Paul R. Lehman, The criminal justice system must be replaced for justice to become a reality for allSeptember 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, Killings in Tulsa, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, Norm Stamper, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, protest, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
Tags: African Americans, American History, American protest and prejudice, black, Charlotte, Civil Rights, Confronting Myths, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Keith Lamont Scott, North Carolina, Obama and American Bigotry, Oklahoma, police shootings, Prejudice, protest, race, skin color, skin complexion, Terence Crutcher, Tulsa, white
By now most of America should realize that the continued shooting of African Americans and people of color by police officers is not just a random act of an inexperienced, untrained, misguided rookie cop. The plethora of excuses for the killings does little to avoid the conclusion that the problem is systemic—part of the culture of law enforcement nationwide. The idea of a few rogue cops committing these killings does not stand the test of validity for dismissing their actions as random while protecting the force. The fact of the matter that law enforcement culture views African Americans and people of color as the enemy or less valuable than European Americans is more than evident by the mere number of incidents that have occurred recently as well as historically.
Holding town hall meetings, public panel discussions, firing a few officers, hiring a few officers of color, making speeches and the like will do nothing in addressing the problem. The problem is the culture that views the African Americans and people of color as having less human and social value as the European American citizen. According to some former police officers, European Americans are conditioned to view African Americans with fear and trepidation. Norm Stamper has said that as an officer he experienced the fear that European American officers had for African American men. This cultural view is held by European Americans as part of their view of reality and normalcy in America, i.e. European Americans have been conditioned to not see their bigotry as a problem, but as the normal way to see society. Until they are able to see and understand that their view of reality is bigoted, the problem will persist.
The recent deaths of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C. should serve as proof sufficient to underscore the charges African Americans and other people of color have made against the various police forces for many years. European Americans have been conditioned to view police and other law enforcers as public servants whose characters project honesty, truth, justice, loyalty, dedication and integrity, and certainly, many officers do project those qualities. What the African American community has been saying for years is that they are not viewed or treated by law enforcement the same as European Americans and therefore their relationships are not the same. Now that America and the world can witness via video just what happens in many of these cases, the call to replace the system and culture of criminal justice in America should be readily acceptable to all.
What we witness in Crutcher and Scott cases goes totally against the picture of law enforcement presented to the general public. The fact that the police not only lie about their actions but also create false reasons for their actions; these faults constitute deceit. The tacit of trying to find something considered socially unacceptable in the African American victim’s background to make him or her appear in a negative light is below contempt. The result is that the element of trust in law enforcement is no longer possible. We are not indicting all individuals who have taken the oath to serve and defend, but when time and again the result of any actions involving the killing of an African American with little or no repercussions for the officers, we have to ask, where is the justice?
The protests that we witness around the country are not against police officers, but the system and culture in which they work that discriminates against African Americans. These protests must continue and include more citizens of all ethnic identities, especially, European Americans. The media present most protest involving African Americans as an African American protest when in fact it is a protest by American citizens because the problems being underscored by the protestors are American made. All Americans should be affected by the videos of unarmed citizens being shot by police officers and the subsequent lack of appropriate justice for their acts.
The American criminal justice system must be replaced, not adjusted, expanded or tweaked because the core of the system would not be affected. The core in place presently views African Americans in a negative and uncomplimentary perspective, and because of that view, they are treated with a lack of respect. That view must be replaced with one that views all people as valuable human beings worthy of respect and deserving the protection and service given by law enforcement. To fully address the problem of injustice, European Americans must be educated to observe, speak, and behave in a way that includes them and all human beings in the family of mankind. In order to begin the process of replacement, all citizens must be educated to the fact that the concept and belief in a system of biological races is a myth, false, made-up. No one’s skin complexion gives him or her preferences of any nature over another human being, except by man-made laws. The protests today are focused on getting rid of those unjust laws.
The social conditioning received by European Americans relative to skin complexion has been so overwhelming that separating the fact from fiction is a monumental challenge. However, society is rapidly changing its demographic profile to the point that the social value of white versus black skins will have little to no value. Some Americans turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the protests now happening in society thinking that since only African Americans are involved that they are not affected by whatever the problems might be. They will learn that they are directly implicated in the problems and must become a part of the change or remain a part of the problem.
