St. Louis Rams: Jocks for Justice

In response to the most heated and controversial issue in the US right now, the murders of unarmed black men by white police officers, protests have taken many forms.  Violent riots broke out in Ferguson, MO as after Darren Wilson had not be indicted.  After the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York, Al Sharpton arranged a more peaceful protest, a national march in Washington DC.  Even those who didn’t physically participate in demonstrations still voiced their opinions via social media; the hash tag #blacklivesmatter began trending on Twitter.  While obviously looting stores and violent demonstrations don’t solve anything, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should be allowed to voice this opinion if not inflicting harm on others.  However, last Sunday, when St. Louis Rams players made a grand gesture during player introductions, there was a lot of outrage. Continue reading St. Louis Rams: Jocks for Justice

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Letter from Birmingham to Ferguson

After Missouri police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown on August 9th, Ferguson experienced protesting continuously throughout the following weeks. The controversial issues of police brutality and racism turned many protestors violent. The grand jury ruled Darren Wilson not guilty on November 24th and that night, angry citizens surrounded the Ferguson Police Department.

What began as an angry, but nonviolent, protest intensified throughout the night until buildings were burned and businesses were looted. To fend off the violent protestors, police launched tear gas and plastic bullets into the crowd. While protests in Ferguson have not all taken such dramatic turns, this was not the first violent protest. While citizens of Ferguson maintain their right to speak out about what they perceive, or what might actually be, injustice, do they have the right to break the law while doing so? Continue reading Letter from Birmingham to Ferguson

Mill on Marijuana

Having attended a small high school in a small town, hearing about a fellow student experimenting with marijuana was always so controversial. First, the entire school found out and then it quickly escalated to parents, teachers, and coaches, and was “the talk of the town.”  Coming to the University of Michigan, a very liberal college, seeing the nonchalant talk and shameless usage of marijuana was a bit of a culture shock. It has changed my view of marijuana and I have come to the point where I don’t see any reason for not legalizing it.  Continue reading Mill on Marijuana

Why Has Ferguson Ignited Public Protests?

Why has Ferguson sparked a national response? I believe it is because it has highlighted longstanding tensions within the country.

By now, most of us have probably heard about the Ferguson case and how the court ruled to not indict the police officer that shot and killed an unarmed teenager.

Numerous articles have been written in response to the protests, riots and social media attention. Some people agree with the protests but others are condemning the public display of outrage for reasons such as:

  • Rioting is only creating more violence
  •  Rioting is destroying local businesses, what is the point ?
  • This is 2014, we are equal there is no discrimination maybe we are better off separate but equal (yes this was actually written about)
  • Police officers have the right to react in that given way if they feel they are under threat
  • There’s even this interesting sentiment that the public pressure for the NFL to “do more” and take public stances is wrong because it is moving public justice to private justice.

I’ve also noticed a trend of many people saying, “the police officer was not indicted because according to the law he was not guilty” and thus invalidate all the negative sentiments of protesters.

I’d like to offer a response to this trend. Perhaps National outrage about Ferguson has resulted because if we remove the Ferguson case from the picture, there are still multiple nationwide racial tensions.

In one of our classes we went over Martin Luther King Jr’s writing A Letter from Birmingham Jail. I will highlight some of these points and experiences that I feel are similar sentiments to those protesting in reaction to Ferguson.

  • “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” To which he responds: “This is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to crate such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
  • “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” To which he responds that there are two types of laws: “Just and Unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

“Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in it’s application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance…but such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest. “

"Protesters push canisters of tear gas back at police officers in Ferguson, Missouri"
“Protesters push canisters of tear gas back at police officers in Ferguson, Missouri”

I recently read an article that outlined why, according to the law, the police officer was not indicted. I’d like to quote one of the article’s points:

“2. Reasonableness Standard: The Supreme Court has clearly stated that an officer’s actions are ‘objectively reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them at the time — without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.”

Perhaps he was rightfully under the law not indicted. Perhaps. So thus the uproar is illogical and ignorant right? Wrong. People are starting to speak up about the hostile unfair environment they feel created by racial. We cannot invalidate sentiments of the protestor because there is “no concrete evidence ” of racism.

Something I found interesting is that the law itself acknowledges that it is possible to have “underlying intent or motivation “ probably enough times to put that kind of safeguard in a law that can let an officer walk away with no indictment in a case like this and open the doors for people to quiet others voices by invalidating their sentiments.

