Paul R. Lehman, Americans and the challenge of the criminal justice system

November 13, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, criminal activity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, interpretations, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Associated Press, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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When Americans think of the criminal justice system in America they usually recognize it as a reasonable, rational, and fair agency of society. What we often do not see relative to the criminal justice system is the American society that is represented by the criminal justice system. We focus generally on the law enforcement agencies or courts rather than the people in society that make-up and contribute to the system. The fact that most of the law enforcement agents, police, are set freed or shown as not guilty of killing unarmed African Americans reflect on the people responsible for adjudicating justice. We acknowledge that the culture of the criminal justice system in America is biased against African Americans, but the system actually reflects the biased society.

A case in point is that of Betty Jo Shelby, a European American (white) female and a former Tulsa police officer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher.  According to media reports, Shelby was on duty when she saw an SUV that was stopped in the middle of the street, the vehicle belonged to Crutcher.  We learn that “Shelby testified at trial that she was scared because Crutcher appeared to be under the influence of drugs, didn’t obey her commands and looked liked he was reaching inside his vehicle.”(Justin Juoapavicus, Associated Press, 10/26/2017)

Videos of the incident did not coincide with Shelby’s testimony in that Crutcher was shown to be at least fifteen feet in front of her with both of his hands up in the air; the windows of his SUV were rolled-up. A fellow officer was standing next to Shelby when she fired her weapon killing Crutcher. After Crutcher was shot, no aid or medical attention was given to check on his well-being until after several minutes had passed.

The fact that Shelby shot and killed Crutcher cannot be disputed since the incident was captured on video. However, the reasons for the shooting by Shelby can be brought into scrutiny relative to those adjudicating her case, the jury. For the court to acquit Shelby of the shooting leaves us to question their qualifications to make such a judgment. The primary reason for the shooting according to Shelby was her fear of Crutcher. How can we explain the jury’s actions of a not guilty finding if police officers feel threatened or that their lives are in danger when an unarmed African American walking away from them with his hands in the air? If Shelby is simply afraid of African American men, then she should not be working in law enforcement or any other place where she will encounter African American men.

Since the jury accepted her defense of fear of African American men, we might assume that they consider it a legally accepted defense for European American (white) officers shooting people of color. What happens when officers walk into a supermarket or mall or church and there they see African American men? Do they fear for their lives in these circumstances as well and so would be justified in shooting them? Many of the videos in recent years have shown this to be the case. We must ask where is the reasoning, rationale, and justice for the actions of the jury?

One of the conclusions we must draw from these actions is that of ethnic bias of the jury. Since the majority of the jury make-up in American is European Americans (whites), we must also conclude that they do not represent for the African Americans a ‘jury of their peers’ but more a jury representing the European American (white) officers. Since fear of African Americans and people of color appears to be a problem for many European American (white) law enforcers, why are they hired? And if hired, why are they not educated to treat people of color with the same decency and respect they would give other citizens?

The answer is simply because of their social conditioning which underscores the privilege accorded to them, European Americans (white), for their skin complexion. Simultaneously, European Americans (whites) are conditioned to view people of color as inferior in general, but to view African Americans with fear, anger, and dream because they are dangerous. Many European Americans (whites) do not realize their bigotry because their acquisition was acquired through everyday life at home, school, church etc. As a cognitive scientist, Justin L. Barrett, noted, “What we learn through testimony or through behavioral imitation is importantly influenced by social context biases.” He added that “we model our thought and behaviors on others based upon what we perceive most others think and do (conformity bias), favor prestigious individuals for role models (prestige bias) and prefer to ape those whom we see as similar to ourselves or whom we want to be (similarity bias).” So, to many European Americans (whites) ethnic bigotry is not something that is unusual or viewed as out of the ordinary life experience.

What we find puzzling about the actions of the Americans citizens who serve as part of the criminal justice system is how they equate reason, rationale, and justice with their actions. For example, shortly after being acquitted for the shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher, that portion of Betty Shelby’s record will be removed, and subsequently, will be expunged: “District Judge William LaFortune also ordered all documents involving former Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby’s case sealed and kept with the court. The case will only be accessible through a court order and can be destroyed after 10 years, according to the law.” (Justin Juoapavicus)

What we can observe from Shelby’s case is that after shooting and killing an innocent American citizen because she was in fear, not threatened or felt to be in harm’s way, she was acquitted of all charges and walked away from the incident with no repercussions. We have learned that she has been recently employed in a law enforcement position in a nearby town. In 10 years, no one will even know what she did except the family and friends of Terence Crutcher, Shelby, and the jury. After all, it was incumbent on the jury to administer a finding based on reason, rationale, and justice, but they failed in every respect. We, Americans, cannot allow this form of injustice to continue because whether we realize it or not, the mistreatment of any American affects us all. Act–find a way to make a difference.

