Paul R. Lehman, Americans and the challenge of the criminal justice system

November 13, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, criminal activity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, interpretations, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Associated Press, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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When Americans think of the criminal justice system in America they usually recognize it as a reasonable, rational, and fair agency of society. What we often do not see relative to the criminal justice system is the American society that is represented by the criminal justice system. We focus generally on the law enforcement agencies or courts rather than the people in society that make-up and contribute to the system. The fact that most of the law enforcement agents, police, are set freed or shown as not guilty of killing unarmed African Americans reflect on the people responsible for adjudicating justice. We acknowledge that the culture of the criminal justice system in America is biased against African Americans, but the system actually reflects the biased society.

A case in point is that of Betty Jo Shelby, a European American (white) female and a former Tulsa police officer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher.  According to media reports, Shelby was on duty when she saw an SUV that was stopped in the middle of the street, the vehicle belonged to Crutcher.  We learn that “Shelby testified at trial that she was scared because Crutcher appeared to be under the influence of drugs, didn’t obey her commands and looked liked he was reaching inside his vehicle.”(Justin Juoapavicus, Associated Press, 10/26/2017)

Videos of the incident did not coincide with Shelby’s testimony in that Crutcher was shown to be at least fifteen feet in front of her with both of his hands up in the air; the windows of his SUV were rolled-up. A fellow officer was standing next to Shelby when she fired her weapon killing Crutcher. After Crutcher was shot, no aid or medical attention was given to check on his well-being until after several minutes had passed.

The fact that Shelby shot and killed Crutcher cannot be disputed since the incident was captured on video. However, the reasons for the shooting by Shelby can be brought into scrutiny relative to those adjudicating her case, the jury. For the court to acquit Shelby of the shooting leaves us to question their qualifications to make such a judgment. The primary reason for the shooting according to Shelby was her fear of Crutcher. How can we explain the jury’s actions of a not guilty finding if police officers feel threatened or that their lives are in danger when an unarmed African American walking away from them with his hands in the air? If Shelby is simply afraid of African American men, then she should not be working in law enforcement or any other place where she will encounter African American men.

Since the jury accepted her defense of fear of African American men, we might assume that they consider it a legally accepted defense for European American (white) officers shooting people of color. What happens when officers walk into a supermarket or mall or church and there they see African American men? Do they fear for their lives in these circumstances as well and so would be justified in shooting them? Many of the videos in recent years have shown this to be the case. We must ask where is the reasoning, rationale, and justice for the actions of the jury?

One of the conclusions we must draw from these actions is that of ethnic bias of the jury. Since the majority of the jury make-up in American is European Americans (whites), we must also conclude that they do not represent for the African Americans a ‘jury of their peers’ but more a jury representing the European American (white) officers. Since fear of African Americans and people of color appears to be a problem for many European American (white) law enforcers, why are they hired? And if hired, why are they not educated to treat people of color with the same decency and respect they would give other citizens?

The answer is simply because of their social conditioning which underscores the privilege accorded to them, European Americans (white), for their skin complexion. Simultaneously, European Americans (whites) are conditioned to view people of color as inferior in general, but to view African Americans with fear, anger, and dream because they are dangerous. Many European Americans (whites) do not realize their bigotry because their acquisition was acquired through everyday life at home, school, church etc. As a cognitive scientist, Justin L. Barrett, noted, “What we learn through testimony or through behavioral imitation is importantly influenced by social context biases.” He added that “we model our thought and behaviors on others based upon what we perceive most others think and do (conformity bias), favor prestigious individuals for role models (prestige bias) and prefer to ape those whom we see as similar to ourselves or whom we want to be (similarity bias).” So, to many European Americans (whites) ethnic bigotry is not something that is unusual or viewed as out of the ordinary life experience.

What we find puzzling about the actions of the Americans citizens who serve as part of the criminal justice system is how they equate reason, rationale, and justice with their actions. For example, shortly after being acquitted for the shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher, that portion of Betty Shelby’s record will be removed, and subsequently, will be expunged: “District Judge William LaFortune also ordered all documents involving former Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby’s case sealed and kept with the court. The case will only be accessible through a court order and can be destroyed after 10 years, according to the law.” (Justin Juoapavicus)

What we can observe from Shelby’s case is that after shooting and killing an innocent American citizen because she was in fear, not threatened or felt to be in harm’s way, she was acquitted of all charges and walked away from the incident with no repercussions. We have learned that she has been recently employed in a law enforcement position in a nearby town. In 10 years, no one will even know what she did except the family and friends of Terence Crutcher, Shelby, and the jury. After all, it was incumbent on the jury to administer a finding based on reason, rationale, and justice, but they failed in every respect. We, Americans, cannot allow this form of injustice to continue because whether we realize it or not, the mistreatment of any American affects us all. Act–find a way to make a difference.

