Tag Archives: The People

Where the Vision Comes From

The overall objective is a complete overhaul of the entire system, which includes imperialism, capitalism, sexism, patriarchy, climate change, classism, the prison industrial complex, immigration, and so on. However, if there is anything that we have learned from the history and the present of this protracted struggle is that it will not be won overnight. In the mean time people and the circumstances of their lives continue to worsen and our people continue to suffer. Therefore, a major component of our work must be directed toward mitigating the negative impacts of this racist, xenophobic, patriarchal system. This work must not only be done here in the US, but globally because our people are suffering from the same tyranny worldwide. This is often enacted as defensive measures in response to harmful policies and practices. Those defenses should most definitely continue. And in addition, an offensive is desperately required. Waiting on a government that was not designed to serve us or protect us is a strategy doomed to fail.

 

WE must build our own, for our own. WE can and we must. WE have agency. WE are in control of our own destinies. WE are powerful. WE are courageous. WE are ingenious. WE come from the longest lines of Queens and Kings, Astronomers, Mathematicians, Scientists, Engineers, Architects and Agriculturalists. It is in our genes, our hearts, and our souls.

 

 

The false histories we are taught are designed to deprive us of hope and to strip us of the desire to strive and work toward something better. The false histories we are taught are designed by those in power to keep themselves in power. Our educational systems are not designed to develop critical thinkers who are capable of developing an analysis of the system on our own. It is most certainly not designed to teach the oppressed peoples of the world how to assert our agency and to effect change in this system. This is why the education of Social Justice was removed from the public school system in Arizona, and why ethnic studies are being attacked nationwide. Thus, it falls to us, as it should, to be our own educators to ensure that our people are receiving a radical education that will prepare them to critically analyze our societies and ourselves. It is only through critical self-reflection that we can hope to improve upon what we have done, or what has been done in the past.

 

 

One of the largest pitfalls that our people fall into is a lack of vision about what our world and our societies within our world can be like. This is in large part because the indoctrination that most of us receive constricts our perspective into a fatalistic tunnel vision of potentiality. That is why no matter how bad the system of mass incarceration has been proven to be, or how certain 98% of the brightest and most prolific scientists of the world are concerning climate change, that the public and our politicians hold staunchly to the trajectory that our society is on. They cannot and will not envision alternative means to achieve the same goals.

 

 

Critical analysis lends itself to creativity and creativity is what is necessary for the formation of a new vision. The stifling of critical analysis is the process responsible for constricting the peoples’ ability to envision alternatives. This process furthermore restricts agency and supplants in its place a dependence on large structures of government as the provider of stability and direction. Thus, removing and denying the responsibility of the people to think and act, and furthermore to only be concerned about their selves, as if, as people we are somehow self-contained “monads” unaffected by the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

 

Individualism is an illusion that is destructive to the very fabric of our society and to our connection to the earth. There is nothing that any one of us can ever do that does not impact someone or something else in some way. The concept that we are self-contained is fallacy. Take for example again, language. Language cannot be learned in isolation. In fact, language would be entirely unnecessary if every person was self-contained an unaffected by the world. Quite contradictory, language is one of the basic means of interaction by beings who are not self-contained, precisely because we need each other for survival at the very least, and to thrive at best. Thus, any institution of education that does not explicate and replicate this fact in its indoctrination and inculcation of a generation is not only destructive to the society, but is harmful to the person.

