Ferguson and the REAL 3Rs: Racism, Reductionism, and Revulsion

My Dear Readers–

   I get feedback all the time for my posts, but occasionally, someone will articulate their points so passionately and clearly that I want to showcase their thoughts here.  Mia Smith from RevolutionsDaughter.com is one of those people, and she is our guest poster today.  We would love your feedback.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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When I first read the title of Dr. Kane’s blog entry last week: The New Basic Skills in America: The 3Rs: Rage, Ravage & Rioting In Ferguson, I had to stifle a groan. Raging and ravaging and rioting are now the new basic skills? How on earth is that the new reality?

I was relieved to see that the blog entry itself wasn’t a diatribe against those who were rioting, but more of an attempt to explain the reason for it, by understanding what those people wanted, and how rioting was one of many methods to get to that desired outcome.

However, what prompted me to reach out to Dr. Kane and to register my disagreement with his writing is that like most of the older African-Americans I know, Dr. Kane still chose to focus on those who were rioting (which were in the minority and had nothing to do with the peaceful protesters), and also focused on the fact that the political and civic leadership in Ferguson were mostly members of the white minority, who were responsible for the safety and management of a town that is 67% percent African-American—a “disaster waiting to happen,” in his words.  And thankfully, after hearing me rant and rave, he graciously invited me to write a response (not a reaction) on his blog.

I know that this isn’t the intent of his piece, but what it feels like reading it is a little bit of “blaming the victim” here. Sure, the black folk of Ferguson would be well served to have more racial representation in their city council, school board, and law enforcement, but does that mean that they sat there waiting for this “disaster” to happen? Were the killing of Michael Brown and the other indignities that preceded and followed that tragic moment things that the community brought on itself because they didn’t take a greater role in governing themselves? Does that mean that having more black people on the force would have kept Brown from being killed because white people cannot be trusted to protect and serve black communities without mistreating the citizens?

It’s a common sentiment, particularly among older black people, and honestly, many of my peers, including myself, hold that opinion as well. And honestly, the evidence that Dr. Kane laid out—Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford and so many others—bears it out.   Disproportionately, African-American men are assaulted and killed every year for reasons that are murky at best and concealed at worst. And most of the explanations include a white police officer feeling like his/her life has been threatened by something that person did, which invariably had nothing to do with their actions, since all of them are unarmed.

However, I believe that it is lazy thinking to conclude that black people must insure that they control the government and law enforcement in their communities in order for them to feel safe in those communities. It places the responsibility for injustices like that which happened to Michael Brown squarely on the shoulders of the community that mourns him, it reduces the responsibility of the person who actually did the shooting, and it perpetuates the idea that white people, if given the chance and the power, will indiscriminately kill those who are different from them. That last part is the most damaging, because if you accept that premise, then the preceding two naturally follow, and trust would never be established between the two.

In fact, it’s the very reverse—the idea that black people, if given the chance and the power, would rob, murder, or otherwise mistreat white people, that leads to the shoot-first-investigate-later mentality of some police officers. It’s these two absolutes that are at the root of the problem, and that, among other things that I will discuss in this post, should be the things that we focus on. It’s this mental model that we carry around with us about others that lies at the root of the cancer in this society, and that’s what we should focus on curing, not the symptoms of riot, ravage, and rage.

When I think back on history and reflect on the slave trade, Reconstruction, and segregation, I often thought as a teenager that I would have rioted and revolted and died rather than be subjected to such cruelty and abuse. As I grew into my 20s, I learned to respect those who chose to survive instead, because if it wasn’t for them, my generation wouldn’t exist, and I thought that perhaps I would have instead knuckled under and just focused on making it through like they did.

However, as I look at what’s happened in Ferguson and all across the country, what I’m realizing is that I’m falling into the trap of lazy thinking as well—living in absolutes. There was no wrong way to navigate the slave trade as a slave—if you fought and died, you pushed it that much further towards its end, and if you just survived, then you gave birth to the generation that would strive to end it and so on.

