Paul R. Lehman, Mesa,Arizona, and the police beatings of people of color go on and on and on

June 8, 2018 at 11:35 pm | Posted in African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, justice, law enforcement agencies, minority, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, Tulsa, whites | Leave a comment
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Four Mesa, Arizona police officers have been placed on paid leave while an investigation into their use of excessive force against an unarmed African American is being conducted. Fortunately, a video of the incident was available so viewers could see for themselves what took place. Apparently, someone from an apartment building called the police to report a disturbance at that location. A young African American man, Robert Johnson, was waiting for an elevator and talking on his cell phone when he was approached by several police officers. Without any conversation, they began to frisk him, and then apparently, ordered the young man to move to another location away from the elevator, which he did while continuing to talk on his phone. Once he moved to the location where he had been ordered by the officer, he was then ordered to sit on the floor. Showing some hesitation in sliding down the wall to the floor, several officers began punching him in the face. Since he was leaning against the wall, he could not fall freely to the floor, so an officer bent down and pulled his legs out from under him at which time he landed on the floor. The officers continued to beat him until his hands were secured behind him. At no time did he offer any resistance.

The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” could easily apply here in that the conduct of the officers was in question from the very beginning. Not once before the officer began their assault on the young man did they attempt to engage him in a civil conversation. Their attitude was seemingly that of a big bully that demanded immediate action when an order was given. The officers apparently had a perceived notion to enter into an altercation with the young man since they wasted no time in initiating their punches. At no time did any of the other officers present seek to stop the assault or advise the officers of their conduct relative to their actions. So, what do these pictures tell us about some police officers?

One of the first things this video tells us about these officers is that they have no respect for the young African American man. He was not treated respectfully like citizens should expect to be treated if they are minding their own affairs and causing attention to themselves. They showed a total disregard for his Constitutional rights by beginning their search of his body for something without cause. Johnson had no weapons, only a cell phone. The officers next used their authority as bullies to order Johnson to a wall on the opposite side of the area while still not informing him of anything that he did or was suspected of doing. Since he was surrounded by four fully armed and anxious officers, Johnson readily complied with the officers’ order to move. As soon as he removed his cell phone from his ear, the beating began.

We might ask the question of why the police officers acted towards Johnson in this type of aggressive manner. They knew that Johnson poised no problem of violence or having a weapon on him after they searched him and he complied with their orders. Yet, the officers felt that they were well within their rights to beat an unarmed man for no reason except for the fact that he was a person of color. One thing is certain from the actions of the officers, and that is reason played no part in their decision to beat Johnson. We know from many past similar experiences that the excuses of being afraid for their lives or feeling threatened or not being respected or obeyed were used to justify their actions. A simple answer to why they use excessive force and murder against people of color is because they do not consider them to be human beings.

We might also ask the question of why is the society in general not outraged by the repeated unacceptable actions of these police officers against people of color. Could it be that they also do not see people of color as human beings? One reason for our making that assumption rests on the history of the repercussions experienced by many of the officers who committed atrocious acts against people of color. We would be incorrect in labeling the treatment many of the officers received for the actions as repercussions. The four officers from the Mesa Police Department were placed on paid leave. In others words, they received a paid vacation for their efforts, but no negative consequences. In the case of Betty Shelby, the female Tulsa, Oklahoma officer who shot and killed Terrance Crutcher in the back while he was walking away from her, after her department’s report stated that she should not be allowed to serve as an officer dealing with the public, she was given a job in a city a few miles north of Tulsa. She was recently featured in a newspaper article where she had received a promotion and now offers classes to teach officers how to beat charges of abuse and excessive force. The list of officers not being held responsible for their misdeeds is too long to include here.

