“Race makes itself known in crisis, in the singular event that captures a larger pattern of abuse and pain,” writes author Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Who We Be) in the introduction to a series of essays on the significance of ongoing police shootings, social inequities, housing discrimination and campus diversity.
As an historian, Chang helps us focus on the broader picture (and effects) of the long-term system of racism and how it has played out and continues to develop in our country. Chang touches on Trump’s speech in Mesa, Arizona (December, 2015), demonstrations in Ferguson, MO (where he was arrested for participating) on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, and the effects of gentrification to produce a powerful punch through the veil of denial that shrouds and nurtures systemic racism.
A mental health threat for our people
Police killed 346 black people in 2015, making fear of our “protectors” a rational, reasonable fear. Now, for sure, there are many honest, caring cops out there. You hope that they are the ones who stop you for a broken tail light. The statistics on police killings portray practices that often result in death for black individuals stopped for nonviolent issues. This presents a mental health issue for our people.
See how widespread the problem is
The resource website, http://www.mappingpoliceviolence.org allows you to learn the stories of each of the individuals that were killed. Many of them are shocking, such as the Chicago landlord who opened her front door to greet police officers who had been called by her upstairs tenant. She opened the door, they shot her dead. Or the 17 year old brother, whose mother and sister had called the police when he experienced a psychotic episode. He ran into the bathroom, police shot him 17 times as his family begged them to stop.
The story of Kenneth Chamberlain
One of the saddest is the story of Kenneth Chamberlain of White Plains, NY. Mr. Chamberlain, a retired Marine and long-time corrections officer, was killed by police after accidentally triggering his 1st Alert alarm. He wore it because of a heart condition. Police in riot gear stormed his apartment (to be sure he was safe), and in a few seconds, tasered him twice, shot him at close range with four bean bag rounds, finally shooting him in the chest and killing him.
The entire episode was taped by the 1st Alert operator and yet the officers were never charged. The conflicting testimonies of the officers supported a cover-up.The civil suit was lost last week because the nearly all white jury could not believe that the 69 year old retiree was not still standing when he was finally shot. Watch the film and see what you think. These are not uncommon stories and they boggle the minds of mental health professionals right along with all other folks.
“They Can’t Kill Us All; Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement
By Wesley Lowery, Publisher: Little, Brown.
Something big is happening across the country and Washington post reporter, Wesley Lowery, is documenting it. From Baltimore to Oakland, Ferguson to New York, Seattle to Miami, unarmed black men and women are being killed by the police. The stories are starting to sound the same. The policmen “thought” they saw a gun, which turned out to be a book, a cell phone or simply a hand. Guns and knives were “found” near the body but many victims were shot in the back. Two weeks pass, the story falls out of the headlines, the world moves on. The story repeats itself in another city, with another mother’s son or daughter and another community is devastated and hardened.
Wesley Lowery has conducted hundreds of interviews, following these shootings during 2014 and 2015 from city to city. Against the backdrop of the first African American president, these shootings are increasing. Many were documented in cell phone videos yet 97% of these killings resulted in no charges against the police.
Mr. Lowery is a member of his newspaper’s Pulitzer prize-winning team and focuses in with precision clarity on a wave of assaults against the black body that Ta-Nehisi Coates outlined earlier in his book, “Between the World and Me”.
Michele Alexander is a lawyer, legal scholar, advocate and author who has written a comprehensive, well-researched examination of what is happening to our young men and women, to our families, to our future generations at the hands of the criminal justice system.
It seems that nearly every black family has a child, cousin, nephew or uncle who has been incarcerated. It’s happening to our college students, business professionals, working dads & mothers, drug involved and not. At every level, all over the country, black men, in particular, have been stopped and questioned multiple times. Now, that level of intrusion into black life is resulting in more than overwhelming legal costs and delayed goals for families. The fact that our men are constantly being sought out for examination of their being, is resulting in staggering numbers of deaths. We can no longer blame it on the boys, the neighborhood, our color. It is way bigger than that. We need to understand exactly what is happening and why. You cannot negotiate with an enemy that you cannot identify. This book identifies the problem AND the solutions.
Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises—the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.
Cotton’s story illustrates, in many respects, the old adage “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” In each generation, new tactics have been used for achieving the same goals—goals shared by the Founding Fathers. Denying African Americans citizenship was deemed essential to the formation of the original union. Hundreds of years later, America is still not an egalitarian….(read more….)
There is an almost palpable level of fear rising in the minds of many Americans over the steady stream of
unarmed young black men and boys, women and girls killed by police. How do we protect our children? How do
black people conduct themselves to be sure that they are not seen as dangerous. Not shot down, because by
their physical appearance alone, their movements are intuitively misperceived as imminently threatening.
While the majority of killings have been white officers against black citizens, there is that small number
of black officers on black victims that indicates that it’s not only about white on black racism.
Whether it’s this American drama on our urban streets or any of the international wars that bring death
to everyday life, it is clear, killing is not a solution to anything. Guns do not speak more articulately
than human reasoning. Mental health, is the essence of prevention. Racism is a mental health issue. Diminishing
the value of “others” is a mental health problem. In this book, Marc Lamont Hill joins Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander
in bringing clarity to the ongoing war against black men.
Find a black therapist, black counselor or African American psychologist near you