My Dear Readers,
I must admit that at first I didn’t get it. Like most simple law abiding folks, I got caught up with what I felt was the inadequacy of the justice system. I was wrong. The problem is neither the justice system nor the jurist overseeing the trial. The problem lies within us. WE, the PEOPLE.
I am speaking about the recent judicial decisions and comments that were handed down in Detroit MI (Wayne County 3rd Judicial Circuit) regarding the brutal beating of an innocent motorist by a mob of black adult and juvenile males.
I also realize I am not the only one who doesn’t understand the rationale of the judicial bench.
The following factors are not disputed:
- There was a vehicle-pedestrian accident in which a white motorist struck a 10 year old child who darted off the curb into traffic.
- The motorist immediately stopped his vehicle and sought to provide assistance to the child.
- The motorist was immediately attacked by a group of 12-20 black males.
- A group of 100 onlookers stood by observing, taking no action.
- The attack was finally halted when a black woman, a retired nurse carrying a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun, displayed the weapon and ordering the mob to desist.
- Although 100 bystanders (all black) observed the assault, only three witnesses came forward to assist with the investigation thus limiting the numbers arrested to the four adults and one juvenile being charged in the case.
It was clear to me that given the information presented, the physical assault and mob action were racially motivated. This was affirmed during the arraignment process when all five individuals where charged with assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm and ethnic intimidation.
As a result of the assault, the motorist, Mr. Steve Utash, was in a medically induced coma for 10 days, and has suffered brain damage that has severely reduced his ability to physically function as well as financially provide for his family.
Following victim impact statements by the victim’s family including the fact that Mr. Utash was pleading for his life, the total sentencing for all five individuals amounts to 7.6 years, probation and drug testing.
Many do not feel that the punishment received fits the crime. The sad irony is that the victim will spend more time recuperating from the attack than the collective amount of time spent in jail for the perpetrators.
And worse, the presiding judge’s statement that the criminal action of one of the defendants was due to “not having a father in his life that would have beat the hell out of him” was a disservice in the sentencing aspect of the judicial process. In response, Rochelle Riley, an African-American columnist for the Detroit Free Press, wrote:
“We watch the system work. We watched—and waited for justice. We’re still waiting.”
Charlie LeDuff, another African-American columnist who writes for the New York Times, commented:
“Where are the old-school civil rights advocates who usually spoke out against such beatings? Where was Reverend Al? Why did it take Jesse Jackson almost two weeks to say something? And nothing from President Obama. Rage and hopelessness are no excuses here. All Detroit, black or white, noticed the silence.”
We ALL, across the nation, noticed the silence.
It may be that throughout this nation, leadership, regardless of color or ethnicity, are silent and hopeful that the incident in Detroit will quietly go away. It is very likely that African-Americans throughout the nation were just as upset as White Americans regarding the beating of an innocent motorist. So why are we all silent?
It is just as likely that African-Americans throughout the nation are just as upset as White Americans regarding the lack of credibility in the sentencing of the five defendants. So why are we all silent?
We actively voiced our outrage over what happened in Jasper, TX incident in which a black man was decapitated and killed in an incident that was clearly racist. Why do we remain silent now a situation in which an innocent white motorist was almost beaten to death and left with brain damage and now the inability to provide for his family?
In the New York Times, LeDuff records a conversation he had with three black men in the Detroit neighborhood where the mob attack:
“They called Mr. Utash an honorable man for stopping to help when too many people in this city don’t. They mocked the silence of civic leaders. They know the score. They’re Americans. And they also know that we can’t expect those leaders to solve this riddle of ours called race.”
“They know the score.” Interesting. “They’re Americans.” Interesting. And most telling:
“And they also know that we can’t expect those leaders to solve this riddle of ours called race.”
Now let’s multiply that throughout the nation:
- WE know the score.
- WE are Americans.
- And WE also know that WE can’t expect those leaders to solve this riddle of OURS called RACE.”
Last week, I turned 61 years old. I spent a significant part of my youth growing up in the southern United States, during the time when segregation was legal. I sat in the back of the bus, used facilities designated for “colored only” and attended segregated schools.