If Americans who view the videos showing the treatment of African American citizens by law enforcement want to become involved in making positive change, they should not only voice their concerns to local authorizes but also seek out organizations and/or civic group where they can become active participants. If no such groups are readily available, they can start one to focus on the problems that need changing. Words without actions is just hot air
Tags: African Americans, American protest and prejudice, black, Charles Kinsey, Civil Rights, communication, Confronting Myths, current-events, discrimination, ethnicity, European Americans, justice, Obama and American Bigotry, Oklahoma City Police Department, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Opinion writer--The Oklahoman, OSBI Report, Philando Castile, Prejudice, race, Race in America, The Oklahoman, white
A recent article on the “OPINION” page of the Oklahoman (7/27/2016) entitled, “Report undermines claims of police bias,” represents the very kind of bigotry that serves to keep the communities and citizens in a state of disunity. One has to question the accuracy of the data presented by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reporting on itself because human nature and self-preservation favors embellishing the positive and minimizing the negative relative to self-examination. The report focused on police-involved shootings and revealed the following facts: “Such shootings are not common, although they have increased; those killed are typically to blame for their own fate; and most importantly, appearance of racial disparities can be created by a literal handful of cases.”The Opinion writer of this article has, seemingly, little or no sense of reality if he or she believes that these comments do not show the ignorance and bigotry of all of the aforementioned relative to the challenge for unity between the African Americans and the law enforcement agency.
The first statement made: “Such shootings are not common, although they have increased,” suggests that the Opinion writer is apparently fully aware of all the shootings, those reported and those not reported in the African American community. Evidently, the accuracy of that statement depends on how long the data has been collected and recorded and by whom. When we look back briefly at a recent case where thirteen African American females were sexually assaulted by Daniel Holtzclaw, a member of the Oklahoma City Police Department, we know why nothing was done by the police department until one of the thirteen assaulted women had the courage to reported the assault. Being assaulted by an officer of the law gives African American females little room relative for reporting the incident. Many African Americans will generally avoid contact with the police unless absolutely necessary because of the history of disrespect and abuse relative to the way they have been treated in the past.
Also, the Opinion writer misses the actual problem of concern between the law enforcement agency and the African American community—a failure to communicate. The shootings are only part of the problem; respect for and value of the citizens of color have been problems from the very beginning of statehood because bigotry by European Americans against African Americans is a seemingly natural occurrence. Until just recently, when the protest marches against police shootings began, the criminal justice problems of the African American community were ignored because they, evidently, according to the Opinion writer and the data, did not exist.
The second statement shows a total lack of understanding of the communication problem: “those killed are typically to blame for their own fate.” In other words, the police are perfect; they never make a mistake even when they are afraid of the victims because of their color. So, the Opinion writer is saying that people of color that follow or try to follow the orders of policemen, cause their own deaths. How ignorant can one be to believe that a police officer, one who is afraid of people of color, does not experience a behavioral change when having to confront one? In a recent video, a police officer shot a young African American man, Philando Castile; the officer ordered him to get his license. When Castile proceeded to get his license, the officer gave him another order. When Castile did not respond quickly enough to suit the officer, the officer shot him. Why? From the viewpoint of the Opinion writer, Castile caused the officer to shoot him because the officer thought he was reaching for a gun—a gun which was legal for him to carry and for which he had a license. Seemingly, because of the officer’s fear of Castile, his stress level increased from the normal level of stress that goes with the job and contributed to his quick, training-based, reactions. Castile died.
In another recent incident, Charles Kinsey, a physical therapist, was lying on his back with both empty hands extended up, asked the officer not to shoot him. The officer shot him. But, we must assume according to the Opinion writer that Kinsey caused the officer to shoot him, so it was his fault that he was shot. We are led to believe that officer behavior is always calm, deliberative, measured, and in the best interest of the citizens, they have volunteered to serve and protect. Unfortunately, with the help of videos we are able to witness officer behavior that does not fit that model, because they are human beings, and we humans make mistakes.
The third statement underscores a serious problem in the Opinion writer’s understanding of the conflict and protests: “and most importantly, appearance of racial disparities can be created by a literal handful of cases.” The statement basically implies that based on the data from the report that the history of police actions of abuse, intimidation, mistrust, injustice, and shootings are all figments of African American imagination; that the instances of lynching’s in Oklahoma and America were simply minor and rare occurrences; that the massacre of the Greenwood section of Tulsa in 1921 really did not happen. We must question again about where the data was acquired when it was acquired and by whom, and if the focus was restricted to shootings.
The Opinion writer’s last statement shows a blind respect for law enforcement and data and a total disregard for history and ethnic bias: “In short, any racial disparities in police shootings appear the result of statistical noise, not deliberate bias.” Continuing, the article states: “And the fact that Oklahoma law enforcement officers resort to lethal force so infrequently is a testament to their integrity and courage.”The Opinion writer fails to understand that the problem is not with a single police force in Oklahoma, but it is a culture within law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system that must be replaced.
Nothing is gained in closing the gap of disunity between the law enforcement agencies and the African American community when honest and clear communication is not achieved. A better understanding of the problems involved in the shootings from both sides would go far in bridging that gap of fear and mistrust. For clear communications to take place both sides need to recognize that there are preconceived ideas and beliefs that must be confronted and replaced before any progress can be made. The attitude, ignorance, and tone of the Opinion writer shows just how much work lies before us in recognizing that we are not really communicating with one another if we still live in a world of make-believe.