 

 

When humans cannot envision and feel the interconnection and the symbiotic relationship that we have with the Earth, then the destruction of the planet is not perceived as the destruction of ourselves. When humans cannot envision and feel the interconnection and the symbiotic relationship that we share with each other, then the destruction and torture of people is not perceived as the torture and destruction of ourselves. For example, if we value, as I am sure that most people in the United States do, the Freedom of Speech, then this value must govern all speech given a few caveats, which the people agree to. To censor the speech of one person or group merely because they are not liked or agreed with opens the floodgates for all speech to be censored, or to be arbitrarily censored at a whim. That which is done to one of us affects everyone else. Furthermore, and often more disconcerting is that more often than not those whose freedom of speech is constricted are those who have a critical analysis of our societies and who are actively working to improve the conditions of those who are most impacted by them.  In turn, when the torture of one human being is permitted, or the bombing of one town is permitted, that then opens the floodgates to permit those policies to be generalized to others. Lastly, and perhaps the most relevant is that what is done on one side of the planet is not contained to that region, but rather, is felt throughout the world. The eradication of the Amazon rain forests, the burning of fossil fuels, the dropping atomic bombs, the explosions of nuclear power plants, the displacements of peoples, or the extinctions of species are all phenomena that are felt globally. Individualism is an illusion and it is one of the most destructive aspects of our contemporary culture. It is thus vital that our people begin to construct a new vision for what our world can be like.

 

 

This new vision and means will not come from the top-down, but rather, from the bottom up. It is a false education that teaches us that the most effective changes come from the top when the evidence proves that cultural shifts surface from the bottom and permeate an entire society. Language also functions in this manner because language is a function of culture. Grammar is a top down push meant to institute a particular and prescribed form of a language stigmatizing all other dialects and forms of the language. However, that does not cease or stop the natural evolution of a language. The version of English spoken in the United States today was at one time the stigmatized form. The prevalence of a system of education that teaches the opposite of this only serves to maintain the status quo, to sustain the dominance of those in power, and to continue the process of the worsening conditions of our peoples. It is an attempt to stifle the natural and necessary cultural evolution that must occur for us to overcome the injustices of our societies.

 

 

The first step in creating a new vision of what our world can be like and to addressing the issues causing the worsening conditions of our people is to institute a radical education ourselves to help foster the critical analyses our people are capable of and responsible for.  We must start with education because for so long as the fatalistic tunnel vision of potentialities is maintained and continues to persist among the most impacted by the harmful impacts of this unjust system, for just that long will our peoples believe we do not have the power or the means to effect beneficial change. The mere act of carrying out this radical education, wherein true histories or rather more complete, comprehensive, and complex histories are taught through a dialogic and dialectic method will provide the fertile ground for solutions to be created and to surface. The system will begin to be seen and understood for what it is, and once that understanding begins to take hold of the consciousness of our people and we are reacquainted with our agency as peoples, acting upon the vision and solutions that take shape is the natural corollary or outcome that follows.

 

 

The first things that will most likely be addressed by our critical analyzers are the immediate conditions causing the suffering of our peoples. The solutions to those immediate problems will permeate our societies from the bottom-up and as the society shifts its cultural center of gravity, the institutions and systems it relies upon will also be revolutionized.

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A Beautiful Movement: BlackLivesMatter Seattle

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The beautiful thing about this movement to end police brutality and by corollary to end the system which buttresses mass incarceration is that it has bridged culture, class, nationality, sex, religion, age, gender identification, race, ethnicity, political ideologies, and color. In the marches here in Seattle and around the United States, at any point that you turn around to look at the people putting their bodies on the line to ensure that Civil Rights are achieved you will see someone from any of innumerable walks of life and backgrounds. The beauty of it is that as different as we all are, we all believe that people should be treated fairly and equally.

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The system of laws that have been written and instituted from the end of 19th Century through the beginning of the 21st Century are crafted in such a way to apply to everyone, but are in practice used to target particular groups of individuals. The People, who gather and march and chant and sing in these marches understand this stark reality and have unanimously declared time and again that this system is not a system of justice. The People, regardless of whether they are black, white, First Nations, Asian, Latino, wealthy or homeless have consistently stood shoulder to shoulder risking arrests and violence to their persons to make sure that black men and women are not being killed and incarcerated and atrocious rates.

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I have personally witnessed people who could be physically identified as white putting their bodies between the police and the people of color who the police were attempting to arrest and harm. I have also witnessed firsthand, allies being sprayed with mace and arrested—this includes a Legal Observer who was there to ensure that the laws were being followed and was a non-combatant who was sprayed with mace—during our marches.

