Wednesday Reading List: Our Culture is Broken

Yesterday, an unarmed man was killed in his own backyard in Sacramento. Here's the New York Daily News:

Sacramento police fatally shot a 22-year-old black man holding a cell phone that was mistaken for a weapon. Stephon Clark was in the backyard of the home he shared with his grandparents and some of his siblings when he was killed, Clark’s brother told the Sacramento Bee. The police department said officers were responding to a report that someone was breaking car windows nearby. The suspect was described as a 6-foot-1 man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and dark pants hiding in a backyard.

When we talk about gun violence in this country, it tends to come on the heels of a mass shooting. It's important to remember, though, that sometimes gun violence is perpetrated by the state itself. Sadly, the deployment of said violence happens in a structurally racist context, wherein a disproportionate number of the people killed by the state are black men.

That said, there was ALSO a mass shooting at a school yesterday! Here's The Baltimore Sun on the events at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland:

The suspected gunman, 17-year-old student Austin Wyatt Rollins, was pronounced dead hours later at a local hospital. Two teenage students were being treated for their injuries — one, Jaelynn Willey, was in critical condition — and a school resource officer who fired at the gunman was unharmed ... The entire incident played out in less than a minute at 7:55 a.m. in a hallway at Great Mills, a school 90 miles south of Baltimore that enrolls about 1,600 students.

These events have become so commonplace that we are no longer shocked when a high school student goes on a rampage against his own peers. We are relieved, actually, to learn that only several students were shot.

Our culture is broken.

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Shaun King of The Intercept found a bit of silver lining yesterday, though, in his coverage of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:

Across the country, talking the talk of criminal justice reform has gotten many people elected as DA. Once in office, their reforms have often been painfully slow and disappointing. Krasner was the first candidate elected who publicly committed not just to intermittent changes, but a radical overhaul ... In his first week on the job, he fired 31 prosecutors from the DA’s office because they weren’t committed to the changes he intended to make ... Next, Krasner obeyed a court order to release a list of 29 officers from the Philadelphia Police Department that were on a “do-not-call list” — meaning that they were so tainted that they would be considered unreliable as witnesses.

That Krasner's actions are so revolutionary is an indication of the health of the criminal justice system, but change has to start somewhere. King goes on to describe Krasner's internal memo, which outlines policy changes in the department:

If you live in the US northeast, you might be trapped inside today, due to the snowstorm. There are worse things to do than read Krasner's memo in its entirety.

Have a safe day ...