The decision by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby to charge six officers for the death of Freddie Gray, while important, is not the end of the process toward justice. Rather, it is just the beginning step for the justice system, for Black communities, and for our society as a whole.
The subsequent trials that will follow are not guaranteed to find those "guilty" of the crimes with which they have now been charged. Jurors will need to be selected and convinced that the charges are appropriate; even more reason that eligible citizens need to be registered voters as a qualifying factor to enter jury pools. I also believe that when the times comes there will be petitions to change the venue (a la Rodney King) to ensure a "fair trial." Then there will be the efforts of the defense attorneys to put Freddie Gray -- the victim -- on trial as we have seen time and time again.
So yes, charging these officers is an important moment, but the vigilance and the pressure must remain. The truth is that as as much as I want to believe, justice has yet to prevail. What is happening now is an example of the justice system doing what it is supposed to do: following the evidence to reveal the truth. There is still much work to do to address the structural inequities that allow incidents such as this to occur.
Over the past several weeks, I have listened to pundits in the media talk about the issues related to the dissolution of the family, meaning the Black family. These pundits have insinuated that missing fathers are the root cause of much of the dysfunction in Black communities.
As a professional social worker and clinician for over 35 years, I have witnessed firsthand the powerful positive impact that fathers play in the lives of their children, and in their communities. One such example is Fathers Uplift, a Boston-based program founded by a former student of mine, Charles C. Daniels, Jr., MSW, LICSW. Fathers' Uplift works to assist fathers in overcoming barriers (financial, addiction, emotional and traumatic) that prevent them from remaining engaged in their children's lives. The goal is to support fathers and strengthen families through passion, love and encouragement. More programs like Fathers Uplift are needed. We cannot do this alone.
While many of us in the Black community are examining how conditions in our communities and families can be improved, I would suggest that police officers -- those individuals who are charged with protecting citizens, rather than harming them -- should do the same. As a country, we should ask how those individuals in law enforcement have been "raised" and acculturated, and consider what legacy of attitudes toward others get passed on from one generation to the next. A shield is not a permission slip for the abuse of people and the misuse of power.
The world's history -- and the history of this country -- abounds with stories of people who were loving to their families and yet did inhumane things to others.
So while we should be happy for this first step towards justice, let's not forget the formidable amount of work that needs to begin and to continue for years to come.
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