Paul R. Lehman, Addressing the problem of Jail and Prison overcrowding should begin with examining the police Officers

June 17, 2019 at 11:59 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Arizona, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Police, police education & training, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Another in the continuing series of videos involving police officers and their actions relative to African Americans and other people of color show police officers in Arizona assaulting a young African American family. We have heard the excuse that these officers represent only a few “bad apples” and should not be seen as representing all police officers, but the frequency of occurrences and the lack of reactions from the “good ones” lead us to recognize that bigotry is part of the culture of law enforcement in America. If the criminal justice system is to be examined for the numerous problems related to community relations and the incarceration of people of color, then the examination should begin with the police officers, the police unions, and the local court systems.

When we look at the videos of police officers interacting with people of color one of the first things we notice is a lack of respect given to a fellow human being. The language and tone of voice is usually laced with profanity and bellowed or shouted at the citizens. In many cases orders are issued to the citizens so quickly and inconsistently that the citizen cannot comply in a reasonable and timely manner. When citizens ask questions as to why they were stopped or being detained or arrested, the police usually ignore them and disregard anything they might say. Rarely do we see on these videos officers speaking to citizens of color in a calm, civil and respectful manner, the opposite is generally the rule.

Another element of the videos that calls attention to the police officers is their physical demeanor and body language when engaging with an African American or person of color. Their initial contact with the citizen is one that assumes guilt, and the posture suggests high emotional tension, fear, and general uneasiness similar to that of a combat zone. Any physical contact between the citizen and the officer is usually instigated by the officer. The citizens are generally treated as though they are wild animals that need to be restrained because they are very dangerous and vicious.

Another element the videos show is the number of police officers participating in an incident that could have been resolved by one officer asking a few simple questions and getting an assessment of the situation. The recent video of the young African American family in Phoenix, Arizona that was harassed by local police is a prime example of unnecessary escalation of negative action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaqjO5cWJeo the actions of the police were so outrageous that the mayor of Phoenix issued an apology for the city and promised to have this incident investigated. Had it not been for the alert and timely action of a bystander who captured the action on camera, the case would have been the word of the citizens against that of the police. We know the history of how many police reports do not coincide with the videos and create doubt in what officer’s report.

After calling attention to the language, demeanor, and physical actions of police in general, one has to wonder about the education and training would-be-officers receive and the continued training officers are required to receive. A common excuse given by officers or their supervisors regarding accusations of excessive force or physical abuse is that they were simply following training procedures. When officers show general disrespect for citizens of color in their use of language and their excessive physical force in their dealings with them, one has to wonder about the education and training they receive from the academy or source of training. When and where are they taught to treat each human being with dignity respect regardless of their skin complexion or social and economic status?

The young father from the Phoenix video mentioned that he had been teaching his five-year-old daughter to respect the police because their job is to protect and ensure safety. However, after her experience with officers point a gun in her face along with those of her mother and father, he would have a difficult time getting her to believe that the police are our friends.

Focusing on the negative and outrageous actions of some police officers are not meant to cast aspersion on all police officer, but to underscore that regardless of the complaints and claims against the police regarding their experience with the communities of color, little to nothing has changed. The lack of any significant change can be attributed in part to the Police unions because of their power and prestige within city government. The union has worked hard to foster the idea of the police officers being extraordinary because they put their life on the line supposedly for the citizens. If law enforcement is viewed as a profession, then many other professions involve individuals putting their lives on the line every day as well, but they are not viewed as extraordinary as law enforcement. Why? The unions have a lot to do with this image because it supports and empowers them. Some mayors in cities across the nation are subjected to the power and influence of the police unions in how the police departments are operated.

So, if the many civic groups and organizations working to address the many problems concerning jail over-crowding and excessive incarcerations in the prisons, then the first place to seek redress is with the element in the criminal justice system responsible for supplying the individual to the system. Attention should be given education, experience, the background of the individuals that want to serve as law enforcers. In addition, education and training are both important requirements of law enforces with education receiving equal or more attention to those who want to serve and protect the community. We have to stop the supply of individuals to the jails and prisons if we want to have any impact on the problem of over-crowding.

For all intent and purposes, controlling the supply pipeline to the jails and prison are essential to addressing any of the other problems with reference to correcting the criminal justice system. Once a citizen is arrested a whole new set of problems come into play—the court system.

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Paul R. Lehman, Communication is a process, not just some comments

March 27, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 4 Comments
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After leaving security in the airport I began walking through the concourse towards my terminal gate. Walking next to me was a young man, probably in his mid-thirties, who suddenly began talking. He asked a number of questions, like “How are you?”And “How are things going with you?” to which I promptly responded. We continued walking towards our respective gates and he continued talking. Naturally, I continued to respond. This activity went on for about thirty seconds when the young man turned and headed in another direction, I assumed towards his gate. What puzzled me was his quick turn without any word of warning to me. I watched as he walked away and suddenly realized that the man was still talking, but not to me or anyone else in sight. I continued to look after him for a while when I realized that he had a device attached to his ear. That is when reality slapped me in the face—this young man was never talking to or with me; he was on his cell phone. A new lesson learned about communication that can be applied to our everyday experiences. Communication is a process that involves someone sending a message, another one receiving the message and responding to the message sent. The lesson is to know with whom one is speaking to so all parties will understand the message and its intent.

