The Dream Defenders is an organization directed by Black & Brown youth, who confront systemic inequality by building our collective power. Be the Power!

motherjones:

For the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights rally, an ode to the women who helped it succeed—and got little recognition for it.
(Steve Schapiro/Corbis)


Women of the Dream Defenders.

motherjones:

For the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights rally, an ode to the women who helped it succeed—and got little recognition for it.

(Steve Schapiro/Corbis)

Women of the Dream Defenders.

From the hard marble floors of the Florida Capitol to the Capital of these United States, Dream Defenders #MarchOn Washington!

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Fast-food protests that started in New York spread to Los Angeles and other cities across the nation Thursday as workers called for higher wages and the chance to unionize.

Dozens of fast-food workers and supporters marched outside a South Los Angeles Burger King at 6 a.m., chanting their demand for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Holding signs with slogans such as “Burgers and Lies,” “Yo Quiero $15,” and “Lovin’ a Living Wage,” they began moving into formation before sunrise, headlights speeding by on the 110 Freeway behind the restaurant in the Brodway-Manchester neighborhood.

As the sun slowly rose and honks from passing passing cars increased, the employees and protest organizers from the Service Employees International Union, many decked out in “Fight For 15” T-shirts, snaked around the corner at Broadway and Century Boulevard.

The fast-food protests began in New York last November. There have been three protests in New York since then, and they have spread to Chicago and other cities. Thursday’s protest is to mark the first for fast-food workers in Los Angeles and other cities.

"This is our fourth strike in New York, and now we have 50 cities striking with us," said Tyeisha Batts, 27, one of the protesters, who has worked in fast food for six years. "I’m ready for a change."

The Los Angeles area has 181,595 fast-food workers, earning a median hourly wage of $9, according to protest organizers from SEIU. They say – pointing to an MIT living wage calculator – that an adult living in the area with one child needs to earn $23.53 an hour full time to afford basic necessities.

One worker who planned to protest told KTLA-TV early Thursday morning that it’s unfair that some of his colleagues have been in the industry for more than 20 years “and they still earn 8 bucks an hour.”

“They have a family to feed and everything….They have two, three jobs and things just shouldn’t be like that,” he said.

The protests come as more workers in blue- and white-collar jobs begin to agitate for better working conditions. But the fast-food protests are unique because they are not targeting one employer or company, but a whole industry.

Workers were expected to protest outside a number of fast-food outlets, including Wendy’s,McDonald’sBurger King and Subway.

The fast-food industry used to employ mostly younger people just trying to make some extra money as they went through school. Now, workers are older and depend on the work to feed families. Analysis by the Economic Policies Institute shows that the average age of minimum-wage workers is now 35, and that 88% are 20 and older.

"This morning, I’m out here taking a stand for all the fast-food workers around the world," Derrick Langley said. "If you’re not going to stand up for yourselves, we will."

But industry groups such as the International Franchise Assn. said protesters’ goals are “unrealistic.”

Individual franchisees, not the bigwigs at corporate headquarters, determine wage levels for workers, according to the group. And many such operators are contending with thin margins made worse by a lagging economy, high commodity costs and soaring energy costs, according to the group.

"Mandating increased wages would lead to higher prices for consumers, lower foot traffic and sales for franchise owners, and ultimately, lost jobs and opportunities for employees to become managers or franchise owners,” Steve Caldeira, the association’s chief executive, said in a statement.

bashirlive:

Watch our conversation with Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders, where he discusses what he would’ve said on Wednesday at the March on Washington anniversary event.

bashirlive:

Watch our conversation with Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders, where he discusses what he would’ve said on Wednesday at the March on Washington anniversary event.

attheendofthesky:

someone just put this on my mailbox & I love them for it.

We love you too.

attheendofthesky:

someone just put this on my mailbox & I love them for it.

We love you too.

justbecoolgallery:

#JBC FOR DREAMDEFENDERS.ORG | WE ARE THE YOUth MOVEMENT!

justbecoolgallery:

#JBC FOR DREAMDEFENDERS.ORG | WE ARE THE YOUth MOVEMENT!

gnarlybynature:

Don’t Believe Us, Just Watch.

