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Another Trayvon Martin Is Killed Every 28 Hours in This Country

A racist mindset infects our criminal justice system, our schools, and our politics in ways that have had disastrous consequences.

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AMY GOODMAN: And I just wanted to correct: Her name is Marissa Alexander, the woman who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for shooting a gun. Nermeen?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michelle Alexander, you heard the comments of Attorney General Eric Holder. What do you think the Justice Department should be doing in response to this and in response to some of the trends that you’ve spoken of in the criminal justice system?

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Well, with respect to the George Zimmerman case, I think they are right to continue their investigation into whether federal civil rights charges can be brought against George Zimmerman. I think it’s highly unlikely that the Justice Department will actually file suit against George Zimmerman, but I am encouraged that they’re actually continuing the investigation.

But simply investigating this one case does not even begin to scratch the surface of what must be done. Although Attorney General Eric Holder does not have the authority to repeal mandatory minimum sentences and undo the legislation that has, you know, helped to create the prison-industrial complex, what he can do is insist that we have a national debate and dialogue. He can say that the passage of these mandatory minimum sentences was wrong and that it was done with a discriminatory mindset, that it was done with an attitude of overwhelming punitiveness towards poor people, in general, and poor people of color, in particular, that it has had disastrous consequences for poor communities of color, and that we must undo the harm that has been done and repeal these laws so that a more restorative and rehabilitative approach to criminal justice might be possible. He can do this. You know, this is a conversation that I think he is well positioned to lead and to begin. But as we’ve seen with President Obama’s administration, although both the president and Attorney General Holder often say they want to encourage frank dialogues about race, we’ve seen relatively little in terms of, you know, actual initiative and leadership shown around issues of racial justice. And I would hope that, you know, in the months that follow the Trayvon Martin tragedy, that we will see much more courage and bold leadership coming from the Justice Department.

AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Alexander, I want to ask you to stay with us.... We’re going to come back to talk about a new study of African Americans killed by police or security guards just in the last year. Stay with us.

According to a recent study, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer is not unique. [ Read Adam Hudson's article for AlterNet on the report] In "Operation Ghetto Storm," the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) found at least 136 unarmed African Americans were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes in 2012. Overall, one black person was killed in an extrajudicial shooting every 28 hours. We speak with Kali Akuno, a longtime MXGM organizer and author of "Let Your Motto Be Resistance: A Handbook on Organizing New Afrikan and Oppressed Communities." "This speaks to the mindset of criminalizing blackness," Akuno says. "We see it systematically throughout this country and really we have to get at the heart of it and have a much deeper conversation. I think the mass movement which is taking place in response [to the Trayvon Martin case] is an opening shot to have that conversation."

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to a  report that examines how what happened to Trayvon Martin, and the lack of punishment faced by his killer, is not unique. In a survey conducted in 2012, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement found at least 136 unarmed African Americans were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes over the course of a single year. When African Americans who were armed are included in the survey, the overall number killed in extrajudicial shootings was 313—one black person killed every 28 hours.

 
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