TIME technology

Why Reporting Offensive Players in Online Games Is a Losing Battle

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Some players live for crapping up someone else's gaming experience for no other reason than because they can

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Picture this: After a long day at work, you come home to relax, unwind, and play a video game where you pretend to be a science fiction soldier playing capture the flag for the next four hours. At some point during the evening, the game’s auto-matching program assigns you to a team with a player whose online username can’t be repeated in polite company. Then another teammate uses the in-game voice chat to preach views on “those dirty Mexicans.” Rather than play the match, your team grows tired of the rants and decides to “go Jew for a while.”

What exactly happened here? All you wanted was a few hours of mindless entertainment before bed and another day at the job, and now you’re wondering if the entire human race lost its mind in the meantime. You think about reporting the ugly behavior of your former teammates, but they’ve since vanished into the online ether. You grumble to yourself, but rejoin the game, hoping the players in the next match aren’t complete airheads.

I’ve played online games since the late-’90s and watched similar problems happen with each of them: Developers focus their time on fixing problems that affect playability, not the player base. Someone won’t play a game because the players are sexist, racist, and otherwise bigoted? Someone untroubled by such prejudice will eventually log on and play.

Many online games state on their boxes and splash screens that their online content is not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, informing players about the no-man’s-land of online content they’re about to enter and (more importantly, from a business standpoint) protecting the parent company from potential lawsuits. The content delivery services that host these games have boilerplate anti-harassment policies, yet the overworked and understaffed game company can’t keep up with anything but the most flagrant of problem players. A “snitches get stitches” culture takes root. Eventually, the players are left to police themselves.

According to Xbox Live’s EULA, a player can’t “use [Xbox products including Xbox Live] to harm, threaten, or harass another person, organization, or Microsoft.” Sony Entertainment’s EULA lists a plethora of activities players cannot do on the Playstation Network: “You may not take any action, or upload, post, stream, or otherwise transmit any content, language, images or sounds in any forum, communication, public profile, or other publicly viewable areas or in the creation of any [username] that [Sony and its affiliates]…find[s] offensive, hateful, or vulgar. This includes any content or communication that SNEI or its affiliates deem racially, ethnically, religiously or sexually offensive, libelous, defaming, threatening, bullying or stalking.” Even the family-friendly Nintendo Wii comes with an EULA stating its online services may not be used “for commercial or illegal purposes, in a way that may harm another person or company, or in any unauthorized or improper manner.”

For personal computers, three companies dominate the online-gaming content delivery market: Valve’s Steam service, Electronic Arts’ Origin service, and Blizzard Entertainment’s Battle.net. Steam’s subscriber agreement contains a list of conduct rules players must follow, including a clause saying players must not “defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others.” EA’s EULA prohibits users from “Defaming, abusing, harassing, threatening, spamming, violating the rights of others and/or otherwise interfering with others’ use and enjoyment of [Origin and all related software, services, updates, and upgrades];” or “Publishing, transferring or distributing any inappropriate, indecent, obscene, foul or unlawful conduct.” Blizzard’s EULA states that players will not “use or contribute User Content that is unlawful, tortious, defamatory, obscene, invasive of the privacy of another person, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful, racist or otherwise objectionable or inappropriate.”

For now, content-delivery services for mobile devices come without the social networking options available for similar services on consoles and computers. Google’s Terms of Service states that available content “content is the sole responsibility of the entity that makes it available. We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that we review content, so please don’t assume that we do.” Apple’s App Store EULA states: “You understand that by using any of the Services, You may encounter content that may be deemed offensive, indecent, or objectionable, which content may or may not be identified as having explicit language, and that the results of any search or entering of a particular URL may automatically and unintentionally generate links or references to objectionable material. Nevertheless, You agree to use the Services at Your sole risk and that the Application Provider shall not have any liability to You for content that may be found to be offensive, indecent, or objectionable.”

Game apps come with their own Terms of Service. Zynga, creator of Facebook apps like FarmVille and mobile-device apps like Words with Friends, states in their community rules where users agree not to “post any content that is abusive, threatening, obscene, defamatory, libelous, or racially, sexually, religiously, otherwise objectionable or offensive; or violates any applicable law or regulation.”

So if all of these prohibitions are in place, why are you still reporting offensive user names like RapeFace and flagging users referring to earning in-game currency as “jewing”?

First, what can be considered “offensive content” can be debated ad infinitum in a courtroom, costing companies money. Second, staffing shortages lead to prioritization, and actively policing user content usually ends up at the bottom of priority lists, as it’s a problem without a concrete deadline. These two situations combined to form the user policing system used by nearly all of the aforementioned services: It’s up to players to notify company staff that something is amiss, from flagging content as inappropriate to filling out a Web form akin to a police report, describing the situation and providing screenshots and timestamps when necessary.

At the moment, Halo 4 is the only mainstream multiplayer game to take a zero-tolerance policy in regards to sexist behavior. Halo’s server host, Xbox Live, has the funding to support a team of live humans enforcing its online-content rules. Other online games have in-game monitors or forum moderators in reactive roles, fixing problems on case-by-case basis like overworked Wild West sheriffs.

Some players live for crapping up someone else’s gaming experience for no other reason than because they can. After all, the EULA doesn’t cover intentionally dropping the captured flag, opening your base to the other team, or other forms of grief play. Some players see it as their divine calling to find the line between permitted and unacceptable behavior and cross it — or better yet, troll someone else into crossing it, and reporting that player for rule-breaking. A recent case of griefing — intentional game disruption meant to harass or annoy — during team events in Lord of the Rings Online caused both players and LOTRO’s developer Turbine to reexamine its definition of in-game harassment.

Understandably, when reporting a bad player can take longer than playing a game session with said bad player, the path of least resistance is to put up with whoever it is until the sessions end or the players change. Platforms like Steam and Battle.net encourage users to mute, squelch, kick, or otherwise dismiss problem players from their personal gaming sessions as a means to solve the problem, rather than such measures acting as a first line of defense. Not every online platform has a paid team of employees specifically hired to enforce the rules, and because of this, online gaming culture sees such systemic problems as subjective, even victim-blaming.

In the online gaming frontier of the ’90s, EverQuest and Ultima Online and the earliest incarnation of Battle.net hosted live human moderators, but as scope grew, their roles shrunk. Now that gaming’s problems with sexism, racism, and homophobia have been laid bare thanks to GamerGate, it’s time to take these problems seriously instead of pushing them aside. Hiring staff dedicated to solving these issues shows that gaming companies won’t tolerate prejudice.

However, this behavior can’t be curbed by user policing alone. As in real life, there’s a fair amount of enabling in the virtual world. Most online gaming groups (clans, corporations, etc.) have at least one player who is an abominable human being yet plays the game like the Pinball Wizard. Other players justify his or her inclusion by stressing the problem player’s skills, abilities, or knowledge, dismissing personality problems with “he’s just like that, you’ll get used to it” or “she’s a great player — we’ll put up with her crap if it means she’s on our team.”

To fix what the game can’t, stop playing with such players. Easier said than done, right? If there’s an in-game group or clan that promotes acceptance and good sportsmanship, join it. Join communities like the Rough Trade Gaming Community and RPG.net. Lurk on subReddits like Truegaming. Or simply investigate the in-game community for players who fit your play-style. I’ve been playing games online since 1998, and the few times I haven’t found a BS-free group, I’ve started one, and never was I short on teammates.

So until the online gaming world gets its act together, I’ll hang out with my gaming group, where the foremost rule is “Don’t be an airhead.” If you’re ready to give gaming one more try, look me up by my Disqus name on Steam. Hope you like space ninjas.

Laura Carruba is a freelance writer and contributor to xoJane. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

NAACP Bombing Evokes Memories of Civil Rights Strife

Colorado Springs police officers investigate the scene of an explosion on Jan. 6, 2015, at a building in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Christian Murdock—AP Colorado Springs police officers investigate the scene of an explosion on Jan. 6, 2015, at the NAACP's offices in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"This is a terrorist attack,” former NAACP leader says

The bomb that exploded outside an NAACP office in Colorado on Tuesday was a rare act of violence apparently aimed at the civil rights organization. But the incident in Colorado Springs, which is currently under investigation by the FBI, brought to mind an earlier era when threats of assassinations and bombings targeting the group were far more common.

An improvised explosive device detonated at about 11 a.m. Tuesday morning outside the NAACP’s Colorado Springs branch. No one was hurt, but nearby business owners and neighbors were shaken.

MORE: Rep. John Lewis’ Oral History of Selma and the Struggle for the Voting Rights Act

Gene Southerland, the owner of Mr. G’s Hair Design Studios, which shares a building with the NAACP chapter, said he heard a “horrendous explosion” at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday that knocked several bottles off their shelves inside his salon. Southerland says he then stepped outside and found what looked like a 4-in. stick of red dynamite with the top blown off sitting next to a can of gasoline. Nearby neighbors told him they spotted a man leaving the area around the time of the explosion. The FBI is currently investigating the incident and looking for a balding Caucasian man in his 40s as the prime suspect.

