Dr. Jason Johnson discusses President Trump’s weekend tweets referring to Marshawn Lynch, Hillary Clinton, and the Ball (basketball) family. Other panel members include host Chris Matthews, Libby Casey and Susan Page. To see the video, CLICK HERE.
Black Lives Matter
WTAE Pittsburgh screenshot
Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Walter Scott: These (and dozens more) are the names we know—the boys, girls, men and women brutally shot and killed by police. Police officers often never faced justice from the courts or the cities that employ them. The deaths of these unarmed black men and women sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, the Ferguson, Mo., revolt and dozens of other forms of resistance across the nation in the last five years.
Often forgotten in these stories is the “lone survivor” of Black Lives Matter, Leon Ford Jr. He faced death at the hands of police like so many others, but lived—and his battle with the Pittsburgh criminal-justice system is a reminder that sometimes the hardest battles come after the shooting stops.
In November of 2012, Leon Ford Jr. was pulled over by police who were “fishing” in Pittsburgh’s predominantly black District 5. Fishing is when police randomly run tags on cars looking for an excuse to pull someone over. Despite a 16-minute interrogation and Ford handing over his license, registration and other documentation, the police insisted that he was, in fact, Lamont Ford, a known gang member, and threatened Leon repeatedly.
Officer Andrew Miller jumped into Ford’s car and attempted to pull him out through the passenger side. When the vehicle kicked into gear during the struggle, another officer, David Derbish, shot Ford five times. Ford remembers falling out of his car onto the concrete, bleeding, as the officers cursed over his body, mocking him, hoping that he’d die. If it weren’t for the actions of a good Samaritan calling an ambulance, Ford might’ve been on the list of names at the start of this story. As a reminder of the perverse power of racism, the Pittsburgh district attorney charged Leon Ford Jr. with criminal assault of the officers, and it wasn’t until spring of 2015, almost three years after he was shot, that the charges were thrown out and the DA chose not to pursue other charges.
Read on verysmartbrothas.theroot.com
During that time, all three of the officers involved, despite being under investigation, were promoted to detective. Ford’s own civil rights case against the officers who shot him ended on Tuesday with less-than-stellar results. Officer Miller was found not guilty of assault and battery, and the jury deadlocked on whether Derbish used excessive force. We spoke to Ford and his lawyer Thomas Malone about what comes next.
The Root: Leon, you survived getting shot by police five times, then having the DA attempt to charge you with criminal assault. You got through all of that. Why sue the police? Why not just say, “I got through this—I just want to get on with my life?”
Leon Ford Jr.: I wanted to stand up and get justice. I witnessed [the police] lie under oath in criminal court. I watched them get away with shooting me, and I could not let that happen. I felt convicted in my spirt to not let this happen. I felt I had to not only fight for myself but for others.
If I had been content with letting this thing go and not fought it, then things would not have come out. There are things that police testified to under oath. These are gonna be things that in the near future we can use to change some policy in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Thomas Malone: In a situation like this where the police officer who shot Leon wasn’t arrested, there was really no other avenue for justice. The difference in this case is that Leon lived through it. The whitewashing that the facts often get didn’t happen in this situation. If he hadn’t survived, then their version of the story—that the officers shot him because he dragged them with his car—would have survived the paperwork, and they’d have gone about their business. There is a ton of information that we got through the civil discovery process.
It took almost years of pretrial motions for Leon Ford to get his day in court against the officers who profiled him, harassed him and attempted to kill him. But during that process and the trial, it came out that the officers in question, Michael Kosko, Andrew Miller and David Derbish, had all left their microphones in their squad cars when they pulled Ford over. After years of Ford insisting that he complied with everything the officers asked, only through trial was it revealed and proven through a distant microphone that he asked, “Can I just get my ticket and go home?” while the officers screamed, “Fuck you, you’re talking to the cops,” and “You better get your black ass out of the car when police tell you to get out of the car.”
It was also made clear during the trial that the police lied by claiming that they thought Ford had a gun, claiming they saw an unnatural bulge, but only two of the three officers mentioned it in their report because they hadn’t had time to get their stories together.
TR: Leon, you were one of the first “Black Lives Matter” stories. You were shot the same year that Trayvon Martin was killed. You’ve seen Ferguson, Tamir Rice and other stories. What have the last five years taught you about America’s criminal-justice system? Are things getting better or worse?
LF: The last five years have taught me that most people are happy with lip service. When I think of how they have stepped out and spoke about police brutality—there’s gonna come a time when they’re gonna put up or shut up. When they do give that lip service, they stand behind policies that encourage brutality and racial division.
TM: I’ve seen some change. We showed up for [civil trial] jury selection with 94 people—not ONE African American on the panel. One of the prospective jurors asked me a question which is rare—most prospective jurors don’t ask anything—she said, “Is this fair that Leon’s jury is going to be all white people?” That’s change. At least somebody noticed that. There were a couple Asian, Hispanic, Indian, Pakistani people in the jury pool but nobody black, and it’s supposed to be a jury of his peers. I’m proud of the work we did. I’m proud of the fact that we live to fight another day.
