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Martin Luther King Jr's lawyer on the new national debate about race




Officials stand guard near Radio City Music Hall, where protesters gathered on the perimeter of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony after it was announced that the New York City police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner is not being indicted, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in New York.
Officials stand guard near Radio City Music Hall, where protesters gathered on the perimeter of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony after it was announced that the New York City police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner is not being indicted, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in New York.
Julio Cortez/AP

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The deaths of African Americans Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others have sparked a new round of protests and a national debate about race, the criminal justice system and police use of force. 

Politicians are calling for change, but will speeches, marches, or Facebook posts really alter anything within our culture?

Clarence B. Jones, a visiting professor at the University of San Francisco and former political advisor and personal lawyer to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., says he believes the nation has reached a tipping point.

"We are a country, a democracy, where government is based on the consent of the governed," Jones says. "And that consent assumes that people believe that their government is going to [treat them] fairly."

What has happened now, Jones says, is that "whatever confidence the African American community had, as a general proposition, in the possibility that they would be treated fairly by the police in their communities. That confidence and believe has been shaken. It may have been irrevocably shaken."

That, Jones says, leaves America at "an unprecedented crossroads." And in order to move forward, Americans will have to face the issue of race relations head-on. 

"Slogans are not going to do it anymore, placards are not going to do it anymore," Jones says. "We're going to have to say 'We're either going to be in this ship together, or we're going to sink together.'"