If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know that we are optimists. We believe that human ingenuity and hard work are–perhaps improbably–going to find a way to somehow stop the very large, existential messes we find ourselves in as a species.
That said, sometimes the vision of the distant, better future gets pretty hard to see in the face of the harsh present, and it feels wrong to let our parade of bikes and social entrepreneurs go unchecked as the country has a national moment of thinking about our ugly issues with race.
This is a business publication, but our view of business is that it only works when it integrates human values or recognizes when it lacks the necessary solutions entirely–and gets out of the way. If everyone–ourselves included–takes some time to participate and further this national moment, it can hopefully expand and coalesce into something that creates real change and real solutions. So in that spirit, we’re going to stop our business as usual for one minute and ask that you read and consider these stories:
If prosecutors and police departments are too tightly linked for due process to mean anything, then puncturing the impunity requires breaking the link.
One way to do this would be for citizens at the state and local level, through ballot initiatives, to take the authority for presenting evidence of police misconduct to grand juries out of the hands of local prosecutors. That authority could be handed to publicly accountable review boards staffed with civilian lawyers from within the jurisdiction, or to special prosecutors’ offices.
Staten Island makes Ferguson a lot harder to explain. What happens to the platitudes used to patiently instruct us about differing witness accounts and unanswerable questions, and all the solemn wishes that a camera had recorded the confrontation between Michael Brown, who was eighteen, and officer Darren Wilson? All that uncertainty was supposed to be why the Ferguson grand jury didn’t come back with an indictment. A dispute over facts is often a reason to go to trial, not a reason to avoid it—but even so. None of that mistiness had settled over the events on Staten Island, and there were no charges there, either. And, if doubt is factored out, what’s left?
Jon Stewart on last night’s Daily Show:
We keep applying the language and framework of accountability, diversity and sensitivity to an issue of oppression. We are attempting to fly an airplane with the keys to a motorcycle.
There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.
The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates has written damningly of the American preference for viewing our society’s crimes as aberrations—betrayals of some deeper, truer virtue, or departures from some righteous intended path. This is a convenient mythology. If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures.
Police are empowered to use lethal force under certain circumstances, and sometimes, they have to. The Supreme Court has held that police can use lethal force if they have a “reasonable belief” they are facing danger or if a fleeing suspect poses a danger to others. But it’s not just the beliefs of police that matter. It is also the beliefs of the citizens empowered to evaluate their decisions after the fact. And Americans almost always decide that police use of lethal force is reasonable. Given the fact that blacks are several times more likely than whites to be killed by police, that inevitably means that it’s often the deaths of black men that are deemed justified.
For The Wire fans: For Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Michael Brown: No more Roland Pryzbylewskis:
Pryz is neither a monster nor a racist. He has redeeming personal qualities and something to offer his community. But from the very beginning of Pryz’s police career, it has been abundantly clear that he is temperamentally unsuited to carry a firearm and that he should not be invested with the authority to use it on behalf of the government. The failure to heed these clear signs has tragic results for Baltimore residents, and for the Baltimore police department itself.
And watch New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s speech last night: