Jamala Rogers

It is vividly clear to a new and growing sector of our community (and nation) that white supremacy will be protected at all costs. Judge Timothy Wilson’s decision to acquit former cop Jason Stockley was a shock to some and the tipping point for action for others. The white power structure and its supporters are keeping alive the words of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney in the St. Louis case of Dred Scott. Blacks are “unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far, inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit." This is the ugly legacy that freedom-loving people of all backgrounds are still fighting to change.

This country is a growing powder keg. You have a sitting president who supported racial violence and is responsible for the wave of white supremacist groups coming out to flex their muscles. You have the conspiratorial alliance between police departments, mayors and prosecutors who consistently send the message that black lives don’t matter through their policies and actions. Black and brown lives are not just collateral damage but the hard targets of this country’s strategy to maintain the status quo. All these incendiary elements are adding to the fires. 

Many legal observers believed that if ever there was a case that should’ve resulted in a conviction of some degree, the Stockley case was the one. If not first-degree murder, then second-degree murder or manslaughter. But nothing! Not only did justice elude the family and community with the acquittal, Obama’s Justice Department previously declined to prosecute Stockley for civil rights violations.

Stockley came to the scene with an AK-47 in violation of department rules that prohibit unauthorized personal weapons. During the police chase, Stockley says he’s "going to kill" Anthony Lamar Smith. Forty-five seconds later, Stockley delivers the kill shot. Stockley attempts to shield an interior police cam showing him rummaging in his police duffel bag. A gun appears later on the front seat of Smith’s car; test results confirmed only Stockley’s DNA on the gun.

The explicit racial bias of the judge was evident in his 30-page justification. Most notably was his reference that an “urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly." This made headlines across the country that again showed the world the pedigree and depth of racism that we are dealing with in the region.

After the Michael Brown killing by then-Ferguson cop Darren Wilson, then-St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson set up a new unit to investigate officer-involved shootings. This is a farce – officers investigating themselves. They refuse to testify against one another. Stockley’s partner Brian Bianchi refused to testify.

There are over 20 pending officer-involved shootings under consideration in the circuit attorney’s office. Some may never get to the trial level but others will. We should probably expect that none of them will want a jury of their peers and like Stockley, will opt for a jury by one person. This is not an automatic wish and judges can refuse the motion for a bench trial, especially if there’s a vested community interest in the outcome. Only a trial by jury is a constitutional right. Communities should be mindful of this new possible trend and oppose it as the easy way out for cops to avoid accountability.

#nojusticenoprofits is a hashtag and rallying call which signifies that the business life of the region will be disrupted. You won’t always know in advance when and where it will happen, but if the safety and security of black people are shattered daily so will the flow of capital. This will not be a desirable place for enlightened people to live or for businesses to drop their anchors.

This city and country have spent billions to maintain the white status quo at the expense of working people and people of color. This comes in the forms of opposing fair wages, legal actions and settlements by police and corporations for criminal acts, payoff to lawmakers and lobbyists to undercut laws that protect citizen rights, the roll-back of laws and policies that protect people and the environment, and the list goes on.

Historian Lerone Bennett Jr. writes, “A nation is a choice. It chooses itself at fateful forks in the road by turning left or right, by giving up something or taking something – and in the giving up and the taking, in the deciding and not deciding, the nation becomes.”

It is up to the majority – not the elite few – to determine what this nation will become. It must be a nation of laws that applies to all. It must be a nation that protects the human rights of all its citizens, especially regardless of race and economic status. It must be a nation that lives up to its democratic ideals for all. That’s our collective challenge going forward.

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