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4 People Who Are Utterly Unsurprised by the Eric Garner Verdict

The most vocal commentators on race and justice in America were rendered almost silent this week.

A man choked another man to death, and the killer got away. This week, a grand jury convened and decided that Daniel Pantaleo, the New York Police Department officer who took Eric Garner’s life with his bare hands in broad daylight, did not commit a crime worthy of punishment. Eric Garner, 43 years old, unarmed, died on a Staten Island street with Pantaleo’s arm around his neck, surrounded by police officers and witnesses, some of whom recorded the incident.

On Thursday, Americans awoke to grapple with the reality of a justice system that fails to deliver justice, over and over again. But while many expressed shock and dismay over the Eric Garner verdict, some facing for the first time the profundity of insitutional racism, many in the black community and their allies recieved the news with weary sighs—all too familiar with the specter of police violence.

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The Unsteady Shelf Life of a Social Justice Symbol

CeCe McDonald was a powerful force for change. Will the memory of her impact be as powerful?

When one looks back at historic social movements, there are certain names that stand out—Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Rosa Parks. But there are also those whose faces history has forgotten. Consider Ella Baker and Bob Moses, former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leaders who furthered civil rights for black Americans, or Mario Savio of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. Their names might be footnoted in history books, but what happened to them after the sweep of their movements dispensed?

There are people so impassioned by a cause that they come to symbolize it, at least for a time. Yet their fame is brief, sometimes by design, sometimes by default of a rapid news cycle. Sometimes their radical conviction fades or stops all together. Sometimes their tragic circumstances morph from galvanizing to depressing, a reminder of a movement’s failure instead of its success. Other times they achieve their goals, and their work is finished.

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For decades, commenters on all things wrong with black America have pointed with an enmity similar to that of Michael Dunn to the negative influence of hip hop culture. From C. Delores Tucker to Bill Cosby to Bill O'Reilly, many decry that hip hop draws its listeners to moral depravity, lawlessness, early death. The killing, ostensibly over music, of Jordan Davis proved these critics right. Michael Dunn shot right through the music, and hit Davis' liver, lung, and aorta.

Social justice communities must be careful not to replicate the blame game endemic of the culture wars. We should mourn for Jordan Davis, and our anger should be placed on the system that facilitated Michael Dunn.

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People Are Awesome: Twitter Hero Shuts Down Juror B37's Zimmerman Trial Book Deal

Don't ever underestimate what you can do when you're armed with the power of the people.



Yes, she calls herself "Cocky McSwagsalot" and describes herself as the "good girl's bad girl," but don't let that fool you into thinking that Twitter user @MoreAndAgain doesn't know how to mobilize people and fight for what's right. After hearing that juror "B37" from the George Zimmerman trial had signed a book deal less than 48 hours after the "not guilty" verdict, McSwagsalot went on a mission to shut it down.

In her Monday night appearance on Anderson Cooper 360, B37 claimed she wasn't trying to profit from writing the book—she just wanted to help people understand what being on the jury was like. Outraged Twitter users, who only weeks ago used their collective voice to call for Paula Deen being fired for her racist comments, weren't having it.

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Why America Needs Another Kind of Justice

George Zimmerman's trial and its conclusion were a lesson in the limitations of retributive justice and the need for restorative approaches.


The verdict is in. George Zimmerman will not spend a day in prison for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Whether your response to the verdict was glee, grief, or indifference, there are lessons to be learned. Much of the national conversation has centered on whether or not justice was served. For me, the trial and its conclusion were a lesson in the limitations of retributive justice and the need for restorative approaches to justice.

What's the difference? Retributive justice is primarily focused on addressing the harm done to crime victims and the wider society through punishing the offender. This is the tradition of justice with which most of us are most familiar and it has its place in the social order. Punishment can provide a sense to victims and perpetrators alike that people are held accountable for their actions, that wrongdoing will be rectified in some way. However, I have lost faith in our ability to punish our way to better human beings or a better world. In the United States we have certainly tried.

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Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced yesterday that George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who killed 17-year-old black student Trayvon Martin in February, is being charged with second-degree murder. Justice served, right? Well, not so fast.

Before you go thinking the Martin shooting is an open-and-shut case, remember that Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law allows citizens to use deadly force against people they assume to be threats without having to defuse the situation. If the defense can show that Martin did indeed attack Zimmerman, it's possible that Zimmerman could go free. That said, the fact that Corey has decided to go with a murder charge instead of a manslaughter charge suggests that the state is confident Zimmerman wasn't provoked. The New York Times explained what second-degree murder means in Florida:

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