Anything goes.

Posts tagged ‘racism’

Ferguson Fiasco


Here is the link to the United States Department of Justice’s Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department report written in its entirety http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/national/department-of-justice-report-on-the-ferguson-mo-police-department/1435/.

Fox News Radio Host John Gibson wrote an article on March 5, 2015 called “‘HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT’ WAS A LIE–FERGUSON MUNICIPAL COURT TAKES THE FALL.” In the article he takes the position that the United States Department of Justice’s Investigative Report on the Ferguson Police Department is Eric Holder settling for revenge on the institution because he couldn’t get revenge on the man he really wanted to: Darren Wilson. Those are his words, not mine.

Here is a link to his article http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/03/06/john-gibson-hands-dont-shoot-was-lie-ferguson-municipal-court-takes-fall.

Gibson writes, “Attorney General Eric Holder was very angry at Ferguson, Missouri, erupting in a near-the-end-of-his-tenure tirade: Ferguson, he said was a ‘community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents…where this harm frequently appears to stem…from racial bias…'”

Let’s first start off with the words “angry” and “tirade.” When I watched his press conference, I did not see any anger on Holder’s face or hear any anger in his voice. And I certainly would not describe what he said as a tirade. He stated the findings and conclusions of the report. These words have angry black man stereotype written all over them. Gibson is either race-baiting, had a skewed view of Holder’s emotions due to subconscious prejudices, or watched a different press conference than I did. And to say that he was angry “at Ferguson” is also an incorrect statement. Why would he be angry at the entire city? To say he is angry at Ferguson implies that he is not only angry at Ferguson’s institutions but also at all of its citizens and residents.

Gibson would go on to write, “The Attorney General sent squads of investigators over to Ferguson to turn over every racist rock, and the more they investigated, the angrier he became…he ultimately found that he couldn’t achieve his main goal, an indictment of police officer Darren Wilson, but he could take out a secondary target…the Ferguson Police Department itself, and he came to the conclusion that he could also blame and punish the municipal court system across the entire state of Missouri.”

Once again we have this idea of anger. But Gibson introduces another idea: a witch hunt. I read through most of the Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) and it certainly is not much of a hunt when there is evidence all over the place of a conspiracy (more on that is coming up).

But Gibson keeps pumping out nonsense: “Holder would have loved to prosecute Wilson, but his investigators found that [Michael] Brown did go after officer Wilson’s gun, and did charge the officer only a few seconds later, and both those actions led to Brown’s death…all those fabulists who told investigators that Brown was an innocent young man who was hunted down and executed by a racist white cop while trying to surrender were willfully and maliciously lying. But the official Department of Justice report does not indicate such perjurious testimony to federal investigators that will lead to charges against those who purposely distorted the truth.”

This idea that these droves of people were maliciously lying is ridiculous. It has been shown time and time again through studies that eyewitnesses can recall events very differently in their respective memories. The part that is unclear is whether Brown was charging or stumbling and falling trying to put his hands up when Wilson fired the fatal shots. Many different forensic pathologists have come out with many different opinions on the issue. We will probably never know what happened in those final seconds. Third, the reason that so many people believe that a police officer would do such a thing as execute a black teenager is because of the distrust of Ferguson police, especially among Ferguson’s black residents, which is made understandable by the findings in the DOJ report (which I will get to in a minute). This idea of perjury is ridiculous.

Gibson then goes on to say, “In other words, the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ mantra was a lie meant to railroad an innocent police officer, but the liars got a pass from the Attorney General.” This is just flat out insane. There is no way that this mantra would have started unless people genuinely believed that he was guilty. And the bigger picture of the “hands up, don’t shoot” movement is that it speaks to the issue of racial disparity between police and black people as a whole around this nation. Need I mention names of people who were for sure unjustifiably killed (Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tanesha Anderson, etc.)?

Gibson’s diarrhea of the mouth continues: “But the Department of Justice investigation did reward the Attorney General with a jackpot prize. His investigators discovered that…city administrators in Ferguson pressured police officers to write tickets in order to pad the coffers of the city, and…since black people break motor vehicle laws of various sorts on a regular basis, Ferguson police were writing many many tickets to black drivers. The first point must have been a stunner to the idealist innocents stationed in the D.C. headquarters of the Department of Justice. ‘Wait….police departments write tickets in order to generate revenue for the city government? Whoa!’ Yes, this naivete is happening. The naifs at the DOJ were shocked to discover traffic tickets were a source of revenue for the City of Ferguson, and even more shocked to discover the city administration was keeping tabs on the police chief to make sure his officers wrote more and more tickets…I should interject I am against any city pressuring cops to write tickets under quotas in order to exact a stealth tax out of its citizens…But please don’t tell me this is news.”

There’s so much to rip apart here. First of all, I doubt that anyone in the Department of Justice, especially the Attorney General, sees injustice as a “prize.” The second is the notion that black people “break motor vehicle laws…on a regular basis.” Is Gibson talking about black people in Ferguson or all black people? If he’s talking about all black people that’s extremely racist, and even if he’s just talking about black people in Ferguson he is wrong. And the Justice Department is not shocked at the fact that Ferguson generates revenue by writing tickets, but at the unbelievable extent to which it does so and how this revenue is made disproportionately off of poor black Ferguson residents.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things black people in Ferguson get ticketed or cited for according to the DOJ report.

