Thursday, August 21, 2014

Published 9:30 AM by with 0 comment

Civil Rights 2.0: How much has changed in 50 years?

I have watched with a mixture of sadness and anger as the Mike Brown saga has played out for over a week, in Ferguson, Missouri. I know that people have jockeyed on both sides of the issue and I continue to see that there is an issue in this country that has been kicked down the political football field; race.

When the President was elected we were supposed to have evolved into a post-racial period in our history. In fact, the opposition to his election was quite frightening but not altogether surprising. Both Hate group and Patriot Group rolls increased. (Southern Poverty Law Center).

We have an issue with race in this country. Granted, in some ways there has been some improvement. For example, I wouldn’t be working at a Predominately White Institution (PWI) in the South -- Ph.D. or not, 50 years ago. I have paid my “Black tax” continually throughout my life. As a youth in both NYC and Miami, my parents would constantly remind me to be wary of my surroundings and how to survive police encounters. Today, I find it ironic to hear people say that if you aren’t doing anything then you have nothing to worry about. That isn’t reality for any black male that I know after about age 12.

You shouldn’t live in world where you heart quickens when you see sirens behind you, when you haven’t done anything.

Police mirror society.  There is always going to be a chicken or egg argument over “race and crime”.  Usually those who engage in these arguments use suspect statistics.

I’ve always said there isn’t that much of difference in criminality; there is a difference in enforcement, perception and presentation. There is also a difference in portrayal and reaction by society depending on melanin content. 

Cliven Bundy broke the law for a decade by grazing his herds on federal land. However, when finally confronted about it, he then, in effect, held the government hostage with snipers on a bridge. Openly defying the federal government. No arrests. No national guard. No escalation.

He won.

Conversely, a police officer shoots an unarmed young black man. He’s left in the street like a dead dog and the police do nothing but mill around for awhile... then call in the riot squad.

He lost.

It was telling that no federal officials showed up for days. Meanwhile, the local police chose to use the $9 million in military hardware they had sitting around. In fact, it took the arrests of reporters and a white pastor getting shot with rubber bullets to get some political traction.

The thoughts of some on social media are that black people are again reacting in a sub-human manner. The media hold sway; perception is reality.

It is funny though that when white college kids riot after their sports team wins a game, it is considered youthful enthusiasm. Or when people riot in in another country, they are portrayed as fighting for their rights against oppression or tyranny!

Remember also that during Hurricane Katrina, white survivors found food in stores but black survivors looted stores. When Blacks are stopped, harassed and sometimes killed by police it is ALWAYS justified.

The ironic thing that has come out this tragedy is that we have found that there is a disturbing trend concerning police brutality. There has been a steady rise in shootings and now the others have been affected. It took a white retired Lt. Colonel to get the state of Wisconsin to implement civil police review boards, after the death of his handcuffed son. Others have come forward with their stories and they also are white.

Blacks have carried this burden for many years and have consistently been told that if you haven’t done anything, then you have nothing to worry about. We are constantly portrayed as criminals; so when we are stopped that is expected. We are either in the wrong neighborhood (upscale) or the wrong neighborhood (urban/poor). We are either walking too fast/slow/suspiciously. Our clothes are too loose/tight/dark/light.

Don’t get me wrong, if the police treated everyone as they treat Blacks and Latinos there would be no crime. Because all of the criminals that aren’t under the microscope would understand that they too are a guilty until proven otherwise.

 There are good law enforcement officers out there. However, just as in education, we are facing a broken system that needs to be fixed.

The good officers are going to have to get rid of the officers that aren’t effective.  

There has to be a system in place where there is oversight. No one does a good job of watching themselves. This underscores the need for a fundamental need to address the issues of differences that still affect our country.

**Dr. Headley**


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