While the general American public remains silent relative to these officers’ display of abuse of people of color accompanied with a chevalier attitude, they do not seem to realize that although the officers do not have to assume responsibility for their actions, the citizens for whom the officers work must pay large settlement payments to the victims and/or their families. The ethnic demographics are rapidly changing the makeup of American society and with those changes will come the need to redirect the focus and objectives of law enforcement. Some departments are making changes now because they understand that the amount of money being paid for officer’s mistakes could be put to better use in educating them to treat all citizens fairly.

We have not seen the last video of police abuse of unarmed African American citizens simply because the system does not require them to take responsibility for their actions. The system must be replaced.

 

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Paul R. Lehman, Georgia cop’s statement “We only shoot blacks,” underscores culture bigotry

September 7, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, black inferiority, blacks, criminal activity, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, Norm Stamper, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Many European Americans are beginning to see and realize the attitude and treatment received by African Americans from law enforcement. For too many years African Americans have been made to look like the evil and dangerous villains that deserve the abuse and even death they receive from law enforcement. When African Americans complained about the injustice and bigotry of the criminal justice system, many European Americans turned a blind eye and deaf ear to those complaints. Today, with the benefit of video technology the public is able to witness the behavior of law enforcement agents and their treatment of people of color. A recent incident involving a police officer and an assumed European American woman provides evidence to support the problem of ethnic bigotry in America.

An article by Terence Cullen in the New York Daily News (8/31/2017) told about the incident that underscores many of the claims against law enforcement and the deaths of many African Americans. The officer involved in the incident was Cobb County (Georgia) Lt. Greg Abbott and the article noted that “Abbott pulled the sedan over on suspicion of driving under the influence and told a woman in the passenger seat to use the cell phone in her lap. The woman tells the 28-year veteran she’s afraid to move her hands. ‘I’ve just seen way too many videos of cop,’ the woman says before Abbott cuts her off. ‘But you’re not black’ he says. ‘Remember, we only shoot black people.” The officer’s comments tell us much about him and our society.

One of the first things the officer does with respect to his comment about the woman not being black is to show his biased social conditioning relative to the concept of races. He does not question the authenticity of the concept; he simply accepts it and proceeds with his beliefs. All Americans have been conditioned to accept the concept of races, black and white, as legitimate when we know that the concept is false, an invention to control society. By the officer identifying the woman as white, he has made a judgment about her that gives her power and privilege over people of color whether she wants it or not. The only reasonable assumption we can make about this officer’s comment relative to the woman not being black is to consider her skin complexion. We can safely assume that her complexion is deemed by the officer acceptable enough to be considered white. Whether the woman is European American or a member of some other ethnic group, we do not know. However, that determination is of little consequence to the officer who has already made his judgment relative to her identity.

American society has conditioned European Americans to view African Americans as inferior to them. As such, the need to show respect and curtsey to them is never an issue because no repercussions result from disrespecting and abusing them. This attitude of bigotry is not something taught to each generation, but shown in our way of life as being natural and normal. We ignore the facts that we are one race of people, facts given to us through the sciences, history, and even the Bible. Because the people who invented this system of bigotry also controlled all the institutions in society, they were able to keep the system alive and well. Today, many European Americans would not know their identity if they were told that they were not white; that is how extensive the social conditioning has become. They also believe that regardless of the educational, economic and political status people of color attain, the European Americans with no comparable credits is made to believe they are better. So, the color white is important to the officer as well as to the woman in the car.

Community relations have never been good between the African American community and the law enforcement community because law enforcement has always viewed African Americans as inferior. When one side of a community has preconceived ideas about the other that places them at a disadvantage, no reasonable or mutually just solution to any problem will be forth –coming. Most community relation programs instituted by law enforcement for the African American community always favor law enforcement because of their conditioned biases. Although some members of law enforcement desire to faithfully perform their jobs, they cannot deny that the culture inside of law enforcement is anti-black (African American) and that sentiment is reflected in the officer’s statement: “Remember, we only shoot black people.”