Henry Allen, Jr., president of the Colorado Springs branch of the NAACP, says he’s hesitant to call the incident a “hate crime” and is waiting for a full investigation to be completed. He says his branch, the largest NAACP chapter in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, has never received direct threats.

“That’s what has us a little bit confused,” he says. “Never in the history of this organization in Colorado Springs have there been live threats.”

But other civil rights leaders see the incident as almost certainly racially motivated.

“Obviously, this is a terrorist attack,” says Julian Bond, a University of Virginia history professor and a long-time chairman of the NAACP.

As head of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010, Bond says there were zero violent incidents like what occurred Tuesday in Colorado Springs. And in recent decades, acts of violence aimed at the NAACP have tapered off. But the organization has dealt with direct threats virtually since it began in 1909, with one of the worst occurring in 1951 when Harry Moore, who founded an NAACP branch in Brevard County, Florida, was killed on Christmas Day after a bomb was placed underneath his bed. No one was arrested, but several Ku Klux Klan members were suspected in the incident.

A little over a decade later, Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader and field secretary for the NAACP, was shot and killed in his own driveway after meeting with the group’s lawyers. Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist, was later convicted in the killing.

In 1989, Robert Robinson, legal counsel for the NAACP in Savannah, Ga., was killed by a package containing a pipe bomb. Similar parcels were sent to the NAACP branch in Jacksonville, Fla., but were discovered by local authorities before they were able to do any harm. A couple weeks later, on New Year’s Day 1990, white demonstrators protested outside the national headquarters of the NAACP, leading to heightened security at the organization’s offices around the U.S.

While the NAACP hasn’t experience incidents like what happened Tuesday in a number of years, the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents involving white police officers, have heightened racial tensions around the country. Grand juries decided not to indict the officers, leading to weeks of protests nationwide and phrases like “I can’t breathe” and “Black lives matter” that were used to demonstrate against police officers’ use of force around the country.

Recent polls show that Americans increasingly believe race relations are deteriorating. A December 2014 Gallup poll shows that 13% of Americans believe “racism” is the most important problem facing the country today, the highest number since 1992 and the trial of Rodney King, a black man whose beating by Los Angeles Police Department officers following a car chase was caught on video. Only about 40% of respondents in a December NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said race relations in the U.S. were “good” while 23% said they were “very bad.” Just a few years ago, roughly 70% described race relations in America as good.

As the FBI continues its investigation in conjunction with the Colorado Springs Police Department, agency officials say it’s possible that the incident may not turn out to be a hate crime.

“We’re looking at all possibilities,” says Amy Sanders, an FBI spokesperson in Denver. “Although a hate crime is certainly one possibility, or domestic terrorism.”

Sondra Young, president of the NAACP’s Denver chapter, told the Los Angeles Times that the incident “certainly raises questions of a potential hate crime.”

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) also commented on the bombing on Twitter Wednesday afternoon by recalling a darker time for the civil rights organization.

And Bond, the former NAACP chairman, said that while acts of violence are unusual today, all chapters should remain cautious.

“You always have to worry about it,” Bond says, referring to incidents of violence. “All of our branches are potentially vulnerable. We want to send a message to everyone to be on their guard of this occurring to them.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 5

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. After 13 years at war chasing shifting priorities and the wildly different visions of civilian leadership, America’s military is a force adrift.

By Andrew Tilghman, Hope Hodge Seck, Michelle Tan, Patricia Kime, David Larter, Steve Losey and Leo Shane III in the Military Times

2. Sending kids to jail only ups the chances they’ll commit crimes again. States should raise the age of criminal responsibility.

By Sarah Childress at Frontline

3. 95 percent of the world’s population doesn’t own a computer. Repurposing old or unused tech can help close the gap.

By Revivn

4. We must build systems for overcoming subconscious racial bias.

By Sendhil Mullainathan in the Upshot

5. A new tool harnesses data to give teachers personalized roadmaps for professional development.

By Christina Quattrocchi in EdSurge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Race

Race Concerns Americans More Than It Has in 2 Decades

San Francisco Public Attorneys Hold "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Demonstration
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A protestor holds a black lives matter t-shirt during a "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" demonstration in front of the San Francisco Hall of Justice on December 18, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Amid national protests over police use-of-force against African-Americans

The percentage of Americans who consider “race relations” or “racism” to be the biggest problem facing the country is at its highest level since 1992, according to a new Gallup poll.

At 13%, the current rate is only two points behind its peak two decades ago, in the aftermath of the riots that followed the Rodney King verdict. Just last month, only 1% of Americans viewed race as the top concern, proving what an enormous impact the Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice cases have had on the public.