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Paul R. Lehman, Congressman Brooks tries to use race as a political tactic.

August 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, Congress, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, GOP, justice, political tactic, Prejudice, President, President Obama, race, Race in America, Republican Party, Respect for President, skin complexion, whites | Leave a comment
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Race is a power-packed word in American society and has been for decades because it possesses the power to separate and divide human beings into groups. Regardless of the context in which the word race is used, if the suggested meaning involves a group identity, then it separates and divides people. As early as the 1800s, society was advised to avoid using race along with color as a social or cultural identity because it could not be defined and employed with any accuracy or certainty. Nonetheless, society ignored the warnings and proceeded to use the word race in a social context. One reason for the word’s longevity is due to the social rewards derived by some groups from the identity. And old saying that underscores the manipulation of race by color determining social value stated: “If you’re white, you’re right; if you’re yellow, you’re mellow; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re black, get back.”The sentiments suggested in that old saying still has some currency in society today whether we want to believe it or not.
When the word race is used in conjunction with a so-called racial group identity, the mere mention of the group automatically creates separation and division. This separation and division occurs because of the social conditioning experienced in the society and the accepted views of society relative to different social groups. The nature of most groups is to defend and protect itself against any and all criticism that might cast negative views of it. Whether the claims are true or false makes no difference because with respect to race nothing can be validated unless and until race is defined. Nevertheless, some people will use race as a tool or tactic because it generates feeling of loyalty, protection, pride and unity by the people who identify with a race. For example, people who identify themselves as belonging to the white race automatically gives credence to a belief in many races biologically different from the so-called white race. Rather than recognizing the fact that all races are social creations and therefore bogus, some people hold on to the belief and adopt a defensive character relative to the group. Hence, we note the separation and division quality of the word.
The conception and accepting of the word race with the focus on it divisive powers were displayed recently in an article by Erica Wemer from The Associated Press, “Republican congressman says Democrats are engaged in ‘war on whites’” (8/5/14). The article noted that “Congressman Mo Brooks made his comment on conservative talk radio host Laura Ingram’s program Monday. He said the Democratic Party claims white people hate everyone else and that it’s part of President Barack Obama’s strategy of dividing people on the basis of race, sex and class.” Whether the claim is true or not, one of the obvious reactions is for the groups to unify. From a political perspective, this tactic could be used to gain support for an individual identified as belonging to that so-called white group because the suggestion is that the other group is ganging-up on him; which will seem unfair.
The article noted that Brooks stated that “Race should not be an issue in public policy debates, we should be colorblind, we should be the melting pot.” Every one of these phrases is a relic of the past and lacks logic or value in our society today. The fact is, is that race should not be an issue in any debate whether public or private since it has never been defined, just assumed. The fact that America is a diverse society and draws it strength from it diversity would make the suggestion of being a colorblind society hypocritical; our strength comes from accepting the individual regardless of color. The concept of the melting pot is a flawed one because the metaphor never reflected the reality of society. All those old, over-used sayings might sound fine, but in reality, they are meaningless.
The obvious intention of Brooks is underscored in his comments:”But so long as the Democrats have a political campaign strategy to divide Americans based on skin pigmentation then they are the ones who are fanning the fires and doing a disservice to our country, not those who try to hold the Democrats accountable for what is very counterproductive and sinister campaign tactic.” Brooks, in essence, is attempting to charge the Democrats with using many of the same tactics Republicans have used for years and ascribing things to the party that have long been a part of the general social perspective. The argument goes back to “us versus them,” or “good guy, bad guy,” with the one making the claim being the good guy.
Brooks have forgotten, evidently, the litany of incidents where many representatives of his party have shown disrespect to the President with no justification other than his skin complexion. For anyone to fall for Brooks’ argument would be to totally ignore that Senator Mitch O’Connell stated at the outset of President Obama’s first term the objective to prevent him having a second term. In addition, when we examine the lack of action of the Congress, we recognize that the President has been limited in what he could do as one individual.
In his statement, Brooks wants to create a division within society based on old prejudices and bigotry but make it seem that he is really trying to defend the cause of freedom and justice for all. He focused his attentions directly on the Democrats and said: “This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they are launching the war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else.” A phrase that fits Brooks’ contentions is “reverse psychology” or “projection” where the deeds or misdeeds of one party are associated with another party, and then is criticized as unacceptable.
Wemer ended the article with the following passage: “To a request for comment, the spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emily Bittner, wrote in an email: ‘Wow. Congressman Brooks is living in his own world of paranoia, but sadly, this is precisely the kind of divisive rhetoric that has come to define House Republicans.’”
Although the word race is power-packed any attempt to use race by color as a tactic or ploy will enviably fail because any definition offered for it cannot withstand close scrutiny.

