The Thurgood Marshall Law Association, comprised of African American and diverse attorneys in Toledo, are outraged by the countless deaths of our black brothers and sisters at the hands of police.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose, they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
When citizens are killed in broad daylight, in their homes, or anywhere else by police officers sworn to serve them, it is evident that America has failed us. As citizens, we seek equal justice, and we cannot and will not sit idly by as our brothers and sisters lie lifeless in the street.
As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently explained in an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times, “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”
In an effort to remove the spotlight from the injustices that black people face in America, there has been much debate about three words–Black Lives Matter. But we cannot move forward to address these injustices without shining light on and acknowledging this simple truth – black lives do matter. Black lives matter because black lives bring value to every space we enter. Black lives matter because black lives have meaning, and black lives matter because black lives foster change. Black lives matter because black lives are human lives.
Black lives have also suffered at the hands of those who vehemently resist progress and change. We stand proudly on the shoulders of men and women who came before us, like Charles Hamilton Houston, who reinforced the value of understanding the Constitution of the United States and how to explore its uses in solving problems in communities and improving the conditions of Americans. This is why we fight.
Today, Black America still lives in frustration and fear with the real prospect of random and tragic mistreatment borne out of being viewed and treated less than equal to others. A series of inextricably intertwined events underscore the need for Black lawyers to mobilize and serve as a catalyst for real change ridding America of structural racism. Thus, we will continue to fight to end systemic racism and discrimination in our society and within the legal profession. By mentoring the next generation of minority attorneys and leaders in our community, working with community organizations to ensure that equal justice under the law is not just a slogan or a catch phrase-but an unwavering belief and principle, and connecting those who are in need of legal services to competent attorneys who can best represent their needs; we will continue fighting for the justice we seek.
In this moment in time, we recognize that our community and the world are justifiably angry, frustrated and tired. We can relate. TMLA stands in unity and solidarity with those individuals and organizations dedicated to doing the grueling work to eradicate police brutality and misconduct, structural and institutional racism, personal racism, inequity and all injustices against African Americans, in this nation, and specifically in our community. We recognize our role in this fight, and we are ready to meet that challenge. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate and partner with anyone in this work.
To that end, the TMLA submits the following action items to address the inequities and racial injustice faced daily by African Americans and other minorities in our communities:
· Establish a national, statewide and local Police Misconduct Registry. If a law enforcement officer has been found to have violated the law or departmental policies, those incidents should be kept, cataloged, and made available to the public.
· Establish an effective Civilian Police Review Board with the authority to act when necessary, to recommend reprimands or other punishment for wrongdoing officers.
· Require a racial competency evaluation, in addition to the required psychological and mental health evaluations, prior to being hired by a law enforcement agency.
· ALL officers must be required to wear a body camera and to keep it on when they are interacting with the public.
· Hire African American and other people from the community in a pipeline law enforcement/community liaison program, train and mentor them and promote them in the law enforcement ranks.
· Conduct a survey of African Americans in the legal field in Toledo and institute hiring processes to make each institution/office more diverse.
“We cannot play ostrich. Democracy just cannot flourish amid fear. Liberty cannot bloom amid hate. Justice cannot take root amid rage. America must get to work. In the chill climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing wind. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”
― Thurgood Marshall
Submitted on behalf of the TMLA Board and Members