In the summer of 2012 a black man was sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a public park. Children also happened to be present at this public park. A police officer thought this was suspicious and that he might be a predator. The officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in and demanded the man’s Social Security number and identification. The officer then accused him of being a pedophile without any legitimate evidence and ordered the man out of the car for a patdown even though there was no reason to suspect that he had a weapon. When the officer asked to search the man’s car, the man objected and cited his constitutional rights. So the officer arrested the man at gunpoint. The man was charged with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. Some of these included Making a False Declaration because when the officer asked for his name he gave his nickname (for example, Mike instead of Michael) and having an address that was different from the one on his driver’s license even though his address was legitimate and for not wearing a seatbelt even though he was in a parked car. Because of the arrest, the man lost his job with the federal government that he had held for a number of years.

Here’s another example. In October 2012, police pulled over a black man claiming his passenger side brake light was broken. The driver had recently replaced the light and knew it was working. But one officer said to him, “Let’s see how many tickets you’re going to get,” while another officer tapped his taser on the top of the man’s car. The officers wrote him a citation for “tail light/reflector/license plate light out” and refused to let the man get out of his car to show them that it was working, saying to him, “Don’t you get out of that car until you get to your house.” He was so upset that he went to the police station that night to show a sergeant that his lights worked.

In February 2012 an officer wrote a Disturbing the Peace ticket for loud music coming from a car even though no one had complained about the music.

Here are some statistics about the disparity between black people, other citizens, and the police in Ferguson provided by the DOJ report.

Black people account for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests in Ferguson. Ferguson’s population is 67% black. That means that there is an 18% disparity between blacks and other residents in vehicle stops, a 23% disparity between blacks and other residents in citations, and a 26% disparity between blacks and other residents in arrests. Unless we assume that there is something in the nature or genes of black people that makes them more likely to break the law (which would be racist and wrong), the only explanation for disparities this great can be institutional racism.

Black residents of Ferguson are more than twice as likely as white residents to be searched during vehicle stops even after controlling for non-race based variables such as the reason the vehicle stop was initiated but are found in possession of contraband 26% less often than white drivers.

From 2012 to 2014, FPD issued four or more citations to black residents 73 times. Ferguson police did this to non-black people only twice according to the DOJ.

From 2011-2013, 95% of Manner of Walking in Roadway charges and 94% of all Failure to Comply charges were charged to blacks in Ferguson according to the DOJ.

When it comes to speeding charges, the number of black people in Ferguson that are cited by using a method other than radar or laser is 48% larger than other people charged on the basis of radar or laser.

Gibson notes that ticketing practices similar to the ones in Ferguson for traffic violations happen in New York City. No one is saying they aren’t or that Ferguson is the only place guilty of these things. If anything, I would say that Holder and the DOJ are using Ferguson as an example to show people that things like this happen and is using it as a microcosm for what is true about many municipalities in our country.

Gibson also would go on to say, “But the Attorney General also felt sulfurous and wrathful at the Municipal Court in Ferguson. He found it was also complicit in the revenue scheme that starts with a traffic fine, which graduates to late fees, which then graduates to a bench warrant, which results in an arrest, and jail time, and finally a payment plan that keeps (black) traffic violators in near perpetual indebtedness to the court…There is…punishment for the municipal court itself and new rules imposed on the court. According to the DOJ demands, the municipal court in Ferguson must ‘undertake a review of current fine amounts and ensure that…(they)…are not overly punitive, and take into account the income of Ferguson residents.’ (Emphasis added.) In other words, don’t fine traffic violators more than they say they can pay. And in assessing that individual’s ability to pay, the court should ‘include not only a consideration of the financial resources of an individual, but also consideration of any documented fines owed to other municipal courts.’ (Emphasis mine.) So the violator gets a break (not further punishment) the more violations he or she has committed…This means that in Ferguson…a black driver does not have to concern himself with traffic violations. If he were to get a ticket, he can ignore it. The court will find it nearly impossible to force the payment of a fine.”

Here again we have the stereotype of the angry black man being “sulfurous and wrathful.” It appears Gibson also felt the need to once again emphasize the fact that black people supposedly commit more traffic violations by putting black in parentheses before “traffic violators.” Perhaps Gibson does have an argument about not being lenient about people’s responsibility to pay for traffic violations and court fees just because of their ability to pay. Or he would if so many of the citations weren’t legally invalid in the first place. Think about it. Someone gets illegally cited or ticketed, has to go to court, can’t pay the court fee, has a late payment fee slapped on them, then next time they have to appear in court gets to court late because they don’t have a reliable method of transportation, so they get a penalty for showing up late, they can only partially the court plus late fee, so they have another fee slapped on them, have to go to jail, and so on and so forth, and they get trapped in an endless cycle of payments and late fees and arrests and jailtime that they can’t get out of all because of a citation that they got for committing no crime whatsoever. With the statistics and findings in the DOJ report, I can’t even imagine how many people this happened to. Also, just to illustrate the disparity when it comes to having court cases dismissed in Ferguson, according to the DOJ black people are 68% less likely to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge. In 2013 black people made up 92% of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued according to the DOJ, which is 25% more than the percentage of the population they make up (67%). Black people also accounted for 96% of known arrests made exclusively due to an outstanding municipal warrant, a 29% disparity between the percentage of the population of Ferguson they make up (67%). Then Gibson insinuates that due to the changes that the DOJ is demanding, black drivers will have it easy, as if black people will ever have it easy, especially in a racist city like Ferguson.