TR: Leon, what’s next for you in the trial, in activism and even personally? I’ve seen online that you’re able to walk now with some assistance, which is a miracle. What new activism will you be engaging in going forward?
LF: Personally, I did write a book—that’s on ice until this case is finished. I’ll be out at universities sharing my story. Helping families that are experiencing the same thing around the country. Moving forward with my rehabilitation.
TM: Oct. 20, we will stand ready to go and pick a new jury—and try this case again and make sure justice gets done.
If you want to be inspired, take a look at video of Ford finally being able to walk on his own, five years after being shot by police. He’s benefited from several rehabilitation centers in Pittsburgh and even the use of exoskeleton technology that allows him to move without a walker. He also plans to meet with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and discuss ways that his tragic experience can be prevented in the lives of others.
For the original article on TheRoot.com, please CLICK HERE
I spent just about all of Sunday watching football, from the early-afternoon games to the 4:30 p.m. game to that horrible night game (followed by an Insecure season finale watch party with friends—I’m #TeamDaniel). Do I feel guilty? Nah. Do I feel like the guy still taking the 503 line during the Montgomery Bus Boycott? Nope. Is my happy contribution to the Buffalo-wing-and-nachos economy a poor reflection on my “wokeness”? Not really.
Many people that I know, respect and even work with are choosing to #BoycottNFL, #NFLBlackout or #StandWithKap this season for various reasons. While they do, I’m going to be watching every game, yelling at the screen, ordering pizza and playing fantasy football, 100 percent guilt-free. And you can, too. … Here’s why.
1. Boycotting the NFL is not going to get you what you want.
There are plenty of horrible things about the NFL that didn’t just pop up in the last 18 months when Colin Kaepernick took a knee. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s horrible, hypocritical handling of domestic abuse by players. The league’s disingenuous Thank You for Smoking–type propaganda campaign to cover up the concussion issue. The league’s “Make America Great Again”-hat-wearing, deplorable-pandering decision to bring back country music racist Hank Williams Jr.’s theme song for Monday Night Football. Capped off with the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, who is still without a job when we all saw at least six starting quarterbacks on Sunday who couldn’t find the end zone if it were glued to their foreheads.
All of these are serious problems, and fans have the right to voice their discontent, but the NFL boycott as it’s currently constituted isn’t going to fix any of them. Boycotting the entire league is not focused enough to convince any of the 32 individual franchises out there to hire Kaepernick any faster. That’s like refusing to watch television until some network picks up Underground. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. As for the other problems, keep reading …
2. Everybody can draw a line in the sand; this isn’t mine.
The NFL is like porn that everybody admits to watching. Millions of people consume it and enjoy it, and it’s an essential part of the holidays (just ask Pornhub). At the same time, in order to enjoy it, you have to ignore that porn is based on rampant misogyny, racism and the exploitation of women and the poor; that it encourages substance abuse; and that porn “employees” often incur lifelong physical ailments after a very short career. Sounds a lot like football, right? Here’s the thing—I’m not going to challenge you not to watch porn (’cause I know you won’t) or even football, for that matter.
3. Hate the game, not the player.
A few weeks ago, millions of black folks got together and watched Floyd Mayweather—a horrible, barely literate, millionaire woman-beating ex-convict—beat the Lucky Charms out of Conor McGregor, a horrible, racist brute from Ireland. Mayweather made over $250 million after a 25-minute “fight.” You can dislike Mayweather (as most decent people do) and you could still root for him to beat down a racist interloper like McGregor. Watching Mayweather pummel McGregor was like post-Charlottesville, Va., catharsis for black America.
The same applies to the NFL. I will continue to complain about racist announcers, self-loathing Negroes who bojangle for network executives by attacking Kaepernick (I see you, Michael Vick, and you should be ashamed) and the despicable right-wing politics of most NFL franchise owners. At the same time, I can root for great players like Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and remember that every time he sacks Tom Brady, a black angel gets its wings.
I can root for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and feel immense joy that with every win, he drives those downtown Pittsburgh Yinzers crazy. I even support flawed-but-sincere players like Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, whose million-dollar smile and philanthropy cause more white tears than a Michelle Obama Glamour cover. I support black excellence even when it is performing in an overall oppressive system, like Simone Biles at the horrible Olympics, LeBron James in the racist NBA or any of my friends who work at Fox News.
4. Football is family time, whether you have one or not.
When you’re a grown-up, work, travel, kids, spouses, significant others and everything else associated with “adulting” can make it really difficult to get everybody together in one place. Football, for one glorious day out of each week from September to February’s Super Bowl, is one of the few collective activities where everyone can get together that is also much cheaper than a wedding and less depressing than a funeral. More power to folks out there boycotting the NFL, who are dedicating those now suddenly open nine hours to volunteering, working out, learning a new language and realizing there’s a Sunday farmers market across the street from their house. As for me, I’m on the couch with friends checking fantasy-football stats.
