tv Inside Story Al Jazeera January 1, 2015 9:30am-10:01am EST
up a tower into a giant beacon. >> new york city proved its reputation as a city that never speaks, hundreds watching the famous ball drop in times square. . >> 2014 was not the year when americans had an honest heart to heart. we yelled at each other plenty though. that's inside story. >> hello, i'm ray suarez. when the team that puts inside story together for you day after day talked about the big stories
of 2014, race as an american flash point came up plenty. not only in the shootings of michael brown, eric garner tamir rice and others, but the legal process and backlash that followed. more than half a century after the final vestiges of jim crow were torn down, housing, education, voting, it was illustrated again and again in in 2014 that there is more than one way to look at america. an opportunity and rights, personal safety on the streets. >> this was the scene earlier in december in new york city. washington, d.c. chicago, and oakland. in cities across the country people took to the streets to protest the decisions of two grand juries not to indict police officers in the deaths of two unarmed african-american men.
>> what comes as we've seen in recent days in our criminal justice system too many americans feel deep unfairness when it comes to the gap of professed ideals and how laws are applied on a day-to-day basis. >> the grand jury decisions i am inflamed protesters. and the shooting of 18-year-old michael brown in ferguson, missouri, by a white police officer darren wilson, those shootings and the shooting of a 12-year-old boy in cleveland last month exposed divisions in communities. >> there was a decision by a grand jury not to indict police officers who had interacted with an individual named eric began center new york city.
all of think was caught on videotape, and speaks to the larger issues we've been talking about now for the last week, the last month, the last year, and sadly, for decades. that is the concern on the part of too many minority communities that law enforcement is not working with them and dealing with them in a fairway. >> president obama, who faced criticism this summer for wait waiting to comment on unrested ferguson created the white house task force. after the grand jury's decision on eric garner, mayor de blasio spoke to his city. >> it's a very emotional day for our city. it's a very painful day for so many new yorkers. that's the core reality. so many in the city are feeling pain right now. >> just as anti-police protests
began to subside in late december, another shooting reminded everyone how dangerous police work can be. officers rafael ramos and nguyen liu, two police officers gunned down in their squad car. >> we're still learning the details, it is clear this was an assassination. >> the liu family would like to express our gratitude to the police department, our neighbors neighbors, the entire new york city community. >> as the national debate over police practices and race continues, thousands of mourners, including vice president joe biden were on hand saturday as officer ramos was laid to rest in new york. >> police shoot unarmed black men more often than they do unarmed white men when arrested
for the same crime a white person the black person is more likely to be convicted. and when convicted of the same crime a black person is likely to get a longer sentence. it is not clear if the people who insist the operation of the system is handed or just being disingenuous. the year in race elations, 2014 was one for the books. joining us for that conversation, steve perry in hartford, connecticut. ashley yates. and gloria brown marshall. ashley yates looking back at the year give us a thumbnail tour of the waterfront. where are we now? what stands out for you as you look back at this year? >> where we are right now is at a place where america is being forced to have honest, courageous conversation about
the real state of black america, the state of race relations in our country. it's a good starting point from which to advocate for change which is what the people out on the ground are doing actively. these are not just unorganized protests these are strategy and ordered to force conversation in the forefront to make change on a systemic level. these are changes that need to happen. the year has been a trying one overall. while people are pushing for change we've witnessed three more murders in st. louis, where i'm from, in addition to tamir rice in cleveland, tanisha rice in cleveland. the time is now, and we can't wait when every 28 hours an unarmed black person is killed by vigilanties or police. we're at a good point to start making a pivot in america and show up as a country and be the country that we say we are.
>> do you agree? are we ready to have a honest and courageous conversation about these matters? >> i don't know that we're ready, but we need to have an honest and courageous conversation because we keep having the same conversation. we keep going to the same voices, and they keep saying the same things. we keep focusing on police officers who occasionally kill african-americans as opposed to the untold numbers of african-americans killed by african-americans. we don't look at the big issues like the failures of our school systems. out of ten potential points it could receive, it receives two. we don't look at the real fundamental issue. i don't know if we're ready to have this conversation, but we need to have this conversation because we spend too much time doing the same things, getting the same results, which are having african-americans fall at the back of society's bus . >> ashley yates began by saying that americans at large are more
aware of the state of play for african-americans. does that help us to start from the same play if we're going to start having some of these difficult debates? >> well, i think one of the issues that we have to put on the table is the identity of white america. if we have an identity problem which in my--the way i look at it philosophically is the hierarchy, in which people are supposed to be at the top and others are supposed to be at the bottom, and police officers are there to maintain the social hierarchy. we have to have an discussion of what identity we see ourselves having in this country. if necessary to identity as white, therefore superior and other people, people of color should be at bottom, therefore they don't need the education that we would need in society. the criminal justice system is in position in which it is supposed to do what it's doing right now. you have a much larger, broader conversation that needs to take place.
i think at the core of it has to do with the identity of this country and where this country is going in the future. >> ashley yates, a lot of allies, who aren't african-american have turned out over the recent weeks in all kinds of ways. in letters to the editor, in op-ed pages in the marchs, in court cases. but do even the allies not completely understand what it means to be black in america in in 2014? >> i don't think that's actually the question. i think the question is whether or not they can get behind this issue that people are rallying around right now, which is the death of innocent black civilians at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and service us. anyone who can see an issue with that, and be real about it and address the fact that it is happening disproportionately to black americans can be an ally in this fight. there is no reason for police to be jury, judge and executioner.
there is no reason that people who are gunned down should be demonized through the media, police statements to justify unjust killings. anybody who can syrah problem with that, can definitely be an ally and speak up. the allies we've gained in this movement typically they definitely refer to black leadership, which is really important, making sure that the voices at the forefront are affected by this. the people most affected. and as long as they're able to do that, you know, the more the merrier. we need all people in this fight. we don't need just only black people standing up saying this is an issue. we need people of all race and color stand up saying this is a huge issue and when one group of people are oppressed, everyone is oppressed. >> the demonization that often
accompanies when an incident occurs, that he was no angle angel syndrome, some young men have not had problems before. that muddies the water. how do we navigate that. there they are? >> we spend so much time focusing on the most salacious part of the discussion, which is, a, a black person is killed, by a police officer, who in it case happens to be white. we lose the importance of the larger set of issues, the larger set of issues are these: that we have systems that are in place that are not meeting the equitable needs of all people. one reason is because some people don't participate in the system. again, go back to ferguson. while the majority of ferguson's residents are african-american only 6% participated in the 2013 municipal elections, which means
when you continue to under educate individuals, and that community as a whole is under educated they don't participate in the system, and the system therefore does not have their voice as part of it. the marchs have a place and no one wants to take away the fervor of individuals who seek justice by coming in to the streets and speaking loudly. but the fact is that the marchs are not moving the conversation forward. what they're doing is they are political theater that are not changing the fundamental issues. if we want to march on something that is fundamentally destroying our community, let's look at the majority of african-americans children are going to go to school and not learn to read and white like the whiter society. we need to have that conversation, and in order to do that we have to get past the low-hanging fruit and look at the more challenging issue that has plagued us as a country. >> we'll be back after a break. the reaction of high profile
leaders of all races trying to craft responses to high profile incidents. there has been a ferocious response to mayor de blasio of new york, and others of mild concessions to the idea that black americans might have cause to be upset with the police. stay with us. >> sunday night. >> 140 world leaders will take the podium. >> get the full story. >> there is real disunity in the security council. >> about issues that impact your world. >> infectious diseases are a major threat to health. >> "the week ahead". sunday 8:30 eastern. only on al jazeera america.