I think that the same can be said here. This is a situation in which many of our elders would exhort us to go home, to be safe, to pick another battle for another day—and many of us would, and that wouldn’t be wrong.

However, the fights today are not only the same as they were in the 50s and 60s, but they are even more important because the country, in some cases, feels like we are in a post-racial society—that this shouldn’t happen anymore because so much has changed, when in actuality, it really hasn’t—it’s just taken a different form. We no longer fight and protest and demonstrate for state-sponsored equality—that is the fight of our forebears.

Today, I believe that we fight against a less obvious threat- the idea that we as people CANNOT live together, that white communities should not trust black police officers, and black communities cannot trust white government officials to advocate for their interests the way they would if they governed a white community. I believe that we fight against the idea that somehow, mass violence and a militarized police force is justified against a community that exercises its right to free speech and its right to assemble, simply because some people are acting undesirably. I believe that we demand higher standards of those who are supposed to enforce the laws that they do not automatically jump to the gun when they feel that a situation is slipping out of their control.  I believe that we fight against the idea that this is the new normal, and that we should just accept it instead of taking our rightful place in society, as true EQUALS to our neighbors of other colors, creeds, and religions.

And I believe that this is our generation’s fight. In order for this country—OUR country to survive, we cannot accept its fracture and its polarization.  We cannot accept that white people in power will kill us—we must demand that they act as professionally as we demand of ourselves. We cannot let the vandals and looters in a demonstration reduce the importance of the demonstration.

It’s not just peace we want. It’s equality. It’s the knowledge that the rights of this country extend to ALL people, and not just the well-behaved ones or the ones with guns, and the right to live is not conditioned on the color of your skin, or how much you scare someone with a gun by just walking down the street.

See you at the crossroads,

Mia

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The New Basic Skills in America: The 3Rs: Rage, Ravage & Rioting In Ferguson

My Dear Readers,

     Another fire is raging. Prior to the summer of 2014, Ferguson, Missouri was a quiet town near the city of St. Louis, MO. 

     According to the US Census, 21, 203 people call Ferguson home.  It the home of Emerson Electric, and its largest academic institution is Florissant Valley Community College.  Its claim to fame is being named “Playful City, USA” for the fourth year in a row.

    However, it’s not playful in Ferguson anymore. It may now be known as the City of the 3Rs: Rage, Ravage and Riot.  As we watch the developments in Ferguson over the past week, we are horrified.  We ask ourselves, how can this be happening in America?  Race rioting in 2014?  When we have Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States? What do “these people” want?

    What these people want is what all of us should have, which is the ability to walk the streets in peace without being viewed as being suspicious or being stopped without due cause. As a parent of an African-American adult son, I want to be able to sleep peacefully without the fear of my son being killed by law enforcement. 

     As a parent, when I receive a telephone call from my children, I want not to have to respond to an emergency that resulted from their interaction with law enforcement.

     These people want what I want. I want peace.  I want the rights that come from paying my taxes—one of which is protection.  When it comes to law enforcement, I want to know that my complexion won’t be a consideration for receiving protection. 

     When my children were young, “Officer Friendly” came to the elementary school handing out toys and badges and if a K-9 dog was available, the kids were allowed to pet the pooch. 

     Today, Officer Friendly has been nailed shut in a coffin and buried deep.  “Po Po” and his sidekick, Fang, have replaced him and his friendly pooch.   Now when they come to school, it is about roaming the hallways and searching lockers for weapons and drugs.

     There is a reason why law enforcement buried Officer Friendly and his four legged buddy.  Law enforcement has come to accept that due to its history of abuses, relations with ethnic minority communities will always be ones of tension and suspicion, and that occasional “blow ups,” like the one happening now in Ferguson, are going to be regular occurrences. 

