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Power, Justice and the Cheap Blood of Black Males

Hakim Hazim

Hakim Hazim

“Justice is nothing more than the advantage of the stronger.” -Thrasymachus

 By Hakim Hazim

The grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York should not surprise us. Justice is in the eyes of the beholder and the criminal justice system is not blind. It derives its power from the larger societal framework that simply has many preconceived ideas about Black males. We must work relentlessly to change this and hold the system accountable. We must also support the people who are doing that and exercise patience in the process. Keep in mind the two chief law enforcement officers in this nation are Black: Barack Obama and Eric Holder, and racial tensions are at an all time high. To their credit they are doing quite a bit, but they face an uphill struggle. We should follow their lead on criminal justice reform and we should do everything we can for the young Black men around us before and after tragedy strikes. We should also consistently deplore what we are doing to one another; it’s senseless not too. All of these things reinforce the notion, “Black Blood is cheap.”

Current law enforcement approaches toward us as a people and the tacit societal approval behind it must change. Society inherently nurtures the belief that justice is nothing more than the interest and the sustained advantage of the stronger, and it has played out that way for centuries. The rationale is, “If they did things the right way, they would get what I have and so would their children.”  Such self-righteousness obscures reality.  The fact is people do all they can to give their descendants an advantage in the system and they tilt the scales to their advantage. It’s true with race, power and wealth and gender. It’s simply a human trait of passing the best of your efforts, lessons and acquisitions to your children, but you also pass your biases on as well.

When we first arrived, justice was never considered for us as a people. It was an elusive concept for which we prayed, fought, bled and died for. To this very day, she seems a distant stranger to many of our people still in terms of access, resources, familial ties and fair treatment in terms of the criminal justice system. Although all black people have felt the sting of injustice, poor black folks feel it the most. Having little to bargain with or offer they are viewed as inferior, unworthy and an unnecessary, troublesome burden by many—even middle class and upper class blacks. Our inner cities are filled with Black-on-Black crime, fatherlessness and substandard schools. This fertile ground of dysfunction produces young men who think that they or their peers have little value. Feeling powerless, they prey on one another and lash out at the larger system. This crab in a bucket mentality is celebrated in the music of popular culture. The sad fact is this, many of us have not learn to value one another the way we should and King’s Dream falls on deaf ears to many of the younger generation.

Let’s face the facts: statistics show young people who do well often succeed because of the systems and programs that strengthen them. Things like a solid family structure and access to education, faith-based organizations, mentoring agencies, activity, athletic and interest development organizations and employment services, give young people a fighting chance. If not, their doomed from the womb. The deaths of so many young black males or own the hands of many. The Black-on- Black gang wars, stand your ground advocates and law enforcement officers have all contributed to this. Passivity is not an option. Let your voice be heard, or remain entrenched in hypocrisy. The choice is yours.


 

Hakim Hazim is the founder of Relevant Now and co-founder of Freedom Squared. He is a nationally recognized expert in decision analysis, criminality and security.

 

 

Through The Media Lens: Covering Race and Police Brutality

Bob Butler

Bob Butler

By Bob Butler 

The second half of 2014 has been marked by the shooting deaths of four African-American males by local law enforcement — Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York, John Crawford and Tamir Rice in Ohio — that have attracted the attention of national media and the federal government, and shined a light on the issue of policing in minority communities.

It has also been marked by some exceptional journalism on the subject, as well as some alarming narratives from journalistic choices that, while not necessarily intentional, serve to perpetuate stereotypes of Black men as dangerous criminals.

Race is present in the dynamics around these stories and those who are involved in producing these stories. Put another way: while a diverse group of journalists has been on the ground reporting this story, the same cannot be said about who makes decisions about what will be covered and how.

Some of the coverage goes into great detail about how the victims’ actions may have contributed to their own demise: John Crawford should not have tried to buy a toy rifle at Walmart, Mike Brown should not have (allegedly) stolen cigars from a convenience store, Eric Garner should not have (allegedly) been selling loose cigarettes and Tamir Rice should not have been playing with a toy gun.

These cases are not the first, nor will they be the last, involving Black males and the police. It must be pointed out that Black males are not the only ones being shot. Dillon Taylor in Utah and Gil Collar in Alabama were White and also unarmed when police shot them. The difference is the media coverage of their cases does not imply that they deserved to die.

From the breaking news coverage of these events to the analysis that followed, and will hopefully continue, it is important to recognize the negative patterns that can emerge in such stories, and to discuss strategies for countering these patterns.

Two questions can help guide this process: Is this information relevant? And how will this affect the story?

A big part of how narrative is shaped in these stories starts with the photos of those involved. While availability of photos can be a challenge, especially in the early stages of a fast-moving story, efforts must be made to paint the fullest picture (pun intended) of the central figures. Images depicting black men solely as menacing, threatening or dangerous only fuel existing stereotypes.

