Paul R. Lehman, The safety and well-being of African American males and all people of color are a constant concern

April 17, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, amygdala, anglo saxons, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Civil Rights Ats, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, incarceration, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, minorities, Police, police education & training, police force, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, The New York Times, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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African American men specifically and men of color in general, put their lives on the line every day when they walk outside of their residence or simply appear in public. For the people that are not of color in America, this statement might seem somewhat amusing or offered in jest. On the contrary, the statement is not an opinion, but a fact. The reason for this experience comes directly from the social conditioning of European Americans generally and law enforcement agents specifically. Society and by extension, the governments, local, state, and national have given the law enforcers the power to exercise total control of its citizens without fear of reprisal; that is, they have no fear of repercussions for their actions against citizens. The attitude and action of many of these law enforcers seem to be that people of color have no rights that the officers should respect. For the people of color, once they are stopped by officers, they lose all their rights and privileges while the officers exert total control over the individuals.
The criminal justice system works in favor of the officer, not the citizens of color because the word of the officer is taken over that of the citizens. Historically, the relationship between the African American community and the European American one has been one of dominance and control by law enforcement. According to Danielle Sered, “The racially inequitable legacy of policing stretches back to the formation of this nation, and police have not only failed to protect communities of color from harm, but they have enacted enormous levels of harm.” She continued by noting that “This [harm] is not simply or most importantly about individual police officers, many of whom have the best intentions and even behavior in their work. It is about an institution with a history of enabling and enforcing the worst disparities in our country’s history.” More specifically, she added that “It is about officers who returned escaped people to the plantations they were fleeing, officers who publicly announced the times of lynchings to be carried out in the backyards of their own precincts, officers who drove black residents out of neighborhoods where they had bought homes,” and finally, “officers who continue to arrest, assault, and shoot black people at glaringly disproportionate rates.” So the question of trust in the criminal justice system has never been one that people of color readily embraced.
Americans have been socially conditioned to fear African Americans generally, but especially one with whom they are not familiar. According to one source, new scientific research provides some data into how African American men are perceived: “When people see black men they don’t know, they have a physical response that is different from their response to other people. Their blood pressure goes up and they sweat more. When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” (American Values Institute, March 2013) When European Americans join the criminal justice system they do not leave their fear of African American males at home, but bring them to their workplace. This fear might explain why many European American law enforcers become excited and aggressive when engaging with an African American male.
Fortunately for the Law enforcement agents, their actions against people of color are not often questioned, so the fear of having to suffer any consequences for their unreasonable treatment of people of color is not usually scrutinized. The public record of their actions speaks for itself and supports the fact that officers are not held to the same standard of behavior as other citizens. So, they often misuse and abuse the power granted them by the system. A recent incident underscores the power given to law enforcers who are free to profile, stop, and detain men of color without offering any reasons for their actions. A recent New York Times article noted that an African American man wearing a protective mask and working outside near a white van when a Miami police officer drives up next to this man. Next, “The officer steps out of his squad car. Words are exchanged. Then the officer handcuffs and detains the man, Dr. Armen Henderson, who was recently featured in a Miami Herald article about volunteers who provide free coronavirus testing for homeless people in downtown Miami.”Rather than seeking information from the doctor regarding his actions, the officer ignored the doctor’s informing him of who he was and what he was doing. The doctor did not have any identification on him and would have been taken away had he not called for his wife who came out of their home and confronted the officer. Once the officer realized that he had made a mistake, he removed the handcuffs from the doctor and left the scene without any word of his actions or an apology.
What this incident shows is the vulnerability of African American males to the justice system that ignores everything but skin color in administering their control. The fact that Henderson is a doctor, a volunteer risking his life in helping to fight the coronavirus or the fact that he was working in front of his home wearing a protective mask made no difference to the officer who did not take the time to inquire about or grasp the nature of Henderson’s presence at that location. One wonders what kind of education the officer received at the academy regarding the treatment of citizens.
If society can benefit from this crisis of the coronavirus it should be in the fact that to the virus we are all one. The virus does not discriminate on the bases of ethnicity, age, economic or educational status, social position, religion or health. We, hopefully, understand that by working together even though we are sometimes put in harm’s way, that our combined efforts and sacrifice will help us to finally successfully control and manage this crisis thereby contributing to our mutual survival. We must learn that our strength is our unity.

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  1. “people of color have no rights that the officers should respect.” Good paraphrasing of the Dred Scott verdict there.

    Like


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