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So, the claims that I have heard distributed that they are not putting their bodies and their liberties on the line, acknowledging their inherent privilege in this system and using that to benefit the cause are simply inaccurate.  Even if you do not notice the arrests happening during the protests that does not mean that they are not occurring. In fact, there have been many occurrences of people being arrested after the protests and marches while they are walking home, and often times on trumped up charges that have nothing to do with the demonstrations themselves.

Earlier this December, I went to the King County Jail for one of our people who was scheduled for a bail hearing after the individual was arrested leaving a march alone. The charge was burglary, but there was not even enough evidence to set bail and the individual was released without bail or charges being filed. The individual was, it seems, arrested just because of their involvement in the demonstration.

This is not meant to be construed to suggest that Black people have not been arrested, maced or flash-bombed because that is not the truth.  In fact, the Seattle Police are notorious for ramming their bikes into people and tackling us to the ground, fighting the whole way as a tactic of arrest and suppression. This has happened to many people of multiple races and ethnicities. My intention in sharing the description of the white people who are being maced and arrested is to show that the people who are standing in solidarity with the Black community are in fact risking their bodies and liberty for us and that needs to be both acknowledged and respected.

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This is nonetheless, a Black led movement and it has to be. Frederic Douglass said in his speech West India Emancipation in New York in 1857: “This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” He further said, “The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just.” What this reveals, even from as long ago as the 19th Century is that the struggle for justice and freedom rests squarely with the people who are being oppressed. As Douglas mentions, if those who are oppressed do not stand up for themselves, then no one else will, or should either. That the people who are suffering from an unjust system must stand up for themselves and assert their right to life, if they are to have that right to life. “For a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others, or put himself to any inconvenience to gain it for others” says Douglas, before he continues on to say:  “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.” Douglas was speaking about slavery in the 19th Century and achieving freedom from that servitude, but his words hold just as much weight and pith today as they did then; if the people are not willing to stand up and make sacrifices for our own freedom and right to life, then we are not worth that freedom and right. This is why the movement has to be Black led and why we must stand for ourselves with others by our side. And this is precisely what we have been doing.

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Courageous people have been organizing and putting their very lives on the line and making the utmost sacrifices to demand our right to life and for justice.  People have made sacrifices of school and work, of safety and life to demand justice and to fight for an equitable system, but to read the comments on many news or reporting feeds or to listen to the people outside of the marches critiquing the protesters’ motives say things like this comment from a KIRO 7 news feed Protest Planned at Pioneer Square During Seahawks Game (12/19/2014): “How many of these not so intelligent protesters are feeding of our tax dollars. They seem to have a lot of time on their hands to protest. But not enough to check there facts. It’s time for them to shut up and get a job!” To listen to and absorb these types of comments, whether in public, on television, the radio, or on the internet one might think that the people in these demonstrations had nothing to lose because we never had anything.

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I could just as easily speak for others as I can speak of myself, but I will take the heat for this explication. I am a senior at the University of Washington double majoring in History (with a focus on empires and post-colonialism) and Philosophy (with a focus in ethics and justice). After completing my undergraduate studies and earning a Bachelor’s Degree I will be earning a Ph. D. in history and a Jurist Doctorate (Law Degree).  With these degrees my plan is to work with the United Nations and to help the organization revise international policy and law so that it is more equitable and just for all. Prior to enrolling at North Seattle Community College, where I was the Treasurer for the Student Government, and earning an Associate of Arts Degree, I was an owner of a construction company in the Pacific Northwest region, which specialized in underground utilities. The contrast the presentation of these facts I am attempting to draw is that the protesters are not ignorant, uneducated and jobless people. My story is not unique. In fact, many if not most people have very similar stories and histories to tell.

