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, The criminal justice system must be replaced for justice to become a reality for all

September 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, Killings in Tulsa, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, Norm Stamper, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, protest, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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By now most of America should realize that the continued shooting of African Americans and people of color by police officers is not just a random act of an inexperienced, untrained, misguided rookie cop. The plethora of excuses for the killings does little to avoid the conclusion that the problem is systemic—part of the culture of law enforcement nationwide. The idea of a few rogue cops committing these killings does not stand the test of validity for dismissing their actions as random while protecting the force. The fact of the matter that law enforcement culture views African Americans and people of color as the enemy or less valuable than European Americans is more than evident by the mere number of incidents that have occurred recently as well as historically.

Holding town hall meetings, public panel discussions, firing a few officers, hiring a few officers of color, making speeches and the like will do nothing in addressing the problem. The problem is the culture that views the African Americans and people of color as having less human and social value as the European American citizen. According to some former police officers, European Americans are conditioned to view African Americans with fear and trepidation. Norm Stamper has said that as an officer he experienced the fear that European American officers had for African American men. This cultural view is held by European Americans as part of their view of reality and normalcy in America, i.e. European Americans have been conditioned to not see their bigotry as a problem, but as the normal way to see society. Until they are able to see and understand that their view of reality is bigoted, the problem will persist.

The recent deaths of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C. should serve as proof sufficient to underscore the charges African Americans and other people of color have made against the various police forces for many years. European Americans have been conditioned to view police and other law enforcers as public servants whose characters project honesty, truth, justice, loyalty, dedication and integrity, and certainly, many officers do project those qualities. What the African American community has been saying for years is that they are not viewed or treated by law enforcement the same as European Americans and therefore their relationships are not the same. Now that America and the world can witness via video just what happens in many of these cases, the call to replace the system and culture of criminal justice in America should be readily acceptable to all.

What we witness in Crutcher and Scott cases goes totally against the picture of law enforcement presented to the general public. The fact that the police not only lie about their actions but also create false reasons for their actions; these faults constitute deceit. The tacit of trying to find something considered socially unacceptable in the African American victim’s background to make him or her appear in a negative light is below contempt. The result is that the element of trust in law enforcement is no longer possible. We are not indicting all individuals who have taken the oath to serve and defend, but when time and again the result of any actions involving the killing of an African American with little or no repercussions for the officers, we have to ask, where is the justice?

The protests that we witness around the country are not against police officers, but the system and culture in which they work that discriminates against African Americans. These protests must continue and include more citizens of all ethnic identities, especially, European Americans. The media present most protest involving African Americans as an African American protest when in fact it is a protest by American citizens because the problems being underscored by the protestors are American made. All Americans should be affected by the videos of unarmed citizens being shot by police officers and the subsequent lack of appropriate justice for their acts.

The American criminal justice system must be replaced, not adjusted, expanded or tweaked because the core of the system would not be affected. The core in place presently views African Americans in a negative and uncomplimentary perspective, and because of that view, they are treated with a lack of respect. That view must be replaced with one that views all people as valuable human beings worthy of respect and deserving the protection and service given by law enforcement. To fully address the problem of injustice, European Americans must be educated to observe, speak, and behave in a way that includes them and all human beings in the family of mankind. In order to begin the process of replacement, all citizens must be educated to the fact that the concept and belief in a system of biological races is a myth, false, made-up. No one’s skin complexion gives him or her preferences of any nature over another human being, except by man-made laws. The protests today are focused on getting rid of those unjust laws.

The social conditioning received by European Americans relative to skin complexion has been so overwhelming that separating the fact from fiction is a monumental challenge. However, society is rapidly changing its demographic profile to the point that the social value of white versus black skins will have little to no value. Some Americans turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the protests now happening in society thinking that since only African Americans are involved that they are not affected by whatever the problems might be. They will learn that they are directly implicated in the problems and must become a part of the change or remain a part of the problem.

If Americans who view the videos showing the treatment of African American citizens by law enforcement  want to become involved in making positive change, they should not only voice their concerns to local authorizes but also seek out organizations and/or civic group where they can become active participants. If no such groups are readily available, they can start one to focus on the problems that need changing. Words without actions is just hot air

Paul R. Lehman, Removal of symbols of ethnic bias show signs of social change

May 24, 2016 at 3:53 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, discrimination, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law, Media and Race, minority, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, skin color, social justice system, textbooks, The Oklahoman, Tulsa, Tulsa Riot 1921, whites | 1 Comment
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One of the general misconceptions many Americans have today is that ethnic prejudice is a thing of the past and only vestiges of it remain. For evidence of this social change some point to the removable of the Confederate flag from some Southern state flags as well as a number of statues and monuments that underscore the hatred and bigotry felt by many European Americans for African Americans during and after slavery. Another sign of attempts to remove symbols of ethnic bigotry on many college and university campuses is the removing of names of known bigots from buildings and other structures on the campus. For many institutions, this act of name removable represents a great and serious undertaking because many of those names belong to people who were considered deserving of the honor of recognition at the time they were displayed. What has changed to cause the removable of many of theses former honored contributors from their place of recognition?