>> it's a chilling and draconian sentence... it simply cannot stand. >> this trial was a sham... >> they are truth seekers... >> all they really wanna do is find out what's happening, so they can tell people... >> governments around the world all united to condemn this... >> as you can see, it's still a very much volatile situation... >> the government is prepared to carry out mass
array... >> if you want free press in the new democracy let the journalists live. >> you're watching inside story on "inside story" on al jazeera america. the episodes that has brought racial grievance again and again brought fierce reactions from bill o'reilly and others, in print and on air, it's a reminder of how difficult this country finds it to talk about this stuff. we're looking back at a year of race relations. professor, we saw earlier in the
program, bill de blasio, barack obama, trying to both signal to black new yorkers and black americans that they understand why they're angry. and to all other members of the society that they're acknowledging that there is a problem. and yet we saw really fierce reactions to those statements. why? >> fierce reactions. the police officers turned their back on the mayor of new york city when he was giving his condolences for the fallen officers. i think it's because the police department is not just militarized, but it thinks it is apart from the rest of society. once again this fits into a historical context in which we had the night riders of the 18th century, 19th century. we had the --some members of law enforcement being part of lynch mobs. i'm not saying that these people are, but there has been a mistrust and schism between the
communities of color and in particular the black community for generations. this is not the first time. conversations that need to take place is not just about education or criminal justice, it's about how our society operates, how the racial groups are operating together, and how we're going forward as a community. and when these things are broached slightly, as you pointed out, by president obama, by eric holder, by mayor de blasio, you see this visceral reaction because they're not in the midst of a conversation. it's my way or no way. that's one of the reasons why these protests are necessary. we have to continue the conversation. i don't think its just political theater. i think it's a necessary component. not the only component. the educational component, the political component, they're all there. but it's not just one aspect of it. we have to look at our as a whole and race relations as a whole. and criminal justice needs the most attention right now. >> steve perry, is it difficult
to even talk about where some of these problems lie and what to do about it if when we see even politicians dipping their toe in the water getting slapped around like we've seen in the last couple of weeks. >> absolutely. one of the biggest problems with the conversation around race is it rarely turns into a conversation. it starts off as a shouting match and it ends as a shouting match. we rarely hear people acknowledgeing their contribution to the challenge. for instance, the police officers of any race, it would be great to hear them say, some of us do dumb things. it would be great to hear african-americans and latinos are saying we're doing things that your making our communities unsafe. until we begin to acknowledge our own contributions to the challenges, we can't have a conversation. what we have is a shouting match. those people especially politicians who need the community to believe that they speak for the whole of the community find themselves in a precarious situation.
because they're fearful of saying what they feel off camera and off mic they'll say what they feel which is yeah, we understand that it is a complex issue, and therefore each person needs to take responsibility for their contribution to it unfortunately in this age where we live where it's sound bite driven most people don't want to be caught up in the sound bite that drags them in the intellectual ghetto where you're force a side or against it, and there is no middle. >> ashley yates in the the backlash to the president and the mayor of new york, these problems are being exaggerated or, indeed, don't exist. >> yeah, that's why these protests will continue. that's why people will continue to force this conversation. i think we really need to address the police culture that we exist in. the culture that says police are
able to act with impunity, they're self-policing themselves, and who is holding they will accountable for that? we need to look at these systems that are in place that allow the police to just roam free and police themselves. we saw immediately after the killings of police in new york de blasio crumble under pressure. a man with a black son who previously had expressed great sympathy and empathy for the cause crumbled for the pressure and called for moratorium on protest while we laid police officers to rest. while he called on that moratorium in missouri we had another man gunned down, he was really a child. the daughter of eric garner and mother of michael brown express their sympathies on the police officers lives being lost, there were still children being gunned
down in the streets. it really highlights the difference and humanity of the way that the police operate and the way that people operate. >> ashley, let me jump in there. as a strategy, what do more marchs mean? what do they accomplish? what do they do? what do they do as a mechanism that makes people take a look at your issues, try to understand your issues, and try to make policy change that signals a response to it. does closing down the west side highway and in st. louis actually make people say yes this is something we got to take care of. >> it does when you add it with the other tactics, right? protests are just one tool in a toolbox. they force the conversation. they agitate the system which is the montgomery boycott did. a lot of people like to refer to the civil rights movement, they're saying this is not a civil rights movement.
