Wednesday, July 13, 2016

J-Speaks: Race, Guns and Police: A Brutal Reality

In the span of 72 hours last week, a very dark part of society here in America was once again brought to light. A brutal reality of how the people who are sworn to protect the lives of all took the lives of two minorities. It was immediately followed 48 hours later by an army veteran took the lives of those sworn to protect us. That resulted in people from the North, South, East and West parts of the US taking to the streets and expressing their frustration, anger and outright sadness that we are once again in the crosshairs of something that once side of our society has ignored, thrown blame at with no hesitation and looked down upon for far too long.

This brutal reality all began just 24 hours after Independence Day when 37-year-old Alton Sterling, an African American was shot twice at point blank range while he has pinned to the ground by the Baton Rouge, LA Police.

According to a report from this past Friday’s edition of the New York Daily News, Sterling was selling Compact Discs in front of a convenient store. It was also reported that he had a gun in his pocket, but he did not draw it on officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake. Both policeman were placed on administrative leave with pay while the US Justice Department is investigating the case.

Less than 24 hours later in the Midwest, another African American in 32-year-old Philando Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop in a St. Paul, MN suburb.

Castile, who was in the passenger seat while his fiancée Diamond Reynolds, who taped the entire moment on her phone was in the driver’s seat and her daughter was in the back seat was pulled for a broken taillight.

Not only was Castile, who told the officer that he had a gun on him not only fatally shot him, but the officer did not even offer him any medical assistant and slapped Reynolds in handcuffs. That officer was also put on leave and is being investigated by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Throughout the country, African Americans took to the streets in protest. Numbers of people were arrested in Baton Rouge, LA, New York, NY, Chicago, IL and Los Angeles, CA. Nearly 300 of those arrest took place in Baton Rouge, LA.

One particular protest though put an even bigger spotlight on how bad this divide of the police and African Americans as five Dallas, TX police officers, Rapid Transit Authority Officer Brent Thompson, who married a fellow officer just 14 days ago; Patrick Zamarripa who served three tours in Iraq; Michael Krol, Senior Corporal Lorne Ahrens and Sgt. Michael Smith were killed this past Thursday night by an army veteran Micha Johnson, who had been planning a much bigger attack as the FBI found out about those plans when they searched his home in Texas and found bomb making materials, a small stash weapons and a large cash of ammunition.

It was not just the fact that seven people lives were cut short, but families were devastatingly and unforgivable changed forever. Seven fathers will never see their children grow up. Spouses will now wake up each morning in their beds alone without their significant other by their side. Families lost loved ones.

To bring this point home even more, according to Mapping Gun Violence, The Washington Post and The Guardian, 509 people were shot and killed by law enforcement this year alone. A year ago 990 people were fatally shot by police.

The current U.S. population consists of 247 million Caucasian Americans, 62 percent of the population and 238 of them were gunned down by cops. The U.S. consists of 42 million African Americans and 123 of them were fatally shot by the police.

There are a lot of reasons we have this divide in our society. For starters Caucasian America, particularly at the political level has a fear of us. Sometimes a disdain from how we act; how we treat them in their presence. That we do not take life seriously or we fell that we deserve better. On top of that police that patrol or walk their beats in our communities see the poor shape the neighborhoods we live are in. That are work ethic at times can be call into question and that the family structure is more often than not intact.

From the side of African Americans, we do not reach out to law enforcement to show that we are not what many people express what we are via on television or in other forms of media. On top of that, we do not more often than not bring our best selves to the forefront when we are confronted by law enforcement. We immediately become defensive and put up a wall of disdain distrust, which has resulted in what we have seen for far too long, innocent African American lives being taken far too soon.

What we all have to understand at this moment is that going into our separate corners and simply pointing fingers at the other will not solve this.

For every person that has protested and express their aforementioned disdain for what happened to Sterling, Castile and the five Dallas cops, they have to become a voter in November.

It is one thing to express your anger verbally and with your feet. For real change to happen, it takes political will by those at the federal, state and local level. It takes politicians seeing the issue that is facing the citizens of their community, state and the nation and pulling together regardless if they are Republican, Democrat or Independent and work to solve the issue.

It takes us as citizens gather and talking to each other about our issues and why we feel the way we feel. What steps we can take to bridge the gap of our cultures and the issues that we care confronting.

Above all else though, the one thing that will have to happen is when an African American person is shot and killed and there is evidence that killing was done for a despicable reason, that officer or officers via the legal system are found guilty and have the book thrown at them.

In the cases of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, the officers were never indicted. In the current case of the death of Freddie Gray, two of the six officers have been acquitted of all charges. The other four are awaiting trial.

At the political level, our leaders at the Federal level, at the state and local level have to come to grips with the reality that we need serious gun control, while also at the same time bring to light that we need to take care of the mental health crisis that many of our people are dealing with.