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Paul R. Lehman, Cal Thomas uses Charles Barkley and his comment to hide his biased view of history

August 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Charles Barkley, Civil Right's Act 1964, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, extremists, fairness, freedom of speech, identity, interpretations, justice, justice system, language, law, Media and Race, political power, politicians, Prejudice, protest, race, racism, representation, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, The Oklahoman | Leave a comment
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Cal Thomas in his (Oklahoman) column, “Barkley offers some solid advice,” (8/22/17) begins the article with a quote from Friedrich Hegel: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” Unfortunately, some people take the quote to have value, others disagree with it. Hegel also stated that “Africa is no historical part of the world.” He added that “blacks had no sense of personality: their spirit sleeps, remain sunk in itself, makes no advance, and thus parallels the compact, undifferentiated mass of the African continent.” Whether one benefits from history or not depends on how one interprets the history being read, and who wrote it.

Thomas made the following statement: “We will learn even less from history if we wipe it clean, as some are trying to do by removing statues of Confederate leaders whose beliefs about slavery and race most, including me, find offensive. Conversation beats censorship.” If the people who want the statues removed also want the history relative to them wiped clean then that would be a tragedy. On the contrary, that is not what is wanted, because the history of the statues and the people and society that erected them and placed them on public property says much more than the traditional history books would tell. The majority of the mayors who have removed these statues maintain that they should be placed in museums or on private property, not destroyed. Most of the protesting people agree.

A misunderstanding has occurred relative to the selection of statues and who they honor in that some people assume that simply because an honoree was a slaveholder his statue should be removed. The fact is that only those statues that underscore and supposedly support the Confederacy (the losers of the Civil War) and supposedly continued slavery after the war are in question.  The majority of the statues that are believed to represent the Confederacy, in fact, only represent a bigoted society that wanted to flaunt its social control and power in the face African Americans. What are missing from Thomas’ comments are knowledge of history and an understanding of the hypocrisy that all Americans have been living under since the Revolutionary War—white supremacy.

Certainly, Thomas remembers the days of segregation when he witnessed the social injustices being visited upon people of color. We would also feel secure in thinking that his education made him aware of the many inhumane experiences African Americas experienced at the hands of a bigoted society. We have no history of how these experiences affected Thomas or if he supported these activities are not. We do know that through the efforts of civil rights activists many positive changes were made in American society, changes that benefited European American (white) females more than anyone else. In all of the civil rights acts, no special treatment was asked for or received by African Americans. The only request was that justice and fairness be served. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for that request to be honored. We are waiting for history to catch up.

According to his comments, Thomas seemed to believe that the protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, both sides, wanted to create chaos in society and that some of them confronted each other “causing death and destruction, not only to individuals and property but to the links that have traditionally held us together as a nation, in spite of our differences.”Evidently, Thomas was not able to discern one group as wanting to disrupt and destroy the progress the nation has made over the years to correct history. One side of the protestors wanted to help deconstruct the things that have kept us from being one nation, to remove the superficial link that has kept us apart.

Rather than addressing the issue of European American supremacy, Thomas turns to the media as one of the dividing elements in society: “As usual, the media have contributed to the cultural fracturing by elevating tiny groups of bigots and leftists to center stage.” He then moves over to the blame the government: “Part of this chaos comes from government’s inability, or unwillingness, to solve, or even address, major challenges.”His comments indicate an unwillingness to stick with the subject and gain some clarification. Instead, he plays” the blame game” that does nothing but takes up print space and distracts from the problem.

Finally, Thomas gets to where he always intended to go in the first place—someone to use as an escape hatch—Charles Barkley. He tries to denigrate those people who have concerns about the Confederate statues by questioning their level of education and said they are a “distraction designed to keep our minds on things other than solving real problems and pit us against each other for the cultural, political and fundraising benefit and goal of various groups on the left and right.” Thomas, it seems, does not regard the years of injustice, abuse, bigotry in the social, educational, economic, political, judicial institutions of America as real problems. He does not understand that he is a bigot and that as long as he sees himself as a white man, he will be a bigot. To excuse himself from being a bigot, he uses Barkley’s comments to hide behind. But, instead of hiding them, Barkley’s words expose Thomas.

When the founding fathers invented European American (white) supremacy, they took away the history of the Africans and called them negro or black.  Although the African had cultural and ancestral identities, they were deprived of them. The early European Americans called themselves white rather than using their cultural and ancestral identities because they had already made white represent power, privilege, and control of society. The language they employed was used to ensure the continuation of their power and control. Subsequently, the Africans and African Americans were forced to learn that language, not realizing that it supported their enslavement. What Thomas does not understand is that he and Barkley do not speak the same language. Yes, they use the same words, but the meanings are different. Barkley is not a historian or a scholar, but a sports figure who expresses himself freely on a variety of subjects; he does not purport to represent anyone but himself, certainly not all African Americans.  What Thomas did not realize from Barkley’s statement is that he is not satisfied with society and history the as it is. So, he will work to change it for African Americans and the world, for the better. That is precisely the message the protesters were making in supporting the removal of the statues.  What was that thing about history again?