      My writing is not about a rant against law enforcement.  As a veteran of the US military and the son of a retired police officer, I believe in law and order just as much as I believe in a moral and just society.  No, my intent today is to write about those who seek to Rage, Ravage and Riot.

     The following letter I received from one of my readers inspired me to write this segment.  She states:

…. It is sad about Mr. Brown, the 18-year-old black youth who was shot by the police.  Another senseless murder of a young Black man.

     Then there is the looting and burning of the community that the people live in.  I have never understood looting and vandalism as a means to show protest.  The news coverage reminded me of the films of the civil unrest, rioting, and looting of the 60’s.  

     When will this stop? Will it always be this way?  What is the solution? Will we find a nonviolent way of protesting? 

     Will protesting in a non-violent way be effective?  What will it take for young black men to stop being murdered by each other or by the police?

      A middle aged African-American woman residing in Seattle wrote this letter.  Like I said earlier, in answer what do these people want?    

     I will leave the question of the events that led up to the current sordid affairs to the outcome of the investigation by the US Justice Department and its investigative arm, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The point is that just like all Americans, what we want is peace, and in this case, the peaceful resolution of what appears to be a racial conflict that started with the death of an African-American teenager in Ferguson, MO.

     As we begin, it would be helpful to take a look at the demographics of the town leading up to this incident. 

  • The town has a population of 21,203.

  • 67.4% of the residents are black, 29.3% are white

  • The police chief and mayor are white

  • Of the six City Council members, one is black

  • The local school board does not have any members who are black.  It consists of six white members, and one Latino member

  • There are 53 commissioned officers on the local police force of which three are black and two are of other ethnic minority groups.  There are no blacks in supervisory or executive positions in the chain of command.

  • Three of the officers are women and 50 are men.

  • In a recent state report on racial profiling (2013), 86% of the traffic stops, 92% of the searches and 92% of all the arrests in the city were of black residents

  • In comparison to whites, blacks when stopped by police were twice as likely to be arrested.

     So, what we have now is a town that is a disaster waiting to happen:

  • A population that is overwhelmingly black (67%),

  • That population being controlled and its laws enforced by a police department that is overwhelmingly white (97%),

  • And, the executive power (mayor) administrative authority (city council), and the educational leadership (school board), ALL in the hands of the white minority.

     So what do these people want? Peace.  These people want the commitment and understanding that the law enforcement and government apparatus in their town will show value and concern for the lives of their children, regardless of their race. 

     According to one media report, police, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes kill a black person every 28 hours. There have been a number of highly publicized incidents in recent years in which unarmed African-American males have been shot to death or died while being detained by law enforcement.  These incidents include:

  • In 2001 Seattle WA an unarmed Aaron Roberts was shot and killed while his arms were raised.  The police officer stated his weapon accidently discharged.  No charges were filed.  The officer was transferred to a different precinct.

  • In 2001, police in Cincinnati, OH killed an unarmed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas as he attempted to evade arrest.  No charges were filed.

  • In 2009, 22 year old Oscar Grant was shot by a police officer in Oakland CA while lying face down following an incident in which the officer claimed he accidentally grabbed his service revolver while reaching for his taser weapon.  The officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months in prison.

  • In 2012, NYPD police officers barged into the home of unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham without a warrant, shooting him to death in front of his grandmother and six year old brother.  The case has been under review by the Department of Justice for the last two years.  No findings have been released.

  • In 2014, Eric Garner, 43 and unarmed, died from a illegal chokehold during a encounter with the police in Staten Island New York.  The medical examiner has ruled the case as a homicide.  The officers involved have not been charged. The NYPD has called for more training for its officers. 

      In the majority of these incidents, peaceful and nonviolent protests & demonstrations were planned and carried out.  However, in several communities:  Oakland, Cincinnati and now Ferguson MO, rage, ravaging and rioting erupted.  Why?