Let’s face it: the city of Ferguson as an institution is not just unintentionally institutionally racist; it’s actively institutionally racist. The institution that is the city of Ferguson actively picks on black people. And that is something that I did not expect the Department of Justice to find. I was not surprised by the fact that Ferguson is institutionally racist, but the fact that it actively preys on its black residents.

EVERYONE was in on it. The court officials and the cops and the city officials of all ranks were all working together to carry out this scheme. Racism was not only present among these individuals, but rampant. Don’t believe me?

Here’s some examples of and excerpts from emails proving the extent of the conspiracy quoted in the DOJ report.

“Unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. . . . Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue.”

“Court fees are anticipated to rise about 7.5%. I did ask the Chief if he thought the PD could deliver 10% increase. He indicated they could try.”

According to the DOJ, “in June 2010, at the request of the City, the Chief prepared a report comparing court revenues in Ferguson to court revenues for cities of similar sizes. The Chief’s email sending the report to the City Manager notes that, ‘of the 80 St. Louis County Municipal Courts reporting revenue, only 8, including Ferguson, have collections greater than one million dollars.’”

According to the DOJ, “in March 2011, the Chief reported to the City Manager that court revenue in February was $179,862.50, and that the total ‘beat our next biggest month in the last four years by over $17,000,’ to which the City Manager responded: ‘Wonderful!’”

According to the DOJ, “in a January 2013 email from Chief Jackson to the City Manager, the Chief reported: ‘Municipal Court gross revenue for calendar year 2012 passed the $2,000,000 mark for the first time in history, reaching $2,066,050 (not including red light photo enforcement).’ The City Manager responded: ‘Awesome! Thanks!’”

According to the DOJ, “In one March 2012 email…The Captain noted that ‘[t]he [court clerk] girls have been swamped all day with a line of people paying off fines today. Since 9:30 this morning there hasn’t been less than 5 people waiting in line and for the last three hours 10 to 15 people at all times.’ The City Manager enthusiastically reported the Captain’s email to the City Council and congratulated both police department and court staff on their ‘great work.’”

Here is some more evidence found by the DOJ of a money-making conspiracy from excerpts of the DOJ report.

“The City’s emphasis on revenue generation has a profound effect on FPD’s approach to law enforcement. Patrol assignments and schedules are geared toward aggressive enforcement of Ferguson’s municipal code, with insufficient thought given to whether enforcement strategies promote public safety or unnecessarily undermine community trust and cooperation. Officer evaluations and promotions depend to an inordinate degree on ‘productivity,’ meaning the number of citations issued.”

“The court imposes these severe penalties for missed appearances and payments even as several of the court’s practices create unnecessary barriers to resolving a municipal violation. The court often fails to provide clear and accurate information regarding a person’s charges or court obligations…the court’s fine assessment procedures do not adequately provide for a defendant to seek a fine reduction on account of financial incapacity or to seek alternatives to payment such as community service. City and court officials have adhered to these court practices despite acknowledging their needlessly harmful consequences. In August 2013, for example, one City Councilmember wrote to the City Manager, the Mayor, and other City officials lamenting the lack of a community service option and noted the benefits of such a program, including that it would ‘keep…people that simply don’t have the money to pay their fines from constantly being arrested and going to jail, only to be released and do it all over again…these court practices exacerbate the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices. They impose a particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty. Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay, and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.”

“Of the $11.07 million in general fund revenue the City collected in fiscal year 2010, $1.38 million came from fines and fees collected by the court; similarly, in fiscal year 2011, the City’s general fund revenue of $11.44 million included $1.41 million from fines and fees. In its budget for fiscal year 2012, however, the City predicted that revenue from municipal fines and fees would increase over 30% from the previous year’s amount to $1.92 million; the court exceeded that target, collecting $2.11 million. In its budget for fiscal year 2013, the City budgeted for fines and fees to yield $2.11 million; the court exceeded that target as well, collecting $2.46 million. For 2014, the City budgeted for the municipal court to generate $2.63 million in revenue. The City has not yet made public the actual revenue collected that year, although budget documents forecasted lower revenue than was budgeted. Nonetheless, for fiscal year 2015, the City’s budget anticipates fine and fee revenues to account for $3.09 million of a projected $13.26 million in general fund revenues.”

“In a February 2011 report requested by the City Council at a Financial Planning Session and drafted by Ferguson’s Finance Director with contributions from Chief Jackson, the Finance Director reported on ‘efforts to increase efficiencies and maximize collection’ by the municipal court. The report included an extensive comparison of Ferguson’s fines to those of surrounding municipalities and noted with approval that Ferguson’s fines are ‘at or near the top of the list.’ The chart noted, for example, that while other municipalities’ parking fines generally range from $5 to $100, Ferguson’s is $102. The chart noted also that the charge for “Weeds/Tall Grass” was as little as $5 in one city but, in Ferguson, it ranged from $77 to $102. The report stated that the acting prosecutor had reviewed the City’s ‘high volume offenses’ and ‘started recommending higher fines on these cases, and recommending probation only infrequently.’ While the report stated that this recommendation was because of a ‘large volume of non-compliance,’ the recommendation was in fact emphasized as one of several ways that the code enforcement system had been honed to produce more revenue.”

