injustices that plagued not only this case, but the city of Chicago.

Lateef Dickerson:

The acquittal of officer Thomas Webster IV in the assault of Lateef Dickerson was an absolute injustice to Mr. Dickerson and a blow to the morale of his community. We reached out to Mayor Christiansen, Police Chief Bernat and President of the Dover County NAACP Mr. Dunn, asking for the termination of officer Webster and offering our assistance in helping their community work through this and develop preventative measures so occurrences like this won’t happen again. Our follow up committee is still working on this as of March.

Corey Jones:

This case is particularly close to us as we have Family of Corey’s in TWS. Corey was killed on the side of the road after his car broke down. Corey was shot 3 times by plain clothed officer Officer Nouman Raja. Officer Raja claimed he believed the van to be abandoned and was then confronted by an armed suspect. There was no evidence to back up this claim. TWS along with several other organizations vpushed for there to be an independent investigation into this case. The officer was placed on administrative leave and subsequently fired in November. The family made the following statement:

“While we are pleased that the city of Palm Beach Gardens has terminated the employment of the officer who gunned down Corey Jones, we maintain that the officer in question must also be held criminally liable for his reckless actions that night,” the statement read. “Our family remains hopeful that the outside agencies brought in to investigate Corey’s killing will soon begin to yield factual information about how and why this officer acted so callously.”

Gresham School:

Rosella “Rose” Kaquatosh was wearing a Menominee medicine pouch when a kitchen employee at Gresham school allegedly demanded she take it off, citing tobacco products were not allowed on school property. After being taken to Principal Keary Mattson, he allegedly examined the pouch and removed some of the tobacco, which was culturally inappropriate and insensitive. She was in tears and the actions on the part of the school were not only culturally insensitive, but also disrespectful. TWS wrote the school board and principal demanding an apology and a safe environment for all students to practice their diverse beliefs. During a follow up conversation, we are pleased to say that a provision to allow such religious and spiritual items is now in place and the staff has undergone diversity and cultural sensitivity training.

Sandra Bland:

We have written letters to the state and local authorities calling for an independent investigation into the death of Sandra Bland as well as prosecution of the arresting officer. We have also circulated a petition asking Vanita Gupta the Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to open an investigation. We are pleased that the arresting officer Brian Encinia, was finally terminated, yet we still continue to push for criminal charges against Encinia and those involved in the death of Ms. Bland and the subsequent cover up that ensued.

John Carroll University:

TWS member Brittany Kincaid, a student at John Carroll and part of the university’s African American Alliance, was involved in a movement on campus demanding structural changes to staff and curriculum to make the campus a more inclusive and culturally diverse environment. TWS wrote to president Niehoff on behalf of the AAA, stating our full support of their demands and asking that he take any and all necessary steps to rid the community of racist vitriol. We also asked that a safe space for students of color to express their needs be provided. We look forward to assisting other universities in creating and maintaining an atmosphere of Trust Respect Empathy and Ethics.

2016 A Look Ahead

Advocacy

We have hit the ground running this year! We receive many requests everyday for assistance in cases across the nation and are pleased that word of our organization is spreading to those in need. We also want to thank our members who diligently report issues and cases to us, we appreciate your dedication. Here is a peek at some of the work we have done so far this year::

Mayor Hagen:

After Mayor of Superior, Wisconsin, Bruce Hagen, posted anti Islamic rhetoric on social media, TWS assisted one of our group members, Kym Young, in her work to demand his resignation. We reached out directly to the mayor and also to state representative Milroy. We truly believe that there is no place for racism, oppression or discrimination in our country and specifically within our government. To see our elected officials act in such hateful and inciting ways is totally unacceptable. We will be campaigning against Hagen in the upcoming election.

Victor School District:

After being notified that a bilingual educational aide for Victor Elementary School District was posting racist pictures and rhetoric we spoke to the Superintendent and the person in question was informed that her behavior was not appropriate or acceptable. We believe in the first amendment, but we do not believe it is a pass to tout racist or hateful rhetoric. Clearly we cannot go after everyone who does this, but given the person in question was working with children of color in a school, we felt it important to say something.

