Paul R. Lehman, Good community relationships with the police requires clear, realistic perception

January 29, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, freedom of speech, justice, law enforcement agencies, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, President, President Obama, protest, race, segregation, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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In an article by Mark A. Yancey, “Police and community relationship goes 2 ways,” (The Oklahoman 1/28/2017) his first two sentences underscore the reasons why community relationships are in need of a lot of work. He stated that: “In the wake of recent police-involved shootings around the country, I often hear that police need to rebuild trust with the communities they serve. While I agree trust needs to be re-established, we should not place the entire burden of restoring trust, promoting respect and tolerance and following the law solely on the police.”Two words are used in these sentences that demonstrate Yancey’s lack of understanding of the problems involved with building a relationship with the communities; those two words are rebuild and restoring.

While we can applaud Yancey’s desire to seek a good relationship with communities, we must recognize that he is a citizen of a society with a natural bias against people of color. Chances are, he does not realize his bias because it is not something he consciously acquired but was conditioned to be society—his home, neighborhood, school, church, city, state, and nation. One example should suffice to show how the bias works. If an officer observes a nice-looking late-model car driven by a young African American male, chances are two thoughts will cross the officer’s mind—the car is stolen, or the driver is a drug dealer. However, if the drive of the car is a young European American male, the two thoughts might be that he is a spoiled kid or it is the family’s car. The thoughts relative to the African American male were not made out of malice or anger; they are conditioned responses. If the officer does not recognize the negative thoughts relative to the African American, then they cannot be replaced.

One cannot rebuild or restore relationships that never existed in the first place. The relationship the officer has with the communities is the one conditioned by a society which sees people of color in a negative context. The relationship should be for the officer to serve and protect all the citizens without bias, but when the bias is hidden by social convention, the lines get blurred.

Yancey’s next sentence also underscored a problem of a lack of understanding in the police-community relationship: “Relationship-building, after all, is a two-way street and requires mutual trust, respect, and tolerance.” When we stop and take a look at some of the recent videos of police treatment of young African American men, we recognize that all three of these elements are missing from the behavior of the officers. Officers are paid by the citizens to do their jobs; the citizens are not, so it is incumbent on the officers to serve as examples in these areas. History shows us that the law enforcement agency has been wanting in these three areas relative to their relationship with the African American community. For example, shortly after former President Obama had taken office, a noted scholar a professor from a prestigious university was arrested for entering his own home. He identified himself to the officer, told the officer that the home was his, and showed him the key to the door. The officer disregarded all the professor said and arrested him. What happened to trust, respect and tolerance during this experience?

Another recent example of where the police disregard these areas of trust, respect, and tolerance involved a young African American man who had used a tool to do some work on the sunroof of his car. Someone from the neighborhood called 911 and reported someone breaking into an auto. When the young man’s car was pulled over, he got out with both hands in the air. The video showed the officers issuing orders and simultaneously charging the young man, not giving him any time to obey the commands. To add insult to injury, the officers kept telling the young man to stop resisting when there were three or four officers on him, pushing his face into the concrete, punching him and holding his hand behind his back with an officer’s knee. Yet, they kept yelling at him to stop resisting—he was not resisting. How could he when he was face down on the pavement with three or four officers on him? Where were the respect and tolerance? Videos of both these incidents exist and the behavior of the officer/officers can be observed on YouTube.

Yancey mentioned that “citizens need to do their part in the rebuilding process by avoiding unnecessary, violent confrontations with officers.” Officer Yancey would do well to review many of the videos that show no violence on the part of the citizens unless or until it is initiated by officers who are in a rush to subdue a citizen. The fact is that when an officer stops a citizen, the citizen loses all his or her rights because if a video and audio history of the event is not available, the law enforcement community will disregard anything the citizen has to say but accepts everything the officer has to say.

Time and again, videos have shown that citizens can observe the laws, and follow police orders and still get beaten, or shot, and then arrested. We are not saying that the citizens are never at fault; many times they are, and many times mental illness has some part to play in the events. Yancey stated that “The law requires officers to respect the citizens they serve. Citizens should show police the same respect they rightfully demand by cooperating with officers’ instructing and letting our judicial system resolve peacefully and disagreements about the lawfulness of their actions.” In an ideal world Yancey’s statement might be acceptable, but in reality, if the citizen cannot present evidence to prove his or her case, it is an automatic win for the officer. All we need to do is check the record of police cases of misconduct and see how many convictions have been placed on the officers.

The first order of business in trying to establish good community relationships is for the police departments to understand their history with the community. If the elements of trust, respect, and tolerance are missing, then the first question should be why? Chances are the problems start with the biased perception of the citizens conditioned in the law enforcers by society. That is the first thing that needs to change—all citizens should be viewed as citizens, no differences. We can admire Yancey’s efforts in wanting to address this problem, but he needs to better understand the role of the police officers and their relationship to the community before asking the community to give what must be earned—trust, respect, and tolerance

Paul R. Lehman, Recent police videos indicate more than training is needed today.