     There are two types of human behaviors that can lead to this rage, ravage, and riot. These behaviors can be described as a reaction and a response. Contrary to common opinion, these are as different as night & day.

     It is under the cover of darkness that the 3Rs– rage, ravaging and rioting—become the rule.  It is a reaction to the shooting.  It is a statement of anger, hopelessness, and poverty.   It is at night that looting and shootings happen, allowing fear to consume the inhabitants. It is under these conditions that people can become splintered and defiant, thus allowing lawlessness to take hold.

      During the daylight and evening hours, reason prevails, allowing for peaceful gatherings. It is reason and hope that allow for non-violent protest and demonstration to be the response for those seeking change through an orderly process. 

Concluding Words

     As of Wednesday, 8/13/14, the Associated Press reports that civil unrest and racial tension remain highly inflamed. How are the police responding to peaceful demonstration and exercise of free speech?

      Not well.  According to media reports from Color of Change on 8/14/14:

“Last night, St. Louis and Ferguson police, dressed and equipped with armored tanks and military rifles fired tear gas, rubber coated bullets and flash grenades at thousands of Black residents exercising their right to peacefully assemble and demand accountability for the police killing of 18-year old Michael Brown.             

Many were injured in the war-like environment as police displayed a blatant disregard for civil rights, unlawfully arresting dozens of people including members of the press.  Local authorities have proven incapable and the federal government must step in.”

     Let me see hmm…

  • A small town that was once known as “Playful City, USA.” is now on fire.

  • American citizens are exercising free speech in a manner of peaceful assembly.  Police are responding using armored vehicles, tear gas and smoke grenades

  • Police, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes throughout the USA kill a black person every 28 hours.

     Seems like we haven’t figured out what steps to take.  Shall we leave it up to our leaders?

     My Dear Readers,

  • 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.

    “Once burned, we learn. If we do not learn we only assure ourselves that we will be burned again and again and again until …we learn.”

    -Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey Called Life

    So what do these people want?

    The same as you may want.

    Until the next crossroads….The journey continues.

Uncovering, Recovering and Discovering: The Morally Right Thing to Do

My Dear Readers,

     It’s time that I bring closure to these writings regarding the mob action in Detroit MI. As I bring this to closure, I seek to honor the feelings that lay deep within me.

     I have really questioned myself regarding my outrage about this incident, and I continue to be confronted with silence—the same silence that has stymied the police, prosecutors and the judiciary. The same silence of the community that has been reluctant to assist in the identification of the remaining assailants so they can be held responsible for their criminal actions.

     As I stood at the crossroads, utilizing the re-evaluation phase of the Five Rs of Relief model,  I began asking myself the following questions:

  • Have I ever been in a situation where I felt conflicted in my decision to do the right thing?
  • What was this troublesome feeling laying within my psychological self about doing the morally right thing”?
  • How would I feel about myself for “not doing the morally right thing”?

      And then the moment of awakening arrived! Standing there, “at the crossroads:” I began to reflect on an experience I had:

     33 years ago, I worked for one of the suburban counties surrounding the city of Seattle during the summer break from graduate school. One day, I witnessed an accident involving multiple cars.  My office was across the driveway from the local police department, so I went to the front desk of the police department and informed the desk officer of what I had observed.

     The police officer immediately rose from his seat and came out of the office. Standing directly in front of me, he demanded to know what I had to do with it.  I replied that I’d witnessed the accident and was simply reporting what I had observed.   As I turned to leave, I watched him continue to eye me suspiciously.

     When I returned to my office, it dawned on me as I looked at my surroundings, that I was a young black man, working a summer job in a white community in which I did not know any of the residents. And, I’d just had a rather uncomfortable encounter with a white police officer.  

     A chill went down my spine as I realized that in attempting to do the “morally right thing,” I’d placed myself in a position where I could be viewed as a person at fault for the vehicle accident I witnessed, and that the basis of that suspicion was due to my skin color and ethnicity—the fact that I am African-American. 