Gynnya McMillen:

The death of Gynnya McMillen, at the Lincoln Village Juvenile Justice Center still remains a painful mystery for her family. The cause and circumstances surrounding her death have not been made available. The family has asked the public for help in finding answers. We have contacted the Principal of the detention center as well as the Mayor of Elizabethtown, Kentucky demanding answers. We will continue to follow up and support the family in whatever way we can.

Tamir Rice:

This case is one that hits us all hard given it was a child, Tamir Rice, who was killed so senselessly. A grand Jury failed to indict the officers in this case and it has been an impossible injustice to accept. TWS has been in touch with the City Council, Mayor, and Chief of Police regarding the impact this has had on the community, and how we can work collectively to insure this doesn’t happen again. We are also calling for Prosecutor McGinty to resign. His clear bias has tainted this case and his handling of it all but guaranteed there would be not Justice for Tamir or his family. He is up for reelection this year and if he does not resign, we will fight to make sure this is his last year in office.

Judge Olu Stevens:

Judge Stevens is an example of someone in our criminal justice system who is doing this right and unfortunately because of that he has become a target. Within the last year, Judge Stevens repeatedly has made national headlines, most notably for dismissing juries that were not racially diverse. Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine had asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to decide whether Stevens has the authority to dismiss juries for having too few black members, as the judge has done twice. The state Judicial Conduct Commission is investigating Stevens for insinuating on Facebook that Wine is racist and wanted “all-white juries.” TWS is investigating Wine’s history and plan to write his office denouncing his action against having diverse jury pools. We are also contacting the Chief Justice John Minton regarding this case and his removal of Judge Stevens from cases because of his stance on diverse juries and for speaking out against Tom Wine’s motives. It is important that we support those who do the right thing in the face of adversity.

Felicia Huston:

We have written the North Carolina Parole Commission on behalf of the family of Felicia Huston who was murdered by Robert Hinton, asking that his parole be denied and he be forced to continue his life sentence.

Flint Water Crisis:

TWS is working in conjunction with Stanley Plumbers and Crossing Water to secure home water filtration systems for 200 of Flint’s most needy. The filters are in the process of being tested to insure they will properly filter out the high levels of lead and iron found in the water supply.

If you would like to donate money to the residents of Flint please do so through Crossing Water at https://www.crowdrise.com/crossingwaterworkingforflint

Special thanks to Stanley Plumbing and Michael Hood of Crossing Water for your collaboration.

Three Strikes Reform Act:

We are joining Choose1.org and TWS member LaTease Levye in supporting the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2016. To read about the initiative and volunteer to help, please visit http://www.choose1.org

Nonprofit

Fundraising

Everyone knows that to start a nonprofit organization there must be fundraising! We have a few ways that you our supporters can help us grow our organization and in turn assist us in not only advocating for people on a larger scale, but also in our efforts to train youth to become social justice leaders. We have two crowd funding campaigns and the links are below. For those who cannot donate monetarily, we always need volunteers! If you would like to volunteer time please email us at twstherevolution@yahoo.com

As of the publishing of this letter we have received $620 from some of our members and we’d like to thank you all!

Toya Marie, Edwin Harris, Julie White, Rhonda Leath, Eva Caraher, Julie A. Fernandez, Amber Kerr, Rahel Smith, Eva Cohen, Tyler Gage, Caroline Gage, Yolanda McInnis, Dwight Ford, Don Scott, Daniel Schuette, Nancy Slocum and Lori Thames!!!!!

TWS wants you all to know that your assistance is so meaningful! With the funds we have raised so far we were able to get help with our logo, get our website going and get our filing fee for incorporation paid.

We recently launched two fundraising campaigns selling TWS shirts and Hoodies. This was a time limited campaign and we were unable to meet our minimum sold to go to print, but we want to thank everyone who did order and let you know that if you’d still like to support us you can do so at the links below!