Paul R. Lehman, Article on “The Race of Jesus” failed to address the truth of race.

December 31, 2013 at 12:38 am | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bible, Christianity, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Human Genome, Jesus, Media and Race, mixed-marriage, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion | 3 Comments
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Jesse Washington in an Associated Press article, “The Race of Jesus: Unknown, yet powerful,”(12/29/13) presented a discussion relative to the race of Jesus , and employed the comments of a number of individuals connected to the Christian religion to give their ideas, beliefs, and opinions. Although the article was interesting it failed to address the real question at the heart of the problem—race.
The comments of many of the individuals reflect a variety of concerns relative to Jesus’ race. For example, the article noted a statement from Edward Blum, a co-author of a recent book “The Color of Christ” who said ”I find it fascinating that that’s what people really want to know—what race was Jesus. That says a lot about us, about Americans today.” He continued with “Jesus said lots of things about himself—I am divine, I am the son of man, I am the light of the world,… what race is light? How do you racially categorize that?”The statement simply adds to the question rather than address it confusion.
Another clergyman, Doug Jacobsen, a professor at Messiah College with work emphasis in church history and theology stated that “Today, in our categories, we would probably think of him [Jesus] as a person of color.”The reference to Jesus’ color has to do with his birth place being in the Middle East. Jacobsen’s comment was in part a response to the Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s statement about Jesus being white that initiated a national discussion on the subject.
Other scholars and clergy commented regarding the race of Jesus and whether it was important or not. In most cases we were told that it really should not matter. However, we were told that “In America, white Jesus images started to become widespread in the early 1800s, according to Blum, coinciding with a dramatic rise in the number of slaves, a push to move Native Americans further west, and a growing manufacturing capability.” Washington noted that “Today, a white Jesus image is ingrained in American culture.” Another statement by Blum underscored Washington’s statement: “ When we live in a world with a billion images of white Jesus, we can say he wasn’t white all we want, but the individual facts of our world say something different.” Something else added to the discussion was that the image of Jesus usually matched the ethnicity of the people worshiping him all over the world.
The article concluded with the words of Carol Swain, a race scholar from Vanderbilt University, who believes that the entire race of Jesus question is irrelevant: “Whether he’s white, black, Hispanic, whatever you want to call him, what’s important is that people find meaning in his life….As Christians, we believe that he died on the cross for the redemption of our sins.” She added, “To me, that’s the only part of the story that matters—not what skin color he was.”
So, by the end of the article, the race of Jesus was never settled. Are people supposed to continue believing what they have always believed about the race of Jesus? Unfortunately, that is the conclusion we were left with after the comments from all the religious experts. The most disappointing part of the article was that the fallacy of race was never addressed. All the experts accepted the concept of race based on color without debunking the notion of race as having no biological bases. The simple answer to the problem of Jesus’ race is that he was “the son of man” and thereby, a member of the human race. As a society we continue to deny the fact that multiple races of human being do not exist. The information concerning the fallacy of race has not been hidden from us, yet we continue to live as if it does not exist or is not relevant to us. What we know for certain is that the denial of the fact is very much a part of our every day life. We continue to live the lie.
In 2001, Mr. Pierre Sane, Head of the UNESCO Delegation to the meeting of the World Conference Against Racism, and Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, addressed the conference and made the following statement:
As early as 1948, UNESCO initiated a programme which, through the dissemination of scientific facts, established the fallacious nature of racist theories. The results of the work of eminent experts convened by UNESCO were summarized in four statements on the question of race.’ These statements elucidated the genesis of theories of racial superiority. They emphasized that the biological differentiation of races does not exist and that the obvious differences between populations living in different geographical areas of the world should be attributed to the interaction of historical, economic, political, social and cultural factors rather than biological ones.
The language cannot be any clearer—“biological differentiation of races does not exist.” Rather than engage the reality of our society’s denial of the truth regarding race, we pretend that all is well just the way it is. The problems we create by not telling the truth are many and involve how our children and grandchildren will view us once they realize the reason for the hypocrisy and disingenuousness of their parents, grandparents and society. They will come to realize that the concept of race led to discrimination and the creation of racism. When they look back on our history they will recognize and understand that all the so-called values and standards promoted as requirements of good citizenship were all connected to the myth of race which was constantly defended as real.
So, what the article on Jesus’ race shows us is that the denial is still alive and well in our society and the truth is conveniently avoided at every juncture for fear the deceit and hypocrisy will be exposed. The clergy, of all people, should be the leaders in promoting the truth—saying that races does not matter is not a rejection of race; it is an escape clause that kicks the can down the road.

