In the wake of protests responding to the killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, sociologists began building a large body of resources to explain how these events fit into a broader pattern of racial bias in the United States’ criminal justice system. Sociologists for Justice has both a public statement on the matter and a syllabus on source material related to racialized policing. Sociology Toolbox has recent data on racial disparities and militarized police departments in Ferguson and nationwide. In addition to the conversation about racial injustice, Ferguson also calls into question our assumptions about how to maintain public safety.
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My brother, Tom Vargas, a Chicago police officer, worked in Englewood, one of Chicago’s most violent and gang infested neighborhoods. On the morning of June 1, 2009, I woke to news of a young officer killed in Tom’s district.
I immediately called my brother, but he did not pick up. I called my father and learned Tom was safe, but became distraught when I learned his partner Alex Valadez was killed when gang members fired on both of them as they interviewed a resident.
Words can’t describe the pain and anguish endured when an officer is killed in the line of duty. The violence in recent days has inflicted such searing pain on the loved ones of Dallas’ fallen officers, as well as the loved ones of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling who were killed by police days earlier.
With shootings in San Bernadino, Newtown, Charleston, Orlando, Chicago, and now St. Paul, Baton Rouge and Dallas, we’re seeing a barrage of mini-civil wars being fought on American streets. Civil war is defined as “a war between citizens of the same country.” The Civil War of the 1800s was a large-scale economic conflict between the North and South about Black slaves as property, but what we’ve seen recently in South Carolina, Orlando and Dallas, are acts of civil war rooted in hatred on the basis of race, class, gender and sexual orientation.
Read Full Story from our colleagues Robert Vargas and Rashawn Ray at PRI.org
We are deeply disappointed in the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. The handling of the case by St. Louis County Prosecutor Attorney Robert McCulloch and the subsequent decision by the grand jury is another example of the all-too-common elusiveness of justice for communities of color.
Our thoughts are with Michael Brown’s family, friends, and community as they fight to be heard. We strongly support efforts to organize for systemic changes in policing across the nation. We stand in solidarity with those already engaged in efforts to ensure that Black lives matter. Further, we urge the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether federal civil rights charges should be filed against Officer Wilson and encourage the Obama administration to consider our recommendations for addressing the racialized and aggressive police practices that often lead to fatal citizen encounters.
As we plan for how Sociologists for Justice can aid in the cause of racial justice, we urge you to join local solidarity efforts in your community and look forward to you joining us in our next steps as an organization committed to using sociology to advance justice and dignity for all.
On the heels of the open letter signed by over 1,400 sociologists after the police killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, the newly formed group Sociologists for Justice has released a list of published research that informs the arguments put forth in the statement. The following articles and books will help interested readers understand the social and historical context surrounding the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and allow readers to see how these events fit within larger patterns of racial profiling, systemic racism, and police brutality.
This year’s annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) recently took place in San Francisco. Coming on the heels of the killing of unarmed black teen Michael Ferguson Jr. at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and in the midst of an ongoing community uprising shrouded in police brutality, many sociologists in attendance had the national crises of police brutality and racism on their minds. The ASA however created no official space for discussion of these issues, nor has the 109 year-old organization made any kind of public statement on them, despite the fact that the amount of published sociological research on these issues could fill a library. Frustrated by this lack of action and dialog, some attendees created a grassroots discussion group and task force to address these crises. Full article on about.com