Gofundme:

https://www.gofundme.com/TogetherWeStand1

Generosity:

http://igg.me/at/1xGsMVwExcU

Workshops

Sevgi has been running groups and workshops for many years with her company Diverse World Coaching. Last fall she began the first of a series of workshops by TWS that she hopes to bring across the country, Unite Against Racism:Breaking Down Walls and Building Community. The series ran from November-February and covered some of the following topics:

• White Privilege

• Conversations with my Black Child

• Examining Bias

• Police Brutality

The next series will focus on Political Action, specifically looking at groups like the Black Panther Party from the past, and Black Lives Matter today. What works, what doesn’t, and how do we move Together We Stand into a position to affect change in 2016 and beyond.

Meet our Board of Directors

  


Sevgi Fernandez/President

Sevgi founded Diverse World Coaching 8 years ago after many years working with high risk youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. She specializes in working with blended, cross-cultural and interracial families as well as individuals struggling with racial identity formation, anxiety and depression.

Sevgi has a successful blog covering that reaches readers in over 60 countries She is a published author and seasoned speaker. She offers workshops in the following areas:

 • Racism and White Privilege

 • Parenting Mixed Race Children: Understanding their Racial Identity Development

 • Navigating the Blended Family

 • Youth Empowerment through Community Action

Sevgi is the Senior Vice President of Race and Cultural Diversity at ARMCGlobal providing research, executive coaching and product development.

She did her undergraduate and graduate work in Psychology at the Western Institute for Social Research and now sits on their board of directors.

Sevgi is now embarking on what she believes is her life’s work in Together We Stand. Her vision of a movement that crosses the nation ending racism through education, advocacy and legislation is certainly going to be a challenging goal, but her life has prepared her for this moment, this movement.

  

Dr. John P Fernandez

Dr. John P. Fernandez is the founder and president of Advanced Research Management Consultants Global, LLC. He also works closely and in collaboration with Diverse World Coaching.

Prior to founding ARMC Global, John worked for 15 years at AT&T, becoming the first Black division level operations manager. Responsible for a division that had over 500,000 customers, John developed and enhanced processes for selling, construction, engineering, human resource management and technological innovation.Based on his extensive experience working with many corporate clients and issues, John has written and produced more than 36 videos on human resource management, leadership, cross-cultural teams, Diversity and Proactive Inclusion®, and GlobalTREE℠ from a global perspective. He has written and developed e-learnings for Bank of America, Citibank, GlaxoSmithKline, and Lucent.Dr. John P. Fernandez is the author of 10 books and has received critical acclaim as one of the world’s leading thinkers in areas of leadership, team building, diversity, childcare, eldercare, and human resource management. He is currently working on a new book about glass-ceiling phenomenon, and the global perception of female managers.After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Harvard, John received his Ph.D. from the University California at Berkeley. As a highly sought out speaker, John has appeared on CNBC, CNN and Marketplace on National Public Radio. John has taught at Yale, New York University, Antioch, and the University of Pennsylvania.

  

Carol Laborde/Outreach and Research

Carol Laborde received her BA in Sociology from Nyack College. Carol is retired now and has spent much of the last three decades volunteering her time and skills to various nonprofit organizations. She worked with the Rockland Family Shelter for battered women and children from 1988-2002. During that time she served as a Rape Crisis Trauma Counselor, was on the Board of Directors from 1988-2002, and served as President of the Board from 1998-2002. Carol also served on the Board of the Nyack Center, aiding at risk youth with breakfast club and after school mentoring. Carol currently heads up TWS advocacy communications and works as an Ambassador for Hope with Shared Hope International, an organization working to end sex trafficking.

Ty Anderson/Chaplain

Ty Anderson has his Associates in Graphic Arts as well as being a self taught artist.

Ty worked for the City of Rochester’s Public Library Promotions Graphics & Public relations department and also sat on the Quality Council Team which assisted in fairness and accountability between Supervisors and their employees. He is also a part of his community’s Neighborhood Empowerment Team/NET and currently works in Forestry as an Arborist.

