Paul R. Lehman, Terrence Crutcher and the Tulsa jury,another instance of injustice by reason of being African American

May 19, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, democracy, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, justice system, Killings in Tulsa, Prejudice, Race in America, social justice system, The Oklahoman, tolerance, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The jury in Tulsa found Betty Shelby not guilty and in doing so told the world that African Americans and other people of color have no rights that a police officer need to respect. Once an African American is stopped by a police officer, his or her life is forfeited to that officer. Facts and evidence play no part in the reason for killing an African American by a police officer if we follow the accounts of the shooting of Terrence Crutcher.

Once police officers stop African Americans, the African Americans lose the right to speak because anything they say can be interpreted by the officers as disrespectful or threatening, whichever they choose. The African Americans lose the right to move because any movement might be seen as a threat to the officer’s life. So, what can the African Americans do when stopped by a police officer? A frequently used bit of advice is to comply with the officer’s command. The problem with that is if the African American starts the compliance too slowly then the officer is forced to take action. That action might involve the use of a taser. When someone is shot with a taser, he must remain perfectly still or his movement will be seen as resisting arrest and not complying with the officer’s command. In other words, the African Americans are damned by whatever they say or do as far as the police are concerned.

Some people will say that no one loses his or her rights when stopped by a police officer. If that is not the case, then why are the victims of a fatal police shooting always viewed as guilty of a crime when they never had an opportunity to present their side of the event that led to the shooting? The victim’s side is always challenged even with clear and concise video shows what happened. The problem is with the justice system and the non-thinking jury that fails to use common sense or follow facts and evidence in order to clear an officer of any wrongdoing. Shelby’s reason for shooting Crutcher indicates that she is a danger to the public or the African American public. She stated: “…she fired her weapon out of fear because she said he didn’t obey her command to lie on the ground…”One has to wonder as to what caused her fear. The video showed Crutcher walking a distance in front of her with both hands in the air. If this posture created fear in her, then the entire public is suspect. What was she afraid of that caused her to shoot?  She said that it was when he “appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun.” The report noted that Crutcher was unarmed, the window as up, and no weapon was found in his SUV.

In the article, “Jury finds Tulsa officer not guilty,” (The Oklahoman 5/18/2017) stated the following: “Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted. They noted Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn’t combative—part of which was confirmed by police video taken from a dashboard camera and helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby, hands held above his head.” We should note that Shelby was not alone on the scene; she had a fellow police officer near to her. One wonders what caused the jury to rule the way they did in view of all the visual information available to them.

In addition to being afraid, we learn that “Shelby also said she feared the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic known as Angel Dust that makes users erratic, unpredictable and combative.” However, as stated earlier, Crutcher manifested none of those characteristics.” After an autopsy was performed, PCP was found in his system and also in his SUV. That information was discovered after the shooting, not before. One concern about this incident is why was Crutcher stopped? Could a force less lethal have been employed to effect Shelby’s purpose? What kind of instructions was the jury given in their deliberation in this case?

Evidently, while the questions posed are important for the victim’s family, they are seemingly meaningless to the jury when a police officer is involved. Our criminal justice system must be changed to one that acknowledges and respect the rights of all citizens, regardless of what they look like. The system also needs to reflect the fact that all police officers are not perfect and that they should experience repercussions for their misdeeds.  As it stands today, an African American’s words have no value against that of a police officer. He is always presumed guilty until proven innocent. The reason for that presumption is due to the system of European American supremacy and African American inferiority, the social conditioning European Americans receive in America from birth—African Americans and people of color are to be feared; they are viewed as dangerous and to be suspect. When a European American becomes a police officer, that social conditioning does not change. So, when Shelby said she was afraid of Crutcher, she was not lying, and the members of the jury identified with her and that fear. So, if that is the case, then where is the justice for the African Americans?

When the statement was made earlier that African Americans lose all their rights when stopped by a police officer was made, it was not based on conjecture, but facts and evidence. All one has to do is look at the litany of cases where an unarmed African American or person of color has been shot and killed when alternative uses of force were available. The fact that the Tulsa jury overlooked justice in this case underscores the need to replace the criminal justice system in America. People need to join in with groups who are working to change the system and do whatever is necessary (protest, petition, run for office, support organizations) to help effect change.

Fear is not a monopoly of European American police officers, because communities, family, friends of African Americans and other people of color experience it also, every time they are stopped by a police officer. Fear should never be the reality because the responsibility of all Americans is to ensure life, liberty, and justice for all. We have a lot of work to do; let us get to it.