Norm Stamper, a retired European American police officer, noted in his book, Breaking Rank, (2005) that contrary to what European Americans believe, “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘color blindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.”Stamper’s comments are underscored by another former member of law enforcement. In his book, Choke Hold, (2017) Paul Butler, an African American former federal prosecutor and law professor at Georgetown University, defined chokehold as laws and social practices made to control African American men: “It is a two-step process. Part one is the social and legal construction of every black man as a criminal or potential criminal. Part two is the legal and policy response to contain the threat—to put down African American men literally and figuratively.” Given their experiences in law enforcement, these two individuals have no reason to make false statements about the culture of law enforcement regarding African Americans.

Officer Abbott, a 28-year veteran on the Police force, exhibited the ethnic bias that is part of the culture in which he works. Since he was conditioned by society to be biased against people of color, joining the police force did nothing to relieve him of his biases but, evidently, provided an environment in which they could be exercised with impunity. Removing Abbott from the force will not eliminate the problem of bigotry since it is societal. Whether we interpret Abbott’s statements as sarcastic or not, they flowed freely from his mouth without hesitation.  Abbott does not simply represent law enforcement, he represents American society. Until American society can label this biased culture despicable and stand together demanding justice for all our citizens, we must share in the responsibility of what this culture produces.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Law enforcement should acknowledge role in historic Police violence regarding African Americans

July 22, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Breaking Ranks, Constitutional rights, Darren Wilson, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, Media and Race, Norm Stamper, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, tribalism, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the ironies concerning the recent instances of police shootings is the reaction of law enforcement regarding the shootings. The entire nation is put on alert and more arms are brought out in preparation for defense against the shooters. More officers are brought out into the field or on the streets as if there was going to be a war-like conflict between the police shooters and the police. What we find in looking at the individuals who shoot police is that they generally acted alone. When attempting to answer the question of why were the police attacked, the police never say that maybe they had something to do with instigating the violence. And that is the irony.

For approximately three-hundred-years, law enforcers have shown little respect to people of color as they abused, assaulted, exploited, and killed them. The concern for justice and fairness was never an issue in the years before civil rights. Whatever the law enforcers wanted to do, they do with impunity. The victims of color had no one or place to turn to for justice or fairness when the perpetrators were the law enforcers who were supposed to protect them. Most complaints to others in authority fell on deaf ears, and usually, nothing was done. At the same time, an African American or person of color person could be accused of committing a crime and be sent to prison or death without even a semblance of a fair or just trial. If we were to check the records of violence and lynching’s committed against African Americans in police custody over the past few decades, we would not receive accurate data because the law enforcers did not record it or would not want to appear like they had a part in creating the data.

Today, with the advance of technology the world is able to witness the behavior of some law enforcers as they interact with people of color. In many cases, what is seen does not usually coincide with what the officer say happened. However, regardless of what is seen on the videos, the officers usually experience little if any repercussions for their involvement. For many of the people who watch the videos, justice or fairness does not seem to serve the African Americans. One reason offered by former and current police officers in trying to explain the behavior of European American police officers is fear of the African American man. Norm Stamper, the author of Breaking Rank, noted that “From the earliest days of academy training it was made clear that black men and white cops don’t mix, that of all the people we’d encounter on the streets, those most dangerous to our safety, to our survival, were black men.” If we are to take these words of a former police officer as truth, then we can readily understand why the European American police officer fears African American men—their safety and survival.

From where did that threat of safety and survival come relative to the European American officer ? One possibility might come from the bigotry present in the social conditioning of European Americans. Whether that fear is real or imaginary, the mere fact that it is announced in the academy or is common knowledge in the departments, it can serve as an excuse for officers to use the threat of death as a defense to shoot, beat or other abusive activity of African Americans. To underscore this point, Stamper stated: “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘color blindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.” Why has the public been kept in the dark about this fear? Maybe because keeping it secret serves a useful purpose for some people.

