50 Years After Selma, Blacks Are Still Victims

WASHINGTON – Watching on TV the celebration of Selma’s 50th anniversary held in a Black church left me with a very bad feeling. The tone of the speeches was completely out of tune with current realities.

Fight is not over

The focus was entirely on “This fight is not over, because we are still victims of racism”. This is very disappointing. Look, it is understandable that Black leaders want to stress lingering problems and residual racial bias. And it is undeniable that there is still a veneer of unspoken yet evident racial prejudice in America.

However, the accepted Black community narrative whereby the only thing that prevents African-Americans from joining the main stream is racism is both wrong and terribly unhelpful.

Huge changes

Basic civil rights legislation was passed in the 1960s. Discrimination of any kind is against the law. For decades we have accepted that Affirmative Action remedies were appropriate to allow Blacks to regain at least some of the ground lost because of centuries of slavery and then segregation. Through Affirmative Action measures many Blacks jumped in front of the line when it came to university admission, minority set aside in public procurement, public jobs, and a lot more.

Black elected leaders

Besides, for decades we have seen growth in the numbers of Black elected leaders:  members of Congress, of State Legislatures, of Municipal Councils. Lots of Black Mayors and some Black Governors.

Last but not least, a majority of White Americans elected Barack Obama, a Black president, twice. In his administration there is a Black Attorney General, a Black Secretary of the gigantic and ultra-sensitive Department Homeland Security, a Black National Security Advisor. The Head of NASA is Black.

The point is that the old, symbolic barriers have been broken.

Lingering racism

This of course does not contradict the fact that there is still lingering racism here and there.

But residual racism cannot be used to explain chronic Black under achievement. The numbers are out there. Under performance in academic results. Higher unemployment. Staggering numbers of single mothers. Horrendous numbers of Black on Black homicides. To say that the disproportionate number of young Black males now in prison is the result of racism is foolish self-deception.

Troubling statistics

These troubling statistics should invite self-examination. Yes, by all means let’s point out all instances of discrimination. Let’s expose the fact that the police in Ferguson has a predatory attitude against Blacks, targeting them for excessive fines in their rapacious quest for extra revenue. This is horribly wrong. This practice (obviously encouraged by top White municipal leaders) should be exposed and condemned. Those responsible should be held into account, fired and prosecuted.

But, once again, the reality of bad (and in some cases unlawful) behavior on the part of some White public officials –offensive as it is– does not explain every shortcoming within the Black community.

Racism does not explain everything

In some instances, failing in school can be explained by adverse conditions. But adverse conditions alone cannot explain systemic failure on a spectacular, national scale.

And racism cannot explain millions of Black teenagers having children without the means to support them, this way condemning them to a life of poverty and under achievement. Likewise, racism alone cannot explain young Blacks killing so many other Blacks.

Old stuff

The speeches in Selma were tired repetitions of old stuff. No new ideas.

The Black civil rights leaders of the 1960s were courageous trail blazers. In truly adverse circumstances, they pointed out that White America was hypocritical by proclaiming universal rights and then denying those very rights to millions of Black Americans. They fought their fight while the White establishment sent police and dogs to attack them, while using discriminatory laws (all of them unconstitutional) to send them to jail.

Eventually the good fight was won. Segregation is illegal. Discrimination of any kind is illegal. Voting rights have been secured. All this happened more than 40 years ago.

America still divided

However, 50 years after Selma America is still profoundly divided. And in part this is due to the fact that, with little justification, today’s Black leaders continue to say that they are victims, that African-Americans are still behind because of lingering prejudice against them.

Martin Luther King famously said that he was hoping that some day all people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

No self-examination

50 years after Selma, while it is indeed appropriate to expose and condemn any form of racism and prejudice, it would be nice to see Black leaders engaged in an effort aimed at understanding “the content of the character” of so many members of their community. What prevents so many Blacks to advance in a society that is far more just and equitable than the one their parents and grandparents lived in?