The recent video showing the shooting death of two African American men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, by European American police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana simply underscores the point that anywhere in America the value of an African American’s life is little to none existence. Calls for changes in the police departments will do little to remedy the problem because the problem does not reside in the police departments per se; the problem is the culture of American society that does not value African Americans. The law enforcement agencies and its representatives only reflect what society empowers them to embody—a lack of value for people of color, especially African Americans.
We know from past experiences that videos will not be sufficient to promote justice for the African American victims. The culture of bigotry is part of the system that permeates law enforcement nationwide and although videos have been produced to show the actions of law enforces, they do little to convict officers who are involved in the action.
One reason for the lack of justice is because the entire community is not directly implicated in the injustice. Rather than the African American community of Minnesota and Louisiana protesting, the entire cities should protest to show that they understand the culture of bigotry they promote and sustain through the police force and say it is not acceptable. Real and sustainable change will not occur in America until the culture of ethnic bigotry is replace with a system that values all people. We need not legitimize prejudices by listing conditions and by giving names to them such as ethnicity, gender, color, religion etc…. If all Americans should enjoy the same right, liberties, and freedoms, then no qualifications are needed–all says it all.
To understand the culture of bigotry as exemplified by law enforcement we need to look at what serves as its base. Simply stated, the answer is anger and fear of the African American by the European Americans acquired through social conditioning. In their homes, neighborhoods, communities, schools, and churches, European Americans from early childhood learn and are shown how to behave toward African Americans and people of color in general; unless they are employed or serve the European Americans in some non-threatening position, they are to be avoided. Because the African American lacks little social value in society when compared to European Americans, any social improvement acquired by African Americans appear as a threat to the supremacy of the European Americans. These social improvements serve to anger the European Americans because they are often viewed as encroachments on their rights. The worse possible experience for a European American is having to view an African American as an equal; that goes totally against the social conditioning under which they were reared.
So, until the total national community can accept the injustice committed against an African American as wrong, replacing the system of injustice will not occur. The problem is not just between the police department and the African American community; it involves the entire national community. The focus should be on the injustice committed against any person and not finding fault with the parties involved; we are all involved and we need to accept our role in fighting against injustice or promoting injustices by our silence.
Fear of the African American comes from the ignorance and myths associated with the invention of races and the concept of European American supremacy. The fear of losing that concept of supremacy serves as the motivating element to inflict physical violence against the African Americans. Anger and fear of African American men are joined together at the heart of the American culture. We can and do readily observe it through the actions of law enforcers. In my recent book about the system of European American Supremacy the following reference focused on the subject: A former police officer, Norm Stamper, (Breaking Rank, Nation Books, 2005) clears up any misconceptions European Americans might have about law enforcement and 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 ‘color blindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.”Stamper noted that while bigotry and fear are part of the police culture and a significant fabric of their thoughts, most European American officers will not admit to the bigotry in themselves and others.
We know that anger, fear, and bigotry exist in the culture of law enforcement nationwide and we have statistics to support the degree to which men of color are killed by law enforcement agents. The question now is what can be done to eliminate it? The first order of business is for the Europeans Americans to recognize that valuing the lives of people of color is necessary. For European Americans to act like the murders of African American men have no more than a passing affect on them is to approve of the injustice. They can no longer stand passively on the sidelines and shake their heads saying how sorry they are that this or that tragedy occurred. They need to join forces with all the members of society in protest and actions to changes the system from the top to the bottom.
The law enforcement agencies work for the people, all the people. Unfortunately, the police unions and other criminal justice element work to protect the officers, not the citizens. If that statement is thought to be presumptuous, one needs only to check and see how many officers shown on videos killing unharmed or legally armed men have been convicted. The officer has only to say that he or she felt their lives were threatened and all the focus falls on the victim for somehow forcing the officer to shoot him. The laws need to be changed to protect the citizens from the police in that all citizens should be given the right to exercise their rights. Many of the African American men who were killed never had an opportunity to be asked questions or respond before they were shot. As a society, we can put a stop to these senseless killings, but we must do so as a society, not just people of color and a few European Americans. All Americans should be outraged at the display of injustice regarding the shooting of men of color, outraged to the point of action.
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, Civil Rights, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Police, police lack of respect for minority citizens, Police training, Police videos, Prejudice, skin complexion
For the past year America has witnessed the spectacle of young, mostly male, unarmed, people of color being killed by law enforcement agents. In all instances the use of deadly force by the officers was employed when other options were available and appropriate. The result of the actions by the law enforcers in these deaths was little or no repercussions for the law officers; in essence, the victims were responsible for their deaths. In most of these cases when video was available and compared with the officers’ written reports of the incidents, they did not correspond. The videos told different stories from the ones in the official reports. Never-the-less, the outcome of these events showed the public that justice and fairness does not look the same when law enforcement views it alongside society in general. What seems justified in the eyes of the law does not reflect fairness and justice to many Americans in general, and to people of color in particular.