When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, brother and sister officers from all over the nation attend the funeral to pay their respects and show support for their members. Often huge processions and motorcades become part of the ceremony celebrating the service of the fallen officer. We all feel the loss and mourn with the family because every life is important and valued. We understand and appreciate the feelings of tribalism is the thin blue line. What we Americans find difficult to understand, however, is when a twelve-year-old boy playing with a toy gun alone in a public park is shot by an officer there is no-show of concern from the police department or the “good “officers on the force. The first utterance from the law enforcement agencies is usually the “officer had probable cause.” Little else is said.

No person in his or her healthy mind wants or wishes the death of another human being. However, if an individual has witnessed years of injustices, miscarriage of the law, abuse, assaults, and death to people who share the same identity but different skin color, but realize no sense of justice or concern for justice by the very people who volunteer their lives to serve and protect them, his or her sense of reality can be altered. Law enforcement agencies need to examine themselves to learn what part they play in creating the fear and behavior that contributes to the deaths of many men of color and subsequently to the death of their fellow officers.

Just recently a young African American man, Charles Kinsey, a physical therapist was attempting to render service to a young male autistic patient who was sitting in the middle of the street playing with a toy truck. Someone called the police and said someone was in the street with a gun. When Kinsey realized the police were on the scene, he laid on his back with both hands in the air and shouted loud to the police not to shoot. He told them that he was a therapist and the young man was autistic so please do not shoot. Totally disregarding what the therapist said, one of the officers shot Kinsey, made him turn over and handcuffed him. The irony of this case is that the autistic man was European American and had the object in his hand. The therapist was on his back with both hands in the air, yet he was the one the police shot with a rifle, not a gun.

Later, when the officer was asked why he shot Kinsey, his reply was “I don’t know.”Is there any wonder why some people lose their perspective about the police? Things must change for the better for all Americans, but especially for African Americans. Some members of the FOP are quick to claim that anyone who says something negative about police behavior is totally anti-police, but that is not true. People can be pro-police but find fault in some police behavior. For the FOP to put all the blame of police misconduct on a few “bad officers” is faulty logic. If a pack of dogs is charging towards a person with mouths open, teeth glaring, tongues salivating, how is he suppose to select the ones who will not bite him? This example is not meant as disrespect to officers, but when they all act in concert, how can the good ones be distinguished from the bad ones? The police need to start accepting some responsibility for the violence committed against people of color and make appropriate changes.

The problems relative to the shooting of African Americans and police is not reserved to those two entities, but to all America. We need to address the problems now.

Paul R. Lehman, Dialogues on race will not unite America, but keep it divided.

July 15, 2016 at 6:15 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Dorothy Roberts, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, law enforcement agencies, Louisiana, Minnesota, minority, police force, poor, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, Texas, University of Penn., upper class, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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Since the recent incidents in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas, where the lives of African Americans and European Americans have been lost, many protest marches  across the country, many town hall meetings, and many talk shows have been conducted that focused on America being a divided country because of color—black and white. The objectives of all these activities are to somehow bring the country together harmoniously. Many recommendations and plans will be suggested and some will be implemented in an effort to correct the recent and decades-old injustices committed against African Americans by European Americans. Unfortunately, all the plans, programs, and recommendations will be short-lived because we cannot be united until we learn and fix what keeps us divided. No problem based on race will ever be resolved talking about race—black and white. Every discussion that involves race can only go in a circle; we know circles have no ends.

In order to resolve a problem involving race we must get beyond race, i.e.…we must establish an approach to discussing the nature of the problem without invoking the concept of race because if we do not, then we accomplish nothing but a waste of time. Let us be specific in identifying the problem that keeps America divided. If we say the answer is race, we are partially correct because race is the key word. However, our acceptance of the concept of race is the problem. Ever since the founding fathers invented the concept of a black race and a white race, separate and unequal, we Americans have been living our lives based on a myth, a falsehood, and an invention. The problems we experience as a divided society today are all based on our acceptance of the false concept of race. The reason for the invention of races was control of the people, all the people. For European Americans, the concept of superiority was important and necessary in order to serve as a buffer between the slaves, the poor, and the élite. The invention was/is known as the system of white supremacy and black inferiority.