Paul R. Lehman, “shopping while black” is profiling ignorance that can be fixed

November 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, discrimination, discrimination lawsuit, Disrespect, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, minority, Swiss | 1 Comment
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Although the phrase “shopping while black” has been used recently, the practice has been in effect since African Americans first started shopping. To those readers who are not familiar with this practice, an explanation is in order. Recently, the Associated Press reported a story (10-30-13) that focused on the problem of “Shopping while black.” The article related how a young African American teenager walked into a Manhattan luxury store and purchased a $350 belt. Shortly after he left the store he was arrested. Evidently, someone in the store thought that he could not afford the belt, so something had to be amiss with the purchase. What would cause the store personnel to question the sale to this buyer?
Americans are conditioned by society to base some actions on what we see and how we translate what we see. The image of the African American by many in society consists of negative stereotypes that reflect a variety of socially unacceptable characteristics such as a lack of sophistication, due to a lack of education and experiences generally reserved for the wealthy; a lack of finance, due to the lack of quality and high-paying jobs; and a propensity for crafty deceitfulness, stealing, and lying. In addition, majority society tends to picture African Americans, especially young males, as violent and dangerous, so one should avoid contact with them whenever possible.
The irony of the negative concept held by many European Americans towards African Americans and other ethnic Americas is that the African American generations beginning with the ‘80s are not aware of how they are viewed, so they act as if they can enjoy the same freedoms and privileges experienced by the European Americans. What they are discovering today is that the stigma of negative stereotypes still exists. The concept is not restricted to the U.S. since we learned that Oprah Winfrey was denied access to a $38,000 handbag because the Swiss sales clerk decided Winfrey could not possibly afford it. Being denied the opportunity to examine the merchandise is one problem; the greater problem comes after the African American customer has left the store.
The article tells of the experience Trayon Christian encountered after he left Barney’s New York; “it was what happened afterwards. In a lawsuit filed last week, the 19-year-old said that he bought a Ferragamo belt at the Manhattan store, and when he left he was accosted by undercovered city police officers.” What we further discover relative to the negative concepts held by the sales clerks is that the police also hold the same or similar views of African Americans as the article showed: “According to the lawsuit, police said Christian ‘could not afford to make such an expensive purchase.’ He was arrested and detained, though he showed police the receipt, the debt card he used and identification…” Obviously, African Americans shopping at high-dollar stores are being profiled and will continue to be until some changes in the image of African Americans are made.
One of the contributing factors to the profiling of African Americans shopping in high-dollar stores has to do with who is involved in the experience. In the article we were told that “Skewed views can affect who gets arrested for retail theft, said Jerome Williams, a business professor at Rutgers University who has studied marketplace discrimination.” He stated that “Many people justify racial profiling by saying that black customers are more likely to steal. But one study has shown that white women in their 40s engage in more shoplifting than other demographic groups…” Part of the problem of profiling comes from the fact that women of color are not seen in high-dollar stores as frequently as are European American women. When the sales clerks and police see the European American women, nothing seems out of the ordinary, because the European American women look like the clerks and the police.
Filing lawsuits against high-dollar stores for discriminating and profiling is one way to get their attention; another way would be to indoctrinate people in management and service at these large (and small) stores urging them to treat all people the same. Of course we know that neither of these suggestions will eliminate the problem of profiling, but they could raise the awareness of the people involved. We as a society continue to delude ourselves into thinking that much progress has been made regarding how we treat one another. Yet, when we read about ways African Americans are treated on a daily bases whether driving, walking, or shopping we have to question, when will it stop?
Many European Americans when they learn of ethnic profiling try to down-play it because they have never encountered it. They try to convince themselves and others that the occurrences of profiling are few and far between and usually isolated cases. The fact is just the opposite of the belief. The article referenced a young lady, Natasha Eubanks, who stated that “It’s one thing if you don’t understand. But don’t ever tell me it doesn’t happen to me.” Eubanks who shops frequently in high-end stores in New York City stated that “You can’t assume it doesn’t happen just because it doesn’t happen to you.”
On the positive side, the ignorance generally associated with profiling can be fixed. Yes, we can learn that ethnic minorities are in many ways like European Americans in that they represent a wide variety of incomes, education and finance. To lump them all in the same basket of negative stereotypes does a disservice to all concerned. The insult that accompanies the injury of being profiled is the arrest which can create a multitude of problems involving police, lawyers, and incarceration. In some instances the profiling has led to personal injury and death.
The social conditioning of many European Americans causes them to view African Americans as well as other ethnic Americans with suspicion because of ignorance and a lack of exposure to a variety of non-European Americans representing a stratum of society that encompasses the working class to the wealthy. If the victims of shopping while black continue to file lawsuits against the stores, chances are the ignorance will start to disappear. Ben Franklin once said something to the effect that experience is a hard taskmaster, but some will learn in no other school.

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