That lesson could easily be applied to the many discussions in society today involving relationships among African Americans, people of color, and European Americans. The distance that exists between people of color and European Americans communicating with each other cannot be easily bridged without each side knowing first that a language and knowledge gap exists. Too often people representing African Americans and European Americans agree to get together to discuss issues such as race, injustice, criminal justice, and a host of other topics assuming they share the same or similar perspectives and understanding of the topics. Unfortunately, conversations might extend for hours with both sides thinking that they are making progress in gaining a better understanding of one another when, in fact, they have not made any progress at all. The reason for the lack of progress comes from the fact that they do not know the mindset each side brought to the conversation. Each side speaks thinking their point of view or perspective is fully understood and appreciated when the opposite is true. Let us look at an example of this conundrum focusing on race.

When Americans talk about race the meaning and significance of the term are not the same with all people. The reason for this conflict has to do with the social conditioning each side received living in American society. As a matter of fact, many Americans do not realize the fact of their social conditioning since it is hardly ever discussed. For example, many Americans do not realize that bigotry is viewed as a natural part of American society. Some European Americans do not realize that they belong to the human race because they have been led to believe that they are representative of the human race. In other words, all the other people in American belong to a race, but not them; they are the model.

When Americans look around society they see markers and symbols that reflect European American life and history. When we look at the names of the streets, buildings, parks, and even some communities, we realize that these usually underscore aspects of European American life and history.  Everything in society appears natural to the European American, even slavery at one time. Although legal slavery ended with the Civil War, the legacy of the institution of European American (white) supremacy still manifest itself today in the way some people talk, think and act.

For many European Americans, the mere mention of the word race brings to mind African Americans because race is viewed as restricted to African Americans. History has traditionally placed the African Americans in a position of inferiority compared to European Americans, so viewing African Americans as inferior is not viewed as unusual but natural. The topic of race to many European Americans is anathema because it brings up many things in today’s society that they must refuse to recognize or simply plead ignorance to knowing like social injustice, social inequality, discrimination in the criminal justice system, voting rights, and other equally important concerns. That being the case, problems involving race cannot be resolved by people who view race from different perspectives regardless of how long they talk about it. Each side believes the other side understands their perception of the issue when they actually only see their own view.

When an American citizen identifies himself or herself as black or white, they are in fact saying that they believe in a race by color and by extension believe in European American (white) superiority. What this situation means is that an acceptance of the false concept of race makes it impossible to resolve any problems involving race fairly unless the concept of race is debunked at the very start of the conversation. Unfortunately, for many European Americans taking the action of debunking the false concept of race is extremely difficult because they do not realize that the perspective they hold is biased towards African Americans and other people of color and was acquired from their social conditioning in everyday life. They do not realize that they live in a society where to accept the concept of race by color is the very essence of ethnic bias, so anytime they refer to or think of themselves as white, they are talking about race.

Unfortunately, many Americans believe they already know everything there is to know about race and proceed to talk about it without caution. Fortunately, my lesson in the airport taught me to make certain that what I hear someone saying is meant for me and that they are speaking to me. The onus falls on me to recognize what is communication and what is just talk.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Correcting problems in the Criminal Justice System begins at the top

March 19, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal justice, Department of Justice, desegregation, education, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, integregation, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, mass incarceration, Media and Race, Michelle Alexander, minorities, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, President Obama, race, racism, reforms, respect, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The announcement made recently about the decision to not charge the police officers who killed Terence Crutcher and Stephon Clark might have come as a surprise to some but was expected by others because of the history of criminal justice relative to African Americans and other people of color. The decisions to not charge the officers could have been easily made by someone blind and brain-dead. When Eric Holder served as Attorney General, he along with then President Obama made attempts to challenge law enforcement to change the practices, policies, behavior, and laws that discriminate against African Americans in particular and about all people in general. Since that time, many changes relative to criminal justice have been addressed in many locations throughout the United States. The focus of these changes and challenges varies from excessive fines for people who cannot pay them to redefining sentences of people of color whose only serious offense was the color of their skin. Once they get caught up in the maze of the criminal justice system, their lives are completely and forever negatively altered.

Oklahoma leads America, and in some instances, the world in incarceration especially of women. Efforts by many civic groups are working to reduce the numbers. Some of the efforts have been successful via bills the public supported and approved. While all the efforts of groups like the ACLU and others in addressing the problems in the criminal justice system, they have not yet focused on the primary problem of the system—the biased culture within the criminal justice system beginning with law enforcement and including the courts as well as officers of the court. That is, rather than focusing on the cause of the problems attendant to citizens who have been arrested, the majority of the efforts by interested and involved groups are on the problem of those incarcerated. In order to correct the many problems in the criminal justice system, we must look first at where the system begins—what puts the wheels in motion.