Two things can be ascertained from the experiences involving the deaths of people of color at the hands of European American and other law enforcement officers: 1. the present system of jurisprudence is corrupt in dispensing justice to people of color; and 2, the system must be replaced, not revised or re-developed. The reason for these facts can be observed in the reactions of the public and the citizens directly involved with the system. Americans have been conditioned to accept the words and actions of the law enforcement agents without question because of the trust that has been placed in their hands. In the past, records concerning citizens’ deaths were not kept to any appreciable degree by law enforcement agencies and so that information relative to the number of African Americans and other people of color were not available to the public. Furthermore, the public did not seem concerned regarding those deaths because of the mental social conditioning. However, when videos of officer shootings became available to the media and were aired, people began to pay closer attention to and take an interest in what was being presented.
The corruption of the justice system relative to the prosecution of officers can be seen in the method in which the cases are handled. The entire process is handled in the law enforcement community; no one from outside or from an independent agency plays a role in assessing the criminal concerns of the officers. The only possible group of people to play any role in hearing accusations against an officer is a Grand Jury. Unfortunately, the only person to appear before the Grand Jury is a Prosecutor. Since the Prosecutor works closely with the law enforcement agencies which might include many of the officers in question, his or her perspective is generally skewed towards helping the officers. The results, as we have seen, favor no charges being brought against the officers. Because of society’s conditioning of not questioning the findings of an officer-involved proceeding, little thought is given to the fairness and justice of the cases until recently.
We are compelled to question the system of justice when day after day we see and hear contradictory information relative to the deaths of a people of color and no one, except the victim, is held responsible for a crime. A question comes to mind when discussing the occurrence of a European American officer killing a person of color on a force that includes officers that are also people of color. Why do we not hear or see officers of color involved in the killing of European American citizens? If all the law enforcement officers experience the same or similar training, why is it that European Americans are the primary killers of people of color, yet officers of color rarely, if ever kill a European American? One response focuses on the culture of the law enforcement community and its corruption. The nature of the corruption can be seen in the silent code of group unity—backing one another right or wrong. The group identity represents a serious challenge to justice and fairness. What most Americans do not realize or understand is that the ethnic bigotry that sees African Americans as inferior beings and of little social value is normal for European Americans; that bias is also part of their social conditioning. When a European American becomes a member of the law enforcement group, that bigotry is not checked at the door and left out. The fact that society conditions European Americans to see African Americans and dangerous, evil, threatening, etc…, helps to fuel the attitude of these officers not only when they join the group but also when they come into contact with African Americans and other people of color. No question remains about the corruption of the system; we only need to check the records.
The system of social injustice and unfairness exhibited primarily by law enforcement agencies cannot be fought or defeated using the tools of the system. The system must be replaced in order for justice to be available to all citizens of America. Time and again the Federal Government has stepped into the workings of a police department in one or two large cities when a lack of justice and fairness has been documented. A study is usually conducted and after a period of time, all parties gather and review the findings of the study. Certain requirement for change in everything from policies to procedures to training etc…is made and a time frame is given to accomplish these objectives. When we look at the history of success involving these experiences, we realize that little has changed—a new suit might appear on the officer, but the undergarments are the same as before.
What has to change is the culture of bigotry that has long been part of the American psyche, generally without many Americans realizing it. When a European American sees an African American or another person of color and not see that person as a social equal, class concerns aside, that is called bigotry or social conditioning. No amount of training can remove that bigotry; it has to be replaced through education. The law enforcement agencies represent only a part of the cultural structure that promotes, sustains, and defends bigotry. Change is slowly taking place now through the efforts of civil-minded people and groups who recognize that America is not the kind of society they want to live in or have their children and grandchildren inherit. So, they must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST in order to call attention to the injustices being committed. They must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST in order to make the changes that are needed to replace the system. They must PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST until the changes are made. The American Revolution began as a protest, and we see what that got us—Freedom.
Tags: African Americans, American History, American Justice System, Anglo-Saxon, bigotry, black, Civil Rights, Englishmen, ethnicity, European Americans, Founding Fathers, Gary B. Nash, justice, Negroes, Prejudice, race, Race in America, Ronald Takaki, skin color, skin complexion, slavery, West Africa, white
Slices of reality are slowly being cut away from the apple of delusion that masquerades as American justice when we view the many videos showing how the law enforcement establishment denigrates the lives of African Americans. What we are witnessing via the videos is the system slowly being dismantled by virtue of its inability to maintain it’s creditability as a form of reality. The system was flawed when it was invented and put into motion by the founding fathers. For certain, the founding fathers knew that a lie could not last forever. Nevertheless, they believed that as long as they controlled society, there was little chance of the lie being discovered. What is the lie that characterized the system?