Are all the problems experienced by African-Americans really rooted in racism? Or is there something else? What about the “content of the character” of so many young Blacks who drop out of school, believing that crime will offer better prospects than an education?




African-Americans Feel Persecuted By White Police

WASHINGTON – Perception, as we know, is reality. And, sadly, right now the large US African-American community (more than 40 million citizens) perceives itself as the targeted victim of White police brutality. This includes the willful killing (murder?) of unarmed Black people.

No justice

Furthermore, most Blacks are convinced that the entire White-dominated and controlled justice system is fixed. And the fix is against them. If a White police officer in broad daylight kills an unarmed Black person, the police officer will go free –always.

Sure, there may be a perfunctory inquiry and/or a Grand Jury process. But, in the end, the White police officer will be exonerated, each and every time.

Therefore, it is quite clear that in America Blacks are persecuted, and that they will never get justice.

Persecution

In fact, it gets even worse. An African-American lady interviewed in a New York street by a major cable TV network stated with a very calm voice that it is quite clear that Whites are out to get Blacks. In fact, it is obvious that Whites are planning to kill all Blacks, one by one. This was not said in a an emotional tone. This was a calm reflection expressed by a person who appeared to be intelligent and articulate.

Alright, you might say that there was some hyperbole involved in that statement, and that she did not literally mean that indeed “all Blacks are targeted”.

Racist America?

Still, consider this statement within the wider context of today’s America. Today in the United States we have an African-American President, Barack Obama, elected twice with the crucial support of millions of White voters. Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, and therefore the head of the entire federal justice system, is an African-American. The Homeland Security Secretary is an African-American. There are scores of African-Americans elected to Congress, not to mention Mayors, members of City Councils, members of State legislatures, admirals and generals, university professors, journalists, TV anchors, CEOs, famous artists, movie stars, athletes, senior police officers, and so on.

And yet the perception of millions of African-Americans is that we are back to the old practices prevalent during the dark days of legally sanctioned segregation, with all the lynchings, Ku Klux Klan violence, and open intimidation against Blacks.

Policemen should be held accountable

I have no doubt that in some instances the police have used excessive force, and that some killings of Black Americans by police officers are not justifiable. And just one person killed for no good reason by the police is enough to raise concerns. Any killing is a serious matter. And all police officers should be held accountable for their actions, just like everybody else.

We have a problem

But to go from here to the widely shared perception that White police brutality is systemic and that more than 40 million Black Americans are now targets of excessive use of force that includes deliberate killings is a bit much.

That said, this is clearly a major problem. America cannot pretend that this racial divide does not exist, or that it will magically go away by itself.

I am not sure what should be done to re-establish a constructive dialogue that will recreate trust between Black and Whites, but our leaders should do something.




Black Americans Believe That Michael Brown Is A Victim Of Racist America

WASHINGTON – It is truly disheartening to watch the aftermath of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson on any possible charge, (homicide, manslaughter, or anything else), related to his killing of Michael Brown last August.

The facts are clear

By now all the facts are clear. After lengthy proceedings, hours and hours of testimonies, and the presentation of physical evidence, the Ferguson Grand Jury concluded that Michael Brown, a Black young man who had just robbed a store, got into a confrontation with officer Wilson, tried to seize his gun, did not obey any of the officer’s commands, and then attacked him. In order to prevent physical injury to himself, officer Wilson shot Brown and killed him.

The Grand Jury concluded that officer Wilson followed procedures and killed Brown in self-defense. This being the case, there is no “probable cause” about any crime having been committed. Hence the decision not to put Wilson on trial.

Again, the process is most transparent. Now that the Grand Jury has concluded its work, all the proceedings and all the testimonies have been made public. Anybody can go on-line and review them.

End of all speculations

Well, you would think that this is enough to assuage any concerns and put to rest all the wild speculations and false accounts of what actually happened that day in August.