What determines the attitudes and actions of the law enforcers from the small towns to the large metropolises begins with the mayors, the councils and courts. They are the ones who make the laws and create the climate and culture that informs the police and other law enforcers. If change is to come to the criminal justice system in American then it must begin with those who administer the programs that represent the criminal justice system. Having the administrators and city or town council members undergo diversity training is generally a waste of time and money because that training does not address the issue of ethnic bigotry that is a part of the everyday cultural climate. We know this biased culture exists from the plethora of incidents that occur and are shown daily on social media. These incidents occur in spite of the diversity training these administrators, council members and court officers have received. We know this ethnic bias exists from the numerous police officers that have suffered no legal repercussion from having shot and killed a person of color.

One thing that needs to happen in order to make the criminal justice system applicable to all citizens is to educate the top administrators, council members and court judges and other officers to what democracy looks like from a perspective that recognizes the bias that presently exists and how they are implicated in the culture and climate that promotes, support, and maintains it. The fact that the majority of people incarcerated are people of color seemingly represents no call for action or consequence. The fact is that the number of people of color is adjudicated differently and more harshly than European American citizens seem to be viewed as acceptable represents a big problem that begs for attention and correction. However, if the people who administer and are the caretakers of the system of criminal justice are fine with the status quo then something needs to be done to alert them to the injustice they are delivering to American citizens who happen to be people of color.

If the problems of bigotry and injustice in the criminal justice system today are promoted, supported, and maintained through ignorance, then education, not training should help in remedying some of the problems. Other avenues of approach would be removal from office via election or for some judges, impeachment. The citizens should be made aware of the amount of money they pay out to citizens that receive judgments from the civil courts for the misconduct of police and other law enforcement officers. One would think that the officers found guilty in civil court should shoulder some of the monetary responsibility as well as the unions that support and represent these officers. That way the citizens would not have to bear the entire expense for the officers’ actions.

The American system of criminal justice is generally a good system when it is administered in a democratic and fair way; however, when ethnic and cultural biases are represented in the outcome negatively affecting people of color, then corrective action must be taken. Again, the actions of the many concerned groups addressing the problems that focus on incarceration are welcomed and, indeed, applauded and encouraged, but their efforts are focused on the citizens that are already incarcerated and part of the system. In order to impact positively the system of criminal justice, the focus must be at the beginning. Michelle Alexander noted in her work, The New Jim Crow, that “A study sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department and several of the nation’s leading foundations, published in 2007, found that the impact of the biased treatment is magnified with each additional step into the criminal justice system.” The evidence is clear.

The biased treatment of people of color in the criminal justice system is due to unconscious and conscious ethnic bigotry that infects the decision-making process of those entrusted with those powers. In order for the system of criminal justice to be fairly administered, those biases must be addressed at the beginning before the arrest is made. So, now that we know where to begin, if we are not part of the solution, then we are the problem.

Paul R. Lehman, Replacing the concept of race with reality in five extremely challenging and life-changing steps

November 28, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Posted in African American, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bible, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, criminal justice, democracy, discrimination, DNA programs, education, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, immigration, justice, lower class, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Although it might seem strange today, people initially thought that the earth was flat, and not a sphere. Around the year 500 A.D., a Greek named Pythagoras introduced the concept of the earth being a sphere, but people paid little notice until Aristotle, some two-hundred years later, 330 A.D., promoted the same concept. People were not eager to give up the concept of a flat earth. Even places in the Christian Bible show evidence of the concept of the earth being flat. Eventually, the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan among others provided proof of the planet is a sphere. The acceptance of this fact brought with it a necessary change in the way earth was viewed. The concept of the flat earth was not destroyed or changed; it was replaced with scientific facts.

The point of the concept of a flat earth being replaced by the concept of a round one underscored the importance of fact and evidence in the process. Today, we have a similar situation before us with respect to the concept of race by color or geography that no longer has rational or realistic basics. Replacing this concept of race is extremely challenging because of the rewards associated with the identity of one group—European Americans. The problem exists because America’s Founding father invented and instituted a system of a race by color with two colors, black and white, playing major roles. Society was conditioned and forced to view the Anglo-Saxons (whites) as superior to all other races regardless of color, but especially the people of African descent. The concept of race by color became over several hundred years to be accepted as normal although it was constantly challenged because of its basic flaws.

Nevertheless, people of all persuasions accepted the concept and wrote about it like it was valid and factual. At one point in 1883, the term eugenics was coined by a British scientist who led the attempt to develop a super race. Fortunately, those efforts failed, but the studies continued until today the results of a study, the Human Genome Project, involving DNA revealed that all human beings are 99.09% alike. Many people do not want to accept the scientific evidence that proved the concept of race by color to be bogus. So, how does one go about replacing the concept of race by color to one of reality?