“Not all officers within FPD agree with [the revenue generation] approach. Several officers commented on the futility of imposing mounting penalties on people who will never be able to afford them. One member of FPD’s command staff quoted an old adage, asking: ‘How can you get blood from a turnip?’ Another questioned why FPD did not allow residents to use their limited resources to fix equipment violations, such as broken headlights, rather than paying that money to the City, as fixing the equipment violation would more directly benefit public safety.”

“However, enough officers—at all ranks—have internalized this message that a culture of reflexive enforcement action, unconcerned with whether the police action actually promotes public safety, and unconcerned with the impact the decision has on individual lives or community trust as a whole, has taken hold within FPD. One commander told us…that when he admonished an officer for writing too many tickets, the officer challenged the commander, asking if the commander was telling him not to do his job. When another commander tried to discipline an officer for over-ticketing, he got the same response from the Chief of Police: ‘No discipline for doing your job.’”

If you don’t believe me that racism is not just present but rampant among Ferguson’s police, city officials, and court officials, here are some emails and excerpts of emails provided or described by the DOJ report.

“An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”

According to the DOJ, “A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: ‘I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!’”

According to the DOJ, “An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.”

According to the DOJ, “A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain ‘welfare’ for his dogs because they are ‘mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.’”

According to the DOJ, “A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because ‘what black man holds a steady job for four years.’”

According to the DOJ, “An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, ‘Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.’”

According to the DOJ, “A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.”

According to the DOJ, “Our review of documents revealed many additional email communications that exhibited racial or ethnic bias…Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined. Nor did we see a single instance in which a police or court recipient of such an email asked that the sender refrain from sending such emails, or any indication that these emails were reported as inappropriate. Instead, the emails were usually forwarded along to others.”

And if you still don’t believe me that there’s rampant racism throughout the police department here are some examples and statistics of use of force on black people as well as other actions committed by Ferguson police provided by the DOJ.

In July 2014 a group of FPD officers shouted racial epithets at a group of a young black man and his friends as they were walking.

Eighty-eight percent of cases in which FPD used force were against black people in Ferguson. That’s a 21% disparity from the 67% black racial makeup of Ferguson’s population.

In every incident where a Ferguson police dog bit someone, the person was black. Gee, does that bring back memories America?

In August 2014, a black man who was having an argument in his apartment that FPD officers responded to was immediately pulled out of the apartment by force. When he told the officer, “You don’t have a reason to lock me up,” the officer responded, “Nigger, I can find something to lock you up on.” The man responded, “Good luck with that,” and the officer slammed his face into the wall. The man fell to the floor and the officer said, “Don’t pass out motherfucker because I’m not carrying you to my car.”

According to the DOJ, “In a January 2014 incident, officers attempted to arrest a young African-American man for trespassing on his girlfriend’s grandparents’ property, even though the man had been invited into the home by the girlfriend. According to officers, he resisted arrest, requiring several officers to subdue him. Seven officers repeatedly struck and used their ECWs against the subject, who was 5’8” and 170 pounds. The young man suffered head lacerations with significant bleeding.”

According to the DOJ, “In January 2013, a patrol sergeant stopped an African-American man after he saw the man talk to an individual in a truck and then walk away. The sergeant detained the man, although he did not articulate any reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. When the man declined to answer questions or submit to a frisk—which the sergeant sought to execute despite articulating no reason to believe the man was armed—the sergeant grabbed the man by the belt, drew his ECW, and ordered the man to comply. The man…objected that he had not done anything wrong. Video captured by the ECW’s built-in camera shows that the man made no aggressive movement toward…The sergeant fired the ECW…causing the man to fall to the ground. The sergeant almost immediately applied the ECW again, which he later justified in his report by claiming that the man tried to stand up. The video makes clear…that the man never tried to stand—he only writhed in pain on the ground. The video also shows that the sergeant applied the ECW nearly continuously for 20 seconds, longer than represented in his report. The man was charged with Failure to Comply and Resisting Arrest, but no independent criminal violation.”

In cases where it is apparent that a person might have a mental health issue or may be on drugs, Ferguson officers either don’t seem to give a shit about their training to deal with them with more care and understanding or don’t seem to have had any training in this area. According to the DOJ, “In August 2010, an officer responded to a call about an African-American man walking onto the highway and lying down on the pavement. Seeing that the man was sweating, acting jittery, and had dilated pupils, the officer believed he was on drugs. The man was cooperative at first but balked, pushing the officer back when the officer tried to handcuff him for safety reasons. The officer struck the man several times with his Asp® baton—including once in the head, a form of deadly force—causing significant bleeding. Two other officers then deployed their ECWs against the man a total of five times.”