Ty is an American of mixed European, African & Native-American heritage. The spirit of family, culture, ethnicity and inner accountability are things he takes great pride in which have fueled his passion for bringing people together. Helping others to discover their commonalities and celebrate their diversity is something he excels at and brings to TWS as our online moderator. Serving in the capacity of TWS Chaplin, Ty’s goals are to help keep the group moving in a positive and affirming direction, keeping our mission to educate and advocate, one of integrity based on Trust, Respect, Empathy and Ethics.*

*GlobalTree, Trust Respect Empathy and Ethics, ARMCG 2015

  

Rhonda Leath/Secretary

Rhonda Leath was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Rhonda majored in Psychology and minored in Journalism at Los Angeles Trade Tech and Southwest College. Rhonda worked as a youth counselor in residential treatment and as an EMT on the Psych Emergency Team. She is a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 7 and is active in her community doing faith based and social justice work. Rhonda is a key member of TWS doing endless work behind the scenes assisting with administrative work and research.

In closing we want to welcome you to our TWS family and ask that you spread the word about who we are and what we do!

#TogetherWeStand

#TheRevolutionIsHere

Follow us on Twitter @Twsrevolution

Trump’s Civil War

  
By Sevgi Fernandez

Civil War! We’ve been in one! Race war! It’s been here! We are going to all have to engage in this fight in order for it to end. It WILL get worse before it gets better. They are fearful, they know they have already lost and they will do anything to hold on. The United States is no longer a nation that will be run by the racist white elite. The civil rights movement began what our revolution will finish! We cannot do it divided. We must come together, it can’t just be about individual communities. Natives, Muslims, Immigrants, Blacks, Asians, Christians, LGBTQs, we are all one community that must unite against the hate and oppression. We must garner our power and hold each other up through this most important battle. Losing IS NOT AN OPTION!#TogetherWeStand

#TheRevolutionIsHere

Like Together We Stand on Facebook and help us advocate for victims of racism, discrimination and police brutality!

https://m.facebook.com/Together-We-Stand-1535933513365584/?ref=bookmarks

Follow us on Twitter @TWSrevolution

Peter Liang Found Guilty of Manslaughter For the Killing of Akai Gurley

New York police officer Peter Liang, who shot and killed an unarmed man in a New York housing project stairwell in 2014, has been found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct. Liang was charged with 5 counts in the death of 28-year old Akai. Liang was charged with manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide […]

https://blackbutterfly7.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/peter-liang-found-guilty-of-manslaughter-for-the-killing-of-akai-gurley/

Former Texas prosecutor disbarred for sending innocent man to death row | Reuters

A Texas legal panel voted on Monday to disbar a former prosecutor for sending an innocent man to death row by presenting tainted testimony and making false statements that undermined the defendant’s alibi.The Board of Disciplinary Appeals appointed by the Texas Supreme Court upheld a state licensing board’s decision to disbar Charles Sebesta for his […]

https://myactivism.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/former-texas-prosecutor-disbarred-for-sending-innocent-man-to-death-row-reuters/

Police Brutality

  

 By: DJ Schuette

  Police Brutality

      A man jumped out of the car. He was a big guy, mid-40’s maybe—bald and wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. He was about 25 feet away, and totally amped up. He had a gun pressed against his right temple. His eyes were wild, like a cornered animal. My partner and I pulled our Glocks and took aim. He demanded that we back off or he’d shoot himself.

      “Get out of here,” he screamed. “I’ll do it, I’m serious!”

      I called for him to drop his weapon. From my left, my partner did the same. I noticed that the pitch of her voice was just a bit higher than it had been a few moments before. I don’t think she was in a panic, but it was pretty clear to me that she was nervous. Hell, I was nervous. The guy might blow his own head off, or turn the gun on us at any moment. Neither of us wanted to shoot him.

      Then time slowed down for me. I became hyper-aware, my senses turned up, like someone had jacked my dial to 10. Tunnel vision. My finger pressed harder against the trigger guard. 5.5 pounds of pressure and about a third of a second was all that was keeping me from ending this guy. At eight meters, I wouldn’t miss.

      He grew more agitated. His voice rose and grew more frantic. Then he raised the gun straight up from his temple, pointing it toward the sky. 

      My partner blew his ass away

        Today is October 19th, 2015. As of the moment I write this, 922 people have died at the hands of police in this country, this year alone. In just a handful of hours, that number will almost certainly be 923.

       Last year, 1106 people died at the hands of cops. If we continue at this pace, this year will again top 1100. From May to December of 2013: 748.

