Paul R. Lehman, Fairness in the criminal justice system and society is the focus of the protest.

December 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, equality, European American, fairness, Ferguson, grand jury, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Michael Brown, President Obama, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, one thing has become crystal clear—many European Americans have no clue as to why African Americans do not trust law enforcement in general, and the justice system in particular. Many European Americans do not take the time to get the facts relative to incidents involving European American police officers and African Americans; they simply side with the police. In addition, since the majority of law enforcement officers reflect the majority society, the relationship between these two groups is generally good. No so with respect to law enforcement agencies and African Americans and other people of color. The element of distrust of the justice system regarding African Americans and people of color has proven to be correct in far too many cases. Whenever a conflict arise involving justice for an African American victim and a European American law officer, the officer is usually exonerated. When African Americans protest a decision and the lack of justice, as they see it, from the justice system, many European Americans take the side of the law establishment, regardless of the actual situation, evidence, and facts.
No amount to evidence, facts, and data will convince a bigot that American citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, have a Constitutional right to protest against the justice system as to what they perceive as an injustice. Rather than sticking to a specific issue or concern presented by the protesters, the bigots will try to bring in other issues to try and weaken the objective of the protest. For example, when protesters talk about the number of killings of unarmed African American males by European American law officers, the bigots want to bring into the discussion the number of “black on black” murders. The problem with this inclusion is that it has nothing to do with the problem of unequal justice. The African Americans who commit murder against other African Americans are generally apprehended, tried, and if found guilty, sent to prison. History shows that most European American police officers who shoot and kill young African American males rarely go to trial, and if they do, are usually set free. Michael Brown’s case is only one of the most recent examples.
One of the problems with the difference between how African Americans see the criminal justice system and the way European Americans see it is how some, usually bigoted, European Americans perceive African Americans in generally. In many instances, European Americans see African Americans at extremes—either well-to-do, educated, and professional or poor, ignorant, prone to violence, dishonest, collect food stamps, and criminal. Little room is ever given to seeing African American as ordinary human beings as they, European Americans see themselves. Because of these perceptions and bigoted attitudes, fear and hate can be easily generated by people who want to polarize each side. For example, an article in The Oklahoma (11/29/14)by Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason L. Riley entitled “A discussion no one wants,” does just that, whether deliberate or not. Apparently, Riley does not realize his bigotry.
Using language and information that cast a dark shadow on the character of Michael Brown, Riley tries to build an argument justifying Brown’s death. He added that “Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can’t be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior—yet such discussion remains taboo.” This reference is a good example of mixing several different concerns and trying to blend them into one—the black problem. First, racial profiling and tensions exists among African Americans and police regardless of the communities; the focus of the police is usually on the skin color. The “black on black crime” is a problem that is being addressed even by the President, so that concern should not be included in the discussion. African Americans want to have the discussion, however, they must have it with people willing to listen and act positively.
Riley offered some unsubstantiated information that serves to underscore his bigotry:”But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.”The statement suggest that all young black men are criminals and are responsible for committing a large portion of violent crimes. Where are the facts, stats, evidence? By now Riley should know that human being belong to one race, not many.
Riley wants his readers to think that the entire problem in Ferguson is simple to assess: “Pretending that police behavior is the root of the problem is not only a dodge but also foolish…Ferguson’s problem isn’t white cops or white prosecutors; it’s the thug behavior exhibited by individuals like Michael Brown, which puts a target on the backs of other young black men. Romanticizing such behavior instead of condemning it only makes matters worse.”There we have it; all that needs to be done to solve the problem is to get rid of the young black thugs.
What Riley does not understand in his bigoted perspective, is that Michael Brown and Ferguson are not what is being protested, per se, but the injustice of the American criminal justice system. Responsible Americans of all ethnicities are involved in protests all across America and some foreign countries in an effort to get America’s attention regarding the years of injustice perpetrated against African Americans and people of color. These protestors are not causing violent disruptions, but civil unrest and civil disobedience. The American Psychological Association defined violence as “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”Some extreme and small elements of some protest groups have destroyed property and burned buildings, cars and businesses. These acts are reprehensible and have no places in the protests and are never condoned. With respect to violence, however, the violence in most cases is not committed by the protestors. When we look at the definition of the word violence, we certainly cannot describe the protestors as violent; they do not assault, abuse or murder the police or law enforcers.
We certainly thank Riley for his article because he gave us a picture of the problems American society faces regarding valuing all citizens and insuring that we all receive justice and fairness regardless of what we look like or where we live.


