By Stephen Powell, Executive Director, Mentoring USA

“They don’t respect my existence” was the feedback received from a mentee during a Bronx male Mentoring USA program session designed to process the pending Ferguson verdict and community policing in NYC.

Within the context of site-based mentoring, we are proud of the fact that we can create safe spaces for our mentees and mentors to engage in dialogue to promote healing and survival. The painful part of the exchange is that we are failing to create safe spaces outside the walls of our program, and have to prepare our young to survive interactions with the police, who we expect to protect and serve us.

The questions I keep asking myself are: Can a wound that never closes ever heal? What are the systems that keep these wounds open?

Now that the verdict has been delivered the world is watching Ferguson and oppressed communities across the country boil over like a pot of water. Community wounds are re-opened. Rather than blame the water for boiling, we must look at the systemic hand of injustice that continues to turn the heat up in communities when police officers are not fully held accountable for the killing of unarmed young men and people of color.

Police are protected and communities are served a script filled with unbelievable testimony criminalizing the victim. And within these scripted accounts — where implicit biases become explicit — we are sure to find language that continues to dehumanize young men of color: Demons.

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