Our generation has been called complacent and disengaged. We’ve been kept out of discussions and meetings and strategies because some of the old heads of the movement still have a white-knuckled grip on the torch, but we’re ready. And we’re already working.

Yesterday, at the 50 year commemoration of the March on Washington, my friend, colleague and Director of the Dream Defenders, Phillip Agnew, along with Sofia Campos of United We Dream, two of the youngest speakers were cut from the 70-person speaker list just as each of them approached the podium. Apparently, previous speakers had run too long. Phil’s name appeared on the big screen announcing him as the next speaker right before they told him it wasn’t going to happen. Then Al Sharpton spoke.

Please watch the video of his speech and then make your own #2Minutes. Tweet/fb @dreamdefenders (@thedreamdefeners on IG) and use the hashtags #OurMarch and #MarchOn.

Tell us what you march for. Who you march for. Tell us why you think our voices aren’t heard. Read us a poem. Read a quote you’re inspired by. Sing a song. We want to hear your voices. We outchea.

Share and repost.

Kiera’s charges have been dismissed, but she hasn’t gotten back in normal classes yet!
If you haven’t heard of Kiera Wilmot, she is the 16-year-old with good grades, a perfect behavior record and a healthy amount of scientific curiosity who was arrested at Bartow High in Florida for mixing drain cleaner and aluminum foil inside a plastic bottle.  This reaction popped the top off and produced some smoke.  No one was injured, nothing was damaged, but Kiera was arrested and is now taking classes at an alternative school.

If you have heard of Kiera Wilmot and you were one of the thousands of people that have been letting Polk County that you didn’t agree with the actions taken and that we want#justiceforkiera, and signing our petition and organizational petition then we thank you for lending your hearts and your power with this young lady.

Kiera was on Roland Martin’s radio show and finally got the chance to speak for herself about the situation.

Kiera had this to say about her current placement at Bill Duncan Opportunity Center,
 
“It’s just so different there… I’m hoping to go back to Bartow High School for my Senior year but that hasn’t been resolved yet.”

Kiera needs OUR help to get her back to Bartow High to finish off her school year the way she is supposed to and attend Bartow High for her Senior year.
 
On Thursday, May 23rd, we’re having a National Call-In to SuperIntendent’s Office to demand that all expulsion proceedings are dropped and Kiera is allowed to return to regular classes at Bartow High.

Dream Defenders calls upon all local, state and national allies to TAKE ACTION to ensure Kiera does not become another casualty of the school to prison pipeline.
 

Sign the petition to get Kiera back in school:
http://signon.org/sign/superintendent-stewart?source=c.url&r_by=7746861
 
Organizations can sign our Organizational Sign-On Letter Here:
http://bit.ly/11noQOi
 
Contact Polk County Superintendent John Stewart:
Call: (863) 534-0521
Sample Script is below.


In order to continue making an impact in this case we will need the support of thousands. Please share this message with family and friends. Let’s ensure there is true #JusticeForKiera

On April 22, 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot was arrested at her Polk County high school for conducting a science experiment. The teen, who has no criminal history and maintained good grades, suddenly found herself trapped in Florida’s insidious school to prison pipeline; which has continually funneled mostly youth of color out of Florida’s schools and into the criminal justice system.

According to a report by Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice, over 57% of the state’s 96,515 youth incarcerated in 2012 were Black and Brown. In Kiera’s home of Polk County, Sheriff Grady Judd has presided over a system in which youth have continually been cycled through county jails in which severe abuses have been alleged including the use of pepper spray and the holding of juveniles in cages.

During the 2013 Florida Legislative Session, Dream Defenders worked with allies in the Florida Campaign for Juvenile Justice to reform Florida’s broken juvenile justice system. Despite repeated community visits to the state capital, briefings and press conferences by advocates and sponsoring legislators, the 2013 Legislative session closed with no action on critical bills such as SB 1374/HB 1039 which would have reformed Florida’s Zero Tolerance law at play in this case.

While Kiera navigates the legal ramifications of her unjust case Polk County Superintendent John Stewart has made the decision to place Kiera in an “alternative school” as he considers expulsion proceedings. Dream Defenders find these actions by Superintendent Stewart reprehensible. Dream Defenders demands that Stewart drop all expulsion proceedings against Kiera Wilmot and allow her to return to her enrollment at Bartow High School.

