Written by Serie McDougal
Afrometrics condemns the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson for the unlawful killing of Michael Brown Jr., an unarmed college-bound 18-year-old African American, on August 9, 2014. Moreover, we condemn the ongoing unlawful police killings of Black men, women, and children, and their often automatic labeling as delinquents and “thugs.” We also condemn the prosecutor’s decision not to properly inform the family of Michael Brown of the grand jury’s non-indictment. On Monday night, November 24, 2014, the family of Michael Brown stood among the crowd on the streets of Ferguson as they learned of the decision to not indict the killer of their son, brother, uncle, and friend. This blatant mistreatment of Michael Brown’s family and the media’s ridicule of his family’s emotional response is inhumane and unjust. In the 21st century the marginalization of Black families has been adopted in the media and has advanced in the legal system. Black women’s right to motherhood has been regulated to uni-dimensional existence that renders them unsuitable for motherhood. Comparatively, Black men have been labeled as absentee fathers. The acceptance and use of these false notions have been used to rationalize and validate the systematic assault on Black families in the criminal justice system. Failure to adequately address the criminal treatment of Black families will result in the persistent creation of policies and programs designed to restrict and inhibit the human and citizenship rights of Black families.
We support the spirit of resistance of the residents of Ferguson and Africana communities and allies across the country and world. One of our concerns is that the many methods of resistance, such as, forms of economic boycotts, political advocacy, and street demonstrations, have to be sustained, protracted, and not short-lived. The police department and news media outlets have offered contradictory statements about the events leading to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown Jr. Some have used this to condemn the economic boycotts and rebellions that have occurred in the streets of cities across the country. However, it is our position that people are not just responding to what happened to Michael Brown alone, but what his killing represents: the devaluing of Black life. The hundreds of years of slavery and additional hundred years of share-cropping that Black people endured, included regular beatings, lynching, burnings, and bodily mutilations. Many of these were public events, attended by many and published in newspapers and later depicted in film. This has been compounded by current police brutality and the over-representation of violence among Black people in the media. The result has been the normalization of the image of violence enacted on Black people, and the subsequent devaluing of Black lives without proportionate legal consequence. The conditions that the masses of Black people live in and the treatment they receive from law enforcement cannot be allowed to shape how the public values Black people’s lives. It was once federal policy that Black people’s worth was 3/5 that of a person. If the way we are treated is the metric used to judge our worth, then what would be our value now? But again, our condition and treatment by the state cannot be the means by which we determine our own worth.
According to the Bureau of Justice African Americans are over 3 times more likely than Whites to experience force by police officers. Young Black males are 21 times more at risk of being shot dead by the police than White males. The National Urban League developed the Equality Index to assess the relative status of Black and White people for the purpose of measuring progress toward achieving equal social, political and economic opportunity in the United States. Based on their analysis, the relative social equality of Blacks to Whites in America is at 71.2%. However, solutions addressing the root problem of devaluation of Black life must involve: 1) Strengthening the value that Black people place on Black life (in light of routine inhumane treatment), and 2) Using all means to compel society’s institutions to respect Black humanity.
Afrometrics condemns the permanent war waged on the Black community by the state and its allies and agents. Impunity for police violence against Black people emphasizes the omnipresent and willful disregard for Black life. This threatens the vitality of Black families and the larger Black community. Our work as scholar-activists seeks to generate solutions that improve the life chances for Black people as well as highlight new methods for challenging the threats to our communities. Okwumabua, Wong, Dureya, Okwumabua, and Howell conducted a study of a youth development program that included the promotion of healthy ethnic identity and other skills. The program included three components: 1) Decision making and skills-training, 2) Conflict resolution training, and most-importantly 3) Cultural awareness. Participants in this study showed improved self-concepts and more positive ethnic identity. We believe that when Black people and Black youth, in particular, place a healthy value on their own identity as people of African descent they will be more likely to demand justice and equitable treatment from society’s institutions.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2005). Contacts between police and the public. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.
Okwumabua, J.O., Wong, S.P., Duryea, E.J., Okwumabua, T.M., & Howell, S. (1999). Building self-esteem through social skills training and cultural
awareness. Journal of Primary Prevention, 20(1), 61-74.
Written by Sureshi Jayawardene