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My story contains more. Almost twenty years ago, I got into a lot of trouble in and around Seattle. I have a juvenile record that has been closed, though not expunged. When I was an adolescent I was involved with gangs and got hooked on drugs and as a result of both of these things I committed crime. I grew up in varying degrees of poverty, and even though I believe in agency, it cannot be successfully argued that one’s environment does not shape one’s decisions and opportunities. However, that is not the point, the argument that I am making by stating my history is that when I participate in demonstrations for Civil Rights risking arrests and potential charges, I risk everything I have been working on and for. If I am arrested then that juvenile record will be used as evidence of my character and against me. If that occurs, then I also risk losing the funding for my education, which will directly impact my ability to be a servant for our people, not just in the United States, but globally. (I will be happy to debate the morality of Federal Financial Aid, but this is not the place for it or the reason for bringing it up.)  The point is that most of us are educated and do have jobs and furthermore, as Frederick Douglas said, we are risking everything to fight for our rights and for justice because that is what the struggle requires for progress.

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It is easy to portray the protesters as thugs and criminals, as ignorant and leeches on this society because that makes the message that The People are speaking easier to ignore. It is an attempt to discredit the complaints that The People have with this system and to justify the suppression of the people.

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There are just as many slurs that are tossed out at The People who stand and march in solidarity with Black people and work for a brighter tomorrow with us. The news and much of the public attempts to character assassinate some of these people by calling them Anarchists. And though some of them may be anarchists, not everyone who is at these demonstrations and that is not Black is an anarchist. In fact, there are plenty of Black Anarchists. Secondly, the media and the public attempt to discredit  the demonstrations and the messages being projected from them by arguing that these demonstrations are nothing but white anarchists and who break things and start fights with the police. This may happen, but it is by no means the entire composition of all the demonstrations or any demonstration in particular. On all counts, the reports and accusations against The People participating in these demonstrations is simply inaccurate and often times nothing more than either, misinformation or outright propaganda meant to dilute the messages being disseminated by The People.    Furthermore, as was stated above, these people are putting their bodies and their liberties on the line and have because they believe that this system is unjust.

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Alex Garland Photography http://thedignityvirus.com/2014/12/20/demonstrators-bring-black-lives-matter-protest-to-bellevue-square-mall/

A perfect example of this was at the demonstration at Bellevue Square when a woman with a child who was sitting in the area where The People gathered to sing, joined the demonstration with her young son. The People were singing “Which side are you on my friend, which side are you on? Justice for Mike Brown, is justice for us all” in the center of the mall. After the police, decked out in full riot gear encircled the demonstrators, they made a plea to the white woman from Bellevue, notifying her that they were about to arrest everyone in the demonstration and warning her that she should take her son away before they began. Instead of running away and allowing an unjust action to occur, she grabbed her son and entered into the center of the circle of this peaceful demonstration. It was both heartwarming and inspiring to see that someone who no one knew believed in fighting for justice so much would not conceal even her son from the harsh reality of oppression and suppression.

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Regardless of what the uninformed or misinformed people attempt to present as facts about The People and what the people are doing by marching and protesting, or how they attempt to tear the people apart, it is not having the desired affect. In fact, it is having the opposite affect, it is drawing The People closer together and forcing us to become more organized and strategic. Communities which have been disparate are coming together and forming coalitions and networks, learning how to care for and educated each other and creating lasting relationships. We are tearing down the barriers that society has attempted to raise to keep us separate and we are standing in unity.

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This is a Black led movement because it must be and it is long overdue, but because it is led by Black people does not mean that the people who are not Black are not valuable and necessary participating people in this movement; quite the opposite. It is a beautiful thing to watch so many people, from so many different backgrounds come together all to fight for justice and equality.

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We claim the Right to self-determination.

We claim the Right to define justice.

We claim the Right to liberty.

We claim the Right to live.

From Disillusioned to Inspired

There was a time that I had hope for the United States. There was a time that I even wanted to be the President and held that as my most esteemed dream and aspiration. That was also a time when I trusted the government was established to protect and serve me. That dream has vanished, those hopes have been torn to shreds and that trust has been violated beyond repair.