The system of white supremacy does not exist in isolation, but must have the component of black inferiority to complete its existence. Both terms are different sides of the same coin. The system of supremacy became the focus of social conditioning of the psyches of all Americans. For European Americans, according to Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a European American scholar, “We [European Americans/whites] have set the world up to preserve that internal sense of superiority and also resist challenges to it. All while denying that anything is going on and insisting that race is meaningless to us.” In other words, the system of white supremacy was created to protect and perpetuate itself. She adds:”We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interest and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matters deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good.”

The founding fathers based their invention of races on the color of skin which was illogical as well as irrational because skin color is not a constant determinant of race. At the time the invention was instituted the founding fathers had control of society and the power to enforce their laws. The legacy of their invention relative to people of color, and African Americans, in general, was the elements of danger, anger, fear, and hatred. These negative elements relative to people of color were/are processed as natural and normal to the perception and understanding of European Americans. African Americans were forced to view themselves in public to conform to the perception of the biased European American views. The actions of some members of law enforcement today underscore the retention of the beliefs that the system of Supremacy promoted. Our understanding of the system of white supremacy and how it influences our perceptions should tell us that any discussion involving race in society is tainted if the bias concept of white supremacy is not replaced. In essence, too many European Americans view African Americans and people of color as inferior normally. Since that is the case, any idea of fairness and justice by these European Americans will be influenced by their ethnic bias, much of which they never realize or recognize because it has always been natural and normal to them. Unfortunately, when the European American’s biased viewpoint is challenged, they can become offended because they think their sense of objectivity is being challenged.

The most challenging part of bringing together our divided country is replacing the concept of race and its lack of authenticity and reliability. A recent comment by Dorothy Roberts, a University of Pennsylvania professor, underscores the point. Race has never been defined with any consistency and Professor Roberts adds: “That’s because race is based on cultural, legal, social and political determinations, and those groupings have changed over time. As a social scientist, looking at biologists treating these groupings as if they were determined by innate genetic distinctions, I’m dumbfounded. There’s so much evidence that they’re invented social categories. How you can say this is a biological race is just absurd. It’s absurd. It violates the scientific evidence about human beings.”Unfortunately, many European Americans choose to hold on tightly to the myth.

If we can accept the factual information we know about race and supremacy, then any discussion that speaks to resolving problems concerning the concept of race must begin with a forthright rejection of a black and a white race, and the normal perception of the inferiority of people of color by European Americans . If those changes do not occur, then no reasonable and fair discussion can take place. In essence, race cannot be a part of that discussion if race is assumed to be an acceptable and legal term. We must come to understand that what divides America is the illusion of race and racial differences. If we do not debunk those illusions, we have no basis from which to build a construction together. If we are going to solve the social problems that are the results of ethnic biases, we must do so as social equals.

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, 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, People of color want just and fair treatment from the law