Weighing whether to include details about a black victim’s criminal background or drug use also contributes to the narrative. Here, balance is important. Is there an attempt to report the officer’s history? Does the officer have a disciplinary history or a record of complaints regarding use of force? Is the victim’s background relevant to the specific incident that ended his life? If so, explain this to readers, lest it be interpreted as gratuitous or malicious.

In the case of Tamir Rice, why did the Northwest Ohio Media Group report on his parents’ criminal records? What did that have to do with Rice being shot by police?

Stories like Ferguson and the deaths of Crawford, Garner and Rice reaffirm the urgency of more diverse American newsrooms. Look no further than the membership of the National Association of Black Journalists to find many examples of responsible reporting.

NABJ was founded in 1975 in part, “to monitor and sensitize all media to racism.” Nearly 40 years later, NABJ still finds it necessarily to fulfill this role. It is our hope that those committed to a better approach to exploring issues of race and society will join us in examining how we can all improve.


Bob Butler is the President of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For additional information, please visit, http://www.nabj.org

Interracial Relationships in the Wake of Ferguson

Christelyn Karazin

Christelyn Karazin

By Christelyn Karazin, Brand Ambassador for InterracialDatingCentral.com

In light of the recent events in Ferguson, as well as news that the police officer responsible for the chokehold that contributed to the death of Eric Garner will not face criminal charges, the focus on black people in interracial relationships has come into question by some. If you are currently in an interracial relationship, as I am, you may now be noticing an elephant in the room with the two of you. How you and your partner navigate the communication surrounding America’s recently heightened racial tensions can make or break the longevity of your relationship. Some questions I have gotten recently are along the lines of: “Is it possible to date and marry a non-black person in light of recent events? Would they really understand what it’s like to live in a country where racism is still alive and rearing its ugly head?

Sometimes debates between interracial couples creates conflict within their relationship, and oftentimes, disillusionment can set in. But that is when empathy and understanding are in order.

When events like Ferguson occur, and you suddenly find yourself party to a racial debate in your very own kitchen or bedroom, both races need to begin that dialogue by acknowledging certain truths. Much of the frustration and misunderstanding comes from each party being so invested in their own emotions that neither person wants to acknowledge these truths.

A Caucasian, or non-black, person involved in an interracial relationship must acknowledge that racism in this country still exists, even if you yourself do not endorse or engage in such bigotry and discrimination. We are a country founded upon a racial hierarchy which was used to justify slavery and subsequent injustices like segregation. The people who encouraged, accepted and perpetuated such injustices are not all dead. In some parts of the country, there are populations of white people who still yearn for the old days when everything was separate and vastly unequal. Though these populations are marginalized at this point, they do exist.

For much of the black community, events like Ferguson and the events that surrounded the death of Eric Garner, rip open old wounds. It leads many of us in the black community to feel powerless in the world in which we live. Many of us sink into utter despair. When you visibly see your partner in despair that is not the time to apply your logic and state your laundry list of facts surrounding America and race relations. It is a time for you to simply hold him or her in your arms and sooth them through their pain until they are capable of having a rational conversation.

When emotions are raw, it is best to observe and acknowledge the pain the other person feels. Acknowledging a person’s feelings doesn’t mean you have to 100% agree with their point of view. It just means that you care enough about the person in front of you to listen and give support.

Because we live in a country with a racial hierarchy, understand that issues related to your partner affect you too. If you have children, then even more so. You need to know that your children may be negatively impacted by those who adhere to this old guard racial hierarchy. You will have to acknowledge and deal with the reality of police misconduct so that you can protect your progeny.

Now, black Americans involved with non-black people, we need to acknowledge certain truths as

The Black community is in trouble. We have a 73% out-of-wedlock rate which is resulting in utter chaos, especially in lower-income neighborhoods. Children growing up without fathers are the walking wounded, and are often angry and much more likely to drop out of school and go to jail. You need to know that outsiders who observe this dysfunction see it for what it is. Everyone can see our dirty laundry, and that can feel embarrassing and put you on the defensive with your partner. But resist that urge. We have to openly and honestly acknowledge that fractured families come in to play when it comes to the chaos within our own community. No amount of money or legislation will affect the change that needs to come from within.

You need to understand that white people see us killing each other. They see how many of us apply little value to our own lives and to the lives of others. They become confused when a black person’s life seems to suddenly have value and galvanize the community only when a white person ends it. They take notice, and yes, they are quietly judging us.

You have to acknowledge that the black community is not completely innocent, powerless and unable to enlist personal accountability. Not everything is “the white devil’s fault.” Some of it -much of it – is ours. The good news is, we also have the power to harness our anger into productivity and stronger family ties within our own community.

You need to understand that the person in front of you, your significant other, should not be some voodoo avatar to stand in for every racist white person that has ever wronged you or your peers. Just as you want to be judged as an individual, you must also extend that courtesy to your partner.

If both parties can acknowledge one another, empathize, listen, and be willing to learn from each other’s point of view, such relationships have a very good chance of thriving through these moments of racial crisis in America.