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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Paul R. Lehman, American Democracy: Truth, Falsehood, Falsehoods as truths, and Reality (Part one of three)

May 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, happiness, identity, integregation, justice, law, liberty, life, Martin Luther King Jr., minority, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, the Black Codes, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, The U.S. Constitution, tribalism, U. S. Census, whites | 2 Comments
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PART ONE  

A young European American (white) man in his middle to late twenties was being interviewed on a television show; he was dressed in a suit and wore a tie. What he said during the course of the interview was in effect, that he was a white man, and he wanted to see America regain its rightful place as a white man’s country. He was apparently upset because he believed that he was losing his power, influence, and privileges. From the expression on his face, it was apparent that the young man believed in what he was saying, and believed it to be the truth. Some Americans might be surprised by what the young man said because they do not believe that he was speaking the truth. Well, what exactly is the truth as far as the young man was concerned? The problem of truth began with America’s beginning.

Before we can begin a discussion about truth, we need first to have a working definition of truth. We might suggest that truth, in a statement, is represented by fact or reality. In another sense, we might suggest that truth is relative to the individual regardless of facts and reality. So, where does that leave us regarding truth? How can both suggestions be accurate? The key to the answer has to do with how we view facts and reality.

What we find in American society is evidence that truth is viewed as both relative to the individual and based on facts and reality. Here is how it works. Society first proclaimed certain truths, then proceeded to ignore them, inventing falsehoods in their place and convincing the people to accept the falsehoods as truth. Now that the falsehoods have been uncovered, the people do not want to accept the truth. To demonstrate how this happened, we need to look at history. We begin with the words from the Declaration of Independence:” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The first thing we note in this statement is the word “truths, “which carries with it the semblance of facts and reality. We generally accept the sincerity and honesty of the word truth. The next phrase is equally important to our understanding of truth as being “self-evident “or clear and acceptable to all. We have no reason to suspect anything being amiss about what follows this first phrase: “that all men are created equal.” Well, if we know anything about early American history and the founding fathers, we know that the author of those words, Thomas Jefferson, as well as other founding fathers, were slaveholders. How can one believe in the equality of all men and be a slaveholder? Easy enough make slaves less than human. But what about other men and women who cannot enjoy the equal rights of the wealthy European American men? Simply write laws that control their freedoms.

In the phrase that follows, three words stand out: “endowed,””unalienable,” and “rights, “and all invite interpretation. The first word, “endowed” can be interpreted as a gift or something provided to the individual. The next word, “unalienable” can be defined as not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied. The term “rights “can be defined as freedoms, entitlements or justified claims. Following this introduction of privileges that cannot be denied and are freedoms available to all, we learn what they are: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights and those contained in the Constitution are called civil rights. All American citizens are entitled to celebrate and enjoy them. We could examine each one of these rights to show that all Americans have never experienced them in reality because of two important things associated with American history: slavery and bigotry. The institution of slavery made certain that the words of the preamble to the Constitution would never ring true: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice….” The remainder of the preamble loses its value when we realize that “justice” was never established while a system of slavery was in existence. After slavery, laws were instituted to retain control of certain groups of American citizens.

The young European American man who considered himself a white man represents the reality of a falsehood being believed as truth. He is not being an extremist or extraordinary with his assertions, he is simply saying what American society has conditioned him to believe. The social conditioning he has received all his life is at its core a system that fosters a belief in European American (white) supremacy. So, regardless of what the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, or even the Pledge of Allegiance says about all men being equal with all their civil rights, including liberty and justice for all, reality provides those truths for European Americans only.

The system of European American (white) supremacy was invented and instituted by the founding fathers and woven into all America’s social institutions. What was unknown to the young European American man was that the system in which he was nurtured and conditioned was based on a falsehood. The system of European American (white) supremacy was based on the false concept of reality consisting of two races, one black, and one white. The European American (white) race was presented as being the model for humanity as well as America’s standard of beauty. European Americans generally do not picture themselves as belonging to a race. People who do not look like them belong to a race. Another characteristic of being European American was that they were to consider themselves as the center of the universe, superior to all people of color, so their only equals were other European Americans.

To ensure that the concept of supremacy was received and perceived as ordinary and normal, the government instituted segregation, which meant that European Americans could live their entire lives without having to interact with a person of color. Discrimination was instituted to ensure that European Americans receive privileges above and beyond what was offered to people of color, especially in education, jobs, health care, salaries, housing, and the law. In all these areas, the African Americans were denied opportunities to participate as first-class citizens and denied their civil rights.

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