No, Michael Brown had not surrendered when he was shot. No, he did not have his arms raised. No, he was not shot in the back. Indeed, “eye-witnesses” who had claimed all of this had to subsequently admit that they “had ben mistaken”. In fact, they had made all of this up.

Several other eye-witnesses, all of them African-Americans, corroborated the account given to the Grand Jury by officer Wilson. Furthermore, the autopsy results and other physical evidence also supported his story.

It makes no difference

Well, guess what, none of this makes any difference whatsoever. Most African-Americans believe what they want to believe. Their understanding of “what happened” , before and after the Grand Jury deliberations, is that Michael Brown is yet another innocent victim of White police brutality. This killing is yet another sad episode in the long history of the victimization of Black Americans.

All Black leaders, commentators and lawyers who appeared on TV stuck to the script. All of them believe that the Grand Jury proceedings were artfully manipulated, so that officer Wilson would go free. The fix was in from the very beginning. Therefore, this has nothing to do with real justice.

Injustice

And this travesty is in line with what we knew already. There are just too many Black victims of White police brutality. Michael Brown is just another one in a long list. And the very fact that there are so many young Blacks males in prison is evidence that they have been targeted. Indeed, Michael Brown’s mother said that she is convinced that officer Wilson that day was up to no good. He was on some sort of hunt, and sadly her son was the victim.

From Los Angeles to New York

After the Ferguson Grand Jury decision not to indict, we saw rallies across America, from Los Angeles to New York, in which outraged young Blacks marched with their hands raised, shouting “Do not shoot!”; this way showing that they buy the false claim that Michael Brown was an innocent guy who had surrendered, and was nonetheless shot in cold blood by an evil policeman.

How do we move forward?

Given all this, how do we move forward? If we cannot even agree on the facts, even after they have been carefully ascertained through a meticulous and now totally open judicial proceeding, how can we agree on anything else?

Fictitious narrative

What is most disheartening here is that the Black community has created this fictitious narrative of endless victimization as a way to avoid serious reflections on the roots of its crisis.

Indeed, it would be most inconvenient to admit that, yes, far too many young Black males are in fact criminals. And quite often they are criminals because they grow up in dysfunctional homes, with plenty of drugs and no books. These kids –over 70% of them raised by single mothers with no education– learn almost nothing attending bad schools, and very often do not finish any school. Therefore they become young adults having no marketable skills that would get them a decent job.

It is all about racism

This is the sad reality. It is indeed so sad that it is preferable to ignore it by accepting the escapist narrative that exonerates the Black community. “Whatever our problems as Black Americans, at the root of all of them you will always find racism and injustice”. 




The Ferguson Riots Prove That America Is Still Divided Along Racial Lines

WASHINGTON – As many had predicted, the Grand Jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on his killing last August of Michael Brown, a Black teenager, sparked a new wave of violence.

The facts do not matter

The sad truth is that the exonerating facts that emerged from the lengthy judicial process do not matter at all for the rioters. It does not matter that the jurors had the opportunity to listen to all testimonies and look at the circumstances of Brown’s killing from all angles before reaching their conclusion that officer Wilson acted properly when he shot Michael Brown.

The system is rigged

The sad truth is that a large percentage, possibly a majority, of African-Americans firmly believe that the White Majority uses the police and other law enforcement tools as means to intimidate and purposely hurt Blacks. The fact that the Grand Jury established that there is no evidence to indict officer Wilson for this killing is just part of the fix. The entire system is rigged. The point is that Blacks do not get justice in White America. Period.

From this well established perspective, the killing of young Michael Brown is just an additional piece of evidence that simply reaffirms the accepted narrative. America is still a racist society. Blacks are routinely targeted and harassed by the police, or they are murdered for no reason, as the Brown killing tells us.