July 20, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, equality, European American, fairness, justice, Oklahoma, Prejudice, whites | 1 Comment
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Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, an African American man, was put in a chokehold, a procedure against NYPD policy, for allegedly selling single cigarettes. He was physically subdued and taken into police custody (July 2014).
Luis Rodriguez of Moore, Oklahoma, a Hispanic American, was physically detained for questioning by the police outside a local theatre relative to a domestic matter involving only his wife and daughter. He was physically subdued and taken into police custody (Feb.2014).
Often times when African Americans or Hispanic Americans complain about the unjust treatment of the police in relations to them, some Americans think that those claims are far-fetched. Usually, those not thinking the claims are unjust and false are European Americans whose relationship with the police is different—non violent and generally positive. The recent incident of New York Police’s actions involving an unharmed, African American man, Eric Garner, created a variety of questions about the police, their training relative to people of color, and society.
Because of past experiences involving the police (not just in New York) and people of color, we know the importance of eye-witness and video accounts of these incidents. One fact is certain involving the police actions is that without creditable eye-witness and video accounts of an incident, the police’s word is accepted above and beyond what any citizen has to say. Even with eye-witness and video accounts, most cases where police extreme force is alleged and death or injury to a citizen occurs, the police actions is usually found to be justified. Evidently, the only actions evaluated during these types of incidents are those of the policemen; the citizens are usually presumed to be at fault. Why is it the case that police use more force in encountering people of color?
The recent case of extreme force in New York involving an African American man shares a number of similar things with a recent case in the Oklahoma City area involving Luis Rodriguez, a Hispanic man. In both cases, numerous policemen were involved in the physical altercation. The first thing these two cases have in common involves the apparent haste by the police to physically subdue them. What seems out of reasonable thought is the lack of patience by the police to converse with the citizen when little or not threat of harm is imminent. Common decency would suggest that the police would want to get information relative the situation before initiating any physical action. That was not the case in the two incidents in question. Rather than trying to become informed about the situation, the police, as the videos show, simply order the men to submit to being arrested and placed in handcuffs without any stated cause for their actions.
In both cases, when the men try to speak to the police in an effort to understand the police orders to be handcuffed, the police apparently interpreted their actions as refusing to obey a command and begin immediately to physically subdue them. Why? Are the police taught during their training that physical restraints are necessary for all subjects regardless of what their offense might be? Why do the police not take more time to discern the situation before resorting to physical action against a subject? Is there a time limit involved in making an arrest? The actions of the police appear to be a rush-to-judgment rather than the use of rational judgment as in these two cases.
In addition, the lack of patience and communications demonstrated by the police in these two cases, the use of physical force as seen on the videos is appalling. We must keep in mind that the two victims did not have weapons nor were they attacking the police—they were trying to get information as to why they were being arrested. However, as soon as the order was given by the police, if the victim did not act immediately in compliance with that order, he was physically restrained. What seemed appalling during the physical restraint by the police was the lack of resistance from the victim. One notices that not two or three policemen are involved in the restraining but usually four or more. The actions of the police involved in the restraining resembled something like a scene from a National Geographic video where some lionesses have just made a kill, and the rest of the pride comes in to take part in the feast.
What was generally missing from the total incident was the rationale for treating the victim like a wild animal, rather than a human being. Once the victims are on the ground and under control why press their heads into the concrete; they have been subdued, and not fighting, why keep applying unnecessary pressure and pain? What seemed out of place to most objective viewers of these incidents were the inhuman and unjust actions of the police. Where does the mantra of to “Serve and Protect” enter the minds of the police? All the police seem to be in agreement when subduing a subject and applying unnecessary force, because not a single one finds the action not in keeping with proper conduct or try to prevent or discourage the others from their action. The actions of these officers are more a disservice to the police force than a service in that the impression one takes away from viewing these videos is one of callous disregards for the feelings of a human being.
In each incident, the victims told the police that they could not breathe. In each case, the words, and pleas of the victims were disregarded. Once they stopped breathing, no immediate medical assistance was offered. Both victims died. The irony of their deaths is that neither of these men had committed a crime that warranted arrest; at worse, had they been treated with respect and dignity as a human being, they probably would have been given a citation. In effect, the only crime, if we can call it a crime, these men are guilty of is not responding immediately to the policeman’s order to submit to being arrested.
The cases of Garner and Rodriguez, two men of color follow a long list of other victims of unjust and unfair treatment by some members of police forces across the country. Why is it that a herd mentality seems to take over when some police confront people of color? We suggest that in addition to honoring the mantra “To Serve and Protect” that police receive training in recognizing the challenges involved with treating human beings with respect and dignity regardless of how they look. The officers should be trained to think of themselves as being in the subject’s place. The phrases “We are Family,” and “Patience is a virtue, “if considered by police, would go a long way in helping police do a better job in closing the gap in their relationship with people of color.

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