The very first step is to recognize that the concept of race by color is a myth, that all human beings belong to the same race; that all human being are a shade of brown, not black and white; that intelligence and character cannot be based on skin color. Because most, if not all of these things, have been a part of the national conscientiousness for centuries, recognizing them as false cannot happen easily. For some people, it is asking too much regardless of the facts and evidence that view race as not factual or valid. All people must be seen and accepted as part of the human family without anyone ethnic group being superior or inferior to any other.

The second step is to accept the fact that all Americans have been socially conditioned to accept the concept of race by color as normal and natural and before any positive progress can be made, this concept must be rejected and replaced with factual truths. This second step is extremely difficult because while some Americans can see prejudice and bigotry in others, they cannot or do not see it in themselves. That is why the first step is necessary. People who refer to themselves or others as black or white do not realize that in using those terms they are connecting with the past and the concept of race by color. The concept of race has to be replaced with ethnic group or ethnicity in order to not get caught in the trap seeing race by color. The identity of European Americans can no longer include the color white because white is simply the adjective preceding the noun race.

The third step involves a commitment to promote the concept of the human family that includes all ethnic groups, including European Americans as a part of that family. In other words, we recognize, respect and accept Americans with cultural differences from our own. We realize that just because our ethnic identity is different from some other ethnic group that does not give us the right to treat them differently and judges them as not being our equals. If we are all Americans, then everyone should expect and receive fairness and legal justice before the law. Unfortunately, America has not conditioned us to think and act that way. So, the commitment includes recognizing and working towards correcting the problems created by the concept of race by color. For example, the problem of voting rights, the problem of incarceration of the poor, the problem of substandard schools, the problem substandard housing, the problem of low paying jobs, the problem of law enforcement ’s bias against people of color. In other words, working towards correcting problems that affect all Americans, but that has been aimed primarily at the poor and people of color.

The fourth step involves a degree of self-discipline that keeps us from losing focus on our objective—replacing the concept of race. We have all been conditioned by our society, and especially by our concept and interpretation of our history. Our demographics are rapidly changing and having a great impact on society, so we need to remember America’s mantra: “e Pluribus Unum”—from many one. Unity must be our focus and objective.

The fifth step is the need to recognize and accept consistency in our thoughts and actions. Replacing the conception of race from what we were conditioned to believe to the reality of what we face in society today is a tremendous undertaking. When Joseph J. Ellis, a best-selling historian was asked the question:” What is the biggest failing of the Founders that still haunts us today?”He answered that “When the Founders talked about ‘we the people,’ they were not talking about black people. They weren’t talking about women, and they weren’t talking about Native Americans. Whenever race enters the question, the Founders are going to end up disappointing you.”

Replacing race with reality –an acceptance of all human beings as a family that is based on facts is the way society will move into a positive future.

Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry in our language is a not so hidden secret we can afford to ignore

September 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, African American hair, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, Declaration of Independence, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, justice, justice system, language, law, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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The objective from the very beginning was division and on a permanent basis as the reason the founding fathers invented two races, a black and a white. Unlike the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that said we are one people, the concept of race has kept us separate and unequal. Subsequently, if we continue believing in the concept of races we will continue to be separate and never fulfill the objective of our democracy. If we are to ever have one nation, we will have to change the way to look, speak, and act towards one another. We also need to understand that the language we use helps to keep us separate. For example, as long as some people view themselves as black and white, they will not come together because of the historical significance of those words. They were meant to keep us apart.

Many well-meaning civic groups actually work against themselves by choosing a name that creates a negative and defensive feeling in others towards them. Take, for example, Black Lives Matter, a group that has an objective that is in keeping with the concept of democracy, but because of the word black in the name, it creates a defensive reaction in the minds of many European Americans.

We also have groups that use words like white, Aryan and caucasian that they believe makes them different from people who do not look like them. Their pronounced goal is to save or preserve the so-call white race. They need to visit history to learn what happens to people who are separated or separate themselves from other people; they become extinct, like for example, the Australian Tasmanian Aboriginals, and in America, the Eire people and the colony of Roanoke.

When civic activists call for unity among people of color, they miss the opportunity to enhance their programs by not inviting all concerned people. We as a society have been conditioned to identify ourselves based on our so-called differences when our objective should be for all to use the same identity. We are all Americans, so why is it necessary to use color or ethnicity as part of identity? When visitors come to America, they come using their cultural identity. When Americans get a passport they provide a picture, but no racial or ethnic identity, because our cultural identity is American, not black or white, Hispanic or Asian etc.

We do ourselves a constant disservice by identifying ourselves as separate groups which have been our legacy since slavery. We have to grasp the reality of our situation understanding that the concept of biological races is a myth, invention, social construction, and lie. Prior to the Human Genome Project, everything about races with the numerous divisions, classifications, and characteristics was conjecture and opinion. We now have scientific proof, validation, and evidence that all human beings are more alike than penguins, and the skin complexion, eye shape and color, and hair texture are not unique to a select group of human beings. We are of one race of beings whether we like it or not.

We might think that language does not play so great a part in our lives and our behavior, but studies old and recent underscore the fact that when the words black and white are used in a sentence referring to an identity, a measured reaction occurs. The reaction for the European American, usually an increased heartbeat, is observed when the word black is used because of the social conditioning associated with the word. African Americans do not experience a similar reaction when the word white appeared in a sentence because they are conditioned to seeing it and without feeling threatened.

The media in American society contributes greatly to the separation of ethnic groups by the way they use inappropriate identity language. For example, if a bank is robbed and the robber was apprehended, nothing pertaining to the robbery is gained when the ethnicity of the robber is identified. Except, in American society today the identity of the robber is omitted if he or she happens to be European American, but the identity is almost always given when the robber ‘s identity is a person of color. The effect of the naming the identity of the ethnic person serves to strengthen the negative stereotype society already has of the person of color.

Another way in which the media contributes to the negative stereotypes and biased attitudes held by some Americans relative to people of color has to do with the mentioning of the geographic location of an incident that is readily identified as being in a location where predominately people of color reside. Again, the mere mention of the location adds to the negative stereotype held by many people familiar with the location.

Today, with all the problems America is facing relative to our government and the various policies being addressed both positively and negatively, we need to take the opportunity to add our concept of race and identity into the mix and deal with it once and for all. We continue to talk about racism as if it was legitimate rather than bigotry which is what has been and continues to be practiced in society. Yes, our language uses the word racism to talk about social biases, but simultaneously serves to keep the concept of races alive and our society separate. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in as well as our children and grandchildren. Once we make that choice, we need to get to work and make it happen. We have been talking about racism for three hundred years to no avail because we are still talking about it without a change in the daily behaviors of people. Racism is not the problem, we are because we refuse to accept the fact that we have been living in a false reality. What we cannot continue pretending to not see is the rapidly changing demographics that will force changes in society relative to cultural and ancestral identities.

We currently have an opportunity to make great strides in addressing our oneness as a society by debunking the myth of race and working to make America what it was meant to be a democracy. We will not and cannot get to where we want, and need, to be if we do not change from using our misleading ethnically biased language of bigotry.

Paul R. Lehman, Trump’s positive contribution to a better America in spite of his bigotry

July 25, 2018 at 3:02 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal justice, discrimination, Donald Trump, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, interpretations, justice, justice system, Media and Race, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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One of the most important results of Donald Trump’s election was America’s recognition of its diverse population. For certain we all knew that America was a diverse population but we were not as aware of the bigotry that existed within some Americans towards others. Trump did not create the bigotry but he has been very instrumental in bringing it out in other people. Many Americans did not realize that they were bigots until Trump along with members of his administration and party began focusing on the concept of ethnic bigotry. Even today, many Americans do not realize or accept the fact that we have been socially conditioned to accept bigotry as normal as it pertains to people of color.

Regardless of the efforts of Trump to point out and comment on ethnic diversity in American society, because of the rapidly changing demographics, the fact would have eventually presented itself—America continues to change. The effect of America’s changing demographics is like the bottom of a lake that has dried up because of a drought or being drained; a lot of debris is uncovered and what becomes visible for the first time in a long time speaks to a variety of discoveries. Many European Americans have never seen themselves as being biased towards other Americans for any reason. They might be considered ignorant since they lacked the knowledge of their social conditioning towards people of non-European heritage. That form of ignorance can be easily seen and experienced if these Americans live in a predominantly European American environment where they have little exposure to people of color or of diverse ethnicity. If nothing ever happens to call their attention to social and ethnic differences, then their perception will continue.

For many European Americans, ignorance is an excuse to continue to practice bigotry because they believe that they cannot be held responsible for something for which they are ignorant. Unlike the European Americans who are rarely exposed to ethnic differences, these European American are fully aware of the social privileges provided them because of their identity. However, when and if these European Americans are questioned about their display of social bias, they usually feign ignorance of their bias. Since they are not aware of their bias, they cannot be held responsible for their actions or judged negatively because of them; they believe that get a pass.

Another group of European Americans with biased social conditioning believe these biases to be normal and an accepted way of life. Rather than accept the social privileges they received as based on ethnic bigotry, they choose to ignore the reality and continue to accept the illusion of ethnic superiority as real. Anyone who challenges their view of society and the world is viewed as an enemy or at least suspect. We have over the past few years witnessed many instances of European Americans using their social privilege to call attention to their lack of comfort relative to an incident involving ethnic Americans of color. Unfortunately, many of their efforts are rewarded by the law enforcement establishment because they too, in many instances, share the same biases.

The biased social conditioning of many European Americans gives them a sense of not only privilege but also entitlement. Their sense of entitlement leads them to believe that they should feel safe and comfortable in any and all situations, and when they do not enjoy these feelings, they can call 911 and receive immediate satisfaction. To many of these Europeans Americans, they believe that they are not bigoted or biased; they are simply exercising their God-given rights as they interpret them. They have not accepted the fact that America is a diverse society and all Americans deserve the opportunity to exercise the same rights and privileges as they enjoy.

We Americans owe Trump and his administration a debt of gratitude for bringing out the problems relative to cultural biases that exist in society today. The warning America has been given relative to our diverse society is that we must learn to live together as brother and sisters or perish as fool unable to resolve our differences. What we must learn to accept is that all Americans are ethnic Americans and no one ethnicity is superior to another. The problems we face affect all Americans because they either add to or detract from us all regardless of our petty differences. Once the problems from the Trump experience are exposed, we will become aware of the challenges we must address to make certain we do not face the same ones again.

Ignorance is a key ingredient used by society to keep the status quo from succumbing to reality. For example, the contributions of African Americans to American society from Crispus Attucks to Katherine Johnson are quite relevant to our American story but mention either one to almost any educated European American and he or she would not recognize either name. Unfortunately, one could do the same with almost any educated African American with the same results. The problem is that knowledge of these individuals and their accomplishments would provide an element of pride in the African Americans and a sense of surprise in many European Americans. The fact that the information relative to these two Americans is available but not included in most American History books is due to both ignorance and bias. The ignorance represents a lack of knowledge; the bias represents a deliberate action to keep positive and image-influencing information from the readers.

American society, in general chooses, to ignore the factual information and knowledge relative to the myth of races but refuses to accept and promote it as an act of ignorance. Fortunately, facts and truth have a timely way of pushing ignorance to the side like water bursting from a dam overwhelms anything in its path. For American society, the changing demographics are like that dam water waiting to find its path. Ignorance can prevail for just so long before the truth comes in to replace it. When the truth comes, ignorance will be destroyed.

Paul R. Lehman, Changing the criminal justice system and mass incarceration starts at the local level

July 10, 2018 at 4:13 am | Posted in African American, criminal justice, justice, justice system, law, lower class, Michelle Alexander, minority, non-violent crimes, Oklahoma, poverty, race, Race in America, social conditioning, social justice system, The Oklahoman | Leave a comment
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Often times, when something happens involving the criminal justice system that has a negative effect on a segment of society, that part of society that is not seemingly directly impacted will pay little or no attention to the problem Usually, they remain uninvolved and uninformed relative to the criminal justice until it affects them directly. What they do not realize is that they have always been directly affected by the system whether they know it or not. One way they, the public, is affected is through the high rate of incarceration and prison overcrowding that the citizens are financially responsible for paying. However, since they do not receive the bill directly, they give little attention to it. The groups that are forced to pay the bills are the poor and people of color. So, for many years mass incarceration has been about controlling people of color and the poor right in plain sight while nothing was done to correct the injustices that were committed against them.

Studies have been conducted relative to mass incarceration ascertaining that the phenomena are not simply an act of maintaining law and order, but a system of economic profit-making. A number of scholars have referred to the criminal justice system as the prison industrial complex because of the vastness of the system and the many people involved at many different levels. Although this system is a nationwide organization, what keeps it going happens at the local levels of society. So, if an effort is made to replace the unjust system, the initial action must take place at the local level. The first order of business is to re-educate the public and present a transparent picture of what happens to a citizen that is incarcerated at the local level and how he or she becomes part of the bodies working for the system.

Many citizens are led to believe that because a person is arrested, charged, and sent to prison that they deserve to be there because they broke the law. Generally speaking, that would be an accurate assessment. However, what created the present situation of mass incarceration had nothing to do with citizens breaking the law, but with the laws being changed to expand the number of people being incarcerated. When President Reagan instituted his war on drugs and crime, he caused a modification of the charges and length of sentencing. The system has since added the fees, fines, and numerous charges to the sentence of the incarcerated person, making freedom almost impossibility if one happens to be poor or a person of color. So, the more people introduced into the system, the more efficiently it runs. For an in-depth look at the subject of mass incarceration please read Michelle Alexander’s book THE NEW JIM CROW.

The state of Oklahoma is one of the national leaders regarding mass incarceration in general, but number one as far as incarcerating women is concerned. This problem was brought to the attention of the Oklahoma citizens in the form of two state questions that addressed the rate of incarceration of people with drug problems and non-violent crimes. The state actually passed the two questions 780 and 781 that sought to reclassify drug possession and some other lower-level crimes as misdemeanors. The objective of the questions was to use the money saved from not incarcerating people of these types of crimes and use that money for alternative programs. These types of programs are necessary for addressing the problems and redirecting the money.

Kris Steele, a former Speaker of the House, is the chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and leader in attempting to stop the mass march to prison of many citizens. Based on his studies and experiences relative to criminology he understands that prison is not the answer to problems involving drug use and low-level offenses. He expressed some of his concerns in an article, “Justice reform must have buy-in,” (7/9/2018) that underscored the injustice of the sentencing today. He also noted the importance of the people involved in the working of the criminal justice system understanding the problems and helping to overcome many of these problems, not trying to maintain the status quo. Steele noted the need for elected officials and others to accept the programs. He stated that “Unfortunately, some elected officials still haven’t accepted this approach. In the six months after the state questions were enacted, 882 people were sent to prison with drug possession as their most serious offense—directly rebutting the will of voters.”

One of the problems in this matter is the lack of concern of many of the citizens; they either do not care or do not know the seriousness of mass incarceration. Steele noted that citizens pay the price and it is significant: “If each of these 882 people sentenced to prison for drug possession spent one year in prison, it would cost the taxpayer $15 million, and if they were imprisoned for the statewide average for drug possession—25 months—it would cost $32 million.

We know that mass incarceration is a feature of the criminal justice that keeps the system going; we also know that the system is unjust and unfair to people of color and the poor. We realize that we can start to resolve the problem if we work together. Steele noted that “Once this cultural change is embraced by those responsible for implementing reform, Oklahoma can safely reduce its incarceration rate, boost public safety and strengthen families.”  Oklahomans must keep the pressure for corrective action open and out front for change to occur.

Along with addressing the problem of mass incarceration is the need for prison reform from a national perspective. Michael Gerson in an article “An idea that should succeed in Washington,” (7/9/2018) citing the need for prison and sentencing reform referenced two scholars, Steven Teles and David Dagan who identified reform as “an example of ‘trans-partisanship,” and “a agreement on policy goals driven by divergent, deeply held ideological beliefs.” Everything depends on how people view crimes and criminals. They stated that “Liberals look at mass incarceration as see structural racism. Libertarians see the denial of civil liberties, Fiscal conservatives see wasted resources. Religious activists see inhumane conditions and damaged lives.”

Gerson summed up the solution for mass incarceration, prison, and sentencing reform by making one simple statement—“ All these convictions converge at one point: We should treat offenders as humans, with different stories and different needs, instead of casting them all into the same pit of despair.” Easy to say, harder to accomplish.

Paul R. Lehman, Mesa,Arizona, and the police beatings of people of color go on and on and on

June 8, 2018 at 11:35 pm | Posted in African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, justice, law enforcement agencies, minority, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, Tulsa, whites | Leave a comment
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Four Mesa, Arizona police officers have been placed on paid leave while an investigation into their use of excessive force against an unarmed African American is being conducted. Fortunately, a video of the incident was available so viewers could see for themselves what took place. Apparently, someone from an apartment building called the police to report a disturbance at that location. A young African American man, Robert Johnson, was waiting for an elevator and talking on his cell phone when he was approached by several police officers. Without any conversation, they began to frisk him, and then apparently, ordered the young man to move to another location away from the elevator, which he did while continuing to talk on his phone. Once he moved to the location where he had been ordered by the officer, he was then ordered to sit on the floor. Showing some hesitation in sliding down the wall to the floor, several officers began punching him in the face. Since he was leaning against the wall, he could not fall freely to the floor, so an officer bent down and pulled his legs out from under him at which time he landed on the floor. The officers continued to beat him until his hands were secured behind him. At no time did he offer any resistance.

The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” could easily apply here in that the conduct of the officers was in question from the very beginning. Not once before the officer began their assault on the young man did they attempt to engage him in a civil conversation. Their attitude was seemingly that of a big bully that demanded immediate action when an order was given. The officers apparently had a perceived notion to enter into an altercation with the young man since they wasted no time in initiating their punches. At no time did any of the other officers present seek to stop the assault or advise the officers of their conduct relative to their actions. So, what do these pictures tell us about some police officers?

One of the first things this video tells us about these officers is that they have no respect for the young African American man. He was not treated respectfully like citizens should expect to be treated if they are minding their own affairs and causing attention to themselves. They showed a total disregard for his Constitutional rights by beginning their search of his body for something without cause. Johnson had no weapons, only a cell phone. The officers next used their authority as bullies to order Johnson to a wall on the opposite side of the area while still not informing him of anything that he did or was suspected of doing. Since he was surrounded by four fully armed and anxious officers, Johnson readily complied with the officers’ order to move. As soon as he removed his cell phone from his ear, the beating began.

We might ask the question of why the police officers acted towards Johnson in this type of aggressive manner. They knew that Johnson poised no problem of violence or having a weapon on him after they searched him and he complied with their orders. Yet, the officers felt that they were well within their rights to beat an unarmed man for no reason except for the fact that he was a person of color. One thing is certain from the actions of the officers, and that is reason played no part in their decision to beat Johnson. We know from many past similar experiences that the excuses of being afraid for their lives or feeling threatened or not being respected or obeyed were used to justify their actions. A simple answer to why they use excessive force and murder against people of color is because they do not consider them to be human beings.

We might also ask the question of why is the society in general not outraged by the repeated unacceptable actions of these police officers against people of color. Could it be that they also do not see people of color as human beings? One reason for our making that assumption rests on the history of the repercussions experienced by many of the officers who committed atrocious acts against people of color. We would be incorrect in labeling the treatment many of the officers received for the actions as repercussions. The four officers from the Mesa Police Department were placed on paid leave. In others words, they received a paid vacation for their efforts, but no negative consequences. In the case of Betty Shelby, the female Tulsa, Oklahoma officer who shot and killed Terrance Crutcher in the back while he was walking away from her, after her department’s report stated that she should not be allowed to serve as an officer dealing with the public, she was given a job in a city a few miles north of Tulsa. She was recently featured in a newspaper article where she had received a promotion and now offers classes to teach officers how to beat charges of abuse and excessive force. The list of officers not being held responsible for their misdeeds is too long to include here.

While the general American public remains silent relative to these officers’ display of abuse of people of color accompanied with a chevalier attitude, they do not seem to realize that although the officers do not have to assume responsibility for their actions, the citizens for whom the officers work must pay large settlement payments to the victims and/or their families. The ethnic demographics are rapidly changing the makeup of American society and with those changes will come the need to redirect the focus and objectives of law enforcement. Some departments are making changes now because they understand that the amount of money being paid for officer’s mistakes could be put to better use in educating them to treat all citizens fairly.

We have not seen the last video of police abuse of unarmed African American citizens simply because the system does not require them to take responsibility for their actions. The system must be replaced.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Reasons why European American (white) police shoot and kill African Americans

March 31, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, amygdala, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Breaking Ranks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Norm Stamper, Race in America, social conditioning, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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The police officers shooting and killing an unarmed African American man in Sacramento, California recently should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the news the last four to five years. The excuses for the shootings are always the same: the officers reveal that they feared for their lives or they felt their lives were threatened, or the victim made a threatening gesture or movement towards them or they thought he or she had a gun in their hands. All of these reasons are viewed as justifiable for the shooting of a suspect. On the other hand, the family of the victim always asks the questions: why did you not wait to assess the situation before you fired shots? Why did you not use another of the tools available to you like the tazer, rubber bullets, nightstick, and bean bags? Why could you not have shot him or her in the arm or leg or some non-deadly place? Why did you not give the victim time to respond to your commands?

The fact that this scenario keeps happening over and over again is not an accident or the action of a few bad officers but part of a culture that permeates the entire criminal justice system. Most officers know that regardless of their actions, their department and union will always take their word as valid over any citizen, so the fear of serious repercussions for a wrong deed does not represent an impediment to their actions. The American public has witnessed many times the results of a police shooting via video that contradicts the report of the officers. Yet, the officers walk away without being held responsible for the misdeeds committed. To blame be officers for not being held responsible for their deeds is not their fault but the system that supports them including the Attorney General, District attorney, prosecutor, judge, jury, and society.

What many African Americans understand about the criminal justice system in American is that it has always been biased against them as clearly recorded by history from before Reconstruction, the Black Codes, and Jim Crow. Many European Americans generally support law enforcement actions without question and by doing so allow injustices to continue against people of color. Some present and former police officers have readily admitted that a culture of hate, fear, anger, and bigotry against African Americans exist in law enforcement.  From where do these feelings derive? The most obvious answer identifies social conditioning as the primary contributor to ethnic bias in American society that is retained by people who become part of the criminal justice system directly and indirectly.

Norm Stamper, a former police officer and author of the book Breaking Rank (2005) underscored the European American law officers’ perception of the African Americans: “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘colorblindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.”These feelings are not reserved for European American law enforcers only. Paul Butler, in his book Choke Hold (2017), noted that recent scientific research shed some light on how many African Americans are generally 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.” Earlier studies also indicated that the negative reactions of European American law officers towards African American males may because by unconscious social bias rather than deliberate actions.

Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow (2013) noted that a number of studies showed how some European Americans reacted to images of European Americans and African Americans in an exercise that considered observation, interpretation, and reaction. She noted, “that racial schemas operated not only as part of conscious, rational deliberations, but also automatically—without awareness or intent.” This study might possibly explain why some European American police officers act irrationally when having to deal with African Americans and people of color in general:

One study, for example, involved a video game that placed photographs of white and black individuals holding either a gun or other object (such as a wallet, soda can or cell phone into various photographic backgrounds. Participants were told to decide as quickly as possible whether to shoot the target. Consistent with earlier studies, participants were more likely to mistake a black target as armed when he was not, and mistake a white target as unarmed, when in fact he was armed. This pattern of discrimination reflected automatic, unconscious thought processes, not careful deliberations (p. 107)

The fact that ethnic bias is central to the social conditioning in America accounts for the unconscious bias of many European Americans; that bias can be manifested either implicitly, explicitly or both. Consequently, many European Americans can honestly believe that they are not biased against African Americans because many of their friends, relatives, and associates are African American, however, that fact does not mean they are free of biases.  Alexander noted that “Implicit bias test may still show that you [European Americans] hold negative attitudes and stereotypes about blacks, even though you do not believe you do and do not want to. In the study described above, for example, black participants showed an amount of ‘shooter bias’ similar to that shown by whites” (107). Of course, fewer European Americans are shot and killed by African American police officers than by European American officers.

Armed with the scientific information from the various studies mentioned, we can assert that much more than police training is necessary to replace the biased ethnic culture in our criminal justice system. The problem of ethnic bias must be the first item on the agenda to be addressed, not through training, but education. Society must fully understand and reject the bias before it can begin to replace it.

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