There was a time when I was naïve and although not innocent; I had an immature mind that still believed what I saw on the surface of things. They should have put a warning label on my education that read, “Beware, if you look too deep and make too many connections between the things you find your conception of the world will be irrevocably altered forever.” I chose to pursue a law degree because I thought a healthy knowledge of the way our laws were constructed and function would help me to be an effective servant of the people. I thought studying history would provide me with knowledge of where we came from and help me to envision the future. I thought studying philosophy would teach me the morality and ethics necessary to make the tough decisions when there were no clear answers and both choices had negative outcomes. I was correct on all counts, but I was not prepared for what I discovered.

The laws primary function is a form of social control. Now this would not be inherently wrong if, the laws were equally enforced ubiquitously upon all equally, but that is not the case. And it would not be wrong if all the people under the jurisdiction of the laws helped to create and change the laws as the need for the laws shifted with the times, but this is again not the case. The laws are written to benefit those with power and wealth, while concomitantly suppressing and constricting the rights and privileges of those with less power and wealth. The main problem is that there are so many laws that there is not any person who could know them all and at the same time comprehend their collective meanings and draw conclusions from their interrelated implications. Furthermore, it is not a single law that is the problem, but rather, the system of laws that have been created that stack upon one another to create an unjust system that seems nearly impossible to deconstruct. What is clear from the little that I have learned is that these laws although, they may appear to be fair, they are not applied to everyone in the same force, if at all. Thus, it has become clear that the social control the laws form is intended not for all, by all, but for some particulars by other particulars and therefor, the system of laws is wrong.

Justice is a word that is tossed around often, but it is a word that seems to have lost its meaning. Justice is that which provides for the flourishing of both the private individual and for the collective group or the public. However, the manner in which justice tends to be used, in particular by the government of the United States is in a manner that equates the law, whatever these particulars agree upon to use as social control for other particulars of this society as being just. That is a fallacy and a lie that has been neatly crafted to fool the general public into the acceptance of this inaccurate definition of justice. Based on what justice means, then for the laws to be just, they would have to provide for the enhancement of all who the laws apply. However, the opposite is the case as those with less power and wealth are subjugated and relegated to inferior positions and their ability to flourish is diminished and constricted by the laws and therefore, the laws are unjust.

Assata Shakur said in, To My People:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

What I draw from this is that it is not the duty of the government to protect our freedoms and to provide justice, but rather, it is my, it is our duty to define what justice is and to protect that justice. We do not work for the government, the government works for us, but this is only the case so long as we hold the government accountable to us. In this regard, the words of Thomas Jefferson, from the Declaration of Independence written in 1776 seem most fitting:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

This shows that even the founders of the United States agreed that it was not only a Duty to fight for Freedom and Justice, but also a Right to do so. What it also reveals is that it is the responsibility of The People to determine what justice is and to define how they are to be governed by a government and not the other way around. Furthermore, at the tail end of the Civil War (1861-1865) when the United States was torn over the definition of justice and its application, President Abraham Lincoln remarked in the Gettysburg Address (1864):

…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Again, it is a government of the people and by the people, which situates the responsibility of holding the government responsible and accountable squarely in the hands of The People. The ugly truth is that since this is the foundation of the United States, then the responsibility of the shape and the oppressive nature of the government of this country rests squarely upon the shoulders of The People for allowing the formation of a quasi-Totalitarian government that is ruled in a plutocratic form by particulars that forms laws marginalizing and exploiting others less powerful and wealthy.

This happened because The People became complacent and did not value our vote or the power of our votes or remember how difficult it was to achieve the Right to vote in the first place. And as a result we shirked our responsibility to govern ourselves and to care for our own communities. We turned our backs on those responsibilities and placed them into the hands of others who are not responsible, and are motivated by self-interests, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.