        I want you to think about that for a minute…

 In roughly two and a half years, as many people will have died at the hands of police as did in the attacks on 9/11.

  Nearly 3000 lives lost.

   The worst year of US casualties in Iraq: 904. In Afghanistan: 499. That’s right. Our police are killing more people on American soil than die in active war zones. Often, significantly more.

 Consider also:

There have been 47 lethal-force deaths in England over the past 95 years, and only one so far this year.

In Germany: one this year, and one last.

In Australia: just six in 2014

In Norway: there hasn’t been a single police-related killing in nearly ten years

In Iceland: only one in nearly 71 years.

In 2013, police in Finland fired a grand total of 6 bullets. In the US that same year, a single suspect with a rock was fired upon 17 times.

    Contrary to what you may believe from the early content of this post, I am not anti-police. I can’t say enough that the vast majority of cops are some of the bravest and best among us, protecting us from the absolute worst among us. Their jobs are sometimes dangerous. They don their uniforms despite the understanding that they may not make it home to their families. There’s a reason why kids so often want to be cops when they grow up—to them, they’re real-life, honest-to-goodness heroes. Without law enforcement, society would surely collapse into chaos and anarchy. We need them. And they need and deserve our respect and cooperation. 

     But they are also human beings. Prone to all of the same injuries, insecurities, emotions, prejudices and even instabilities and errors in judgment that plague the rest of us. A badge is not a mystical talisman that makes them superhuman. It is not a shield of invulnerability. They are people, just like you and I, sometimes placed in high-intensity scenarios that call for split-second, life-or-death decisions. They make mistakes. And occasionally those mistakes prove fatal.

       Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting deadly force is never justifiable. There are “imminent danger” scenarios, in which I would support an officer’s decision to discharge their weapons. If lives are at grave, immediate risk, then I get it. Truly, I do. That said, shooting an unarmed, fleeing suspect when no one else is around? That’s murder in my book, whether you’re a coked-up thug or an adrenalin-amped cop.

       But what is it that makes our society so much more susceptible to death at the hands of those we trust to serve and protect us? With that question in mind, I decided to see if I could find some answers. What I discovered is that there’s no single, obvious solution—no silver bullet. But there are a handful of factors that seem to play a part.

      Socioeconomics/Income Inequality: Operating under the assumption that less crime equals fewer encounters with law enforcement and thus fewer opportunities for lethal force to be an issue, I took a look at crime rates in other countries. While researching statistics in Iceland, I came across an article (here) about a man whose thesis was on the subject of the lack of violence and crime there (there was only one intentional homicide in 2014). This is despite the fact that nearly a third of its population is armed. One of his conclusions is that the overall economic and social equality in the country is a primary reason—97% of the population considers themselves to be middle income or working class. At first blush, this would suggest that the current economic gap in the U.S. might be partly to blame—but is this indicative of the whole, or merely an aberration?

      I discovered something called the GINI Index, which is a tool used to measure income distribution. In the simplest of terms, the lower the number, the closer that country is to perfect “income equality.” When compared alongside the intentional homicide rates*, there is a very suggestive correlation between the two: the smaller the GINI coefficient, the more likely that country is to have a lower intentional homicide rate. To use the above countries as examples, Iceland’s GINI Index is one of the lowest at 24. Finland is around 28. Norway, 27. Sweden, 26. Germany, 31. Australia and England come in at around 34 and 38, respectively. The U.S. income coefficient is nearly 41. Conversely, countries with extremely high GINI’s like Brazil (53), Honduras (57) and South Africa (63) all have higher intentional homicide rates than we do here in America. Obviously, there are exceptions and outliers, but generally speaking, it certainly appears that there is a parallel between income inequality, unrest and violent crime. And violent crime means more police in positions where they might encounter deadly force situations.

     Arming/Militarization of Police: As one might logically expect, there are far fewer police-involved killings in countries where the police don’t carry guns at all: England, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and Ireland are among those that don’t (except in exceptional circumstances). But as we’ve seen, violent crime itself is also much lower in those countries as well (our intentional homicide rates are five times higher than those of New Zealand and Ireland, in case you were wondering). But whether those lower violent crime statistics are part of the reason that police don’t need to be armed, or a product of it, is a line of inquiry worth examining. Put another way—is a society less violent when their police don’t carry guns, or is it inherently less violent to begin with?