Dream Defenders calls upon all local, state and national allies to TAKE ACTION to ensure Kiera does not become another casualty of the school to prison pipeline.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Sample Script:

Superintendent Stewart,

My name is _____________ and I am calling to express my concern about the expulsion proceedings against Kiera Wilmot. Florida has been among the national leaders in furthering a school to prison pipeline; with zero tolerance policies being used to lock up, expel and divert youth from their right to an education. Ms. Wilmot’s case is another example of the state and your office criminalizing and derailing the future of a girl of color. Your handling of her case has been irresponsible and reprehensible. Ms. Wilmot’s actions and intent simply do not warrant expulsion or placement in alternative schooling. I am calling on you to immediately drop all expulsion proceedings against Kiera Wilmot and allow her to return to her regular enrollment at Bartow High School.

In order to make an impact in this case we will need the support of thousands.

Please share this message with family and friends. Let’s ensure there is

#JusticeForKiera

By now you’ve probably heard about Kiera Wilmot, the 16-year-old Florida girl who botched a science experiment with a plastic bottle and toilet cleaner. The bottle ended up exploding, and though no one was hurt and no property damaged, Kiera was expelled from high school and is now being prosecuted as an adult for discharging a weapon on school grounds. She had an exemplary behavioral record up until that point.

Kiera is, as one might expect, black. The notion of a white girl getting hauled off to jail for a harmless expression of intellectual curiosity is dubious, to say the least. And though the rise of “zero tolerance” policies in American schools should theoretically be race-neutral, that’s not the reality. According to the Dignity in Schools campaign, “students of color… are more likely to be suspended and expelled than their peers for the same behavior” and “African American students [are] 3.5 times as likely to be expelled” as whites. What happened to Kiera Wilmot is part of a broader story about racial disparities in our criminal justice system.

Yet we don’t have to go macro to get the whiff of racial bias in this case. The prosecutor who decided to throw the book at Kiera is one Tammy Glotfelty, an assistant state attorney in Florida. The officer who arrested Kiera named Glotfelty in his police report:

I THEN CONTACTED ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY TAMMY GLOTFELTY VIA TELEPHONE. I ADVISED [HER] OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE AND SHE ADVISED THIS OFFICER TO FILE THE CHARGES OF, POSSESSING OR DISCHARGING WEAPONS OR FIREARMS AT A SCHOOL SPONSORED EVENT OR ON SCHOOL PROPERTY F.S.S. 790.115 (1) AND MAKING, POSSESSING, THROWING, PROJECTING, PLACING, OR DISCHARGING ANY DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE F.S.S. 790.161 (A).

Sounds absurdly harsh, right? And there has been no reversal of this decision since then. But Glotfelty isn’t always so heartless. Just last week, she decided not to prosecute a teenager named Taylor Richardson who accidentally shot and killed his younger brother with a BB gun. Glotfelty declared the case “a tragic accident.” I don’t doubt that it was. The Richardson kid will probably have nightmares about this incident for the rest of his life. But I do wonder how to make sense of a prosecutor who one week shows understandable compassion for a kid who made a terrible mistake and the next week insists on giving a teenager the harshest possible sanction for something that didn’t harm anyone.

The first Tammy Glotfelty has a normal-sized heart in her chest. The second one has a hole there.

There is one fact, however, that may help us figure out the discrepancy between Glotfelty #1 and Glotfelty #2: The Richardson family is white.

Am I accusing Glotfelty of conscious racial bias? Nope. Self-awareness isn’t the issue here. And maybe she has good reasons for treating these two cases differently. Hey, Taylor was 13 instead of 16; perhaps that makes all the difference in her eyes. But I can’t shake the feeling that these two stories would have unfolded quite differently if the races of the children had been reversed. Somehow the white Kiera Wilmot would have had her story end with an adult touching her shoulder saying “I’m just glad you’re alright.” And the black Taylor Richardson would have heard platitudes about “taking responsibility” while being led away in handcuffs.

