Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Driving While Black

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown (New York Post)
A few years ago while listening to a comedy routine by comedian Chris Rock he  said said something to the effect that black people are often stopped for an offense that white people never are: Driving while black.

That joke is an unfortunate truth about profiling black people by many police departments across the nation. If a suspect is black, it seems like the police are thinking ‘guilty until proven innocent’. This is of course a grossly unfair way to treat innocent citizens. And yet that’s the way it is. The question is, is this the result of an inherent racism that exists among white policemen? Or is there some other reason for it? I'm sure that some cops are racist. But I don't think that is the main cause of this problem. 

The following anecdote should illustrate. It is a true story told by the Reverend Jesse Jackson about an experience he once had walking down a dark alley one night. He thought he was being followed and started to get worried, When he saw that the person following him was white, he was relieved. Is Jesse Jackson racist? Hardly. He was expressing the common belief that there is a higher rate of crime in poor black communities than there is in white ones… especially black on black crime.

Why that is the case is beyond the scope of this post. I will just say that it is in part the result of a culture where young people lack the motivation to get an education that would pull them out of the endless poverty and crime that permeates black slums. Why many young blacks are not motivated - may or may not be for legitimate reasons. But again it is beyond the scope of this post. It’s a big topic.

But it is a fact that is recognized even by civil rights activists. As is the resultant perpetuation of poverty and crime. Which is why Jesse Jackson reacted the way he did, and why police departments often treat blacks suspects unfairly.

Despite this unfortunate phenomenon - the facts are as they are… and black people are unfairly profiled. And they are justifiably humiliated by it.

Which brings me to yesterday’s events in Ferguson Missouri.  From the Washington Post:
A grand jury on Monday declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, resolving a secretive, months-long legal saga and reigniting powerful frustrations about America’s policing of African Americans.
The decision means that Wilson, 28, will face no state charges for the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. It also set off a show of fury on streets near where Brown was shot, a reflection of emotions that register in this riven city as either out of control or justifiable. (Washington Post video below)
I saw the reaction last night on TV. It was like watching an Intifada in Israel. It’s depressing to see this kind of reaction to a verdict that by all accounts seemed to be reached fairly after long deliberation. 25 days and 60 witnesses testified. As did the accused - Officer Darren Wilson. He described in detail the course of events on that fateful evening. There were photos of the injuries he sustained in the struggle with Michael Brown, all matching Wilson's claim that he shot Brown in self defense. Witnesses for the prosecution contradicted each other and actually changed their testimony after being confronted with the facts.

Members of the grand jury clearly believed Officer Wilson whose testimony matched the physical evidence over the conflicting testimony of the prosecution witnesses - which didn't.  Members of the grand jury surely realized the emotion in the street. Protesters clearly thought this was a case of a white cop murdering an innocent black teen who was unarmed. Grand jury decisions notwithstanding.

While it is true that racial bias still exists in America and it ought to be protested. This is not the place to protest it. Certainly not by burning down the town. Ferguson was set ablaze by arsonists and looted by criminals that took advantage of the chaos that ensued. This was a justifiable homicide by a trained police offcier.  I understand the disappointment at what those protesters thought was a clear injustice. But to act like a bunch of savages is inexcusable – even if they were right. Which they weren’t.

Contrast that with what happened earlier in that day. Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney - 3 legitimate heroes of the 60s civil rights movement were honored posthumously by President Obama with the Medal of Freedom. That is the highest honor a civilian can receive. Unlike the protesters in Ferguson last night, they saw real racial injustice and they fought it – ultimately giving up their lives for it.

There was no injustice here.  A young black teenager was killed because of his own aggression against a police officer. That was determined fairly by a grand jury after examining the facts.

Like I said, racism still exists. But to the extent that it does it has nothing to do with what happened to Mr. Brown. And yet so many people ignored the verdict. Blacks protested late into the night in the streets of not only Ferguson, but in the streets of Chicago and New York too. And there were plenty of white sympathizers there to help champion their cause. I guess they don’t want to be confused by the facts.

I went ‘off script’ today to talk about the events in Ferguson Missouri because I see similarities between the protesters there and Palestinian protesters in Israel. There too we have the people who feel unfairly profiled. And there too we have non Palestinian sympathizers who champion their cause. Some of them are even Jewish.

They too do not want to be confused by the facts. All they see is an underprivileged underclass being unfairly profiled and harmed by an overbearing and armed police force.  People who refuse to see the facts are the ones doing the most harm to their cause. Any sympathy I might have for the plight of an underprivileged minority gets swallowed up by the damage of the unbridled rage which causes some of them to do to great harm to innocent people.

What's been happening in Ferguson since Mr. Brown was killed last summer culminating with what happened last night is nothing short of an Intifada. There is no other way to look at it - if you ask me.