     I became fearful.  I realized that it was not too late for the police officer to decide to detain me, so I quickly retreated to the safety of Seattle, where there were other people who looked like me.  

      Upon seeing the image of the Space Needle, I finally relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief.  I chided myself for being stupid for putting myself at risk in my attempt to do the “morally right thing,” and I swore to myself that I would NEVER, NEVER do that again.   

     Today, I recall the relief that flooded me as well as the anger at myself for the danger I’d placed myself in. Given that experience, I want YOU, THE READER, to consider the experience I just stated.

  • Was I being paranoid?
  • Was I being oversensitive?
  • Was I overreacting?
  • Was I ever at risk at injury?
  • WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT TIME?

     I wonder what was going through the mind of the white motorist when following the accident:

  • He found himself in a community in which no one resembled him:
  • He was being surrounded by an angry mob
  • He was saying he was sorry and pleading for his life
  • The members of the crowd of 100 either stood by in silence or cheered on the mob.
  • After having experienced being severely beaten, what would he do the next time should he be in a same or similar situation?
  • If you had been the motorist, what would YOU have done?

     Being human, we respond to the experiences and events that have impacted our lives.  I cannot speak for the white motorist, nor can I speak for African-American people.  I can only speak for myself.   

      There will be those who will believe that unlike the white motorist, I was never in danger.  Consequently, there may be an unwillingness to make a reasonable comparison to these two very different events. 

     Yet in both situations, there is a journey, and from that journey came an experience. And, experiences often form the foundation of our belief systems, and in this case, my belief system regarding interaction with law enforcement.

     I will certainly admit that during that incident 33 years ago, I lived in fear of the police, a fear that was born when I was 8 years old.

     I grew up during turbulent times, including the stressful 60’s and the civil rights movement.  I have lived in racially segregated communities.  I was raised during a time that “strange fruit,” was growing bountifully throughout the Southern and Midwestern United States. For those unfamiliar, Strange Fruit was a song made famous by the jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday for its lyrical depiction of the mob inspired lynching of black people that occurred in this era.

     I have experienced race riots.  I remember being locked down in my community when the Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated and the resulting burning, rioting and turmoil in major cities across the country.

     I have come to realize that my community, in its desire to obtain a better life for those generations to follow, willingly sacrificed a generation in order to achieve the goals.  It was in school that I truly learned the meaning of the expression “the ends justify the means.”  I learned that if a goal is morally important enough, then any method of achieving it is acceptable.

     So, day after day, African-American parents sent their children to what was, in many cases, a school environment that was openly or covertly hostile to integration, while the adults suffered the same indignities at restaurants, public drinking fountains, and other establishments.   And yes, at the end of the struggle, we were successful. We succeeded in achieving our goals of integration and the re-definition of our ethnic identity.  Victories had occurred in the areas of housing, education, military service and employment, among others. 

     But what about the children?  What had they observed?  How were they impacted?  As a child at the age of eight years old, I remember the pastor leading us in singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” as if to prepare us for the very real battle we were going to wage.  The first verse goes as follows:

“Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war

With the cross of Jesus going on before

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

Forward into battle see His banners go!”

     And off to war we went.

     We made our parents and community proud.  We had faith in our leadership, clergy and parents. We kept our faith, but we also kept quiet. We were often traumatized by what we saw and endured. On the outside we looked good and yet on the inside, those of us, who were emotionally and psychologically wounded, did the best we could as we “suffered in silence.”

    In my own “Journey of Self Discovery,” I have come to realize that life is really about “uncovering, recovering and discovering its true essence and meaning. Specifically, I seek to uncover the layers of emotional and psychological scarring that may have limited my life; advocate towards healing and recovery from the wounding and finally work towards the discovery of my true self and living the fullness of my life and what it has to offer.

      Many of us, “the children of segregation,” experience this trauma again in modern life when faced with all too familiar circumstances.    For me, my major concern was an abiding fear of the police and German Shepherd Dogs.