The school-to-prison pipeline has become a very real phenomenon in this country, at least in communities of color. Suspending and expelling students for minor misbehavior has become routine despite there being no evidence that these steps improve school safety and strong evidence that they are linked to increased odds of behavior problems later. Moreover, prosecuting children as adults can destroy their chances of becoming productive members of society later in life. If prosecutors like Tammy Glotfelty really want to get serious about public safety, they’ll work to transform our racially disparate justice system and refuse to put harmless black students behind bars.

 
blackcyborgs:

I’m a Scholar, Not a Criminal: The Plight of Black Students at USC
Instead of studying for the last final of my undergraduate career, I am writing this letter in protest of the University of Southern California’s latest atrocity. Last night, students gathered at a house near campus to celebrate their completion of another rigorous school year. Many attendees were graduating seniors. Almost all attendees were minority students: African-American and Latino.
I did not attend last night’s party, but I could hear the helicopter circling from my dorm room over a mile away. When the Facebook posts and photos started appearing on my news feed around 2:30am, I had flashbacks to an era I wasn’t even alive to suffer through. I was too scared to go outside, legitimately fearing that an officer would see me and arrest me for being Black and inquisitive. I can only imagine how my peers felt when they saw over twenty LAPD patrol cars pull up and release 79 officers to end a peaceful, congratulatory party.
It is inexpressibly disheartening to hear fellow students recount horror stories of police brutality two weeks away from being among the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. To know that my college degree holds no weight in the face of institutional racism and discrimination is sobering. Since the three most recent shootings, all triggered by non-USC affiliated Black males, that occurred on and around USC, there has been an increased presence of LAPD and other security forces around campus. Amid the tense racial climate that followed, I patiently endured the ignorant comments, racist blog posts and suspicious stares, but the intolerance has reached a new high. Six of my friends spent the night in jail.
To be clear, I do not have a problem with increased protection or security. Who’s to say that a shooting won’t occur at the next student party? It could happen, God forbid, and I understand why USC wants to be prepared. My issue lies within the selective surveillance of minority-hosted parties, as if crimes only happen among high concentrations of melanin. Hundreds of criminal offenses, including sexual harassment, rape and assault happen every Thursday night on Greek Row, a undeniably white establishment. Yet, the culprits of the Department of Public Safety Crime Reports distributed to USC students and faculty, seem to be strictly limited to Black and Latino males (6’2-6’5 in dark hoodies). These reports, together with the newly constructed, other-izing gates around campus, have instilled an unhealthy amount of fear in students, administrators and safety officials. We have been trained to double check for USC logos on the sweatshirts of minority males on and around this campus to make sure that they’re “one of us.” It doesn’t surprise me that LAPD has adopted the same attitude. For them, it has been this way for decades.
If the USC Department of Public Safety feels justified in allowing nearly a hundred police officers to shut down a minority attended party due to the fact that African-Americans were responsible for the recent shootings, we’re in for a bigger battle than most students bargained for when they decided to enroll here. That ideology reeks of racial profiling and associates the behavior of a few criminals with the entire Black student body, a comparison that makes my stomach turn. While LAPD is busy sending all of their manpower to harass the future of America’s leaders, the real trouble lies within my campus’ freshly painted fences.
USC should not be permitted to reap the benefits of diversity without facing its complexities. You can’t help the hood without loving it first. When USC’s founders decided to break ground in South Central instead of Malibu, it signed up for a difficult and delicate community partnership that needs to be revisited.
To me, protection means opening our gates even wider for at-risk youth who are in desperate need of positive role models, not locking them out after 9pm. I will feel safe on this campus when I see DPS officers negotiating with LAPD, pleading with them to let students of color party in peace. I will feel welcomed when I see a public statement from President Nikias acknowledging the discrimination and blatant racism that my people have had to endure since we were first admitted into this school. I will become a proud Trojan when the USC community finally grows to reflect and embrace its resilient surroundings.
To my peers, I am sorry that we have to dedicate hours that should be spent studying to defend our freedom of assembly. None of us have the time to write letters, plan meetings and rally against injustice, but we must. The next generation of brilliant Black students is depending on us to guarantee their right to a dignified college experience.
Ways to Act:
Sign this petition to help end racial profiling at USC: http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-racial-profiling-at-usc
Attend the Sit-In at Tommy Trojan on Monday, May 6 from 12-4pm
Attend the DPS & LAPD Campus Discussion on Tuesday, May 7 at 6pm in Annenberg 204
*Meet in front of Annenberg at 5:30pm to pray over the meeting.

blackcyborgs:

I’m a Scholar, Not a Criminal: The Plight of Black Students at USC

Instead of studying for the last final of my undergraduate career, I am writing this letter in protest of the University of Southern California’s latest atrocity. Last night, students gathered at a house near campus to celebrate their completion of another rigorous school year. Many attendees were graduating seniors. Almost all attendees were minority students: African-American and Latino.

I did not attend last night’s party, but I could hear the helicopter circling from my dorm room over a mile away. When the Facebook posts and photos started appearing on my news feed around 2:30am, I had flashbacks to an era I wasn’t even alive to suffer through. I was too scared to go outside, legitimately fearing that an officer would see me and arrest me for being Black and inquisitive. I can only imagine how my peers felt when they saw over twenty LAPD patrol cars pull up and release 79 officers to end a peaceful, congratulatory party.

It is inexpressibly disheartening to hear fellow students recount horror stories of police brutality two weeks away from being among the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. To know that my college degree holds no weight in the face of institutional racism and discrimination is sobering. Since the three most recent shootings, all triggered by non-USC affiliated Black males, that occurred on and around USC, there has been an increased presence of LAPD and other security forces around campus. Amid the tense racial climate that followed, I patiently endured the ignorant comments, racist blog posts and suspicious stares, but the intolerance has reached a new high. Six of my friends spent the night in jail.

To be clear, I do not have a problem with increased protection or security. Who’s to say that a shooting won’t occur at the next student party? It could happen, God forbid, and I understand why USC wants to be prepared. My issue lies within the selective surveillance of minority-hosted parties, as if crimes only happen among high concentrations of melanin. Hundreds of criminal offenses, including sexual harassment, rape and assault happen every Thursday night on Greek Row, a undeniably white establishment. Yet, the culprits of the Department of Public Safety Crime Reports distributed to USC students and faculty, seem to be strictly limited to Black and Latino males (6’2-6’5 in dark hoodies). These reports, together with the newly constructed, other-izing gates around campus, have instilled an unhealthy amount of fear in students, administrators and safety officials. We have been trained to double check for USC logos on the sweatshirts of minority males on and around this campus to make sure that they’re “one of us.” It doesn’t surprise me that LAPD has adopted the same attitude. For them, it has been this way for decades.

If the USC Department of Public Safety feels justified in allowing nearly a hundred police officers to shut down a minority attended party due to the fact that African-Americans were responsible for the recent shootings, we’re in for a bigger battle than most students bargained for when they decided to enroll here. That ideology reeks of racial profiling and associates the behavior of a few criminals with the entire Black student body, a comparison that makes my stomach turn. While LAPD is busy sending all of their manpower to harass the future of America’s leaders, the real trouble lies within my campus’ freshly painted fences.

USC should not be permitted to reap the benefits of diversity without facing its complexities. You can’t help the hood without loving it first. When USC’s founders decided to break ground in South Central instead of Malibu, it signed up for a difficult and delicate community partnership that needs to be revisited.

To me, protection means opening our gates even wider for at-risk youth who are in desperate need of positive role models, not locking them out after 9pm. I will feel safe on this campus when I see DPS officers negotiating with LAPD, pleading with them to let students of color party in peace. I will feel welcomed when I see a public statement from President Nikias acknowledging the discrimination and blatant racism that my people have had to endure since we were first admitted into this school. I will become a proud Trojan when the USC community finally grows to reflect and embrace its resilient surroundings.

To my peers, I am sorry that we have to dedicate hours that should be spent studying to defend our freedom of assembly. None of us have the time to write letters, plan meetings and rally against injustice, but we must. The next generation of brilliant Black students is depending on us to guarantee their right to a dignified college experience.

Ways to Act:

Sign this petition to help end racial profiling at USC: http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-racial-profiling-at-usc

Attend the Sit-In at Tommy Trojan on Monday, May 6 from 12-4pm

Attend the DPS & LAPD Campus Discussion on Tuesday, May 7 at 6pm in Annenberg 204

*Meet in front of Annenberg at 5:30pm to pray over the meeting.

gnarlybynature:

Florida Dream Defenders challenge Governor Scott, state politicians

Florida Dream Defenders at the first day of legislative session. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Tallahassee, FL - On the morning of March 5, over 150 Black and brown Dream Defenders from across the state converged onto the state capitol here to deliver one important message to Florida Legislators and Governor Rick Scott on the first day of legislative session: the start of the “Dream Era.”

Dressed in black shirts with the phrase “Can we dream together” etched in white, the Dream Defenders gathered on the first floor of the Capitol building, starting off the day with a press conference to tell state legislators and national press about their Dream Agenda. Speakers from Dream Defender chapters all over Florida, including Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee, spoke on the issues of stopping Florida’s school to prison pipeline, immigration, and repealing Florida’s absurd Stand Your Ground Law, as well as stopping Republican efforts to suppress the votes of Black and brown people. There, Dream Defenders delivered their own State of the State address, hours before Governor Rick Scott was scheduled to give his later that day.

After the speeches, the 150-deep crowd chanted, “Whose state is this? The state is ours, the state is ours, the state is ours!” to the same rhythm as the famous old school rap single, “The World is Ours” by hip hop artist Nas. The large crowd of Black and brown youth then marched to the fourth floor of the Capitol rotunda to greet the legislators and Governor Scott.

The students lined up in two with signs that read, “Can we dream together?,” “I am human,” “Zero tolerance for zero tolerance,” and “Welcome to the Dream Era.” Chants then began, and the legislators and lobbyists immediately started to feel the effect of the Dream Defenders’ attendance. The singing chants of, “Mama, Mama can’t you see, what the system’s done to me,” echoed throughout the whole building, even into the legislative chambers where legislators were taking in session.

Dream Defender and FAMU Chapter President Elijah Armstrong led chants and other activists chimed in with, “We are the dreamers, the mighty Dream Defenders,” all to the chagrin of capitol police and security who tried to stop the chants. However they were unsuccessful as the youth kept on, waiting to confront Governor Scott before he gave his State of the State address.

With Dream Defenders all over the fourth floor, Governor Scott and his security staff tried to enter the front of the House Chambers through a back hallway. Scott’s attempts to avoid the young activists were unsuccessful. He was confronted by loud chants of, “We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it’s won.” A visibly uncomfortable Scott quickly hurried into the House Chambers with his security personal to avoid the wrath of the protesters.

“We came here today to flex and let Governor Scott know that this is just the start”, said Dream Defenders at FSU Vice President Brian Marshall. “The Dream Era has just begun and Black and brown youth are rising to flourish in the state of Florida and fight for the issues that affect us the most.”

Dream Defenders are planning to keep the pressure on the Scott and the Republican-dominated legislature to make sure their Dream Agenda is heard.

For more information on Dream Defenders and the Dream Agenda, visithttp://dreamdefenders.org/

Boost!

theeducatedfieldnegro:

Welcome to the Dream Era!
Dream Defenders lobbying at the Florida Capitol during the first day of legislative session.
The Dream Agenda consist of five issues: The School-to-Prison Pipeline (SB 2112 and zero-tolerance policies), the repel of Stand Your Ground, immigration reform (support for the Trust Act and Promise Act), prison divestment for Fla. universities, and voter restoration/suppression rights.
In an era where the voices of our black and brown youth have been systematically silenced, the Dream Defenders fight back against those forces that kept our communities silent and content with the status quo. No longer will we tolerate being subjected to a second class status. We demand justice and equality and we want it now!

theeducatedfieldnegro:

Welcome to the Dream Era!

Dream Defenders lobbying at the Florida Capitol during the first day of legislative session.

The Dream Agenda consist of five issues: The School-to-Prison Pipeline (SB 2112 and zero-tolerance policies), the repel of Stand Your Ground, immigration reform (support for the Trust Act and Promise Act), prison divestment for Fla. universities, and voter restoration/suppression rights.

In an era where the voices of our black and brown youth have been systematically silenced, the Dream Defenders fight back against those forces that kept our communities silent and content with the status quo. No longer will we tolerate being subjected to a second class status. We demand justice and equality and we want it now!

Are the Dreams of America’s Minority Youth at Risk?

With Governor Rick Scott’s Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection releasing their report in favor of Stand Your Ground (henceforth SYG), and the anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin today, has justice been served in order to prevent another case? The report, focusing primarily on the State Statue and failing to make direct references to exogenous factors, such as an individual’s race; was a critical assessment taken? As a nation that prides itself on justice, freedom and equality such questions lead one to ask, with corroborating evidence: Are the dreams of America’s minority youth at risk?

SYG has exposed the fallacy of our post-racial “color-blind” society, by allowing individuals legal immunity to act with force on perceived “threats”. Thus, due to the subjective nature of what constitutes a “threat” and SYG’s problematic racial guise, one must question its validity and bring such a law under critical scrutiny, for it surreptitiously allows racism into our legal system. A healthy scholarly discourse is needed. However, such a discussion has been silenced by lobbyist and seems to only awaken when young lives are taken. Our purpose here is to spark such a dialogue by providing a rationale that explains why SYG is problematic and should be repealed.

In theory, SYG grants one the right to “meet force with force…if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm”.  Rooted in the old English common law the Castle Doctrine, which allows one protection inside of their home, or “castle”, SYG expands protection to the public domain. Proponents of SYG argue that as law-abiding Americans, our fundamental rights to freedom and self-defense are ensured in SYG. Therefore, not only does it protect individual’s rights, but it serves as a crime deterrent when cost-benefit analyses are produced, in effect decreasing homicides. For example, the argument purports, a rational individual engaging in criminal activity is more likely to weigh the cost and benefits of a particular crime vis-à-vis the likely success or failure of that crime. If the costs (e.g., the individual’s life) outweigh the benefits (e.g., robbing an individual for their possessions), one is less likely to commit a crime, and vice versa. However, such an analysis is empirically incorrect. A study conducted by economist at Texas A&M University, using OLS regression analysis, found that though “it is a priori reasonable to expect” the Castle Doctrine or SYG to act as a crime deterrent, “we find this not the case”. In fact, such laws increase homicides, with justifiable conviction rulings disproportionately favoring Whites vis-à-vis minorities.

John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, used a similar methodology (i.e., regression analysis) to examine the relationship between “races of the victim and the shooter and justifiable homicide rulings”. The findings were disturbing. In non-SYG states, white shooters who kill black victims are 250 percent more likely to be found justified than when whites kill another white. In SYG states, that number exponentially raises to 354 percent. The question certainly becomes apparent again: Are the dreams of America’s minority youth at risk?

It is important to note here that self-defense is a fundamental human right. However, from the above-mentioned statistics, SYG doesn’t provide that. Instead, it reinforces racism and a de facto racial hierarchy by failing to equally apply across our nation’s unique diverse population. In fact, the application of SYG, as some have argued, may potentially allow defendants to unjustly use it in their defense. In an interview with NPR, Stanford law Professor John Donohue, claimed that SYG serves as a legal asylum for some defendants.

"I’ve been hearing from defense lawyers around the country that if they happen to have a criminal defendant in a stand your ground jurisdiction, pretty much no matter what happens, you can say, ‘Well, I shot the guy, but I felt threatened and had a reasonable basis for fearing injury to myself,’".

As more and more lives are lost unnecessarily due to SYG, there is an immediate need to critically examine exogenous and endogenous variables. Factors not accounted for in the Governor’s analysis. Such polices are not only self-destructive to our nations well-being, but inevitably leads to tragic cases like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Rodrigo Diaz and countless individuals who are left out of the national discourse.

Dream Defender, an organization directed by Black & Brown youth, who confront systemic inequality, are fighting to make sure those dreams survive to see tomorrow. The Dream Era has been a long time coming. For too long minority communities have been silenced and marginalized due to politicians’ lack of action on issues that directly concern us. The days of standing by the wayside are over. The Dream Era is defined by black and brown youth harnessing their collective power and no longer accepting the hand that has been dealt. We are demanding that our issues be heard, and we want justice now.

 

Joshua R. McConnell, President of Dream Defenders UCF/Orlando

Melody Williams, UCF Dream Defender

— theme