"The Slants" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

In 2006, Simon Shiao Tam founded the Asian-American band The Slants.  As the group became increasingly successful, Tam opted to pursue federal trademark protection for the band name. Trademark protection is important for both producer and consumer; the producer can feel confident that no one is unfairly capitalizing on the fruits of their labor, and the consumer can be sure that the product that they are purchasing is the one that they intend to purchase; they can be sure that it is not a product produced by an imposter using the same name.  If granted the trademark protection, Shiao’s Asian-American band would own exclusive rights to the name The Slants.  

"SQ Lethal Injection Room" by California Department of Corrections is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

In the early hours of the morning, on November 8th, 1994, Casey Wilson was working his shift at a Circle K in Huntsville, Alabama.  That morning, 23-year-old Ronald Bert Smith Jr. came into the station with the intention to rob it.  He pistol-whipped Wilson and forced him to the convenience store restroom where he shot him.  Wilson died of his wounds.  To avoid detection and identification, Smith removed the store’s surveillance videotape from that night and brought it with him.

"Chainlink Prison Fence" by Jobs for Felons Hub is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

On November 22nd, President Obama reduced the prison sentences of 79 drug offenders. This is the latest in a burst of clemencies he has awarded during his last year in office. Traditionally, there is a burst of clemencies towards the end of a president’s term, when there are fewer political hurdles and relationships to maintain, but this week’s sentence reductions bring Obama past the 1,000 clemency mark – more than the past 11 presidents put together.

"Fremantle Prison" is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikipedia)

It is now common knowledge that education, whether prior or during a prison inmate’s sentence, is one of the most impactful factors in reducing recidivism, a revolving door phenomenon that sees two-thirds of prisoners return to prison. This phenomenon exacerbates the state of the largest prison population in the world, and locks away more than one in six of America’s Black men.

"Prison Fence" by jodylehigh is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

The United States tends to exhibit a great nationalistic pride in its democracy. And so generally, we assume that any U.S. citizen over the age of 18 is eligible to vote. Yet this right can be taken away permanently if one is convicted of a felony, the most common of which being drug-related. Ironically, the United States, proudly deemed the “Land of the Free,” has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Yet it still may be shocking to consider that [a]pproximately 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting age population1 of every 40 adultsis disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.

"WorcesterMassBar" is licensed under Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

When you are accused of a crime, likely of chief concern will be that your jury will treat you fairly. Once the jury is presented with the facts and are briefed on how to understand the law, they go off to deliberate. How the jury deliberates from there is up to them, and you trust that they follow the judge’s instructions and don’t hold any biases they may have against you.

All Images by Conner Gordon

Editor’s Note: This piece contains explicit language. Additional reporting by Amy Brown.

Bree, an African-American resident of Ferguson, Missouri, says he has been involved in activism for years. For the time being, that means selling buttons condemning the presidential candidates, namely Donald Trump, to passersby at a Ferguson strip mall. On a good day, he sells around 70 of the buttons, and, despite their politically charged content, he said rarely runs into any controversy – in majority black neighborhoods, at least.

“I keep myself in areas where my reception’s gonna be pretty cool,” Bree said. “Believe me, the whiter the area, the more of a problem I get.”

"Police" by Victoria Pickering via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

What does it take to make people feel “safe” in their communities? Proponents of police reform have struggled to find a middle ground between the legal and physical protection of the implicated and the interests of communities with high crime rates. Policies like New York City’s infamous “stop and frisk” laws have been proven to both increase arrests that become convictions as well as target people of color, while independent policing models implemented in Native American, First Nation and other Indigenous populations have enabled these people’s legal sovereignty but left internal populations at serious risk.

Continuing police reform efforts all seem to beg the question: just what do we expect of the police?

Screen Capture of "Helicopter Video of Police Killing Terence Crutcher" by The Free Thought Project (via Youtube)

So far in 2016, 714 people have been shot by police, 174 of which were black. This means that 24% of people shot and killed by police were black despite the fact that only 13.3% of the United State’s population is black. Race, therefore, is a crucial lens through which we examine policing. A new lens was added, however, with the shooting death of Terence Crutcher on September 16.

Image modified from the original photograph: "Rodin--The Thinker" by Edward Steichen, 1902 (Public Domain)

Much has been written about the appalling, depressing and infuriating case concerning Brock Turner and his unnamed victim. I won’t rehearse the case, nor the dialectic it has sparked between those sympathetic to the victim and those outraged that sympathy can ever be extended to crime perpetrators, especially when such perpetrators are member of a hyper-privileged class such as that to which Turner belongs.