In March 2012, Kendrec McDade, a young man, was fatally shot by Police Officer Matthew Griffin in Pasadena. The officer mistakenly thought McDade was armed.
In July 2014, Eric Garner died of a choke hold by Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island in a dispute about Garner illegally selling cigarettes.
In August 2014 Michael Brown, age 18, was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, after Brown had stolen some cigars.
On November 22, 2014, in Cleveland, Tamir Rice, age 12, was shot and killed by rookie Officer Timothy Loehmann, after he saw the boy brandishing a BB gun. Officer Loehmann joined the force in March after resigning from a previous job where he was deemed unfit.
On December 4, 2014, just a few days ago, Rumain Brisbane, in a scuffle with police in Phoenix, was shot and killed. The policeman involved in the shooting has not yet been identified.
In all these cases, the men killed were Black and all were unarmed with the dubious exception of Tamir Rice with his BB gun.
Needless to say, all these recent incidents, so relatively close together, have created consternation and outrage all over America, particularly when all charges against the police officers were routinely dismissed. There have been protest marches and “sit ins” all over America. In most of the cities the marches and demonstrations have been peaceful. But, in the town of Ferguson, the crowds got out of hand with many stores looted and burned. Cars were set ablaze and/or overturned. In addition to other police forces involved, the National Guard was brought in to quell the disturbances.
And the beat goes on. America still faces problems with our racial diversity. We are a large nation of many races. Here is a percentage breakdown as of 2013: White-62.6; Latino-17.1; Black-13.2; Asian-5.3; American Indian & Alaska Native-1.2. The White percentage includes Europeans of many nationalities, as well as Jews and Arabs, such as: the Palestinians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians, Saudi-Arabians, Egyptians, Tunisians, and Moroccans.
As time marches on there will be even greater diversity in the United States. The diversity is reflected in city, county, state, and national elected officials. In my area, my representative on the city board is White. My state assemblyman is Black. My state senator is Asian, and my Congresswoman is also Asian. And so it goes throughout California and all America.
There are some people who are outraged about the outrage of those who are critical of the recent police action. I have recently received emails stating that Blacks very often kill one another. So why the outrage when white officers kill a Black person? Well, Whites often kill other Whites, but, in both instances, that is beside the point. What we have in the above mentioned killings of Blacks is that they are done by police officers. Therein lays the difference.
Then there are those who are outraged by the looting, vandalism, and destruction of property on the part of some in the crowd at Ferguson. Frankly I agree with them on this point. My wife and I for many years owned and operated a small business in Pasadena. Most small business people are not rich. They operate on “the come.” That is, they often borrow money for the purchase of merchandise they hope to sell. They then sell it, repay their loan, and live fairly comfortably. When you destroy or loot their merchandise that oftentimes puts them out of business.
The demonstrators are actually rendering a valuable service to remind us that we still have miles to travel in reaching our goal of civil rights for all people irregardless of race, creed, or color.
Let’s keep our gatherings peaceful! Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated it could be done. In the meantime let’s not forget that the greater issue is to remember that in a free and open democracy we have the right to demonstrate and publicly let it be known of our great displeasure. The demonstrators are actually rendering a valuable service to remind us that we still have miles to travel in reaching our goal of civil rights for all people irregardless of race, creed, or color. Let’s squarely face up to the fact that we are a society that still tends to have problems in treating all our citizens as equal before the law.
One of the things wrong in Ferguson is that the police force is almost all white in a city that has a large Black population. Ferguson’s racial mix has rapidly changed in recent years. At one time it was mostly white. Today 67% are Black. Yet most of the police are white. Police forces throughout the land need to work harder at how they do their job in a very racially diverse country. Perhaps some upgrades in the training programs are needed. Also needed is an increase in community relations programs that allow our citizens to have personal contact with the police in order to establish more trust.
One of the great frustrations in all these recent episodes is the feeling that the police who did the shooting were not really held accountable with all charges being dropped against them by grand juries. Also there is a strong feeling that police forces who are judged by internal boards and agencies may be too lenient on persons who should be held more accountable for their actions.
The jury is still out, but there is much merit in having outside boards or commissions to review police actions.
One final word. USA Today’s December 5 edition had a feature story by one of their reporters, Arienne Thompson, who is Black. The story is entitled, “Being Black In America Is Exhausting.” The gist is that it is tiresome to face all the issues a Black person has to face. She goes on to list things and incidents that make for exhaustion, and there are many. Then she concludes her article rather negatively by saying “I am so tired, so tired. Are you?”
The article is well worth reading. But I would like to sit down with her and say “On my journeys on the road to Civil Rights I was greatly influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His book of sermons is a jewel. I am told he received an average of 500 hate letters a day. Now that is really exhausting to realize that so many people want you dead! So, Arienne, buck up! Be glad you are Black. Be glad you can express yourself and have an audience. Frankly, be glad you are alive. Go, woman, go!! Help is on the way!”