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Consider this definition of ‘rule of law’ taken from Professor Mike LaVanque-Manty’s lecture:

“A state enjoys the rule of law when the use of coercive force is predictable, non-arbitrary, transparent, and consistent with publicly available laws and other rules, and the use of force is subject to review and open to appeals.” This is what MLKJ was advocating for and I believe this is the exact underlying topic behind the protests. Whether they can point to this definition or articulate it the ‘textbook’ way, I believe Ferguson has sparked a nationwide reaction because more people are speaking up about their sentiments that currently there is no consistent, non-arbitrary or transparent rule of law.

Consider some of these numbers surrounding the Ferguson debate:

  • At least 5: The number of unarmed black men killed by police in the past month alone.
  • 86%: The percentage of traffic stops in Ferguson that targeted African-Americans in 2013
  • 92.7% The percentage of total 2013 arrests in Ferguson that involved African Americans.
  • 1 in 3 vs 1 in 17: The number of black men versus white men nationwide who can expect to go to prison at some point in their lifetime. It is 1 in 6 for Latino males.

And if you might think racism is dead, watch this horrifying video of a couple on live TV mocking the chokehold that killed unarmed Eric Garner. He was killed by a policeman who was not indicted but the man who recorded the video was indeed sentenced.

And just in response to the negative responses to riots occurring, I agree that for the most part violent rioting is destroying businesses and hurting the community. But I do not think it is fair to make this an excuse to generalize condemning public protesting. Rioting is a part of change in an ironic way. It brings attention to the media about how some people are outraged. It is then up to the rest of the non-violent protestors to articulate that outrage and stand up for what they believe in.

Sports and Entertainment: Taking A Stand on Political Issues

J. Cole marching with protesters in downtown Manhattan
J. Cole marching with protesters in downtown Manhattan

In a 2004 article by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier, entitled “Where Are the Jocks for Justice”, the question of an athlete’s ability to become involved in controversial political affairs of the nation was called into play along with the repercussions that would come with voicing their opinion such as losing endorsements and playing time on the field. This was something I never really thought about until I read the article. It was interesting, and in light of the country’s current affairs dealing with Police brutality and abuse of power against unarmed African Americans resulting in death. This was more recently highlighted in Ferguson Missouri and Statin Island, New York with Michael Brown and Eric Garner respectively.  Coming across a picture of African American rapper J. Cole marching side by side with protesters after a grand jury decided that no charges would be brought against the police officer that placed Eric Garner in a fatal choke hold while he was allegedly selling cigarettes on a New York corner, Continue reading Sports and Entertainment: Taking A Stand on Political Issues

A Hint of Evil

*Thanksgiving Special Power Up*

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, Machiavellianism is “the view that politics is amoral and that any means however unscrupulous can justifiably be used in achieving political power.” Throughout history, many leaders have had some machiavellian in them that made them a great leader. There are many characteristics of a machiavellian that can make or break a good leader in a society. I believe that if one has some of these characteristics they are a better leader than without them.Now, I emphasize that one should have some if the characteristics of a machiavellian, as if one has all of them, the leader can have complete control over every single thing in a society. For example, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is viewed by many people as “evil”. In my opinion, this is because Putin possess the qualities of a machiavellian. Putiin pursues his political goals with deliberate tactics.

Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince is a guide that gives practical and straightforward advice on how to rule. Machiavelli uses The Prince to describe characteristics and qualities of a true “machiavellian” ruler. He shows what it takes to be a good leader, and how to gain the respect of the populace. He truly explains why having these characteristics is the best way to rule. Although many people believe that Machiavelli allows a leader to behave badly, I believe that a leader that has some evil in him is the right way to rule. For example, one may think that torture and assassination should be avoided. A machiavellian leader feels the same way, unless it is absolutely necessary. There is that hint of evil that make a machiavellian leader.

Continue reading A Hint of Evil

The Cycle of Violence Against Black Men

In light (dark?) of all the protests against police brutality, especially against Black bodies, I would like to examine the state of civil disobedience in the United States.

As I learned in my political science 101 class, and according to Martin Luther King, Jr., civil disobedience is when you protest and disobey unjust laws, yet accept the monopoly of punishment under the state and accept the consequences of your actions, such as by being arrested (1963). He cites in his text that his thinking was very much based on St. Augustine’s belief that “an unjust law is no law at all.” In both the Ferguson and now newly arising Eric Garner protests, some people are protesting peacefully with sit-ins, while others have looted and many have been hurt by said protests. While some are obeying laws entirely and are not taking part in civil disobedience, others have expressly committed illegal acts and willingly accepted the consequences in order to make a political statement.

Students at Central Michigan University peacefully protest the Ferguson acquittal on November 25, 2014.

Continue reading The Cycle of Violence Against Black Men