but if you want to redraw this parallel. it was not an agitation to the system, it was a boycott to deplete the system, to get them in the door for voting rights. now we're seeingage station of this system. we're seeing people out in the streets who are saying no business as usual. if we're dying in the streets you're not able to walk down the streets. you're not able to drive down your streets. we'll continue toage state on an economic level and daily level until these conversations are had. and until you go back and you speak to your people and you say you no what, this is something that we need to address because its causingage station to my daily life. people who are not affected by this issue. white people, people of other race who are not effected as much as black people, they are not drawn in. >> i'm definitely going to hear from the professor and steve in response to your last comment. we'll be back with more inside story.
if so many americans are so far apart when they talk about day-to-day life in america how can 2015 be any different? stay with us. primetime news. >> welcome to al jazeera america. >> stories that impact the world, affect the nation and touch your life. >> i'm back. i'm not going anywhere this time. >> only on al jazeera america.
>> we're back with inside story on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez. is hope, faith in the future a necessary pre-condition for continuing good for the country. i have to admit to feeling heart sick, a little less sure about the future when sitting in my living room watching the tear gas mingle with the smoke from burning cars a few weeks ago in ferguson, missouri. still with us, as we look back at 2014 and race relations in america, steve perry author of" push has to shove." ashley yates, founder of millennial activists united, and professor marshall, author of
"race, law, and the american society 1607 to the present." steve perry, you were shaking your head as ashley talked about protests continuing. er why? >> she likened the protests to the montgomery bus boycott. it was a shutdown of an infrastructure that they were doing versus meeting in times square and lying down and protest of a notion that didn't take place in times square. there is a fundamental difference. and a birthday is not a birth. you can't compare the celebration or reenactment of one to another. we have to--if the expectations that you're going to use civil disobedience to create civil discourse, then the disobedience has to move forward a cause. as it is now whether it's trayvon martin to mike brown this form of civil disobedience
has not yielded the results that they claim they wish to achieve. therefore, we're at a time we have to look at the fundamental issues. of course i'm an educator so i'll look at things from a perspective of an educator. >> let me give ashley a quick chance to response. then the professor. what about what you just heard. >> i think anyone who says these protests aren't moving the discourse along in this country has not been paying attention. particularly myself, we were invited to the white house to speak with president obama. during that visit he announced three initiatives that we've never seen out of the white house before. he implemented a task force to oversea oversee police interaction. in addition the u.s. department secretary of education came to ferguson to speak to several educators and several people of the community to see how we can implement change in our educational system.
things are moving on all fronts due to these protests. >> do you believe that 2014 has set the table for things to be better in the coming year? >> definitely. definitely. we have the passing of great figures, maya angelou. we had the passing of people who are getting older now, they're letting go of the mantle, and having someone like ashley about be there and those young people, i watched them march up. i was one of those people inconvenienced. at the same time litigation, protest and legislation are all necessary to work in combination in order to move our cause forward. whatever that cause is in the civil rights talks that we had today it's not something that just disjoints it. it's part of a generation-long process. that's how progress is made. all these different things coming together. this is very much like the montgomery bus boycott and other
boycotts that took place around lynching and other issues. we have to do all of these things in order to make progress or we wouldn't be in a position to sit around and have this discussion today if all the people in the educators didn't come together and decide we're going to make a difference. that's what is happening. the good news is we're witnessing this in front of our very eyes today. >> professor brown, ashy yates steve perry, thank you for a good conversation. happy new year and a happy 2015. thank you for being with us. the program may be over, but the conversation continues. we want to hear what you think about the issues raised on this or any day's show. log on to our facebook page. send us your thoughts on twitter. our handle is aj inside story am or follow me directly @ray suarez news. we'll see you for the next inside story. i'm ray suarez.
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