Jul 02, 2016 Letters
A lingering question permeating the minds of American Blacks is how many more not guilty verdicts can the community take especially when it comes down to police officers and the shootings of unarmed Black males. Yet, another devastating blow was dealt to the black community when Judge Barry Williams handed down the not guilty of all counts verdict against Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson the driver of the police van that transported Freddie Gray. The 25 year old black man was detained after taking flight, apparently unprompted in a poverty ridden neighborhood of West Baltimore, and put into a police wagon, handcuffed, shackled and unrestrained.
The wagon made six stops in West Baltimore before finally arriving at the Western District Police station where the occupant in the back of the van was found to be unresponsive and not breathing with a devastating spinal injury, and to worsen matters was not afforded prompt medical attention. Despite these heart rending and tear jerking facts another mournful community goes without justice. Are Blacks expected to resort to their well rehearsed and well-known chorographical form of response, knowing full well that the cards are always stacked in favour of the police? Haven’t we learnt anything thus far?
The U.S is not for US, and when it comes to justice and the justice system black folks have again known all the way and all too well that all we have is Just Us, not Justice. Each time we hold our collective breath, praying and hoping for a different response only to have our hopes once against dashed further against the rocks. In the case of Freddie Gray, one of America’s most closely watched case of police misconduct, the first Police officer’s trial ended in a hung jury, followed by the second officer, Edward Nero, which also ended in a total acquittal of all charges a glaring fact came once more into play. Yes, sad but true it is extremely rare for police officers anywhere both in Canada and America to be criminally charged in connection with homicide, and even more rare for them to be convicted. Plainly stated convictions are unprecedented. Constable James Forcillo in 2015 went on trial for the shooting of an 18 year old teenager Sammy Yatim who was brought down in a hail of bullets, moments after he had exposed himself and pulled a small knife on unwary passengers on a Toronto streetcar.
A jury found the officer guilty of attempted murder and not second degree murder. One can easily reach the conclusion that police shooting of civilians while awful is lawful, for it is rarely that indictments let alone convictions follow for on –the-job deaths regardless of the situation. The recently rendered verdict brought in its wake once more a wakeup call for reexamination of race and policing, and the reality that there are two Americas –Take it or Leave it. The efficacy of some pills are not minimized or compromised due to their acerbity. There is a white America that is always right in due to the lack of melanin, and Black America where there is lack and one is always kept back. Even video evidence of police wrongdoings, overkill, mishandlings, brutality, brings no weight to bear on the possibility of justice being eyed rather than denied. What exactly took place in the police wagon once Freddie Gray became an occupant is a question that perhaps not even time would reveal?
Granted, Freddie was not the victim of police homicide but then again the police are the principal agents behind his tragic demise. Bias on the part of the police may be a problematic factor, but then again why do so many of these encounters between civilian and police turn deadly? If the majority of those killed by the police are African Americans, then we must look at the underlying reasons as to why so many African Americans are stopped by police. Granted, police officers decide whom to stop and whom to arrest, and the ubiquitous presence of guns further exaggerates the inherent risks, but could racism be playing a subtle but major role?
The underlying answers to these seeming enigmas lie dwarfed within societal structure and the existing laws and policies. Renowned criminologist Robert Staples in a disputatious article titled “White Racism, Black Crime and American Justice” points out the presence of pervasive discrimination in the criminal justice system. According to him the legal system was constructed by white men to protect white interests and keep blacks down. He further charged that the system was characterized by second-rate legal help for black defendants, biased jurors, and judges who discriminate in sentencing.
In current day America there are no situations that make Whites poor for the same reason as Blacks. African Americans are poor because of racism. The most effective tool and perhaps the only one for changing and establishing the course of justice for African Americans is to affect the bottom line of the white majority. Believe it or not if Black folks strike the white folks in areas that touch their pocket books, they will make some changes. If Blacks truly desire justice then it is imperative that they firstly take control of their educational institutions.
Of all the things most understood by the white society power tops the list. When you have the power the whites will talk to you. Most decisions affecting the minority take place behind the scenes, over drinks and cocktails within the confines of exclusive country clubs etc., places from which blacks have long been excluded. If Blacks are to make any progress in the arena of justice and equality, then they must start using the period of exclusion to their collective advantage.
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