American society was created by people with biased attitudes towards people of color, but especially Africans with dark or black skin complexion. The historian Gary B. Nash noted in his book, The Great Fear, that the English were familiar with people of skin complexions darker than their own because of years of trading in the Middle East as well as North Africa. However, when the fair-skinned English came into contact with dark-skinned Africans, they reacted negatively:
Unhappily, blackness was already a means of conveying some of the most ingrained values of English society. Black—and its opposite, white —were emotion-laden words. Black meant foul, dirty, wicked, malignant, and disgraceful. And of course it signified night—a time of fear and uncertainty. Black was a symbol signifying baseness, evil, and danger. Thus expressions filtered into English usage associating black with the worst in human nature: the black sheep in the family, a black mark against one’s name, a black day, a black look, to blackball or blackmail. White was all the opposites—chastity, virtue, beauty, and peace. Women were married in white to symbolize purity and virginity. Day was light just like night was black. The angels were white; the devil was black. Thus Englishmen were conditioned to see ugliness and evil in black. In this sense their encounter with the black people of West Africa was prejudiced by the very symbols of color which had been woven into English language and culture over centuries (p 11).
The attitude described by Nash continues today to an appreciable extent because it was made part of the fabric of the European American psyche. Looking back through American history we learn that even though America made efforts to abolish slave trade in the 1770s, it was not until 1808 that Congress ended the trade. However, slavery did not end, and while slaves were controlled by their owners, the free African Americans were thought to represent problems. Nash noted that “After 1790 the free Negro, in both the North and the South, was subjected to increasing hostility, discrimination, and segregation. Once they had turned back abolitionist crusade of the revolutionary period white Americans became less concerned about the black slave than about black men who were not slaves.” Nash underscored where that new concern led:
Southern states began passing laws prescribing heavier penalties for black felons than white, stripping away the legal rights of free Negroes, taxing free black men more heavily than whites, banning the free Negro from the polls and from political office, and forcing him out of white churches where he had been free to go and in some cases encouraged to go while a slave (p 25).
The European American had exerted total control over the African/African American since slavery and the tool they used to justify that control was the invention of a white and black race. Any effort to free the African American would suggest that he was capable of living with European Americans on an equal basis; this proposition they would never concede because their entire belief system was based on black inferiority. Nash commented on the challenge to the European Americans’ need for control once the African Americans were freed: “…they found themselves at the brink of giving up a system of control and a sense of mastery which they had come to believe was natural and essential to the well-being of their society.” He continued: “It was almost as if the logic by which the African had been held in chains had been shattered. To compensate, a new system of control must be devised so that the free Negro, who remained a Negro after all, could be dominated almost completely”(p25). So, ethnic bigotry, race, was introduced into the American psyche as normal and correct.
America has always been perceived by European Americans as their country. All the other people who are not Anglo-Saxons are here through the Anglo-Saxons’ generosity. Too often some Americans associate denigration of the African American with only the South, not so, said Ronald Takaki, author of “The Black, Child-Savage,” he noted that the negative” image of the Negro served a need shared by whites, North and South; it performed an identity function for white Americans during a period when they were groping for self-definition.” He continued:
It is significant to note the way that whites imagined the Negro in relation to themselves: the Negro was mentally inferior, naturally lazy, childlike, unwholesome, and given to vice. He was the antithesis of themselves and of what they valued: industriousness, intelligence, and moral restraint. These, of course, were values which whites associated with civilized society. (p 42)
What do these references to history and some European American attitudes have to do with the previously mentioned videos. Simply this; that attitude is reflected in many of the actions of law enforcement today, regardless of the geographical location. So, we can recognize that behavior as part of a system. For over three hundred years officers have acted with impunity against African Americans. We also know that the law enforcement agents do not act independently, but under the auspices of an administration. The primary element that keeps this system operating is the false concept of races. Accepting the concept of races, invented by the founding fathers, ensures the continuation of ethnic conflicts. Fortunately, society is changing dramatically towards the devaluing of race.
The children and grandchildren of closet bigots were told the lie relative to democracy that life, liberty, freedom was for all people; that everyone should be respected and valued regardless who they were. So, now when these children and grandchildren see an injustice committed, they come to the aid of the victims, which is exactly what the bigots do not want to see. Many European Americans believe in a system of justice for all, not the one invented to control people of color. These European Americans did not learn that the system was to work only for them and that they are a part of it. So, now they want the American society they were told exist for all. The keepers of the system are fighting with everything they have to hold it in place, but it is too late; society continues to change. With every video recording an injustice against African Americans and other people of color, another slice of the apple is removed and the reality slowly and painfully comes to the light.