 

Paul R. Lehman, The criminal justice system must be replaced for justice to become a reality for all

September 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
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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

Paul R. Lehman, Actions speak louder than words.

April 22, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Posted in African American, American Indian, criminal activity, discrimination, education, equality, European American, justice, law enforcement agencies, lower class, minority, Oklahoma, police force, poor, poverty, public education, Public housing, race, social justice system, socioeconomics | 4 Comments
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What can be frustrating to many people who attend public panel discussions that focus on a particular concern is the lack of resolution to the problem; that is, they leave the event with a few new data, but nothing to build or act on. For example, a recent public panel discussion on the “Mass Incarceration in Oklahoma: When Will It End?”Featured on the panel were representatives from the clergy, the state legislature, and the criminal justice system. The obvious and over-riding question for the panel was “Why are so many people being sent to prison in Oklahoma?”

The first panel member was from the clergy and he spoke to the problems involving the laws that place an unfair hardship on poor people and people of color. He mentioned the laws that treat minor violations as major ones such as small quantities of marijuana or drugs found in the possession of first-time offenders. In Oklahoma the law involving possession of drugs calls for prison time regardless for the person’s criminal record or lack of one. He continued in casting blame on the state and what was referred to as the “Criminal Prison Complex System,” that view prison as economic engines and fosters a climate of greed. References were made to the State’s high ranking nationally for incarceration in general, but also for the disparity of African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the prison population compared to the general population. The number one national ranking of women incarcerated in Oklahoma was underscored. The basic response of the clergy’s representative to the question was simply greed.

The second panel speaker represented the state legislature and non-profit organizations working to decrease the rate of the poor being incarcerated. The audience was greeted with information relative to the number and variety of programs that are meant to help relieve the number of people in poverty who are constantly being incarcerated for lack of funds to pay fees and fines. He focused on the need for attention and treatment of the mentally ill and drug addicts who would benefit greatly from pre-prison programs which would not destroy their efforts to rebuild their lives without a prison record. His response to the question of mass incarceration was a lack of funding for the programs that could help to eliminate the prison over-crowding conditions. He lamented that unfortunately, with the state suffering from a budget deficit of over one billion dollars, the likelihood of any programs receiving relief was slim to none at the present time.

The third and final panel speaker represented the criminal justice system; he brought with him many years of service in the law enforcement area. He defended the system by first disagreeing with the clergy with respect to the lack of fairness towards the poor and people of color. He maintained that every person in prison was there because he or she committed a crime or was found guilty by a jury. In essence, the people in prison are there because they deserve to be there. In his staunch defense of the system he never made reference to the system of poverty and neglect that the low socio-economic level of society experience or the exploitation they receive because they are easy prey. As far as he was concerned the system of criminal justice was totally impartial towards all citizens and made no difference because of ethnic, social, or economic status. His response to the question of mass incarceration was due to a lack of family values, education, and unemployment.

The responses of each panel member were offered to show how an audience can become frustrated when no one actually addressed the question. Each representative had a response, but not an answer to the question of why the mass incarceration. What they had to say was related directly to the problem of incarceration, but more to the effects of the system in place rather than an alternative to the system to decrease the prison population. If all we had to do in order to solve a problem is to say the words that identified how it could or should be resolved, then no problem would too big to solve.

Unfortunately, the panel never approached the real issue involving mass incarnation because they were talking at each other rather than communicating with one another. An example should underscore the problem. If the three panel members were riding in a car and suddenly to car started to move erratically, one might suggest that the cause is the rough road; another might say the cause was maybe a flax tire, still the third one might suggest in might be a problem with the car. All three individuals might be correct to an extent, but they will never know for certain until they stop the car, get out and look for the cause of the problem. If it turns out to be a flax tire, they must decide if they will changes the flax tire and put on the spare, or call the auto club to come and fix the problem or should they call someone to come and pick them up and deal with the car later. First, the three people must agree that the problem is the flat tire. Once they agree on that, they must also agree on what plan of action to take. Finally, they must put the plan of action into effect or all their efforts will have gone for nothing.

What panel discussion organizers and participants should keep in mind when offering problem solving information are plans that can be put into effect to address solving the problem. Most people know what the problem is and how it manifests itself with them and the community. They want to know how to go about resolving the problem—do they sign petitions, join protest groups, donate money to organizations fight for the cause, start groups, write letters? The people want to be given an avenue of approach for working toward resolving the problem. Words are important, but change comes from action.