According to the DOJ, “FPD officers respond to misbehavior common among students with arrest and force, rather than reserving arrest for cases involving safety threats. As one SRO told us, the arrests he made during the 2013-14 school year overwhelmingly involved minor offenses—Disorderly Conduct, Peace Disturbance, and Failure to Comply with instructions. In one case, an SRO decided to arrest a 14-year-old African-American student at the Ferguson Middle School for Failure to Comply when the student refused to leave the classroom after getting into a trivial argument with another student. The situation escalated, resulting in the student being drive-stunned with an ECW in the classroom and the school seeking a 180-day suspension for the student. SROs’ propensity for arresting students demonstrates a lack of understanding of the negative consequences associated with such arrests. In fact, SROs told us that they viewed increased arrests in the schools as a positive result of their work. This perspective suggests a failure of training (including training in mental health, counseling, and the development of the teenage brain); a lack of priority given to de-escalation and conflict resolution; and insufficient appreciation for the negative educational and long-term outcomes that can result from treating disciplinary concerns as crimes and using force on students.”

If you still don’t believe me, there’s something wrong with you.

One more statistic. Ferguson’s police department is made up of 50 white officers and 3 black officers. I will remind you once again that Ferguson’s population is 67% black. I wonder if this is on purpose.

There is only one conclusion we can come to with this information: the city/town of Ferguson, as an institution, hates black people and loves to prey on them and see them suffer. They think it’s funny. And they know it’s profitable. And they have intentionally set up their institutions and departments so white people will be at the top and have all the power. What is institutional racism? Institutional racism=prejudice+power. But this is worse. Ferguson is actively institutionally racist. It wants to whip black people while they’re down. And I guarantee you that it’s not the only town in our country like this. Granted, I think this is rare for a town to be actively and intentionally institutionally racist to this extent. But trust me; Ferguson is probably not the only one. However, unintentional institutional racism is rampant throughout our society. And people are totally blind to it. More than half of the “millennial” generation believe that racism against white people is as bad or worse than that against other races today. The light at the end of the tunnel for this new information about Ferguson is that perhaps it will open people’s eyes to the fact that racism still exists. And perhaps in some ways this kind of racism is more dangerous than the kind that used to be more prevalent back in the days of Jim Crow because it is undercover and operating behind the scenes and under the surface. It’s right under our noses and we may not even realize it. And why? Because we don’t talk about it anymore. We like to pretend it’s dead. But it will never go away. All we can hope to do is keep it in check by being aware of our own subconscious prejudices and racism and fighting them. So the question I must ask Mr. Gibson is, how much of the report did you really read? Did we even read the same report?

The Truth About the Trouble in Ferguson


First off, I would like to state that I have great admiration and respect for our men and women in blue who serve on our police forces and protect our communities.

It has now been one month since the shooting death of Michael Brown. There has been a lot of controversy, new information, misinformation, character assassination, politicization, side-taking, anger, pain, hurt, frustration, and finger pointing. But most importantly there is one teenager whose future is gone and life is lost, a broken family, a divided community, and a man who has become a social pariah. There’s damage everywhere you look. There has been so much controversy and conflicting information and reports surrounding this topic that it’s hard to know what the truth is. But there are certain societal truths that can be drawn from this incident that we can learn from and that we should be aware of.

The first truth that we must face is that in our society there is a fear of black people, especially black men. There have been too many deaths of unarmed black people in recent years for it to just be a coincidence. I don’t know whether the Michael Brown shooting was justified or not, all I’m saying is that it’s part of a trend.

This is evident in the famous case of the death of Trayvon Martin. He was profiled because he was black, and even though the police told George Zimmerman to wait in the car until they arrived at the scene, Zimmerman decided that Martin was too suspicious of a character for him to wait for the police to take action. The jury seemed to agree with this and subsequently acquitted Zimmerman because they believed that it was justified due to the fact that they could empathize with his belief that his life was in danger.

This is also evident in other somewhat well-known cases such as the case of Eric Garner in July of this year. Garner, a 6’3″ 350 pound black man was arguing with a group of plainclothes police officers after they approached him due to a call by a convenience store owner that he was selling cigarettes illegally and untaxed outside his store. Here is a video of what happened next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1ka4oKu1jo. Garner would go into cardiac arrest and die.

And there’s the case of Jordan Davis, which happened just months after Trayvon Martin died. The 17-year-old Davis was stopped at a gas station in a car with his friends. They were blasting hip-hop music from the car. A 45-year-old man named Michael Dunn and his girlfriend pulled up to the adjacent spot. Michael Dunn said to his girlfriend, “I hate that thug music.” Here the perception that hip-hop, a genre of music that originated from black urban culture, is the music of thugs is perpetuated by Dunn and one stereotype is already in his head about these teenagers. Dunn asked them to turn the music down. Davis’s friend Tevin Thompson in the front seat complied and turned it down, but Davis told Thompson to turn it back up and Thompson did what Davis told him to do. Davis and Dunn began arguing and Dunn would claim that Davis threatened to kill him and pointed what looked like a shotgun from the window at him. Dunn grabbed his firearm and fired it at Davis, killing him, and would continue shooting at the car as it drove away. Police searched the vehicle for weapons and found nothing. Dunn’s girlfriend, however, during the trial also mentioned that that night he never mentioned anything about a shotgun. So there’s a good chance that Dunn may not have been afraid at all and just was a racist who decided that he needed to put these black kids in their place. If you want your modern day Emmett Till, this is it.