However, it is not too late. I was disillusioned when I began this journey because I was under the impression that it was the responsibility of the government to define justice and to govern us, like most other people, but I have found that that is not accurate. The power resides in us, The People, as it always has. And whenever we choose to assert that power as those who have come before us did and who provide the examples for us to follow, we will find that there is nothing that can stop a group of driven and motivated minds working together on a problem.

The truth that has been concealed is that there is no government without us because We, The People, are the Government.

Fed-Up with a System that is not Just and Does not Listen

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After the Grand Jury decision not to indict the Ferguson officer responsible for the murder of Michael Brown was released (November 24, 2014), people across the country took to the streets in protest. Seattle was no exception to this national wave of civil unrest.

People throughout the country are upset and fed up with being treated unfairly and being valued less than other citizens. The people are sick and tired of feeling like their rights and lives do not count, like they do not matter. The people are done with passively fearing for their lives, knowing that at any moment they can be killed with impunity because the officers will almost unequivocally escape any sort of punishment. The people are tired of being treated as second-class citizens.

 

The Grand Jury decision was the last draw.

 

The civil unrest did not just occur because of this one particular incident, but rather because of long series of incidents that stretches back hundreds of years. Although, the most recent incidents of Trevon Martin, and the 12-year old child who was shot by a Police Officer because of he was in possession of a bb-gun catalyzed the issues police brutality and injustice in recent memory. If it was only one incident, then the people would not be standing in solidarity throughout the nation, but they are.

I keep hearing again and again, that people are “sick and tired of hearing people of color complaining about injustice.”

 

To them I ask:

 

What is it that would cause a people, and not just black people, but all kinds of people to clamor for justice?

What would cause the people to take to the streets, host protest, and use the only voice they have left?

Could it possibly be because we actually feel and are being treated unjustly?

 

When I hear that people are sick and tired of hearing people of color complain about injustice what I hear is one of two things:

 

(1) Either they believe that the system is just, i.e., it provides for the common benefit of all people.

Or

(2) they know the system is unjust and do not want to do anything about it, i.e., relinquish some of the privilege gained by the oppression of others.

 

In either case the outcome is wrong, but option two is far worse because inherent in it is an obvious choice to maintain the status quo, to maintain a system of oppression.

 

For a few generations since the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s & 70s, the people have been attempting to maneuver through the political system, the people have published papers and articles, written books, held peaceful vigils and all that has come about from it all is a corrupt system of injustice. Since the 1970s, but really picking up steam in the 80s and coalescing in 90s a new criminal justice system was created. This new system has the results of 3/4 of the adult African-American male population either in prison or with a prison record, that same population having their right to vote revoked, denied access to higher education, and legally discriminated against culminating to create what Michelle Alexander termed “The New Jim Crow.” The rhetoric behind and which founded the creation of this system has identified the young person of color as the enemy, as the “bad man,” and as worthy only of contempt and punishment. Simultaneously, the system shifted from prevention to punishment and diverted most of the funding that was set aside to help prevent crime and the causes of crime and suffering to the Prison Industrial Complex. These cuts and re-distributions of funds, while argued in public were often cryptic in design, like cuts to education programs, cuts to welfare programs, cuts to drug rehabilitation programs and the money was reallocated to law enforcement and to prison construction and maintenance. This is the result of peaceful, non-civil unrest action over the past few decades has come to nearly naught and the people most affected by this system know it all too well, even though many who are not affected by it are surprised to discover it nature.

 

This system just described above is what provides the motivation and the justification for officers of the “law” to act with impunity concerning the lives of people of color in the United States, a fact well known by the people. So, when the Grand Jury decided not to indict Daren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, essentially what the judicial system was doing was upholding its position against people of color. The determination was that there was not probable cause to file murder charges. This could only be the case if the law was set up to tolerate this type of behavior in the first place, but what is legal and what is just are mutually exclusive and thus, not always the same thing.

 

This is why the people took to the streets all throughout the nation. We are demanding that what is law and what is just be made to be equitable.

 

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