America is racist

And unfortunately this is a widely shared belief. We see competent Black lawyers arguing on TV that the Grand Jury process was essentially a travesty. The jurors –they argue– did not hear all the damaging evidence. The policeman’s self-serving account of what actually happened during what he described as his altercation with Michael Brown was not adequately challenged. Therefore, it is obvious that the Grand Jury came to the conclusion that there should be no indictment. The whole process had been fixed well in advance.

Worse yet, many educated Blacks argued on TV that, given this outrage, it is perfectly understandable that “The Community” could not contain its anger. Therefore, it goes without saying that the Grand Jury decision not to indict Wilson was followed by violence, arson, looting and destruction. Well, what else would you expect?

And so, these compassionate leaders with a straight face tell us that of course the good people of Ferguson manifested their moral indignation over police brutality by looting liquor stores. Why, is there any other way to vent your anger at White injustice?

Look, this whole matter of race relations in America is of course a lot more complex than the Grand Jury process aimed at establishing the actual facts about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. In this particular case, looking at the evidence it would appear that the officer was justified in using deadly force. And this is the conclusion reached by the Grand Jury.

Black Americans targeted

But it is also true that in many other cases all across America Blacks have been unfairly targeted by the (mostly White) police.

And why are they targeted? Well, in some measure because a disproportionate number of violent criminals happen to be young Blacks. Therefore, any young Black man who seems to act in a strange or suspicious way attracts attention. And therefore he is more likely to become a target for the police.

Of course, all this means that many young Black males are unfairly targeted. Yes, in America you can be stopped by the police because “you were driving while being Black”.

Clearly, all those Blacks who have been stopped, questioned, frisked, arrested or worse without any real motive have every reason to believe that they are victims of an organized persecution.

So, how do we get out of this vicious cycle in which it is impossible to identify cause and effect? This is going to be very difficult.

Divided America

But we should start with reality. The reality is that several decades  after the passing of landmark civil rights legislation that put an end to any form of legally sanctioned racial discrimination, America remains a deeply divided society. The African-American minority still looks at White America with a mix of suspicion, resentment and fear. African-Americans feel victimized by what they see as an inherently unfair law enforcement system that –they firmly believe– is willfully used by the White Majority to intimidate and brutalize them.

A fair system?

How do you convince Black leaders and ordinary African-Americans that at least in most cases this is not true? How do you convince them that on balance this is a fair, “color blind” system in which everybody is treated in the same way? How can we do away with prejudice and preconceived ideas?

The sad Michael Brown story will eventually fade and go away. But soon enough there will be some other story of yet another Black man killed in the street, allegedly without any solid justification, by yet another trigger-happy White policeman.

And you can rest assured that this will cause more anger and more riots.

 




Obama’s “Ferguson Remarks” In His UN Speech Provide Ammunition To America-Haters

WASHINGTON – In an otherwise good UN speech (September 24, 2014) focused on the need to fight for international law while combating militant groups and terrorists, President Barack Obama could not resist the temptation to say something negative about America.

We are not perfect

The objective –I suppose– was to show the world that, while we Americans pursue noble goals, we also humbly acknowledge our shortcomings. Alas, we are a still imperfect society. So, we are not preaching on the basis of arrogant self-righteousness. We would like to pursue good and lofty goals of world peace and justice, but we also recognize that in many instances we fail to live up to our ideals.

While in principle this attempt at even handedness may not be bad, the example picked by Obama to illustrate America’s frailties was totally inappropriate.

Ferguson remarks

Speaking from the UN podium to senior representatives of the entire world gathered there for the annual General Assembly, Obama had this to say:

“I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within its own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri –where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions we hold dear”.

Inappropriate comparison

Let me start with the obvious. To place in the same sentence the killing of one Black American young man (Michael Brown) by a White police officer, (no doubt a tragedy), and the daily slaughters perpetrated by ISIL, Assad and other in Syria and Iraq, along with the war of aggression sponsored in Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a really bad idea.