      With the rise of police killings in America, it seems that there has been a fundamental breakdown in our trust of the police, and respectively, theirs of us. If people are afraid that police might use excessive force against them, might they then be more apt to act aggressively? And if people act more aggressively, does it stand to reason that police, concerned for their own safety, might use more force than necessary? Does being armed, in and of itself, engender a self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling cycle of violence? Does violence (or the very threat of it) beget more violence?

      I’m not necessarily championing the idea that police in the U.S. shouldn’t have firearms, but there is a case to be made for moving in that direction. Since 1997, our government has been issuing surplus military equipment and weapons to our police departments. Unfortunately, FBI statistics are woefully incomplete on the subject, so it’s hard to assess whether or not this has had a direct impact on the amount of violence perpetuated by police, but it certainly seems like it has. Some would argue this “militarization” allows them to be more prepared and able to respond to any situation. Others wonder if it just further perpetuates the mistrust between the public and their police. And it isn’t as if police don’t have a number of (typically) non-lethal weapons and tactics available to them: backup, batons, mace, tasers, flashlights, fists. Most are trained in self-defense, and/or hand to hand combat. Even an uncooperative suspect doesn’t deserve to be brutalized, and certainly not shot and killed. The primary objective should always be to apprehend and subdue first, and then escalate only as much as the situation requires. More on this in a minute.

Gun Culture: There are very nearly as many guns as people now in this country. I’m a gun owner myself. We know from Iceland’s proliferation of firearms (fifteenth in the world) that it’s not simply a matter of the weapons themselves. But Iceland does have extremely strict regulations in place. Most of their guns are used for hunting. Very few people own handguns. This is in stark contrast to gun control policies in the U.S., where there are a variety of ways to skirt background checks, and where proficiency exams, transfer paperwork, and medical/mental health screenings aren’t required in most states.

      The prevalence of guns in America goes right back to the issue of trust. As much as we need to be able to trust police, they too, have to be able to do their jobs without fearing the very citizens they’re tasked to serve and protect. Armed with the knowledge that anyone might have a weapon, police are sure to be more cautious and on edge and they are more likely to act more severely if questioned or challenged.

      I’ve had several people contend that cops must go into every scenario believing that they might be killed. I find this to be not only ludicrous, but also an irresponsible and dangerous mindset. My position is that police must always go into every situation alert, prepared, (and perhaps most importantly) calm. If every officer constantly believes they are about to be shot and their adrenalin is flowing as if they’re taking their last breaths, there are sure to be bad outcomes.
      The screen went dark and the sim ended. My partner had shot the suspect twice, once in the head and once in the chest. My finger had never left the trigger guard.

       Our instructor deemed it a justified shooting. The suspect had made a sudden movement, and my partner was scared. It rang hollow and felt flimsy to me. I mean, I get that she was scared. I was too. But I felt like I had all the time in the world to make that life-or-death decision. The gun never swung toward us at all. He might have been preparing to throw it down on the ground. He might have surrendered. But now we’ll never know. Because that guy is dead. My partner killed him. 

       This story is important to me because I learned a few things during that shoot/don’t shoot simulation. The first is that we are all different and will therefore react to these kinds of high-pressure scenarios differently. While everything came into perfect focus for me, my partner’s fear drove her to a split second reaction that I didn’t have. Part of that is training. I’ve fired a gun many times and consider myself highly proficient at that distance. I was confident that I had plenty of time to make and enact the right decision. She was not as confident. Training—repetitive situational training, until one’s responses and reactions become almost reflexive—might help that to some degree. But when it’s not a laser sensitive screen and the people and guns are real, I’m sure it’s a very different thing. Instinctive survival mechanisms kick in. A conscious effort must be made to combat the flight-or-flight response. You can bet there will be adrenalin flowing. Until you’re put in that scenario, there’s no way to know how you might react. But I suspect, just like with my partner and me, some will act upon action and others will act upon their fear. 