     As a therapy patient, I would often come across therapists who were just as unfamiliar with the specific issues present within my community’s history as they were with my specific issues. These well-meaning, but sometimes patronizing mental health professionals told me that I had a “phobia,” an extreme and irrational fear of the police–, and that I should just take some pills, relax, and in time, I would just “get over the fear.”   

      I never got over my fear.  In fact, as I continue to move on in life, as I saw that I was continuously being viewed as a suspect by police officers, my fear only increased.  It was only while writing my dissertation on complex trauma under the direction of the internationally acclaimed trauma expert and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Brown that I learned that my fears were not phobias and were instead normal reactions to racism in the form of stereotyping and racial profiling. 

     Furthermore, I was able to learn and appreciate that my reactions to the police were not based on paranoia, but a vigilance I developed, and that it was again, normal given my experiences.

     Returning to the incident in Detroit, I believe the white motorist was also a victim of racism in the form of stereotyping and racial profiling.  In stopping to help the child, he did so because he felt it was the morally right thing to do.  

     His action speaks loudly, where the shame of the crowd of the 100, the political leaders, civic activists and civil right organizations continues to be hidden in silence. 

Concluding Words

     In acknowledging the end of this journey and the beginning of another, I want to reiterate that fear is neither good nor bad.  It is neither black nor white.

     Fear is simply an emotion that can be accompanied by a range of other emotions.  Fear is here.  FOREVER. 

     I have lived the earlier part of my life “in fear.”  The sadness that remains true is that the consequence to living in fear is not to live, but to just exist.  

     That portion of my life cannot be returned to me.  However I can uncover the scarring, recover or heal the wounds and in doing so, discover how to live a full, purposeful and meaningful life. 

     Many years ago I chided myself for placing myself at risk in reporting to the police my observance of a motor vehicle accident. I hope that should another opportunity come along in which I observe another motor vehicle accident, that I will do as the white motorist did in Detroit: the morally right thing. 

     Fear is here.  Forever. Live In Fear or With Fear.  You Choose….  

Until the next crossroads….  The journey continues….

WE the PEOPLE: It Really Is About WE THE PEOPLE.. Right?

My Dear Readers,

Writing the last several weeks of the “At The Crossroads” segment on the beating of the motorist in Detroit, MI has been a whirlwind for me.

Initially, I was outraged by what was clearly a racially motivated physical assault upon an innocent white motorist as he sought to assist a black child he struck with his car as the child darted into the street.

I acknowledged being bewildered and confused by the actions going on within the trial, particularly the trial judge’s comments to one of the defendants that he “needed a dad, someone to beat the hell out of you when you make a mistake.”

The following week, I felt both angered and disappointed, feeling justice had been denied to the motorist, Mr. Steve Utash, upon learning that the total number of years of incarceration received for ALL five defendants was 7.6 years.

My anger, bewilderment and disappointment in the judicial system led me to write an open letter to the jurist regarding his comments.  No doubt Judge Callahan has received many messages for others expressing similar feelings, but I admit that I was wrong.  I allowed my emotions to speak for me.  In doing so, I failed to follow one of my own teachings:  the Five R’s of Relief, a therapeutic model of empowerment that I base my clinical practice upon.

The model involves the following steps:

  • Respite– step away, taking a breather
  • Reactions– own them because these are yours and no one else.
  • Reflections– processing the combination of feelings and thoughts
  • Response-achieved from the process and communicated to the external world
  • Reevaluation-review, reframe and refocus on the perceiving acts or actions

In my rush to criticize a clear wrong, I failed to adequately initiate the model that I devised.  Where did my failure begin?

I did the same thing that the mob and the pursuing crowd of 100 onlookers did following the accident that day. I failed to take a respite, to step away from the moment temporarily, and address it calmly.  The mob and ensuring crowd assumed that the motorist was wrong.  Likewise, I assumed that the trial judge, due to his comments and light sentences for the defendants, was wrong and that a grievous injustice had been done.

