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.
Paul R. Lehman, Arrest of African American teens waiting for the bus show challenges for law enfforcementDecember 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, discrimination, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Hispanic whites, justice, minority, Prejudice, Race in America, USA Today, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: African American, African Americans, black, coach, Confronting Myths, crime, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Hispanics, minority lack of respect for police, police lack of respect for minority citizens, race, Rochester (NY), school bus, Teens arrested, white
By now, many people have heard the story of the arrest of three African American high school basketball players in Rochester, N.Y. for refusing to move away from the sidewalk where they were standing waiting to catch a school bus. Their coach had told them to wait at that location for a school bus which would take them to a school where they would play a scrimmage game. The arrest reportedly occurred when a police officer ordered the teens to move away from their location. At least one of the teens tried to inform the office that they were only following the orders of their coach. The explanation was not accepted, if even heard, by the office that proceeded to handcuff the teens. The basketball coach arrived on the scene to see his players handcuffed and in the custody of the officer. The coach’s explanation as to why the teens were waiting for the bus in that location was also ignored by the officer. The officer even threatened the coach with arrest if he did not stay out of the incident.
The teens were taken to jail where their parents had to pay $200 for release of their sons on bail. Fortunately, after the District Attorney reviewed what had transpired, she dismissed “the charges in the interest of justice.” The Rochester Police Chief said, however, that he believed “the arrest was justified.” Evidently, the location where the arrest took place had been the scene of disturbances at some earlier time. Regardless of the reasons given for the arrest, the incident reveals a number of problems involving police and certain ethnic Americans citizens.
If anyone has difficulty understanding why the police and certain ethnic American populations have relationship challenges, this incident should serve to underscore what is at the core of the challenges. First, from the perspective of the African American teens, the police failed to recognize them as valuable human beings. Next, the police ignored what the teens had to say as irrelevant to his objective; finally, the police acted on the basis of stereotypes in going about making the arrests.
First, the one thing that all human being expect from other human beings is validation. That is, when one person says hello to another person, a reply is expected as normal behavior. If a reply is not forthcoming, then some form of rationalization is provided to satisfy the lack of a reply. However, in most cases, a reply is usually forthcoming. The reply lets the first person know that he or she has been recognized and validated. For someone not to reply could signal a rebuff or a deliberate lack of validation. In most cases the greeting is followed by a reply. What the office did, relative to the teens, in not allowing them to explain their present was to not validate them; that is, to show them that what they had to say was of no value to him.
When the officer handcuffed and arrested the teens, he further communicated to them that he did not value them as human beings worthy of common decency and respect. If someone accidently steps on another person’s foot, a quick comment of “excuse me” is generally offered to show respect for the person who foot was stepped on and to acknowledge regret for the offense. Because the office ignored what the teens said about their presence and the fact that they were handcuffed and arrested without any acknowledgement as to their humanity, we might assume that they felt helpless and certainly not valued.
In addition to what happened to the teens, they also witnessed the way the officer treated their coach and the lack of respect given him. Some people might excuse the officer for showing a lack of respect to the teen, but the coach was a responsible adult who deliberately spoke to the officer in a respectful manner. The officer not only ignored the explanations of the coach for the teens’ presence at that location, but also even threatened to arrest him as well. The actions of the officer suggest that he was the only person with any rights and value that mattered. Had it not been for the presence of other people with cameras and access to the social media, the results of this incident might have very well meant a criminal record for the teens and legal expenses for their parents. From numerous past experiences we know whose words would be viewed as true in a court of law when the balance is between the officer and the accused.
Most national polls (Gallup,7/13) reveal that two out of every eight African American and Hispanic American men have had some direct negative contact will law enforcement. So there should be little doubt why African Americans and Hispanic Americans regard police officers as the enemy rather than friend or protector.
What does this incident say about the challenges of the law enforcement establishments regarding relationships with minority citizens especially African Americans and Hispanics? If the people that the police are to protect question the motives of the officers, little or no cooperation or respect will be forth coming from those people. Too often officers are ill equipped and educated to serve successfully in minority communities. In the above incident, the arrest and subsequent actions could have been avoided had the officer given the teens a little respect and valued them as human beings rather than following negative stereotypical perceptions. One of the teens said in remembering the treatment received from the officer that “not all teens are bad;”in other words, why would the officer assume that these teens were bad since they had not done anything unlawful? The answer to that question comes from a lack of adequate instruction and education relative to how police are perceived by minority citizens and why they are perceived in such a negative way.
In far too many cases the police seem to forget their mantra “to Protect and To Serve” when it comes to certain minority citizens. Too often they forget that they represent the laws of the people they serve; they are not themselves the law. One approach to changing the negative perception of minorities towards police would be for the police to ask themselves how would like themselves or any member of their family to be treated? Once they have answered that question, they should proceed to meet their objective.
Tags: african american males, African Americans, american youths, black, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnic bias, ethnic group, ethnic separation, ethnicity, European Americans, forgone conclusion, George Zimmerman, great pretenders, Hispanics, martin case, Martin v. Zimmerman jury, politics, race, socioeconomics, Trayvon Martin, white
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.