Among nonwhites, 22% named race relations or racism as the country’s biggest problem; among whites, it was only 9%.

“The economy” ties with race among those polled, and the highest-ranked concern is “government” at 15%.

[Gallup]

TIME White House

Obama Recalls Trouble Getting a Cab Before He Was President

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The First Couple opens up about racism

Before they lived behind the White House gates, Barack and Michelle Obama dealt with the day-to-day racism experienced by black families across America, the First Couple told People in an exclusive new interview.

“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” Michelle Obama said. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”

“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” President Obama said. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.”

Read more at People

TIME White House

Obama: ‘No Black Male My Age’ Hasn’t Been Mistaken for a Valet

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The President and First Lady opened up in a recent interview about racial prejudices they've experienced

The Obamas opened up about their experiences with racial prejudice in an interview with People magazine.

“There’s no black male my age who’s a professional who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” President Barack Obama said in an excerpt released Wednesday.

He said that it had happened to him, too. First lady Michelle Obama said that another time her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”

The president said that the indignities that the first couple…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Race

Corporations Are People But People of Color Are Not

Protest in Oakland After Grand Jury Decision
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Protestors gather to protest after two grand juries decided not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. and Eric Garner in New York, NY, on December 04, 2014 in Oakland, CA.

The collusion of police and capitalist structures has prevented meaningful criminal justice reform

If it wasn’t clear before, it is abundantly clear now. We are in the midst of a deeply sinful and systemically broken system, and the collusion of police and capitalist structures has prevented meaningful criminal justice reform from happening.

When the announcement came down in Ferguson that there would be no trial for Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown, the police set up camp in a strip mall. Target, ironically, was safe. Thursday night in New York, hundreds of police lined the streets with barricades and batons not to protect the people protesting the non-indictment of the white police officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death, but to protect the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center–a phalanx standing guard over one of the high holy symbols of capitalism.

Christ is not with the tree. Christ is with the least and the lost. He is with the oppressed. He is with those walking down the street to visit their grandmothers and with those struggling to feed their families by selling cigarettes.

“I can’t breathe” could very well have been uttered by Jesus on the cross—Jesus Christ, an oppressed minority under the most powerful government on the planet who was legally put to death by the state.

But at least Jesus had a trial.

The impunity with which police officers can continue to kill some of the most vulnerable members of society, the latest being Garner, is terrifying. May this be our moment of repentance for a sin that has plagued our nation for over 400 years.

At its best, religion teaches us to recognize the humanity in each and every one of us. At its worst, we learn to see people as less than human—as objects or property.

In 1857, in a case first brought to court just a few miles from present-day Ferguson, United States Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney found that Dred Scott, as a black man, wasn’t a man at all. Blacks, he wrote, are legally “beings of an inferior order…and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

In his grand jury testimony, Wilson called Brown a “demon,” referring to him not as a “he” but as an “it.”

This can be a moment for the scales to fall from the eyes to expose the white idolatry, white privilege, and white brutality that holds our country captive, where white people—myself included—begin to see what people of color see all the time: a criminal justice system that views them not as people, but as objects to be beaten and bullied. And killed without consequence.

The highest ideals of our faith insist we never demonize anybody, much less kill that demonized other. We worship a God who made all people in God’s likeness and bestowed each human with the mark of the divine.

How far away are we from the steps of the courthouse that declared to Dred Scott and America that people of color are property and objects, not people?

We are startlingly close to that dreadful past. Michael Brown and Eric Garner are treated like objects while Christmas trees and Target stores are treated like human beings that need protections and rights. In today’s society it seems that corporations are people but people of color are not.

So now we march. Now is the time to build a sturdy and empowering infrastructure for a social movement.

The degradation and demeaning of black and brown life must stop.

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is President of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, where she also holds the Johnston Family Chair in Religion and Democracy. She is Vice President of the American Academy of Religion, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and author of Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

See Protesters Take to the Streets After the Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

Demonstrators took to the streets in cities across the country Wednesday night after a grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner in New York in July. In New York City, protesters blocked the West Side highway, Sixth Avenue, and other main arteries. And protests continued nationwide into the weekend

MORE: Behind the video of Eric Garner’s deadly encounter with New York City police

TIME Opinion

What History Books Should Say About Ferguson

Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting.
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting.

How we tell the story of what happened in Missouri matters

When the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Mike Brown was announced late Monday evening in Ferguson, Mo., the world was watching. After hours of delay, misleading “Breaking News” banners, and a preemptive build-up of riot management forces on Ferguson streets, we were more than ready to hear the verdict. But the lengthy remarks delivered by St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch were far less welcome.

