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

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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. A grand jury cleared the white New York City police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man, who had been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a lawyer for the victim's family said. A video shot by an onlooker and widely viewed on the Internet showed the 43-year-old Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him. The city medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide and found that a chokehold contributed to it. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/AP
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.

Demonstrations in Ferguson, New York and across the country are calling for reforms after grand juries declined to indict police officers involved in several high-profile cases. Alex Cohen talks with Clarence B. Jones, former political advisor and personal lawyer for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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.'"

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