April 23, 2015 at 12:11 am | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, lower class, minority, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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To many Americans, especially people of color, the idea that the training received by law enforcement agents and police is inadequate and too limited helps to create its counter-productiveness. Thanks to the recent spate of videos showing the activities of some law agents in action, we can actually observe how that training fails to have a positive impact of the citizens directly involved. Some of the scenes depict, in effect, the abuse and excessive use of force on helpless individuals. We know, and underscore, the fact that the videos do not reflect all law enforcement agents, but what is presented certainly helps us to raise questions about the limits of officer preparedness.

We have seen enough videos to know that office training relative to equipment and emergencies is usually top quality. What we have also witnessed, however, is the need for more than training in some situations, and the introduction of the use of common sense and rational thought. In effect, while the training is important and necessary, it alone is not sufficient to address the needs of today’s population. The philosophy of viewing some people as suspects that deserves little or no respect comes through in many of the videos in the manner in which they are addressed and treated. Education and instruction must begin to represent part of the preparation of law enforcement agents if their efforts are to be productive.

One of the common complaints of some officers who patrol areas inhabited by people of color whose social and economic status is less than middle class is the lack of coöperation by the citizens relative to police business. Why is it that these citizens generally do not help the police? One answer can be found in the area of community relations. Because the majority of the experiences involving law enforcement in these communities are negative, the first reaction of the citizens to the law officers will be guarded. After witnessing the treatment of a citizen by some officers, the last thing other citizens want to do is attract the attention of the officers. Law enforcement officers need to know that people of color as well as other people in the lower social-economic class generally react to them with fear. They know through experience and observation that they are not valued as human being by some officers. So they avoid taking an unnecessary chance of interaction with the officers.

What has happened in the past as well as presently regarding officer interaction involving people of color shows a need for better education and instruction for the officers, primarily, and the citizens, secondarily. Today, the training of the offices might be adequate for the job in general, but not sufficient for the needs of today’s diverse society. Depending on the nature, content, and objective of the current training, the results might produce more of a separation and discrimination mindset that focuses on human differences rather than commonalities and fairness.

Part of the problem with police preparedness has been the lack of education from a historical and cultural perspective relative to the communities being served. The frequently asked question of why people of color at times do not help police doing investigations underscores the problem of a lack of positive community relations. The police might take for granted that just because they represent the law and its authority that people will automatically come to assist them is based on a false premise. The make-up of the communities represents the underpinning of the problem, which is trust.

Often the attitudes of the law enforcers are a turn-off to the citizens because they show a lack of respect for the citizens and their rights. Unfortunately, the recent videos show time after time the abuse, excessive force, and total disregard for the citizens’ efforts to communicate. In many cases, the law enforcer is focused on doing his or her job which might include a disregard of rights of the citizen involved. For example, in the Eric Gardner situation, the officers were focused and intent on forcing Gardner to the ground and subduing him. During this process, they showed little or no concern for his repeated statements of “I can’t breath.”While they were probably following their training in subduing Gardner, they were ignoring the pleas of a human being under distress. The officers simple focused on a selective part of their preparation and conduct– the training, and not the education and reasonableness to examine the law infraction to the punishment being administered.

One aspect of the law enforcement agents’ current practice is the lack of concern that seemly concern for the interpretation of their actions by the public and other observers. The way citizens are treated by officers sends a message to the citizens relative to how some human beings are valued. Too often, as some of the videos indicate, when injuries inflicted on a citizen by officers are apparent, but ignored, the message sent to the public is one of little or no concern for the person being detained. The apparent philosophy is to value only the life and wellbeing of the officer, not the citizen. Of course we know that is not the case in every instance, but the videos show that this philosophy does represent a problem in current law enforcement shortcomings. People will not trust or coöperate with officers they fear and do not respect.

Today, the first order of business for law enforcers’ preparation should be to study American history that addresses the causes of ethnic injustice, not just the effects. Officers need a realistic and pertinent education that helps them to discard the prejudice, biases, and bigotry they brought with them to the job. They need to be taught to recognize social and economic characteristics of a community that will help them in their job to serve and defend all the citizens. So, the job of preparing the law enforcers must come from the top—the administrators. The officers can only reflect what they have inside and what has been made available to the public via videos indicate a lack of understanding and knowledge emanating from the top. The situation today relative to police and community relations requires a focus on the need for better officer preparation and instruction and how they should serve effectively in our ever-growing, diverse society. Our society needs law enforcement agents that are not only well-trained, but also well-educated regarding their responsibilities to the citizens—officers who can think as well as act.