There are even still a few lesser known cases that show examples of how our society is afraid of black people.

Here’s a case that happened just days before the Michael Brown shooting. John Crawford was in a Wal-Mart in Ohio, an open-carry gun law state, which means that you can bring basically any kind of gun you want into a public place as long as you are the owner of it, whether you have a license or not. Crawford decided he wanted to buy an Airsoft gun. He also decided to be a moron and take it out of the packaging and start playing around with it in the store, waving it around, pointing it at people, and clicking the trigger. A man named Ronald Ritchie called the police saying there was a man with a gun in the store. Police arrived on the scene and shot Crawford. Crawford would die from his injuries and it would later be found out that the gun he was carrying was not a real firearm. Oops. Do you think he got a chance to explain himself? Or that he tried to and the police didn’t believe him? Who knows? (UPDATE: There is some new information and corrections I have to make about the John Crawford III case. First, he did not take the Airsoft gun out of its packaging but instead found it out of its packaging on a shelf in the store. Second, it turns out either Ritchie was flat out lying on the 911 call or his subconscious prejudices and fears and stereotypes were making him delusional. Ritchie basically described Crawford’s actions how I stated them above, including saying that he loaded the gun and was pointing it at children. This surveillance tape shows what actually happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9FtNOV6Qhk. As you can see, he wasn’t threatening anyone or menacing anyone with it or pointing it at people. He certainly did not load it. He was talking on his freaking cell phone and just happened to be fiddling around with the fake gun while talking. Despite how it may appear, he actually was fired upon before he dropped the toy, seconds after police saw him. Again, I’ll remind you, he died. And also remember that Ohio has an open carry gun law.)

About 2 weeks ago, Chris Lollie was sitting in a skyway when someone called 911 to report a man loitering in the area. Lollie was waiting to pick up his kids from the New Horizon Academy school. Officers approached him and questioned him. Lollie assured them that there was no problem. Here’s what happened next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWH578nAasM. Lollie would be tasered and arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing, and obstructing legal process.

The point I am trying to make here is that because we as a society have a fear of black people, it makes us more likely to pull the proverbial trigger. I don’t know whether Michael Brown was charging at Officer Darren Wilson, whether he was stumbling forward from being shot, whether he was shot as soon as he turned around, or whether his hands were up. I don’t know whether Wilson’s life was in danger or not or whether or not this was a justified shooting. But I do think that if Michael Brown were white or at least not black, there’s a chance Wilson may have been less likely or less quick to pull the trigger.

Some examples can even be found in the Michael Brown case where people have tried to capitalize on American society’s fear of black people.

The first would be when the police released the video that showed Brown robbing the convenience store a week after the shooting. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson claimed he was forced to release the video due to numerous requests to release the video that met the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, but later it would be found out that little to no direct specific requests for the release of the robbery tape were made. So this was clearly an attempt to paint Brown as a dangerous thug and make the shooting look justified.

Another attempt to paint Brown as a dangerous thug and assassinate his character and perpetuate this stereotype was perpetrated by “journalist” Charles C. Johnson. Charles C. Johnson claimed that he had two law enforcement sources that said Brown had a juvenile record. He said this record included a charge of second degree murder. He claimed Brown was a member of the Crips and that his death had actually brought the Bloods and the Crips together. However a judge would review Brown’s juvenile record and find that he was never even convicted of a felony.

Another attempt to make sure Brown looks like a violent dangerous character came out in reports by Fox News and ABC News. Whoever the source was was trying to make Brown look like a dangerous thug and perpetuate this stereotype. Fox News described the source as close to Ferguson Police Department’s “top brass” and ABC News described it as someone close to Darren Wilson. The source claimed that Wilson was beaten nearly unconscious and suffered a fractured eye socket. Time out. First of all, we should be able to tell that this is complete and utter bullshit right from the start. There is no way that someone could be beaten nearly unconscious and suffer a fractured eye socket and be able to fire a gun accurately and effectively. Second of all, it would later be reported by CNN from a source within the Ferguson Police Department that x-rays of Wilson’s eye socket came back negative. There is also currently a picture circulating around the internet that people claim is of Officer Darren Wilson in the hospital with his facial injuries. This photo is actually of a motocross rider named Jim McNeil who died in a crash in 2011. The photo is of an injury he suffered in 2006. This article shows the false picture and a picture of the real Wilson: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/04/darren-wilson-injury-photo-ferguson_n_5768510.html.

All of these are attempts to make the shooting look more justified or at least more understandable when the only thing that might justify the shooting is if Brown was on the offensive and was a serious danger to Wilson’s life while Wilson fired at him. We as a society need to admit our prejudices to ourselves and recognize them. The only way we can prevent ourselves from falling victim to our prejudices is if we are aware of them. Many of these prejudices are subconscious and we may not even realize we have them. But by being aware of what happens in our society we can stop and think about whether we have them or not. If you don’t believe me that these subconscious prejudices exist, check out the difference between how we write about black victims of crimes and white crime suspects, criminals, and killers in this article that provides numerous examples: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/media-black-victims_n_5673291.html. We need to get out of this state of denial we are in that these prejudices don’t exist anymore. They do.

