“[T]he legislation and histories of the time,
and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show,
that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves,
nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not,
were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended
to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument...[A]ltogether
unfit to associate with the white race, either in social
or political relations; and so far inferior, that they
had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
And with that, the United States Supreme Court
ensured that the 20th Century would be defined, as W.E.B.
DuBois wrote, by the color line. So,
while we might be outraged at the Sean Bell decision itself,
it comes directly from the flawed jurisprudence that gave
us the Dred Scott Decision in 1857, Plessy v. Ferguson in
1896, Bakke in 1978, Croson in 1989, Adarand in 1995, Gratz
in 2003, and all of the Ward Connerly-inspired attacks on
the very same affirmative action hard won by students facing
water hoses and dogs, men and women facing jail, lynch mobs,
Interestingly, according to Attorney Roger Wareham of the
December 12th Movement's International Secretariat, the criminal
justice system in this country “always finds a rationale for
letting off cops who kill black and brown people.” Indeed,
police officers seem to know that they can kill certain people
Just in New York City alone, Wareham rattles off the murders
that have defined police-”communities of color” relations
over two generations:
Clifford Glover, 1972
Louis Baez, 1978 shot (22 times)
Randolph Evans, 1979
Eleanor Bumpers, 1985 (a grandmother)
Amadou Diallo, 1999
Sean Bell, 2006
Sadly, New York City isn't the only city, with
this plague. In 2001, the Dayton Daily News reported that
topped the list of police killings of Blacks, having had 22
people shot, 13 fatally. All black men. Three unarmed.
Plus two additional deaths due to police use of chemical irritants.
2001 “Cincinnati Intifada” lasted for three nights after a white
police officer murdered an unarmed black teenager. Timothy
Thomas was the fifteenth black male killed by Cincinnati
police over a six-year period. I traveled with Ron Daniels
and others to Cincinnati to support the call by black residents,
including Reverend Damon Lynch III and 36 other ministers, for
a boycott of that city. Still reeling from the effects
of the boycott, Cincinnati made headlines again in 2003 when
the world watched as one black and five white police officers
repeatedly beat Nathaniel Jones with batons and then left him
in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, only to be pronounced
dead later at the hospital.
The “Benton Harbor,
Michigan Intifada of 2003” lasted two nights after the murder of an
unarmed black motorcyclist by white police officers. Adding
insult to injury, the residents of majority-black Benton Harbor are reeling under an attempted
takeover of the last “undeveloped” beachfront property on Lake
Michigan. The residents are under attack by the Whirlpool
Corporation that wants to develop “Benton Shores” and
move all of the residents completely out of the town.
The purported goal of the development is to turn Benton
Harbor into one of the “hottest vacation
destinations in the country,” to include a members-only indoor
water park, and a Jack Nicklaus golf course. According
to Reverend Edward Pinkney, the valiant leader who is trying
to save Benton Harbor
for the people, Harbor Shores will result in a complete takeover
of Benton Harbor, a city that is 96% Black.
Reverend Pinkney has been in jail since December
14, 2007 on trumped - up charges including violation of probation,
for writing an article calling the chief judge racist.
Mrs. Pinkney called the Office of Michigan Congressman John
Conyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to ask for
justice for the residents of Benton
Harbor and for her husband.
Shockingly, Chairman Conyers refused Mrs. Pinkney's plea to
get involved in this heroic struggle of a 96% Black community
in his own state. When I visited Benton
Harbor, it was clear to me that Reverend
Pinkney has the full support of the area's residents, black
and white, as they struggle to maintain the character of their
community. Reverend Pinkney is recognized by the people
as true hero and occupies a jail cell because of it.
Finally, however, someone broke
the silence and admitted it. Former Seattle Police Chief
Norm Stamper wrote in his book, Breaking
Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing,
that white police officers are afraid of Black men.
He develops this theory in a chapter of the book titled, “Why
White Cops Kill Black Men.” Finally: a hint of
truth coming from the other side. In a June 16, 2005
interview with the Looking Glass News, Stamper says
that he personally believes “that white cops are scared of
black men. The bigger or darker the man, the more frightened
the white cop. I can't shake that; it's a belief I will
take to the grave.”
while the corporate press would have us believe that reporting
on what a former Vice Presidential nominee says about a Presidential
candidate is a discussion of race, the prospects are that
black and brown men and women will continue to be murdered
by police officers who, fundamentally, seem scared of black
people. That fear apparently extends to the larger community
because juries construct ways to let murderous police officers
escape just punishment.
Roger Wareham, and the December 12th Movement International
Secretariat raise, inside the Human Rights Council of the
United Nations, the details of the type of police abuse in
which a 92-year old grandmother, Kathryn Johnston, is murdered
by police in Atlanta, Georgia and her family still has not
seen justice or been made whole. Or where a young black
male, also in Atlanta, can be sitting in his mother's car and
is murdered because the police presume that the car is stolen.
The December 12th Movement has
asked for United Nations Rapporteurs to come to the U.S. on
fact-finding missions so that the U.S. can finally be listed
as a major human rights abuser and a Rapporteur assigned to
this country. Already, the Special Rapporteur on Racism
and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
is coming to the
from May 18 - June 6 and will be in New
York City on May 21st and 22nd. The December 12th Movement
is scheduled to have a hearing for him at the Schomberg Center where the issue of police
killings will be raised. The Rapporteur is also scheduled
to visit DC, Chicago, Omaha,
Los Angeles, New Orleans,
Miami, and San
The United Nations Special Rapporteur
for Summary and Arbitrary Executions, Mr. Phillip Alston,
is conducting a
the U.S. in June.
The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
is also interested in reports of police abuse. If a
consistent and systemic pattern of abuse exists (which it
clearly does in the United States), the United Nations General
Assembly can pass a resolution which helps creates international
public opinion and perhaps the political will to stop it.
doing the same thing - a cycle of protest without punishment
- will net the same results. Something different must
be done. That's why I authored legislation to deny federal
funds and the use of federal equipment to any law enforcement
unit found to have violated the civil rights of the people
it is organized to protect and serve. Imagine if we
had the laws on the books and the apparatus of enforcement.
Imagine if juries wouldn't grant impunity to killer cops.
Some of you have written to me suggesting that we do something
different: perhaps a full-scale boycott. Perhaps
a full-scale, all-out political response - something many
in this generation have never done before.
Bobby Kennedy always said, “Some men dream of things that
are and say why. I dream of things that never were and
say why not.”
It is not impossible for us to have justice. We
don't have to lose any more people to police abuse, brutality,
or murder. But, in order to change things, we're going
to have to do some things we've never done before in order
to have some things we've never had before.
Are you willing to entertain that idea? Today?
Right now? If we demand more of our elected representatives,
I'm convinced we will get it. And it should be clear
exactly what is needed if we don't get what we demand.