Across the board, I’m a fan of protesting—Occupy Wall Street, tear down Confederate monuments, the Rent Is Too Damn High, the NFL; whatever motivates you; do you. I also don’t feel that my $300 NFL Sunday Ticketpurchase is a litmus test for my commitment to black lives or women’s equality or head-trauma victims.
Do the problems with the NFL make me less enthusiastic about the games this year? Of course they do; the ratings and even sports analysts have all noted that the league has taken a well-deserved hit in fan enthusiasm. Maybe that will lead to some major structural changes, but I doubt it. Either way, to all my boycotting friends and colleagues, don’t make any major plans with me on Sunday for the next couple of months, and when we catch up this February, I fully expect you to have stopped drinking soda, learned Chinese and cleaned all that smut off your web browser.
The 2017 NFL season has begun with protests: from the players, fans, owners and the President of the USA. See the series of videos here featuring Dr. Jason Johnson, Pam Oliver, Katan Dawson, and former NFL Coach Ray Sherman.
Prior videos include the Jemele Hill controversy, and how President Trump focuses on NFL amidst Hurricane relief and other political plunders during the beginning of this NFL season and can be seen here.
White America has always shown a willingness and a boundless patience when it comes to paying for white supremacy. Not in the moral sense or the spiritual sense or the greater-good-for-mankind sense, but in the actual dollars-and-cents sense.
Racial discrimination is actually rather expensive and has been throughout time. Slavery was expensive and borderline inefficient, given the costs of repressing slave revolts. Separate but equal was expensive: two sets of water fountains; two sets of county hospitals; two sets of delivery buses so that children’s books wouldn’t intermingle—that’s a lot of money. Redlining and housing discrimination today cost the government millions.
Of course none of these cold, hard economic facts stopped millions of white Americans from buying into these systems with their tax dollars and their votes, which explains why the city of St. Anthony, Minn., was perfectly comfortable shelling out $3 million in a settlement to Philando Castile’s family. Rather than initiate wholesale change in the city’s Police Department so that something like this never happens again, the city’s residents would rather just drop $3 million.
White America would rather go broke than get woke.
Most reasonable Americans think that Castile’s death at the hands of Officer Jeronimo Yanez was murder. But the calls for deeper inspection into American policing overall, let alone in the small city of St. Anthony, have been almost nonexistent. Castile had been pulled over more than 53 times, and hit with over 63 charges, in just over the previous decade, and the vast majority of those stops were by local county or city police.
The problems in St. Anthony run deeper than just one police officer, but rooting out the problem can’t be that hard, since there are only 23 officers in the entire department. The city could disband the department and start over, but it won’t. Instead it shelled out $3 million, which amounts to paying over $130,000 per police officer just to make “amends” for one cop’s behavior.
The city claims that no tax dollars were used in this settlement, but St. Anthony is covered by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, an insurance provider created by a joint effort of cities across the state for the express purpose of protecting against lawsuits and providing settlements. The truth is that this payout will cost every single taxpayer in all of Minnesota; and while $300,000 might get swallowed by some discretionary fund, $3 million is going to show up in everyone’s “miscellaneous” tax box next April in the form of higher insurance rates charged to cities, which trickle down to taxpayers.
There should be huge public outrage about this, not just because an innocent man was murdered by the state but because the bad behavior of one municipality gets spread throughout the entire region. Of course, all of those small-government, don’t-tread-on-me, lower-my-taxes folks are about as quiet on this grotesque “death tax” as the National Rifle Association was on Castile’s death.
The same can be seen around the nation. Cities like Pittsburgh, Denver and, of course, Chicago have doled out millions of dollars in settlements and penalties for police brutality, with nary a chief getting fired or a cop being jailed. If a county hospital were getting sued every year for malpractice and it was costing millions, or a local high school kept having to settle with families because a gym coach got too “friendly,” there would be calls for government accountability and school and hospital reform all over Minnesota. For some reason, though, none of that ideological rage seeps out when taxes are spent on protecting police departments that kill unarmed black men and women.
It doesn’t matter if Yanez was fired by the St. Anthony Police Department; that’s not justice. He’ll find another job somewhere eventually. Besides, he killed a father, a boyfriend, a son and a sibling, got off scot-free and got every other taxpayer in Minnesota to pay for it. There are more like him—in Cleveland, New York, New Orleans, St. Louis, Atlanta. The question isn’t when they’ll kill again or even whether they’ll be convicted. The question is, when will the rage about costs and taxes ever lead to calls for accountability by police?
Unless, of course, money only matters when white Americans feel it’s money not well spent. If the cost of emboldening police to take black lives is only $3 million, apparently enough people think that’s a bargain.
This article originally appeared online at The Root.