Paul R. Lehman,Ethnic bigotry on the judicial bench—a case in point

May 3, 2017 at 12:10 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Criticism, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, interpretations, justice, justice system, law, Oklahoma, race, Race in America, respect, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, the 'n' word, The Oklahoman, white supremacy | 1 Comment
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Many Americans believe that as a society we have made tremendous progress in our acceptance of one another as equals regardless of our skin color. Although we would like to believe this, the fact of the matter is that ethnic bigotry permeates the whole of American society in the system of European American (white) supremacy. In many cases, the bigotry is subtle and often passes for ignorance or innocence. At other times, the bigotry is so apparent; it cannot be excused with some form of rationale. One of the features of European American supremacy is expressed in an attitude of superiority over the ideas, opinions, and statements of people of color, especially African Americans. A case in point occurred recently in an article by Randy Ellis, in The Oklahoman, “Black judge: Repeating ‘n’ word in appellate opinion was ‘unnecessary.’(4/29/2017)

According to the article, the only African American judge on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Vice Presiding Judge David Lewis, made the statement regarding his fellow judge’s opinion: “I concur in the decision reached by the court in this matter. However I write separately to point out that the author of this opinion did not have to repeat the repugnant language used by the appellant.” Lewis’ words to his colleague, Judge Gary Lumpkin, were to alert him to the sensitivity of the word to him, and indeed to the public, and that he found its frequent repetition unnecessary. Lewis wrote that “The repeated use of the ‘n’ word in this opinion was unnecessary to the reader’s understanding of the language used by the appellant, and unnecessary to the court’s resolution of this case.”

In many cases like this one, the judge receiving comments of this nature would recognize the lack of sensitivity shown in his or her case and offer an apology for the offense and a “thank you” for the cautionary note from the colleague. One would think that a judge on the bench today would be fully apprised of the sensitive nature of the ‘n’ word. The article noted that: “Judge Lumpkin quoted the racial slur verbatim in his opinion, while Lewis used the euphemistic expression ‘n’ word in his criticism.”

What followed, according to the article, underscored the apparent ethnic bigotry that exists not only in society but also on the bench: “Robert Hudson, another judge on the court, defended Lumpkin’s decision to quote the racial slur.” Rather than accepting Lewis’ words to Lumpkin as a form of “corrective criticism,” and an appeal to his better judgment, Hudson interpreted Lewis’ comments as an affront to Lumpkin’s judgment and continued “Our cases reflect reality and that reality is oftentimes not pretty.” In other words, Hudson seems to imply that one reality trumps another reality; in this case, the reference to an African American slur word, which could have easily been avoided, should be used regardless of its offensiveness to his fellow judge and society. The question is why would a judge continued to use an offensive ethnic slur word when he knows that it can easily be avoided. European American arrogance?

Robert Hudson excused Lumpkin’s use of the ‘n’ word by noting that: “’…if we are willing to erase highly relevant—albeit offensive—facts from our opinions, we will send a terrible message to the bench, bar and public that the truth, when objectionable, should be redacted merely to avoid controversy.” Hudson tried to use aspects of the case to make his point, but it fails on the history of prior court practices. The details of a sexual attack perpetrated on some young female would be not reused time and again verbatim if the judge knew that the language was sensitive to her and the court.

The point relative to this article focuses more on the attitude and actions of the two European American judges rather than the actual case. For example, if the three judges were having lunch together, and one of the European American judges started to tell an offensive ethnic joke and the African American judge stopped him and asked that he not tell the joke in his presence because he found it to be offensive, common sense dedicates that a reasonable person would acquiesce and not tell the joke. However, if the other European American judge wanted to hear the joke and encouraged the teller of the joke to continue, we would realize that he had no regards for the feelings of his African America colleague. In addition, he showed disrespect by his actions, and that his selfish desire was more important than his colleague’s feelings and request. The African American’s request was that the joke not be told in his presence, not that it not be told at all.

The system of European American (white) supremacy has conditioned the European Americans to view African Americans and other people of color as inferior regardless of their social, economic, educational, political and judicial status. That system causes European Americans to view reality through a warped sense of value. For example, when the topic of race is ever brought into a conversation, the European American rarely thinks of him or herself as being part of a race. They have been falsely conditioned to view themselves as representatives of the human race—everyone else belongs to a different race. In addition, they see themselves as being the center of the universe and in control of society.

So, when Lewis, the African American judge said to his colleague that he found the repetition of the ‘n’ word to be excessive and unnecessary to the case, Hudson, a European American judge, and colleague of both Lumpkin and Lewis took exception to Lewis’ comments. Lewis had said previously that the repetition of the ‘n’ word verbatim had no direct bearing on the outcome of the case. Hudson used his sense of superiority to castigate Lewis for speaking the truth to his European colleague. So, Hudson had to put the African American judge in his “place” as an inferior. Hudson, seemingly, believed that his opinion regarding Limpkin’s excessive use of the ‘n’ word over-ruled or trumped the opinion of Lewis for no other reason than he was European American.

Some people might think that these comments are simply making a mountain out of a molehill by suggesting that ethnic bigotry was at the core of Hudson’s criticism of Lewis. When read carefully, the article noted that Lewis agreed with the finding of the case. He just felt the use of the ‘n’ word was excessive. Because of the socially biased conditioning of Hudson’s and European Americans generally, their ability to relate to insensitive words or phrases directed at ethnic Americans of color are rarely perceived and understood. However, even large learning curves can be overcome with effort

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