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, American system of Justice, Baltimore, Baltimore Police Department, Baltimore Police Force, black, Civil Rights, Confronting Myths, current-events, Department of Justice, discrimination, ethnicity, European Americans, Hillary Clinton, Michael Gerson, Obama and American Bigotry, poverty in America, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio, The Department of Justice, The police, The Washington Post Writers Group, urban poverty, Washington Post Writers Group, white
The mayor of Baltimore has asked the Department of Justice to look into the practices of the police force in her city. Although the results of such an investigation might help improve the community relations, the real problem that leads to conflicts time and time again is never mentioned—the system invented and managed by the majority society. We have heard the terms system and culture many times when the condition of the police and community relations is discussed. Unfortunately, discussing both the system and the culture of any city and its supporting elements does not focus on the cause of the problem and therefore cannot offer a remedy for the problems. A few observers recognize and understand some aspects of the system. For example, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post Writers Group, wrote in an article, ”The intricate knot of urban poverty,” about the problems facing Baltimore and how different aspects of the system affects its progress.
Gerson commented on an aspect of police attitude in Baltimore:”An element of the police—on the evidence, a relatively small element—became desensitized during its daily application of power. One result can be dehumanization, which may help explain Freddie Gray’s long, last trip.” He continued: “But some of the worst outcomes are not found in abuses of the system but in its design: a cycle of incarceration and return that reinforces criminality.” Actually, Gerson confuses the system with the culture when he references “abuses of the system.” What he does not understand is that the system was invented to dehumanize people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status. The abuse is actually a manifestation of the system expressed through the local culture. The police did not develop a concept of viewing people of color in a denigrating way prior to joining the force; society had already accomplished that part of the training.
To his credit, Gerson does recognize other conditions contributing to the problems of poverty and incarceration, but noted that “So, the imposition of order in impoverished communities through police and prisons is possible but costly, prone to abuse and probably unsustainable at the scale we have seen.” He then asked the question “What can be done to encourage economically and healthy communities where order is self-creating a imposed?” He answered the question by referring to the government’s role in why these poverty-related problems exist: “The reason reflects the complexity of the problem. Large economic trends, particularly globalization and the technological revolution, have pushed the blue-collar economy in many places into a permanent slump. Wages have stagnated or declined and workforce participation has fallen.”
He further noted that “At the same time, the connection between child-bearing and marriage has been broken. Chronically stressed parents—often single parents—have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children. Community institutions, including public schools, are weak.” He next associated these conditions with the police: “When children get into trouble, there is little support structure for addiction treatment and legal help. We cannot expect police power to confront these complex, interrelated difficulties.” For help in these circumstances, Gerson added:” But someone, in addition to local religious and community leaders need to try.”
Finally, Gerson pointed to individuals on the “right,” Rep. Paul Ryan, and Sen. Marco Rubio who offered suggestions relative to the problems of urban poverty. On the “left,” he listed President Obama and Hillary Clinton and their suggestions to deal with the problems as well. He noted that all of the suggestion offered by both the right and left were “insufficient to the scale of the problem. Much about the justice and unity of our country will depend on the increased ambition of their next iteration.” What next iteration? The system converts any and all new ideas into feeding itself. Apparently, Gerson does not understand that all suggestions regarding urban poverty, the police, incarceration, employment, education, and justice are all part of the system—a system that has always viewed people of color and others as having little or no social value, and that viewpoint has served to justify the treatment they have experienced over the years.
Regarding the system and the police, if education and instructions focusing on systemic changes are not required for the police force to treat everyone justly and fairly with clear and definitive repercussion for failure to do so, the officers will exhibit the lack of value society has told them to exert towards people they regard as have little or not social value. The system provides the concepts and attitudes toward the people; the culture of each department determines how those concepts and attitudes will be manifested.
If some people were surprised to see three African Americans pictured along with the three European American officers arrested from Baltimore and wondered how that was possible, the answer has to do with the culture in the department and the importance of group identity and solidarity. In most local departments the culture is usually established by the majority before the minority members are employed. If the minority members buck the culture, they are ousted.
If the Department of Justice decides to investigate the Baltimore Police Department, chances are it will discover what has been discovered in most police departments—a pattern of discrimination against African Americans and other people of color over and beyond their percentage of the total population. That discrimination results in arrests, fines, and finally, incarcerations. Gerson suggested that the reason has to do with poverty, and that certainly has some impact on the problem, but to get at the primary cause one has to examine the nature of the system that created the problems. We do not have to look far to recognize bigotry as the main ingredient that continues to engage in a system of control over people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status.
If progress is to be made with respect to the plethora of social injustices that are presently represented in the lives of many American citizens, then the cause of these injustices must be discovered and addressed. Unfortunately, when one discovers the cause of the injustices, another problem is added to the ones already at hand. No one seemingly wants to be made uncomfortable if it means relief and benefits for another for whom one apparently holds little social value.