McCulloch padded his announcement with nearly 30 minutes of narrative, detailing his own particular version of events in Ferguson since August 9, 2014, when Brown, an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot in the street. He complimented local authorities, conveniently choosing not to mention their internationally panned militarized assault on citizens in the days following Brown’s death. He praised his own management of the process, conveniently ignoring the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder had to step in for oversight and ultimately, to launch a federal investigation because of a lack of trust in the local “process”. And while no indictment came for Darren Wilson, in McCulloch’s tale, the media, twitter, eyewitnesses and even Mike Brown himself were tried and found guilty.

Why would McCulloch feel compelled to use his time on the national stage to recount the previous three months and tell his story? Because as a public official and an attorney, he understands the importance of the record: what account is written, what story is told, and, most of all what remains in our collective memory. What matters most as the chaos of cultural moments and social movements unfold is the history – or, more accurately, the telling of the history for generations to come.

As the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe tells us: Until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. This history, an account of these past months, matters because as much as we want to believe that the problem upon which these events were built – violent, systemic racism – will be a distant memory by the time our children are themselves adults, the arc of the moral universe is long…very long. It is quite possible (read: highly likely) that the struggle to make a more perfect union will continue and that our grandchildren will turn to the history books for context for their own fight. There they will read about our turning point moments – and about us: the activists, the officials, the media, the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, the heroes and villains of these perilous times.

VOTE: Should the Ferguson protestors be TIME’s Person of the Year?

So, for future generations, let us write some history:

Let the record show that after Mike Brown’s death, Ferguson became ground zero for a movement that had been building in cities all across America. It was not the isolated reaction of a group of disgruntled residents. Thanks to the fearlessness and raw emotion of the Ferguson community, it was the strike of the match that finally lit the flame for people nationwide who felt as if those sworn to protect them, were hunting them instead.

Let the record show that a generation of young people rose up in this moment to lead. Tell the story of Ashley Yates, Tef Poe, and Tory Russell, brilliant young people ushering in a new era of activism, media, politics and community engagement. Tell the story of the organizations and networks that they are building in the face of a narrative that claims that young black people will loot and tweet but not strategize and work.

Let the record show that despite widespread celebrity disengagement from issues of racism, Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams has tirelessly forgone the glamour of his Hollywood career to be a bold, unapologetic presence in Ferguson and beyond, making him poised to be this generation’s Harry Belafonte.

Let the record show that national organizations like the nearly one million member ColorofChange.org worked in solidarity with Ferguson residents to support their leadership and also connect the events on the ground to a larger movement against injustice and police brutality.

Let the record show that members of rival St. Louis gangs stood together, united, protecting the elderly, women, children and physical property during the protests as a show of solidarity for their community.

Let the record show that it was not the Ferguson police department who made history but the hundreds of people who stood peacefully night after night for 15 weeks, chanting, talking and holding one another at youth organized meetings and healing stations organized by poet Elizabeth Vega.

Let the record show social media’s role in raising the name and story of an unarmed black citizen being killed – just as it has for Ezell Ford, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and countless others.

Let the record show that those very same social media platforms and voices were responsible for shining light on a city using tanks and tear gas on its citizens when mainstream media was being arrested and shut out.

Yes, let the record show the rage. Do not be afraid to talk about the disproportionately small number of people who would rather break things - windows, shelves, fences – than stand for the breaking of more people.

And most importantly, let the record show that the George Zimmerman verdict and the Darren Wilson decision are not evidence of black people’s delusions of racism but instead of how deeply entrenched bias and hatred is in a system that was built on, you guessed it, state-sanctioned racism.

Long after the facts of the case have been parsed and forgotten, long after Mike Brown t-shirts are faded and Darren Wilson rides off into a sunset that still hides George Zimmerman, there will be a record.

And if written correctly, it will tell the story of a people who refused to let America run from her promise of justice and equal protection under the law; citizens who used every awful tragedy, every imperfect victim, every messy media firestorm, every conflicting account, every questionable death, every chance it got to scream a truth that it knows deep in its bones: the police state is dangerous and unequal.

So, dear lions. Those of you black, brown, female, gay, poor, and oppressed; those feared and hunted by a system that won’t recognize its flaws, commit now to being historians. Tell and claim the parts of the Ferguson story that didn’t make it into the President’s remarks or McCulloch’s recap or the 24 hour news coverage.

If we do this, history will undoubtedly show what the state never has: that black lives – and all lives – matter.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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