Paul R. Lehman, Cartoon picture shows the power of the press in promoting bias

December 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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What’s in a picture? An old saying indicates that a picture is worth a thousand words or more, depending on the picture. In The Oklahoman (12-27-2014) on the “Opinion” page a cartoon in a 3×4 3/4” rectangle shows a large, very dark-complexioned, closed-fist hand, pointing downward. One would have difficulty discerning from the depiction, whether the fist was of a man or gorilla. Just above the wrist are the words “BLACK ON BLACK CRIME.” Directly under the middle finger of the fist is the likeness of a dark complexioned person seemingly being held in place by the fist. In a bubble leading to the person being held in place by the fist are the words “The POLICE are KEEPING US DOWN.”To the left of the fist on the same level as the figure under the fist is a small, one inch figure of a fair-skinned policeman, in standard uniform, with both arms extended holding a gun pointing at the dark fist. The contrast between the dark fist and the policeman is obvious.
What was the message that the cartoonist was trying to send to the readers? At face value it would appear that African Americans are being held down by Black on Black crime, while blaming the fair-skinned police. In other words, rather than focusing on the injustices committed by law enforcement agencies against African Americans since slavery, the real cause of the injustices should rest with the African Americans themselves, and not the police. Many people viewing this cartoon would not be troubled by what it suggests, but when viewed through a different perspective, one might find the cartoon offensive.
In the 1960’s and before his death, Malcolm X noted that the European American Press published stories and pictures that demonized African Americans to the majority population. The press, in effect, turned ninety percent of the African Americans into criminals with stories that inflamed the European American majority. The police agencies following the lead of the press used that negative impression of African Americans to treat them as criminals and less than citizens because they realized or experienced no accountability regarding their experiences with African Americans. Therefore, when the police force interacts with the African American community, many European Americans think only of criminals because that was the image presented by the press. The police never has to be accountable for it actions against what the European Americans consider criminals.
The cartoon, in effect, underscores the bigotry created by the press and exploited by law enforcement agencies relative to African Americans specifically, and all people of color in general. The suggestion is that the giant black monster, meaning the African Americans, is what are keeping the African Americans down and the law enforcement agencies have little or nothing to do with it. Therefore the charges and complaints by African Americans against law enforcers must be false. We know that all police are not bad. Some European Americans will on occasions agree that there are some bad cops, but that the majority of them are good. Where are the good ones when the bad ones are acting badly? Of all the recent videos showing police involvement against citizens of color rarely, if ever, does one show officers trying to discourage or stop their fellow officers from acting badly. We are not saying that it does not happen, but if it does, we rarely witness it.
So, what’s in a picture? As far as the picture in question is concerned, we can recognize ignorance. The graphics and the language combine to create an impression that African Americans are dumb animals that are responsible for their own problems, while innocent law enforcement agencies are being blamed. In addition, the primary problem holding down the African Americans is “Black on Black Crime.” Without a doubt black on black crime represents a major problem in the African Americans communities, however, so does unemployment, poor schooling, substandard housing, no health insurance, low paying jobs, high police presence, high number of arrests and a host of other concerns. All these concerns are related to a system that does not treat all people fairly.
The presence of the picture suggests bigotry by seemingly promoting the stereotypical view that police are unfairly accused of creating a problem for which they are innocent and share no involvement other than what the law allows. The decision to draw and present the cartoon picture did not come from a mind free of ethnic bias. The intent of the work clearly shows who the viewer should assume to be the villain—the African Americans.
The presence of the cartoon suggests a sense of arrogance in that little or no thought was given to how African Americans would view it. The fact that the picture was published shows that no regards were given to what the African Americans might think and feel relative to their value in society that encourages a denigrating perception of them.
The fact of the matter is that the cartoon attempts to dismiss the problems existing between the African Americans, the law enforcement agencies, and society. The problem of black-on-black crime is not the same as seeking equal justice in society and the two should not be combined or confused. The large number of African Americans incarcerated will attest to the fact that individuals are apprehended and sent to prison for their alleged crimes. When we look at the number of instances where violence and death are perpetrated against people of color by law enforcement, and no one is held accountable regardless of the circumstances, then a problem exists that must be addressed. The problem involves equal justice and does not relate to black-on-black crime where people are held accountable for actions.
Living in a democratic society we realize that problem solving is a part of our responsibility and duty because that is how we ensure the rights and liberties of each individual. We fail ourselves and our society when to refuse to acknowledge problems that stare us squarely in the face or shift the blame to others. As our society continues to change we will of necessity be confronted with many problems that must be address if we intend to progress. Unlike the picture, we do not have to blame each other for the problems, we just need to recognize that they exists, then work together to resolve them.

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.