This will encourage people around the world to say: “Hey, there are problems in the Middle East. But there are also problems in America. They may not be the same. But they are very close in size and scope, as the President of the United States himself had to admit while speaking to the world from the podium of the UN General Assembly.”

America just as bad

Let me say this again. To place in the same context the killing of one individual in Ferguson and the murdering of tens of thousands by lawless fanatics in the Middle East gives precious ammunition to all those who hate America. It legitimizes stupid and meaningless comparisons and moral relativism: “Assad bad. ISIL bad. Putin bad. But America also bad. US President Barack Obama himself said so”.

Offering an opinion on a pending case

And there is more. Even though he did not get into any details, Obama clearly indicated that the Ferguson killing is evidence of something deeply wrong in America.

By giving this characterization, Obama did something totally uncalled for. He essentially sided with all those (in America and abroad) who believe, based on what they have seen or heard, that the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson is yet another instance of White police criminal brutality.

We know that within the Black Community and beyond the prevailing, even if yet unproven, narrative about Ferguson is that an unarmed Black young man was killed in cold blood by a White police officer, even though (allegedly) he had raised his arms, clearly indicating that he had surrendered. (The police officer claims that he was attacked by Brown, and that he shot him in self-defense).

That said, Obama knows that the case is still pending. Therefore, for the President of the United States to publicly discuss it, while letting the whole world understand what he thinks about it, is really uncalled for.

No trial, no conviction

President Obama, with his Harvard Law Degree, should know better. He knows that the case is still before a Grand Jury. In the end, the White police officer who shot Michael Brown may or may not be indicted. Still, even assuming that he will be indicted, (usually Grand Juries tend to err in favor of indictments), there has been no trial and no conviction.

In other words, our own American justice system has not yet decided what happened and whether or not the police officer committed a crime.

But, by saying that the killing –of course– caused a totally understandable rage within the Black Community, President Obama told the world what he thinks about the sad incident. Once again, the President of the United States should have never mentioned this incident in the course of a UN speech, as the case is still pending.

Obama’s own words will be used by America-haters

Now, to place these “Ferguson remarks” uttered by Obama in context, we should recognize that they were only one paragraph in a much longer speech about terrorism, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and a lot more.

Fair enough. And yet, as these words uttered by the President of the United States are part of the official record, they will be cited, (of course out of context), by all those who argue that America, despite its lofty rhetoric, is in fact a truly bad place where racism is rampant. So much so that White policemen (routinely?) shoot unarmed Black kids at will. The US President himself said so.

Is this the image of America that President Obama wants to convey to the world?

 




Public School Teachers Send Their Own Kids To Private Schools

WASHINGTON – US public schools are so bad that many public schools teachers –that is those who have first hand knowledge of the failures of the system- send their own children to private schools. (More on this below).

Two tier America

I have stated in several earlier pieces how the crisis of US public education has essentially created a two tier America. In tier one we have the children of the rich and the well-educated who attend quality private schools. In general, these children receive good quality education. With these academic credentials they can get into the prestigious universities whose degrees, in most cases, become the tickets to high paying jobs and good careers.

Tier two

In tier two we have all those who cannot afford private education and who are not lucky enough to live in the few areas where public schools are decent, or where other choices, such as quality charter schools, are available.

The poor suffer the most 

Within this large second tier the children of the poor suffer the most. Most likely their parents are uneducated. There are no books and no mentors in their homes. If these children do not get a good education in the public school they attend, they have almost no chance of getting any somewhere else. It is quite obvious that being poor and uneducated in today’s America means no opportunity, menial part-time jobs, and marginalization.

This is not an accident

Having said all this, now we learn that this national tragedy is not the result of some misguided public policy regarding public education pursued by people acting in good faith. On the contrary, it would appear that those who work in the system know exactly what they are doing.