Paul R. Lehman, Fighting a corrupt justice system is a waste of time; replace it.

December 31, 2015 at 1:12 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, criminal activity, Department of Justice, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, grand jury, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, tribalism | 2 Comments
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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, Lessons of the Ferguson grand jury finding

November 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil Rights Ats, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, grand jury, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, socioeconomics, whites | 5 Comments
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The finding of no indictment by the grand jury in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson should have come as no surprise to people who are familiar with the history of America’s justice system and its relationship to people of color. The grand jury’s finding underscores the primary reason why African Americans and other people of color have problems of trust with the justice system in America and the law enforcement arm of that system. Even more to the Brown case and the lack of trust in the County prosecutor Bob McCulloch as a representative of the justice system is his recent record of no convictions of police officers involved in shootings.
One of the legitimate concerns of the people of Ferguson at the beginning of the case was the decision to take it to a grand jury. What that decision did was to remove from involvement the citizens of Ferguson from the final outcome of the case in that the grand jury reflected the demographics of the state and not the city of Ferguson. European Americans represent seventy percent of the state of Missouri, but only about thirty percent of Ferguson. A total of twelve members made-up the grand jury with nine European Americans and three African Americans. A total of nine votes were required to decide the outcome of the case. To increase the control of the justice system in this case, everything was kept secret even after the finding—no information on who voted for what or why. Some citizens of Ferguson stated that they believed McCulloch elected to go with the grand jury to shield him from having to take any responsibility for the finding. That self-protection tactic was apparent during his report to the nation when he deferred many of the questions asked by the reporters as being part of the secrecy of the grand jury process.
Although many questions remain to be answered relative to this case, the grand jury’s finding of no indictment indicates a need to address some serious concerns, namely, the state of the criminal justice system in America as it applies to African Americans and other people of color; the need to address the value of African Americans and people of color in American society; the protection of the police force over and above the protection and rights of the citizens of color; the need for the involvement and support of the European Americans in addressing the problem of bigotry.
From the very beginning of his address, McCulloch’s comments were focused on the rights of the police officer Darren Wilson and how the evidence underscored his report of what actually happened during his confrontation with Michael Brown. The problem with that approach was that Wilson was not the victim, Brown was, but no comments or evidence was offered for Brown by McCulloch. What that says to the public is that the value of the police officer’s life is considerably more than that of the citizen. Why? If Americans are to feel and believe that the justice system works for everyone equally, then some attention must be paid to how the daily operations of that system is informed and functions relative to all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.
Looking nationwide at the frequency of occurrences of police shootings of unarmed African Americans and other people of color, one is faced with the question of human value in American society. If all Americans regardless of their identity and social status are not treated equally with respect and dignity by the justice system and more specially, the law enforcement agencies, then changes must be made to educate them to meet that standard. One problem in the past regarding pronounced bigotry in crimes against people of color by law enforcement agencies is that no serious repercussions are suffered by the law enforcement agencies; the individuals or the agency is usually exonerated; for example, simply look at Ferguson. Regardless of what the grand jury’s finding was, the fact remains that Michael Brown is dead, Darren Wilson who fired twelve shots at him (not all hit him) and killed him is free of any charge. The public is left with the suggestion that nothing of consequence really happened. We can all forget about the incident because of the grand jury’s findings and go on about our lives and businesses. We need to be reminded that regardless of the circumstances, a human being was killed and that life was valued.
Another lesson we can take from the grand jury’s findings is that if changes of a positive nature are to come to Ferguson and America, then the involvement of European American citizens must be forthcoming. We may try and pretend that bigotry is on the decline in society, but all we need to counter that notion is to look at President Obama and how he has been treated because of his ethnicity. The grand jury’s findings give us an opportunity for soul searching and pause regarding the kind of society we want to become. We know that bigotry is alive and well now, but we also know that the demographic of society is also changing. By the year 2050 many professional social scientists predict that the majority citizens will be brown or non-European. One wonders how the European Americans would want a society to treat them where they represent the minority population.
Society is changing and part of the problems we are experiencing can be seen as growing pains. The old guard that includes bigoted attitudes is trying to maintain the status quo because it represents power and control in most areas of society, but as society changes that power will shift. So, it would behoove the involvement of all citizens to make society what we want it to be based on our democratic government. The Michael Brown case in Ferguson shows us where we are as a society as well as where we need to go. The choice is ours to make and in the words of the late Dr. King, we can “either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.”

Paul R. Lehman, Arrest of African American teens waiting for the bus show challenges for law enfforcement

December 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
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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.

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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