The second truth we need to face is that many of our police have the wrong mentality about what it means to be a police officer. A cop’s duty is to protect and to serve their citizens. They are public servants. The police should work with their citizens as best as they can to make their community a better and safer place. They should not view their job as a duty to wage war on criminals, but to rather to protect people from crime; there is a difference between the two mentalities.

Also, a cop’s first duty is not to their fellow officers. While being part of a police force is a brotherhood, that duty is a lower priority to their duty to society and their duty to the truth. Too often officers after committing serious transgressions are given very minor or no consequences, such as being put on desk duty. Also, too often officers cover for each other’s mistakes. This happened in the case of Eric Garner.

Perhaps the best illustration of the militaristic, war-like mentality many officers have towards their citizens comes from Ferguson, Missouri. In a protest about the Michael Brown shooting, one of the officers who is there to keep things in order shouts to the protesters, “Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!” Is this not a war cry? Aren’t these the citizens you are supposed to be protecting? Why do you want to fight them?

In 2011 in Fullerton, California an unarmed 37-year-old schizophrenic homeless man named Kelly Thomas was fatally beaten by members of the Fullerton Police Department. Six officers shocked him with tasers and clubbed him with flashlights. Officers had received a call that someone was vandalizing cars. They found Thomas, who was shirtless and disheveled and they attempted to search him. According to the officers Thomas was not cooperative and resisting their efforts. Backup was called. Officer Manny Ramos slipped on a pair of latex gloves and said to Thomas, “Now you see my fists?” Thomas replied, “Yeah, what about them?” Ramos said, “They are getting ready to fuck you up.” A video of the incident was recorded in which Thomas could be heard screaming in pain while officers told him to put his arms behind his back. He responded, “Okay I’m sorry!” He can also be heard saying “I’m trying!” as the officers stretch his arms back. The police claimed that since they were unable to get Thomas to comply they used a taser on him. They tased him as many as five times. Here is a picture of what Thomas looked like before the beating: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Kelly_Thomas#mediaviewer/File:Kelly_Thomas_2009_booking_photo_released_by_Fullerton_PD.jpg. Here is a picture of what he looked like after (WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTO): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Kelly_Thomas#mediaviewer/File:Kelly-Thomas-Police-Beating.jpg. You cannot tell me that beating him to the point where he would eventually die from his injuries was necessarily. They decided to view the suspect of an enemy who needed to be punished immediately for his crime instead of a criminal who needed to be arrested and punished through the legal system. They waged war on a citizen. Once again, wrong mentality.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2010, Shawn Merritt was waiting for his food outside a Chinese takeout restaurant. His fiance and daughter were waiting inside. His cousin, community activist Askia Sabur, was riding by on his bicycle and decided to stop and chat. As they were talking, two police officers, Danyul Williams and Jimmy Leocal, pulled over in their car. The officers ordered them to “Get the fuck off our corner.” Merritt told the police he was waiting for his food and wouldn’t leave, and the officers demanded that both of them show identification. As Sabur reached for his ID, Officer Williams handcuffed his wrist. Sabur asked repeatedly why he was being arrested (sound familiar?) and pulled away from the officer when the officer jerked his other arm behind his back. Here’s what happened next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQXh-v3IZ4c. The officers would claim that they were in fear for their life because there was a hostile crowd of around 300 people surrounding them. They would also claim that Sabur repeatedly bit one of them and reached for one of their guns and even grabbed one of their batons. The video evidence proved this all to be false. This sounds very much like a war scenario, almost like a gang war scenario. Sabur was on what was apparently these officers’ territory, and they had to fight for their land, so they waged war on a citizen. Not only that, but the officers lied to protect each other’s asses instead of fulfilling their duty to their community, their citizens, and the truth.

In 2010, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Daniel Martin was racing to provide backup on a call. He was upset by the fact that an ambulance in front of him was refusing to yield to him. He thought he saw the ambulance driver flip him an obscene gesture. He decided to stop the ambulance. The ambulance did not have its sirens or lights on because the patient inside was in a certain condition where bright lights and loud sounds would exacerbate that condition. Martin did not know initially that a patient was inside. Maurice White Jr., the EMT in charge of the ambulance (not the driver), came out to deal with the police officer. Here are two different videos that give two different angles of what happened. This one gives a view from the police car’s dashboard camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SMpAHJkhm0. This one gives a view from the camera phone of one of the family members of the patient and gives a good angle of the physical altercation that goes on, in which the officer puts his hand around White’s neck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KluItc365hU. Instead of Martin focusing on the more important issue at hand, which was looking out for one of the citizens he is supposed to protect and to serve by making sure the patient gets to the hospital as quickly and safely as possible, he focuses on arresting people who work for emergency medical services who have annoyed him by giving him obscene gestures and not yielding to him. He chose to wage war on his citizens instead of protecting them. Once again we see this. It seems that many of our officers view the need to punish their citizens as more important than to serve and protect their citizens. These cases of unnecessary roughness are just that: unnecessary. Use the necessary means you need to to arrest someone and take them into custody. And know what the priorities of your job are. We need to make sure we hire police officers who are in the force for the right reasons and understand what their duty is.