Public school teachers send their kids to private schools

Ms. Ronda Ross in a letter to the WSJ, (Choice, for Children of Progressives, September 24, 2014), quotes data from a Fordham Institute study. Assuming that the information she provides is accurate, we learn  that “Nationwide, public schools teachers are more than twice as likely as an average citizen to enroll their children in private learning institutions”.

Hypocrisy

Got that? Public school teachers who have the means to do so send their kids to private schools. So, here is the ugly story that reveals bad faith and hypocrisy.

Public school teachers have an intimate knowledge of how bad the system they work in and defend really is. And so, as good parents, they send their own children to private schools where they will not be harmed by the effects of a bad public education.

In the case of law makers who publicly defend the system for political reasons, same story. They applaud public school teachers and their unions. But they send their own kids to private schools.

Do we care?

Given all this, it is clear that those who run the system and their political allies know exactly what they are doing. They know how bad US public education really is. So much so that they make sure that their own children are not damaged by it.

That said, does America care about all the others who have no choice? Do we really want millions of children to grow up as hopeless adults, with almost no doors open for them?

 




No Outcry About The US Public Education Crisis

WASHINGTON – ISIL is now recognized as an existential threat to America. Millions have seen two fellow Americans beheaded by an ISIL butcher in a a made for TV staged execution. And so public opinion, generally reluctant about new foreign military adventures, now supports fighting and destroying ISIL in Iraq and Syria, at least for now. Once again a complacent and distracted America has been rudely woken up. “Hey, there is a real danger out there. Better do something”. So far, so good. 

Americans react to crises

But the problem with this American psychology that needs a major, clear-cut, disruptive event in order to approve forceful action is that slow-moving crises that get a little bit worse every day are usually ignored. Indeed, unless you have the functional equivalent of a beheading video, nobody worries.

Public education gets worse

A perfect example of this is the creeping crisis of the US public education system. Simply stated, in the US it is very difficult for any child attending public schools, especially low-income children, mostly Blacks and Hispanics, to get a decent, let alone superior, education.

Most children enrolled in the system at best get mediocre instruction. In many instances the whole school experience is totally meaningless. Even when the cycle is fully completed, and the student successfully graduates from high school, his/her knowledge of basic math is so bad that most firms cannot employ him or her.

Basic facts regarding academic scores and the results of each and every international comparison show, year after year, how the system routinely fails millions of children by providing at best the illusion of an education.

Is this a crisis?

And yet, all this bad news notwithstanding, we never seem to reach “the crisis point”. Sure enough, there are many grass-roots efforts aimed at offering alternatives to this most deficient public education system. Charter schools, private foundations and many non profits now offer affordable quality eduction, especially to the poor, that is those who need it the most.

But, again, there is no united, national outcry. The American people have not risen saying: “Enough is enough. This is a disgrace. This way we are condemning millions of children to a life of under achievement. We can and will do better”.

I see at least two reasons for this.

Elites not touched

Number one, this crisis does not affect the elites. The rich and the well-educated usually have the means to send their children to higher quality private schools. Which is to say that this gigantic national failure does not touch them directly.

The power of the unions

Number two, the Democratic Party has a complicated relationship with the large and powerful teachers unions. As the unions are pillars of support for the party, it is almost impossible for most Democrats to antagonize them.

And it so happens that the unions, sadly, are the staunch defenders of the status quo. They protect bad teachers and they have imposed a system whereby it is almost impossible to get rid of incompetent instructors.

In fact, we routinely observe that even in school districts that show really bad academic results, more than 90% of all teachers are rated good or excellent.

How bad is this?

But, anyway, how bad is all this?

Well, here is just one vivid illustration provided by three Illinois state lawmakers in a letter to the WSJ:

“This academic year, more than 150,000 children in our [Illinois] lowest performing schools will fail to meet grade-level achievement by June. Even if that group of children graduate in four years, less than 20% of them will be considered ‘college ready’. They are not outliers. Overall, the National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that nearly two thirds of all Illinois fourth-graders do not perform at grade level in math or reading”.