The Martin and Zimmerman case underscored the biases present in American society

July 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, European American, fairness, George Zimmerman, Hispanic whites, identity, justice, Prejudice, socioeconomics, Trayvon Martin, U. S. Census, whites | 3 Comments
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Following the decision of the jury during the Trayvon Martin trial the primary question asked about the trial was—was race involved? That question, unfortunately, was the wrong question to ask. Many Americans are great pretenders when the subjects are race and justice. They pretend that both race and justice exists for all Americans when they know for a fact that it does not. First, the term race is inaccurate, misleading, and incorrect because it supports the divide that is inherent it the term’s usage. Human beings belong to one race, so the appropriate terms should be ethnic groups or ethnicity when speaking of personal identity. Injustice in America we know is a fact. All one has to do is look at the number of women imprisoned in Oklahoma, or look at the gap in the jobs between African American and other American youths, or the arrest and imprisonment of African American males across America. So the question following the Trayvon Martin case should be how much did ethnic bias influence the decision in the case?
Not having an ethnic bias in America is impossible for anyone who has been here for a week, because we recognize that different ethnic groups are stereotyped by society in general in everyday life. What that stereotyping meant for the Trayvon Martin case was that the decision against Martin was a forgone conclusion once the jury was selected. Americans like to think that our criminal justice system is fair and impartial when we know that the outcome of any trial commonly depends on the level and degree of representation one can acquire. We know that a person who can afford a top tier lawyer stands a better chance of receiving a favorable verdict than a person with a Public Defender. Yet, we simply place our hope in our belief that the system works. What we do not consider is the fact that ethnic bias is a fact of life for all Americans. In addition to the ethnic difference, we must recognize that social and economic differences also take a toll on the justice system.
When we look at the ethnic differences involved in the case, we must consider that everyone involved came to this experience with some long-standing ethnic assumptions. Zimmerman, for example, assumed that Trayvon was a suspicious-looking person. We do not know why Trayvon was assumed to be suspicious to Zimmerman, but common sense dictates that if it is raining and one has a hood, then one will use that hood to protect one’s self from the rain. According to Zimmerman, the identity of past perpetrators was African American, so it stands to reason that he assumed Trayvon to be African American. Although Zimmerman ethnicity is Hispanic, the jury considered him to be “white,” like most of them. So, the division of ethnic bias was present in the perception of the jury regarding Martin, Zimmerman, and themselves. Since they identified with Zimmerman, and not Martin, they would offer a decision that was more in line with their perception. We must remember that Martin and Zimmerman are not viewed equally by the jury even thought they might say they are; ethnic stereotypes held by the jury were involved in the jury’s decision.
Our justice system says that we are to be judged by a jury of our peers, but we know that happening is next to impossible. The decision against Martin was made by a jury that had no idea of what his life and social environment was like. Without the ethnic associated with Zimmerman, the jury had no knowledge of his life as well. The lives of the individuals on the jury has no resembles to that of Martin—they would never meet in the same church, neighborhood store, park or school except by accident. Their social lives are completely different from that of Martin, so they form assumptions about his life as a young African American accompanied with all the negative stereotypes associated with those assumptions. They do the same with Zimmerman also, but from a totally perspective—he is considered “white.”
For many years in America, certain ethnic groups were not permitted citizenship because they were not considered European American. Included in that group were Polish, Irish, Italians, Jewish, Hispanics, Asians, and numerous others. After World War II, the government began to consider many of them as “white,” and because of this change, many were able to benefit economically, socially, politically as opposed to the opportunities of African Americans. Many of these new “whites” became staunch defenders of their new group, actually fighting against some other ethnic groups attempting to acquire social fairness and justice; they became more “white” than the European Americans in wanting to preserve the rights, privileges and power of their new group. Today, the U.S. Government and the Census Bureau allow any number of ethnic Americans to identify themselves as “white;”even Zimmerman could identify himself as a “white Hispanic.” The term “white” is inaccurate and incorrect as well as misleading. A person either has an ethnic identity or is considered European American, not white. So, what does this have to do with the trail? Simply stated, the members of the jury could not relate to Martin from an economical perspective because they do not live in the same or similar environment based on their economic status. They have no occasion to interact or get to know Martin, his family or the millions of families like his. And, yes, ethnicity biases did play a major role in this equation.
As a society, we need to recognize the fact that America is separated on many levels because of economics, education, religion, politics, and other elements, and that all citizens are not and for now, cannot receive fair and equal treatment through our justice system. The Martin case provides us with an opportunity to not only open a discussion about this problem, but also to create actions for addressing them. We are merely begging the question when we ask if race had anything to do with the Martin v Zimmerman case because we know that ethnic bias is a part of the American social fabric. What we must do as a society now is to create and implement plans that will bring us together as one society with diversity rather than a society separated because of our ethnic diversity. Too many Americans do not realize or recognize their bigotry because of their level of separation from parts of society, in many instances; their “level of separation” not only keeps others out, but imprisons them.

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