Paul R. Lehman, African Americans and law enforcement agencies’ relationship

August 26, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Posted in African American, American history, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, European American, fairness, integregation, liberty, minority, poverty, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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The relationship of the African American community and law enforcement agencies has never been good, and at time, simply tolerable. Some people say this lack of a positive relationship between these two groups has to do with the majority society’s ignorance, stupidity, and bigotry. In essence, the law enforcement agencies reflect the mind-set of the majority society—European Americans. In some instances, the actions of the law enforcement agencies seem to manifest a fear and anger towards the African Americans. Why? What would be a reason for European Americans via the law enforcement agencies to hate African Americans?
Historically, European Americans have been conditioned by society to see themselves as superior to all people of color. They generally do not view themselves as a race, but as the model of the human race. The reason for this view is based on the efforts of society to create the concept of the European American as “normal.” For example, when a European American woman walks into a department store and asks for stockings that are “nude” in color, she is given stocking that match her complexion. Maybe she wants facial make-up, so she goes to the cosmetic counter and asks for a “natural” shade, she receives make-up that matches her skin complexion. What these two examples suggest is that the skin complexion of the European American is the model of normal, natural, and nude skin. Where does that leave the rest of society—the people of color?
When people believe that they and the people who look like them are normal, then the people who do not look like them, will appear un-normal or less-than-normal. What the society knows, but chooses to ignore, is the fact that 80% of the world’s population is people of color; that means that only 20% of the world’s population has fair complexions. Using those facts and common sense, the people of fair complexions would seem to be the less-than-normal at 20%. However, if the fair-complexion people in the minority can convince the majority people of color to view themselves as less-than-normal, then the fair-complexioned people have an advantage. The advantage grows when positive social and personal attributes are associated with the fair-skinned people while negative and degrading qualities are associated with people of color. Add to this concept the idea that every gain that people of color make towards being “normal” is viewed as a deduction from the fair-skinned people’s sense of superiority and power. This idea of having something taken away from them creates fear, anger and even hatred of the people making the advances. So, the African Americans represent the enemy. This picture is a reflection of what has taken place in America over the last four-hundred plus years. The irony of it all is that the reference to a superior and inferior group of people based on skin complexion is pure conjecture—illusion; only one race of people exist on the planet and it come in a variety of shades.
The fact that the concept of race is a myth has not been communicated to many of the European American communities or if it has, they choose to ignore it. Unfortunately, what cannot be ignored are the changes taking place in society, changes like those stated by Ronald R. Sundstrom, in The Browning of America and the Evasion of Social Justice, (SUNY Press, 2008)
The United States is undergoing the most profound demographic changes in the country’s history so that in a few decades, if not sooner, persons identified (and identifying themselves) as white and tracing their ancestry to Europe will have become part of the nation’s racial and ethnic plurality, no longer its numerically dominant racial group. This historic development portends others equally historic and transformative, among these the gradual — possibly even dramatic — displacement of white people as the dominating group politically, economically, socially, even culturally.
These changes are not what the majority European Americans expected or anticipated relative to their tenure in America, so the changes must be discarded whenever and wherever possible. In effect, President Obama cannot be accepted as the President because that takes away the superiority from the biased European Americans.
The ignorance and bigotry against the African American is reflected in the treatment of the African American community by the law enforcement agencies. Because of the social conditioning of the law enforcement agencies, they show little or no respect towards the African Americans. They feel empowered to act this way because of the general lack of power the African Americans and poor people have in the society and the “us versus them” attitude of the agencies. Our society is not viewed as unified, but separated by color and socio-economic status. Taken together, the attitude and treatment of the law enforcement agencies towards the African Americans leaves little or no room for trust in fairness and justice.
An example of how this lack of trust in the system works can be seen in a recent story printed in The Oklahoman, ”More victims are possible in sex crime case against officer” (8/22/2014). The story involved allegations of a series of sexual attacks by a police officer while on duty in a largely African American community. The article noted that the officer was accused of “stopping women—some as they walked through neighborhoods—and threatening them with arrest….Police said …[the officer] forced women to expose themselves, fondled the women, and in at least one instance, had intercourse with a woman…” The officer is European American.
Why did these alleged crimes go on so long? We might suggest that the officer believed that his word, as an officer, would over-ride the word of any African American female. And in most cases he would be correct because of past experiences of officers in situations regarding African Americans. Many of the women who filed complaints held little hope that this officer would be stopped. More than likely the mere number of complaints to the department finally got someone’s attention, so some action was finally taken. The number of women reported in the article was seven and their ages between 34 and 58. The lack of trust comes from the repeated experiences of lack of respect and negative treatment by people who are paid to enforce the law, serve and protect, but who often assume to be the law, judge and jury.
We must come to the understanding that we are all family—the human family, and our society and world must change for the better for everyone. At some point in our changing society, we will realize “that the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.”

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