A third truth that has been brought to light (once again) is that there is a certain level of distrust and divide between many black people in this country and the police. In the Ferguson Police Department there is a large history of racism. To find out more, watch this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2014/08/13/rachel-maddow-on-the-record-of-racial-disparity-in-ferguson/. I’m not saying that all police are racist. But there certainly seems to be more than just a few bad apples, even though I don’t think it’s the majority. However, police departments are often institutionally racist. Now Ferguson’s Police Department along with being institutionally racist is just straight up racist. But here is how it is institutionally racist. Ferguson’s population is about 67% black. The Ferguson Police Department has 50 white officers and 3 black officers. This is not even close to representative of the population. And many police departments around the country have this kind of misrepresentation of the population. This creates an institutionally racist system; whoever is in the minority does not benefit from this misrepresentation and it actually hurts them. I’m not suggesting that we make racial quotas in our police departments, or that we fire all the white people and replace them with minorities; those things would obviously be wrong. But we need to be conscious of the fact that white people are more likely to get hired in this country due to subconscious prejudices. It is a statistical fact that white people have a better chance of getting employed than minorites. When a public institution is so misrepresentative of its community, it is not by coincidence, whether it is intentional or not (something can be a unintentional and still not be a coincidence). Something more is happening than meets the eye. We need to be aware of this so we can prevent institutionally racist police forces. I would be saying the same thing if an area was 67% white and had 50 black cops and 3 white cops.

Another truth that has been revealed by the problems in Ferguson is that in this country we can politicize anything. Somehow, there are now “conservative” and “liberal” stances on the Michael Brown shooting. This is despicable. There is no left or right when it comes to a person’s death. There are only facts. When I hear things like, “This video may support those who have a more conservative stance on the Michael Brown shooting’s view,” or that someone has taken a “liberal” stance on the issue I find it absolutely sickening. We need to stop taking sides, digging our feet in about what we think happened, and wait till we have more information. We need to have malleable, working opinions that may be subject to change. My view on how someone may have died does not make me any more liberal or conservative. So let’s please stop with this stupid partisan, divisive BS.

Another truth that has been revealed by the trouble in Ferguson is that we jump to conclusions too quickly. People have decided what happened on that day and in that moment that Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. There are still many things we do not know for certain. We don’t know if Michael Brown’s hands were up or not when he turned around. We don’t know whether or not he charged at Darren Wilson. We don’t know whether or not he was stumbling forward when Wilson delivered the final shots. We don’t know whether Wilson actually believed his life was in danger. We don’t know what kind of person Michael Brown was. We don’t know what kind of person Darren Wilson is. We are so quick to assassinate people’s character, and I think it’s because we want to feel better about ourselves and our own views. I think a lot of the reason many people are so quick to assassinate Michael Brown’s character is because it either validates the comfortable subconscious stereotypes they have of black people in their minds or it gives them an alternative to facing the prejudices they have that they so vehemently deny. I think people are quick to assassinate Wilson’s character for a few reasons. One of these reasons may be that it’s easier to be self-righteous and point the finger at someone else and accuse them of and condemn them for prejudice when things like this happen instead of taking a look at ourselves and facing what prejudices we may have. Another reason may be to validate the belief that certain injustices go on in our society (and I’m not saying that they don’t). When incidents like the shooting in Ferguson happen, instead of using it primarily as an opportunity to point blame, condemn people, and assassinate people’s character, let’s instead take a look at ourselves. In the words of Michael Jackson, “If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.” Instead of spending our energy talking about what a horrible racist pig of a human being Darren Wilson supposedly is, why don’t we spend a little time looking at our own prejudices, whether conscious or subconscious, and being honest with ourselves that we all have them to some extent. Maybe Darren Wilson is a horrible racist pig who decided he wanted to go out and kill a black teenager. Maybe Wilson is a good cop who thought his life was in danger. Maybe Wilson’s life was actually in danger. Maybe Wilson is a good guy who just panicked in a pressure situation and made a horrible mistake. Maybe Wilson is just a guy who had a moment of weakness where he fell victim to subconscious prejudices at the absolute worst moment. I don’t know. But it is only by making ourselves aware of our prejudices that we can prevent ourselves from falling victim to them. Because we are all always at risk of falling victim to our prejudices. Depending on what we believe happened after the moment that Michael Brown turned around and faced Officer Wilson, we can all hope we would have done the right thing (whatever it may have been) and speculate all we want on what Wilson should have done. But if we are completely honest with ourselves, in any of the scenarios that might have happened, how many of us say with absolute certainty what, in reality, we actually would have done?

Sources

http://www.thenation.com/blog/178370/jury-fails-reach-verdict-murder-charge-trial-michael-dunn

http://www.christianpost.com/news/lawsuit-claims-michael-brown-was-charged-with-murder-while-he-was-a-juvenile-125611/

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/08/20/missouri-cop-was-badly-beaten-before-shooting-michael-brown-says-source/

http://abcnews.go.com/US/ferguson-shooting-grand-jury-decide-october-charge-cop/story?id=25047905

http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2014/08/21/nr-lemon-grace-officers-broken-eye-socket-claim-false.cnn&video_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FShooting_of_Michael_Brown

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/02/local/la-me-0803-fullerton-death-20110803

http://www.workers.org/articles/2013/02/22/philadelphia-community-activist-askia-sabur-acquitted-on-all-charges/

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: