By Ahmad Abuznaid is the Legal and Policy Director of the Dream Defenders
Dream Defenders seeks to develop the next generation of leaders to realize their collective power, build alternative systems and organize to disrupt structures that oppress our communities. They have been at the forefront in pushing for meaningful change related to policing in communities of color.
I am frustrated with the legal system. Our communities are frustrated with the system. It has been a frustration that has spanned centuries; we have seen and utilized many different tactics and forms of resistance from boycotts, to marching, violence, and even direct negotiations with our oppressors. We also have sought support from the United Nations in an effort to hold the United States accountable via different treaties it has signed internationally. What have we accomplished through these efforts?
Recently, decisions made by grand juries, in different states, regarding different incidents, arrived at the same conclusion. Law and order were chosen above justice and righteousness. Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted for the cold-blooded killing of Michael Brown even though he gunned down an unarmed boy in the middle of broad daylight in Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted for the killing of Eric Garner even though he was captured on video choking Garner, who could be heard pleading “I can’t breathe” 11 times.
We have elected officials who refuse to listen or recognize our grievances. We have law enforcement officials that attack protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets as if they are in the middle of a war zone. We have a federal government that gives us lip service and when confronted by the UN regarding its repeated violations of international laws and treaties, it ignores the international community.
Malcolm X was passionate about the African American issue being one that should be seen as one of Human Rights, so that it could become one championed by the world once it was presented to the UN. Brother Malcolm was onto something, and he repeatedly addressed it when talking about uniting folks across borders and effectuating real solidarity: human rights must be the lens we utilize. The institution of the UN today is just as compromised a system as the one in which we live today in the US. The Security Council has permanent members such as the US who never has to worry about being taken to task for their own injustices, and have abused the privilege to protect other violators who are allies. The US is also the single largest donor to the International Criminal Court, which is the judicial arm of the UN. If a district court in the US received its funding from one huge donor, would we trust that courthouse to properly administer justice when that donor commits a crime?
With my skepticism acknowledged, I support the Ferguson advocates who traveled to Geneva to speak before the UN. As leaders, they have attempted all avenues presented before them to obtain justice. Their audience was larger than the UN Human Rights Committee, and their purpose was greater than to make the US look poorly internationally; our government does that well enough on its own. Brother Malcolm’s core message was that African Americans in the US are neither alone in their quest for justice, nor should they be. At this very moment, there are bonds being built all the way through Central and South America, across the ocean to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and even Australia. People are protesting “Hands Up” in Paris and “I Cant Breathe” in Palestine.
We are in a true moment of uprising in the US. Our best way forward is to continue to support this uprising and others like it. We cannot continue to romanticize the resistance; we must radicalize it. Protests aren’t enough; marches, town halls, online forums, and GOTV campaigns aren’t enough. We need those in addition to cooperative economics, boycotts, our own land and crops, policy changes, our own political party, a new political system and more. We also need to think of ideas that haven’t been proposed, and throw all the chips on the table with no more bluffing. The long-term goal for us all is self-determination, affording the people in our communities the ability to make the important decisions for themselves, from schooling down to policing. In order for that to happen, these systems that place ceilings on our lives must be shattered, one by one.
Read Abuznaid’s earlier piece on Law@theMargins on Trayvon Martin: Zimmerman Acquitted; Racism Found Guilty (July 15, 2013)