It seems like every time we have a situation like what happened in Dallas last week, we hear from our leaders that we need to do something. That it is important that we take action to prevent another situation like this from happening. Instead the National Rifle Association grunts its teeth, raises their voices along with their capital and before you know it the fight for change is stopped in its tracks.  

It is something that President Barack Obama stated at a memorial service for the five fallen officers this past Tuesday in Dallas, TX.

“I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency. I’ve hugged too many families who’ve lost a loved one to senseless violence. I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change,” the President said. “I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.”

It does not also help when each state puts all of the pressure to deal with everything many African American families are facing. They are asked to be the caregiver when they have an inconsistent one in their life or lives or none at all. To be the counselor, parent, teacher, leader, confidant and the rule of all.

It takes solid, no nonsense we will do better leadership from the top to make our communities better. Putting better jobs that can turn into careers into underserved communities. Preventing easy access to drugs and many other deterrents out of the hands of people in those communities and instead have simpler access to libraries, books, computers and mentors who can show the up and comers a better way to live and grow as people.

That is what Castile was to the students at J.J. Hill Montesori School District. He began working in the local district at age 19. The students referred to the man who never missed a day or work in 14 years and at the time was a cafeteria worker as “Mr. Phil.”  

“He stood out because he was happy, friendly and related to people well,” Principal Katherine Holmquist-Burks said of Castile. “He was a warm person and a gentle spirit.

That is the one of 123 African Americans that was taken from us by the gun of a police officer this year alone, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

They join the likes of those who were killed leading up to this year Prince Jones, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Keith Childress, Bettie Jones, Malcolm Ferguson, John Crawford III, Junior Prosper, Keith McLeod, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Rumain Brisbon, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Tony Robinson, Jonathan Ferrell, McKenzie Cochran, Kajieme Powell, Akai Gurley, Jerame Reid, Yvette Smith, Philip White, Eric Harris, Jordan Baker, Ezell Ford, Jamar Clark, Carlos Alcis, Larry Jackson, Kimani Gray, Chavis Carter, Kendrec McDade, Shereese Francis, Wendell Allen, Manuel Loggins, Alonzo Ashley, Aiyana Jones, Steven Washington, Aaron Campbell, Victor Steen, Shem Walker, Tarika Wilson, DeAunta Farrow, Ronald Madison, Timothy Stansbury, James Brissette, Kenneth Chamberlin, Sean Bell, Henry Glover, Oscar Grant, Tarika Wilson, Alberta Spruill, Ousmane Zongo, Orlando Barlow and Timothy Thomas.

All of these people mentioned as well as the officers had their lives cut short and their loved ones and those who were a major part of their lives will only have a sampling of stories to tell about who they were and not about what they could have been.  

Sterling leaves behind five children and one of them Cameron spoke to the nation on Wednesday, where also according to ABC News Baton Rouge Police were able to foil a plot where four people including a 13-year-old stole allegedly stole eight guns from a local pawn shop “Cash America Pawn” and were going to use them to attack police officers.  

“There should be no more arguments. Disagreements. Violence. Crimes,” he said. “Everyone should come together as one united family.”

 Castile leaves behind his aforementioned fiancée and her four-year-old daughter. The aforementioned officer Thompson was a newlywed when his life was cut at the age of 43; Officer Kroll who made his dream of being a cop a reality and spent nearly a decade protecting the citizens of “Big D;” Officer Zamarripa not only as mentioned and Iraq War veteran, but also a father. Sgt. Smith, who died at the age of 55 a week ago was a 26-year veteran of the Dallas Police force and Senior Corporal Aherns who was described by his colleagues as “a big guy with an even bigger heart.”

These are the lives that from this point forward that we as citizens of this country; the Presidential candidates in Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald J. Trump for the Republicans, who will be accepting their party’s nominations at their conventions in Cleveland, OH and Philadelphia, PA respectably over the next two weeks and those that are running for the Senate and Congress and other political positions now and in the future will be charged with making sure that something is done to bridge this racial divide and to some way, somehow allow us to see each other not as the enemy, but as people who are trying to do right for ourselves.

If we do not take this with the seriousness and with the sense of urgency that what will the next headline be?

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 7/8/16 article “Am I Next, Daddy?” in the New York Daily News by Larry McShane; 7/10/16 9 a.m. edition of “Sunday Today,” with Willie Geist; 7/10/16 10 a.m. edition of ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” hosted by Martha Raddatz; 7/13/16 6 a.m. edition of CNN Headline News’ “Morning Express with Robin Meade;” 7/13/16 12 p.m. edition of “Eyewitness News at Noon,” with David Navarro, Shirleen Allicot and Bill Evans; report from Ray Raimundi of ABC News.  

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