     That’s another thing I learned. In being told that the threshold for a “righteous” shooting was fearing for my life, I realized that threshold sits on a very nebulous and sliding scale. It will be different for all cops, based on their training, experiences, confidence, focus and control. And how can anyone be expected to judge an officer’s level of “fear” in a given situation? We must provide more tangible, measurable criteria as to when use of force is justifiable. I’ve heard many times that cops are “held to a higher standard,” but as it pertains to shootings and brutality, that’s not true at all. If any citizen shot a fleeing, unarmed man in the back after a struggle, they’d almost certainly face Murder Two charges. Police, on the other hand, are rarely indicted (much less prosecuted) as their actions are considered within the realm of their duties. But if we are to judge those actions, there must be some way for us to know the circumstances that led to them. Enter body cams. In my view this is an obvious solution, as it provides protection for both citizens and law enforcement alike. If we were able to see the circumstances that led to an officer’s use of force, then we would be in a much better position to determine whether or not their decisions were justified.

     I was also told that officers are permitted to be one degree of threat beyond that of a suspect at any given time. One. If a perpetrator is holding a knife for example, I can have a projectile Taser, or failing that, a gun. If they have a gun in their waistband, I can have my gun in hand. If they have a gun in hand which is not aimed at me, I can have my weapon trained on them. One degree. If that is indeed true, then I must admit some confusion as to how 187 of this year’s victims were shot while unarmed. How does one man with a rock end up with 200 grams of lead inside of him? How does a teenager with no weapon facing multiple officers wind up shot to death?

      I’ll be the first to admit that I’m armchair quarterbacking here. There’s no way I can comprehend every complexity of every scenario—maybe it’s too much to even say that I can comprehend the complexity of any scenario. I’m not a cop. But I am a human being. A human being without extensive training on how to react to potentially dangerous situations. A human being without a number of non-lethal weapons at my disposal. A human being without self-defense, or hand-to-hand combat training. I’m at a disadvantage in all of those ways. And even so, I can’t see myself shooting an unarmed, fleeing suspect in the back several times. If I’m honest about it, I don’t believe my sim partner should have taken those shots. Our suspect did not pose an immediate threat to either of us or anyone else for that matter. A danger, perhaps—but not an imminent threat. And in my view, that must be the measure of every lethal force scenario—are lives in grave peril right now? This very second? If the answer is no, then there are still other options on the table and it is the responsibility of police to work toward a non-violent resolution.
      This issue is clearly very complex. I believe at its heart lie economic factors that are rooted in our society that will not change easily or quickly. I also think the militarization of law enforcement coupled with a lack of reasonable gun ownership regulations has created an escalating pattern of violent outcomes with police over the past several years. But perhaps most to blame is the profound erosion of trust between police and citizens. Thanks to the media, we forget that the vast majority of police are good people who have a potentially dangerous job to do. And every now and again, they forget that we’re not at war with one another. Our lives don’t matter less or more than theirs, and their job is to preserve life—all life—if at all possible.

      I do think that cops in the U.S. are sometimes too quick to resort to deadly force when there are other alternatives available to them. I feel that there needs to be a tangible hierarchy of police tactics and responses and exhaustive re-training of our law enforcement officers in those procedures. Then someday, if we’re smart enough to endeavor for more equality (in all of its forms) and start reducing our reliance on firepower as a solution, I believe we can begin to restore the kind of trust we see in Norway and Australia and England. Places where police related killings are the rare exception and where cops who don’t even carry guns still feel perfectly safe among the people they serve.

Let’s hope.

*I chose to use intentional homicide rates as a measure here because it is static and means the same thing in all countries, whereas “violent crime” has different definitions in other countries and cannot be compared quite so easily.

 DJ Schuettewww.djschuette.com

Sources:

The Counted (The Guardian)

GINI Index (Quandl)

Crime Statistics (NationMaster)

Police Use of Force: The Impact of Less-Lethal Weapons and Tactics (Philip Bulman, NIJ)

5 Countries Where Police Officers Do Not Carry Firearms—and it Works Well (Rick Noack, Washington Post)
     

 

 
       

 

 

          

 

     

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

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