One answer can be found in history, but not necessarily the history written in school books; school book history was tailor-made to support the ethnic bigotry of the day. Much of the actual history resides in the old newspapers and journals of early America. What that history tells us is that ethnic bigotry was considered normal; to not be a bigot was considered not normal if one happened to be a European American (white). So, when people of the early American past were given honors via placing their names on buildings and other edifices, little attention was paid to or reference made to their ethnic bigotry. Such was apparently the case with the University of Tulsa naming one of its structures after John Rogers.

In an article in the Oklahoman (5/20/2016) “Building controversy provide cautionary tale,” on the “Opinion” page, the writer tells about the removal of Roger’s name from a TU building, not just any building: “University of Tulsa officials recently decided to remove John Roger’s name from TU’s college of law, which he helped found, because of his 1920s association with the Ku Klux Klan.”The fact that the building was the college of law which Roger helped to found gives us some additional insight as to the mindset of the people of Oklahoma during this time. The article underscores the fact that “racists views of the Klan were not out of line with the thinking of many respectable people, across the nation, during Oklahoma’s early decades.” Few European Americans gave notice to the abuse, violence and death the Klan visited on African Americans. Since many of the up-standing, civic-minded, Christian, European American citizens were also Klan members, not many Oklahomans were told about the destruction and death caused by many of the good citizens of Tulsa in 1921 when the Greenwood area was demolished. The Klan has always stood for European American (white) supremacy and the inferiority of African Americans.

What we refer to today as a bigot was not considered bad or evil or even unpatriotic for early European Americans; as a mater of fact, the Klan for many European Americans was seen as an anti-crime, civic-minded, “temperance organization.” Many of its members included bankers, businessmen, lawyers, educators, and even clergy. Helping to promote and maintain the Klan’s views while passing them on to the children, were the text books. The article cited this reference: “Consider the 1914 biology textbook at the center of the famed Scopes ‘monkey’ trial in Tennessee. Based on evolutionary theory, that book matter-of-factly declared there were ‘five races or varieties of man,… ‘“The article continued by listing the Ethiopian or Negro, the Malay or brown people, the American Indian, the Mongolians and finally, “the Caucasians represented by civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.”

The article underscored the importance of the text book: “That children’s text book advocated eugenic, and said of supposedly inferior people, ‘If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading.” Such was the mindset of many of the European American Oklahomans in the early 1920s according to the article. However, in another article in the Oklahoman (5/6/2016) ‘These were everywhere,’ tells of the many Klan klaverns in Oklahoma before and during the 1940s. This article tells some of the Klan’s activities as in the following reference: “A story in the Nov. 21, 1920, edition of The Daily Oklahoman describes Klansmen terrorizing residents in Guthrie, threatening farmers, business owners and residents in the city’s black quarter with death.” Also it included: “According to the story, the Klan forbid cotton growers from paying pickers more than $1.25 per hundred pounds picked, and blacks were threatened with death and burning if they asked for a higher wage.”

The Klan article showed a map of Klan chapters in Oklahoma in the early 1940—it was home to 102 chapters. The article concluded with the findings that “The Southern Poverty Law Center recognized 10 Klan-affiliated groups last year in Oklahoma.” Although laws have changed over the years, many attitudes and minds still embrace the once normal bigoted psyche. The lingering hate and fear of African Americans in some Oklahomans might easily be assumed from the fact that all seventy-seven counties voted against Barack Obama two times—2008 and 2012. Obama was not liked by many European Americans before he had a chance to assume his office; the reason given for his unpopularity was not his skin color but his political party.

We can certainly applaud the efforts of the University Tulsa to remove symbolic references to our biased past and support them in their actions. We can also applaud the efforts of the Oklahoman’s article discussing the removal of John Roger’s name from TU’s law college and shedding some light on why the removal is important. One of the most challenging aspects of American society today is to understand that because the normal mindset of European Americans is biased towards African Americans and other people of color, “basic morality and common sense” must be redefined without the bias. For us to assume that ethnic bigotry simply fades away into the woodwork over time would be wrong; removing it takes great effort mainly because many people do not realize they are biased.

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