During my youth, I was unwittingly used as a tool to desegregate white-only schools. I, along with countless other “colored” children, were directed by our political leaders, clergy and parents to endure traumatic events as we simply sought to achieve a quality education. We were removed from a warm, caring environment within an economically disadvantaged and low functioning school for colored children and placed in strange, socially distanced and hostile environments in which we were often the only black children in our classes. We were essentially sacrificed for the cause of integration.
I do not fault our parents, as I understand that they wanted more for our generation than they had been forced to endure within theirs. Needless to say, the experiences I had for the next two years were traumatizing. There was no counseling offered by the school and no discussion at home as to what we endured.
What have we learned today from this social experience called integration? Our children can ride at the back of the bus if they choose to (I personally do not, as it brings up painful memories.) Our schools are integrated. So are the restaurants and restrooms.
Racial strife and racial tension remains a major division among us today. I have learned, as many other Americans have, that you can pass legislation to direct and control human behavior. However, no law can legislate what lies deep within the “psychological self.”
In our desire to distance ourselves from the pain, rage, and powerlessness that surrounds us, many of us close our eyes, silence our voices and stick our heads in the sand, hoping that incidents like the ones in Jasper, TX and Detroit, MI will not happen “in my town, my city or my backyard.”
Integration did not solve the problems of the poor and disenfranchised. In fact, crime is a major factor in ten cites with large ethnic minority populations. So what do we learn from the mob action and resulting judicial actions in Detroit?
- We learn that the judiciary continues to be inadequate in the administration of justice when race and ethnicity are called into play.
- We learn that our leadership, regardless of color, will remain silent and hope that the problem will go away.
- We learn that law enforcement and criminal prosecutions may be lacking in black communities because of the lack of citizen cooperation with ongoing investigations.
- We learn of the frustrations of law abiding citizens of such communities seeking the same protection that is offered to other communities.
- We learn that the lack of fathering can be utilized as a justification to minimize responsibility for criminal acts.
- We learn that rage is a powerful and serious problem. Not only in Detroit but also as in other cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Baltimore and Chicago. It was in these cities that 82 people were shot within 84 hours of the most recent July Fourth weekend.
- Most importantly, we learn to reinforce living in FEAR of each other
It has always been my belief that FEAR is simply another emotion. It is neither good nor bad. The issue is how we as people utilize fear. We can continue to use it as a weapon, as it has been in this situation, reinforcing our internal demands to live in fear of each other and therefore maintaining racial strife. Or, we as a society can come together and learn to live with fear and not in fear.
Fear is here. Forever. The fear that lives in Detroit also lives in cities throughout the country. It is for us to choose how we respond to it. In Fear or With Fear.
I didn’t get it at first, but I do now. Rochelle Riley illustrates my journey to this point perfectly.
“…we don’t talk about rage until it presents itself or hurts someone. And rage has no place in the courtroom where Steve Utash and his family hoped for justice after he was nearly killed on an east side street.
Until we can ensure that the next person who stops regardless of their race, won’t face a pummeling squad, then no one is going to stop, no one’s going to help, no one is going to care. And the beat goes on.”
I get it now. I truly get it.
To the Honorable James Callahan, Judge, Wayne County Superior Court, 3rd Judicial Circuit
I was WRONG. I extend my sincere apologies to you.
I will continue to oppose your sentiment that the young man you sentenced “needed a dad, someone to beat the hell out of him when he made a mistake,” as it can be used to endorse violence as a means to prevent violence. Instead, I continue to believe that advocating for violence as a response to violence will only create further violence. In the end, we become victims who live in constant fear of each other.
However, it is clear that you are being used as the scapegoat or more specifically “left holding the empty bag”. Our leadership, be it black or white, stands silently on the sidelines while you and the judiciary take the brunt of the hits from the media and the public.
I get it now. I truly get it. WE the PEOPLE can continue pointing the finger at each other or we can choose to accept responsibility and work for change in how we relate and interact with each other. In fear or with fear. We can choose.
Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. MSW CTS LICSW
Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.