Paul R. Lehman, Fairness in the criminal justice system and society is the focus of the protest.

December 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, equality, European American, fairness, Ferguson, grand jury, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Michael Brown, President Obama, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, one thing has become crystal clear—many European Americans have no clue as to why African Americans do not trust law enforcement in general, and the justice system in particular. Many European Americans do not take the time to get the facts relative to incidents involving European American police officers and African Americans; they simply side with the police. In addition, since the majority of law enforcement officers reflect the majority society, the relationship between these two groups is generally good. No so with respect to law enforcement agencies and African Americans and other people of color. The element of distrust of the justice system regarding African Americans and people of color has proven to be correct in far too many cases. Whenever a conflict arise involving justice for an African American victim and a European American law officer, the officer is usually exonerated. When African Americans protest a decision and the lack of justice, as they see it, from the justice system, many European Americans take the side of the law establishment, regardless of the actual situation, evidence, and facts.
No amount to evidence, facts, and data will convince a bigot that American citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, have a Constitutional right to protest against the justice system as to what they perceive as an injustice. Rather than sticking to a specific issue or concern presented by the protesters, the bigots will try to bring in other issues to try and weaken the objective of the protest. For example, when protesters talk about the number of killings of unarmed African American males by European American law officers, the bigots want to bring into the discussion the number of “black on black” murders. The problem with this inclusion is that it has nothing to do with the problem of unequal justice. The African Americans who commit murder against other African Americans are generally apprehended, tried, and if found guilty, sent to prison. History shows that most European American police officers who shoot and kill young African American males rarely go to trial, and if they do, are usually set free. Michael Brown’s case is only one of the most recent examples.
One of the problems with the difference between how African Americans see the criminal justice system and the way European Americans see it is how some, usually bigoted, European Americans perceive African Americans in generally. In many instances, European Americans see African Americans at extremes—either well-to-do, educated, and professional or poor, ignorant, prone to violence, dishonest, collect food stamps, and criminal. Little room is ever given to seeing African American as ordinary human beings as they, European Americans see themselves. Because of these perceptions and bigoted attitudes, fear and hate can be easily generated by people who want to polarize each side. For example, an article in The Oklahoma (11/29/14)by Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason L. Riley entitled “A discussion no one wants,” does just that, whether deliberate or not. Apparently, Riley does not realize his bigotry.
Using language and information that cast a dark shadow on the character of Michael Brown, Riley tries to build an argument justifying Brown’s death. He added that “Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can’t be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior—yet such discussion remains taboo.” This reference is a good example of mixing several different concerns and trying to blend them into one—the black problem. First, racial profiling and tensions exists among African Americans and police regardless of the communities; the focus of the police is usually on the skin color. The “black on black crime” is a problem that is being addressed even by the President, so that concern should not be included in the discussion. African Americans want to have the discussion, however, they must have it with people willing to listen and act positively.
Riley offered some unsubstantiated information that serves to underscore his bigotry:”But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.”The statement suggest that all young black men are criminals and are responsible for committing a large portion of violent crimes. Where are the facts, stats, evidence? By now Riley should know that human being belong to one race, not many.
Riley wants his readers to think that the entire problem in Ferguson is simple to assess: “Pretending that police behavior is the root of the problem is not only a dodge but also foolish…Ferguson’s problem isn’t white cops or white prosecutors; it’s the thug behavior exhibited by individuals like Michael Brown, which puts a target on the backs of other young black men. Romanticizing such behavior instead of condemning it only makes matters worse.”There we have it; all that needs to be done to solve the problem is to get rid of the young black thugs.
What Riley does not understand in his bigoted perspective, is that Michael Brown and Ferguson are not what is being protested, per se, but the injustice of the American criminal justice system. Responsible Americans of all ethnicities are involved in protests all across America and some foreign countries in an effort to get America’s attention regarding the years of injustice perpetrated against African Americans and people of color. These protestors are not causing violent disruptions, but civil unrest and civil disobedience. The American Psychological Association defined violence as “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”Some extreme and small elements of some protest groups have destroyed property and burned buildings, cars and businesses. These acts are reprehensible and have no places in the protests and are never condoned. With respect to violence, however, the violence in most cases is not committed by the protestors. When we look at the definition of the word violence, we certainly cannot describe the protestors as violent; they do not assault, abuse or murder the police or law enforcers.
We certainly thank Riley for his article because he gave us a picture of the problems American society faces regarding valuing all citizens and insuring that we all receive justice and fairness regardless of what we look like or where we live.



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  1. “Apparently, Riley does not realize his bigotry.” Few bigots do. I think that’s endemic to bigotry. The bigot cannot see that their opinions/positions prove their intolerance. Plus, I believe that these behaviors are set in childhood and will not change unless they are thrust to the receiving end of (some nasty) bigotry. At some point the bigot believes the object of their intolerance to be less human and so brutality is somehow (sickly) justified.

    No white has ever been told they cannot feed their family (get hired) because of their race, very few have been lynched or tarred and feathered for no reason.

    As a white female, my worst experience of bigotry was being turned down for a bank account because they told me I needed a male from my family to sign on the account. That was in 1991. I had recourse and the guy was looking for a job the next day, would a black woman been able to do that? I doubt it. Most white males never experienced discrimination. We, whites, have no concept, thus cannot see ourselves as intolerant.

    Those of us raised in tolerant homes, and educated by intelligent people are able to manage our bigotry down to whisperings of intolerance and proceed somewhat rationally. It’s only because I was taught from very early to “put myself in someone else’s shoes before I judged, that I have a less virulent form of intolerance. I do believe everyone has some intolerance in them, it’s simply well managed in some of us, and that management allows us to be more civil to each other and rational when it comes to humanity. As the rationals raise more children the numbers will increase – slowly.

    The root of the “Ferguson Horror” is not good guy vs bad guy, it’s centuries of abuse punctuated by inhumane acts. It is also not a only a black and white problem, it extends throughout humanity, Shia-Sunni, Hindu-Muslim, Muslim-Christian, and many others. The need to discriminate is intrinsic to human behavior, making it difficult to change permanently. Permanence being the important issue.

    We can enact laws and raise the devil and it will only drag us a few steps forward. However, with a change in social attitudes, bigotry will simmer in our closets, waiting for an inciting event to cause it to burst forth resulting in more violence.

    It seems hopeless, but it must not be. Laws make some difference, but I believe a soft approach of social education at very early ages to be the major viable source of true change. Enact that law, the law that says tolerance is required to be taught as a part of early education.

    * * *

    So, I have a question. You seem too young to have been my English professor for two classes in fall and spring of 1971-1972 in Edmond, I recall that my Dr. Lehman had a greying beard and was also a PhD. However, looking at your bio photo, he did favor you. Is he perhaps a relative? He did not fear using racial issues to teach English and I enjoyed him for his honesty.

    • Thank you for your comments. In answer to your question about the blog writer, I am the professor you mentioned. Unfortunately,my picture has not been up-dated for a few years. I hope to get that done in the near future. Thank you again.

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