Paul R. Lehman, Baltimore, a victim of negative explosive expectations and false comparisons

May 1, 2015 at 12:24 am | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, happiness, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, lower class, Media and Race, minority, police force, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, students parents, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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The recent events in Baltimore have for all intent and purposes been blown out of proportions due to faulty expectations as well as propaganda. Had the initial display of lawlessness been address by the local law establishment, the rest of the escalation would not have been necessary. The disruptive unlawful activity began when the local high school near the center of action dismissed school earlier than usual. Many of the teens rather than going home decided to take advantage of a situation presented to them to commit unlawful acts with no one in authority looking on.

One would expect the police to handle the situation involving the young children differently from older adults, but the police never appeared on the scene. The children realized early on that because no law enforcement was present, they could do whatever they wanted without repercussions. So, they acted-out by breaking windows, stealing merchandise, destroying property and other things that they would not think of doing under normal circumstances. These teens were out of control and not thinking rational. The death of Freddie Gray was probably not on their minds. Unfortunately, some adults who witnessed the activity of the teens took advantage of the situation and used it as cover to become involved in lawless acts. So, when the cameras started to show the activity, some adults were pictured along with the teens. The media characterized the teens and their action as violent rioting threatening the entire city.

Regardless who was involved, their actions were wrong and unacceptable, but explainable, given the circumstances of the location, the time, and the youth. What happened after the initial occurrence of the unlawful activity by the teens and some adults was an over-blown accounting of the event. The media began by treating the social out-burst as if the entire city of Baltimore was being burned to the ground by gangs of violent, lawless, African Americans, hell-bent on destroying their city. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The reporting was somewhat inaccurate and propagandistic when references were made to rioting and violence. Neither the protesters nor the citizens of Baltimore participated in a riot or violence and destruction of property.

The references to Baltimore in comparison to the 60’s riots in Baltimore and Los Angeles did a disservice to Baltimore. The events in Baltimore involving the teens were allowed to continue by the police force. Once the Monday afternoon and night activities were over, nothing resembling a riot was evidenced. The majority of the citizens of Baltimore made a concerted effort to show support and love for their city while many in the media cautioned eminent danger and destruction from the protesters. What seemed apparent from the various media reports was an expectation of lawlessness and violence from the African American community. The African American community of Baltimore and the law enforcement element were seeing the same activity, but from two different perspectives.

For some observers, the large show of force to prevent rioting and destruction was really not necessary. The point is that a riot never took place. Certainly, on Monday afternoon and night acts of lawlessness and destruction of property did take place, but for all intent and purpose, that was the end of any threat of mass civil disobedience and mayhem. What the focus on the possibility of civil unrest had on the situation was to shift the attention away from the legitimate protest relative to the death of Freddie Gray and the request and need for transparency. The need of the media to anticipate some breaking news development seems to triumph to tragedy of Gray’s death while in police custody.

One thing that seems to be apparent from the comments of the media as well as other sources is the negative stereotypical view that is presently held concerning African American people. From the engagement of the National Guard and the numerous law enforcement agencies, one might get the impression that all hell will break out at any given time. Many of the citizens have tried to counter that perception by placing themselves in the street and speaking directly to their neighbor about the collective desire for a safe and peaceful city. At the same time, these citizens want to see some positive changes in the way their lives have been affected from a legal, economic, educational, and political standpoint.

The protest then is not just a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, but a reaction to the years of neglect and lack of attention paid to the needs of the citizens, especially those of color and of low social-economical status. Unfortunately, the death of Gray provided an opportunity for the citizens to raise their voices and be heard. When viewing the videos of the various protests around the country, we realize that the problems involve more than African Americans, but all Americans. The need for justice on all fronts is apparent by the number of protests around the country and the diverse make-up of the protesters.

Our Constitution gives us as citizens the right to protest peacefully. The word peaceful goes both ways, in that the law enforcers should not interfere with peaceful protesters, but must protect their right to do so. Sometime it seems that the law enforcers resent protesters from exercising their rights. When effective and constructive communications can exist between the citizens and the law enforcers they employ then the threat of riots, violence, civil unrest, and destruction of property will not be a factor to consider.

Many problems exist in many of America’s cities that are not easily seen or known to the general public; they are none-the-less real problems and need addressing. Too often, the occasion of incidents like the death of Freddie Gray brings to the surface the problems of unemployment, decent housing, satisfactory education, adequate health care, and social justice. All of the problems are important to the well-being of any community large or small, so they must be made apparent so they can be addressed. The protests in Baltimore and across the nation are not just about the death of Freddie Gray, but for the lives of the people still here who cry out for positive change—now

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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.

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