Tags: African Americans, Baltimore, black, Civil Rights, current-events, deaths, discrimination, European Americans, Freddie Gray, law enforcement agents, media, negative stereotypes, Police, police actions, Prejudice, protest, protesters, public disruption, race, rioting, social justice, social media, teens, white
The recent events in Baltimore have for all intent and purposes been blown out of proportions due to faulty expectations as well as propaganda. Had the initial display of lawlessness been address by the local law establishment, the rest of the escalation would not have been necessary. The disruptive unlawful activity began when the local high school near the center of action dismissed school earlier than usual. Many of the teens rather than going home decided to take advantage of a situation presented to them to commit unlawful acts with no one in authority looking on.
One would expect the police to handle the situation involving the young children differently from older adults, but the police never appeared on the scene. The children realized early on that because no law enforcement was present, they could do whatever they wanted without repercussions. So, they acted-out by breaking windows, stealing merchandise, destroying property and other things that they would not think of doing under normal circumstances. These teens were out of control and not thinking rational. The death of Freddie Gray was probably not on their minds. Unfortunately, some adults who witnessed the activity of the teens took advantage of the situation and used it as cover to become involved in lawless acts. So, when the cameras started to show the activity, some adults were pictured along with the teens. The media characterized the teens and their action as violent rioting threatening the entire city.
Regardless who was involved, their actions were wrong and unacceptable, but explainable, given the circumstances of the location, the time, and the youth. What happened after the initial occurrence of the unlawful activity by the teens and some adults was an over-blown accounting of the event. The media began by treating the social out-burst as if the entire city of Baltimore was being burned to the ground by gangs of violent, lawless, African Americans, hell-bent on destroying their city. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The reporting was somewhat inaccurate and propagandistic when references were made to rioting and violence. Neither the protesters nor the citizens of Baltimore participated in a riot or violence and destruction of property.
The references to Baltimore in comparison to the 60’s riots in Baltimore and Los Angeles did a disservice to Baltimore. The events in Baltimore involving the teens were allowed to continue by the police force. Once the Monday afternoon and night activities were over, nothing resembling a riot was evidenced. The majority of the citizens of Baltimore made a concerted effort to show support and love for their city while many in the media cautioned eminent danger and destruction from the protesters. What seemed apparent from the various media reports was an expectation of lawlessness and violence from the African American community. The African American community of Baltimore and the law enforcement element were seeing the same activity, but from two different perspectives.
For some observers, the large show of force to prevent rioting and destruction was really not necessary. The point is that a riot never took place. Certainly, on Monday afternoon and night acts of lawlessness and destruction of property did take place, but for all intent and purpose, that was the end of any threat of mass civil disobedience and mayhem. What the focus on the possibility of civil unrest had on the situation was to shift the attention away from the legitimate protest relative to the death of Freddie Gray and the request and need for transparency. The need of the media to anticipate some breaking news development seems to triumph to tragedy of Gray’s death while in police custody.
One thing that seems to be apparent from the comments of the media as well as other sources is the negative stereotypical view that is presently held concerning African American people. From the engagement of the National Guard and the numerous law enforcement agencies, one might get the impression that all hell will break out at any given time. Many of the citizens have tried to counter that perception by placing themselves in the street and speaking directly to their neighbor about the collective desire for a safe and peaceful city. At the same time, these citizens want to see some positive changes in the way their lives have been affected from a legal, economic, educational, and political standpoint.
The protest then is not just a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, but a reaction to the years of neglect and lack of attention paid to the needs of the citizens, especially those of color and of low social-economical status. Unfortunately, the death of Gray provided an opportunity for the citizens to raise their voices and be heard. When viewing the videos of the various protests around the country, we realize that the problems involve more than African Americans, but all Americans. The need for justice on all fronts is apparent by the number of protests around the country and the diverse make-up of the protesters.
Our Constitution gives us as citizens the right to protest peacefully. The word peaceful goes both ways, in that the law enforcers should not interfere with peaceful protesters, but must protect their right to do so. Sometime it seems that the law enforcers resent protesters from exercising their rights. When effective and constructive communications can exist between the citizens and the law enforcers they employ then the threat of riots, violence, civil unrest, and destruction of property will not be a factor to consider.
Many problems exist in many of America’s cities that are not easily seen or known to the general public; they are none-the-less real problems and need addressing. Too often, the occasion of incidents like the death of Freddie Gray brings to the surface the problems of unemployment, decent housing, satisfactory education, adequate health care, and social justice. All of the problems are important to the well-being of any community large or small, so they must be made apparent so they can be addressed. The protests in Baltimore and across the nation are not just about the death of Freddie Gray, but for the lives of the people still here who cry out for positive change—now
Tags: African American citizens, African Americans, American Education, bigotry, black, Constitutional rights, current-events, Department of Justice, discrimination, DOJ Report, ethnicity, European Americans, Ferguson, John Eligon, Matt Apuzzo, Municipal government, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, white
The Department of Justice just recently published its report on the city of Ferguson, in an effort to get a clear picture of the community relations involving African American citizens. Since before the death of Michael Brown, the African American citizens had been complaining about the unfair and abusive treatment they have received from the police department as well as the municipal court and jail. Many outsiders questioned the complaints made by some of the African American citizens because of the trust and expectation for justice that has always been a part of common belief relative to these entities. The DOJ’s report should give some credence to the African American citizens’ complaints.
A typical example of what the report indicated regarding a community 67% African American and the percentage of African Americans stopped by the police. The report indicated that over the past 2 years, the police conducted traffic stops where 85% were African Americans. From those stops, 90% of the African American citizens were issued tickets. In addition, the record shows that 93% of the total arrests were of African Americans. Finally, 95% of the stops made by the police were for Jaywalking. The report further indicated that African Americans were two times as likely to have their autos searched than European Americans (whites) and if arrested, African Americans represented 95% of citizens kept in jail more than 2 days.
Other aspects of the report serve to underscore the systemic discrimination and abuse perpetrated on the African American citizens of Ferguson by the municipal and police agencies. Because of the amount of monies generated from the citizens’ arrest, fines, and incarcerations the report indicated that it constituted 21% of the city’s budget. The DOJ sees the means for collecting that money as a violation of the citizens’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. In effect, the operation of the city of Ferguson, in part, is dependant on the unfair and unjust treatment of its African American citizens.
To those American citizens who had doubts relative to the reports of African American citizens who raised complaints regarding the treatment they experienced by the police and other public agencies, the report should be sobering, to say the least. However, if the reaction of those Americans who do not feel that this DOJ report reflects only on the people of Ferguson, they are sadly mistaken. If they choose not to realize that ethnic bigotry and discrimination is an American problem, then they are living in an illusion. Some police and local governmental official can no longer use the excuse that only a few “bad apples” create the problems that the entire department or agency must bear. When we look at the numbers in the report, we must conclude the possibility of a number of things: one, the problem of bigotry is part of the system, or two, only the “bad apples” do most of the work.
If the arguments of only the “bad apples” create the community relations problems involving the African Americans, and the police and municipal government know this as a fact, why have they let it continue without recognizing the injustices and moved to correct them? One reason has to do with the community being conditioned to see the police as “never at fault” in making an arrest or using deadly force. The number of African American men killed during police interaction in the past two years is proof that something is not working in the African American’s favor. When one public official from Ferguson was asked about the large percentage of African American arrests, he shifted the responsibility to the people being arrested by saying that they should not have committed an offence or they deserved to be arrested.
While the DOJ report is important and informative, the conditions in Ferguson will not change unless and until some definite action to address and correct the problems are pursued, and soon. To many of the European American officials in Ferguson, the problem is minor and simply involved hiring a few people of color and maybe dismissing a few employees. Unfortunately, they do not realize that they are part of the problem—their mind-set does not encompass the systemic presence of bigotry. They are not exceptions, many European Americans do not understand, accept, or appreciate the presence of ethnic bigotry in America. We must await the reaction from the citizens of Ferguson to the following statements in the article, U.S.|NYT, “Now Ferguson Police Tainted by Bias, Justice Department Says,” by MATT APUZZO and JOHN ELIGON, MARCH 4, 2015:
“The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight.”
That statement did not call for the hiring or firing of a few individuals, but “to overhaul its criminal justice system.”Obviously, simply replacing parts of the present system will not suffice. Chances are the officials in Ferguson do not view the problems in the same context as the Justice Department. The problems as the DOJ see them are systemic, not modular. The next statement is more specific and direct relative to the experiences encountered by the African Americans citizens of Ferguson”
“In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics.”
Many European Americans do not see ethnic bigotry as a systemic problem affecting all Americans; rather they see it as separate instances involving individuals with personal problems. That might explain the Ferguson police department and municipal authority’s initial reaction to the report. Ferguson is not an isolated example of the refusal to accept ethnic bigotry as an American problem. However, if Americans do not recognize and accept their responsibility as part of the problem, then little positive change will take place. They need to see bigotry from their inside out, rather than from the outside only. The problems of Ferguson are America’s problems; America needs to address them.
- Paul R. Lehman,The phrases: “black people” and “white people” contribute to the system of ethnic bigotry
- Paul R. Lehman, Race is being replaced by ethnic group and ethnicity to eliminate confusion
- Paul R. Lehman, Good community relationships with the police requires clear, realistic perception
- Paul R. Lehman, African American celebrities meeting with President elect Trump–a perspective
- Paul R. Lehman, Effective communications a must in replacing America’s ethnic bigotry (racism)
Dr. Paul Lehman