I also failed to own my reactions.  Like the crowd of 100 onlookers and the mob, I was unable and unwilling to engage in the processing of my feelings and thoughts. I was unwilling to reflect on the entire situation, which would have allowed me to see this from all perspectives, and not just my own. As a result, I allowed my anger, outrage and disappointment in the judicial system to be my response and this is what I communicated to the external world.

The actions were the same, but the consequences were different for my reaction and the reactions of the onlookers. Where my reaction resulted in a letter to the judge, the reaction of the mob resulted in the beating of the motorist.  Nevertheless, the issue is that neither I nor the mob took the time to adequately reflect, and needless suffering, whether physical or emotional, resulted.

Hindsight is 20/20.  In looking back, one is able to evaluate past choices more clearly than at the time.  Now that I have this chance to re-evaluate, I’m beginning to truly listen and see the situation for what it really was.

It was during this re-evaluation time that I realized that the trial judge and the judiciary were being used as scapegoats for the media and the fury of an angry and disappointed public audience.  Where were the civic leaders?  Where were the community activists? Where were Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al?  Where were the civil rights organizations?  Why are they all silent on this issue?

Light sentences for juvenile offenders in serious cases are not rare. In 2013 in Fort Worth, TX, 16-year-old Ethan Couch received a sentence of 10 years probation following killing four pedestrians in a car accident, after the judge determined that the youth suffered from “affluenza,” a pseudo-psychological condition in which the adolescent is unable to fully comprehend the consequences of his actions because of the fact that he was born into a wealthy family.

In the Detroit MI assault case, 19 year-old Latrez Cummings, a defendant who was a minor at the time of the beating, was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation.  What was the justification for the light sentence?  He did not have a father figure in his life.

In re-evaluating this, it is important to  review, reframe and refocus on the specific actions, because one is susceptible to jump to easy conclusions, such as blaming the judiciary for the outcome of these cases.

However, both cases merely demonstrate something that we have always known—that the judiciary is inadequate in the administration of justice when race and ethnicity are called into play. Therefore, the judiciary and individual judges cannot be used as the barometer for measuring changes in the general public.

Closing Remarks

I began this writing by indicating that the last several weeks have been a whirlwind for me. And, as the trial judge handed down the punishment he felt was fair, I too have the right to verbalize my opinion regarding the ruling and his comments.

This is what you do in a “just and moral society.”   One does not seek justice in the streets.  As we see, it is often the innocent that suffer the consequences for the mistaken perceptions of others.

Only five of the 12-20 males involved in the brutal assault of the motorist were brought to trial to answer for their actions.  Although I may strongly disagree with the penalties they were issued, as least there is some accountability.

However, the major concern that I have is the silence that came from the crowd of 100 onlookers and the community in which they reside.   They either stood by in silence or acted in concert, rooting as that innocent motorist was being pummeled by the mob.

It is that crowd and that community that failed to cooperate with the police investigation in identifying the remaining assailants of the 12-20 individuals involved in the attack. In effect, the crowd and the community are working in collaboration with the remaining assailants by refusing to cooperate with the ongoing criminal investigation.

This would indeed be a great opportunity for our civil rights organizations to not only condemn rage and poverty as a justification for violence, but to initiate the process of community empowerment with the cooperation of law enforcement and the judiciary.

It is often that communities will complain about the lack of policing and protection in their areas, and comment that other areas are given more attention.  However, for policing and protection to be successful, law enforcement and the judiciary are dependent on the cooperation of the community in the identification of those who seek to harm others.

There are another 15 suspects out there.  The community may know who they are.   There is no free ride; in order to gain the benefits of protection, the community must cooperate with law enforcement.

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.

It really is about WE the PEOPLE…right?

 

Until the Next Crossroads…The Journey continues.