Got that? What this amounts to is that vast majorities of Illinois children who attend public schools are semi-illiterate, and some of them really illiterate. And yet the system allows them to move up from grade to grade, until they get a useless diploma. A stunning 80% of these graduates are unprepared for college. And here we are not even counting all the drop-outs, all those who got lost along the way, and never finished school.

Failure

Anyway, this is how America takes care of those who desperately need a good education as their best tool to move up the socio-economic ladder.

Today as never before “hard work” alone is not enough to succeed in life. Unless a child is armed with a good education, his or her chances to succeed in an ultra competitive labor market are minimal or non existent.

All our leaders know this. And yet we just continue to plod along, as if this were a small, manageable problem, possibly requiring some tweaks here and there.

De facto apartheid

No, ladies and gentlemen, this appalling system reflects a “de facto” apartheid. The rich take care of their own. The poor (who are mostly minorities) better figure out a way to fend for themselves, as we have no intention to seriously fight a system dominated by vested interests that routinely resist education reform.

Translation: the rich will do fine. The uneducated poor have few or no chances to get ahead. We know this, but we do not care.




Perceptions and Misperceptions About Black Crime And White Police Brutality

WASHINGTON – The killing by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, of a Black young man, 18-year-old Michael Brown,  triggered a (predictable) chain reaction that once again exposed the ugly truth of an America still torn by racial tensions.

Jumping to conclusion

The Black community in Ferguson and across America, even without the benefit of any real, conclusive evidence, immediately labelled this tragic death as yet another example of police brutality consciously aimed at Black people.

Yes, Black people are targeted. Yes, innocent Black people are harassed, stopped in the street and subjected to all sorts of humiliations by White policemen only because of the color of their skin. And some get killed by the police, for no reason.

White America hates Blacks

And here is the conclusion: “White America hates Blacks; and it uses police forces as attack dogs who act viciously under the bogus pretense of conducting law enforcement operations.”

The sad fact is that, no matter what will come out of the ongoing investigation on what really happened that day in Ferguson,  Black America made up its mind, “This tragedy proves what we already know. Blacks are the victims of police brutality. Period”.

Let’s step back

Of course this is the proverbial oversimplification. There is some truth here; but only some. Let’s step back for a minute and let’s look at the broader context.

The sad fact is that a disproportionately large percentage of young Black are in fact criminals –and therefore targeted by the police. And why are there so many criminals? Because most young Black people are marginalized, or semi-marginalized.

No education, no good options

And they are marginalized because, for a variety of reasons, they are unable to fit into a mainstream that includes getting a decent education, and then applying for and obtaining a decent job.

It is a well-known fact that most young Blacks get below average education in below average public schools. Some do not even get that. They drop out. And, at that point, with essentially zero qualifications, the choices available to them are really unattractive.

With little or no education, there is no chance whatsoever to be able to compete for a good job in a US labor market that has become ultra-competitive.

Therefore here is the restricted universe of available opportunities:

A) the prospect of a life of under employment, getting low-paying menial jobs here and there; or

B) crime

There is money in criminal activities

For many crime may look much more attractive because there can be money, lots of easy money coming with it. And so many Black people get into the drug trade. In so doing they get into a world of gangs, violence, lots of killings, turf wars, and more.

And, as a result of these dynamics, with some reason, we get to the stereotype held by many Whites: “Most young Blacks are criminals. This being the case, police forces have reason to be particularly aggressive when pursuing Black suspects.”

Circular argument

And here we see how get to the circular argument:

–Whites believe that most Blacks are criminals, and therefore they should be pursued, arrested and convicted.

–Black communities, and this would naturally include peaceful, law-abiding people, see most police activities in their neighborhoods as willful persecution. (Indeed, if you are a law-abiding Black but you are stopped, questioned, harassed or worse by the police, merely because the fact of being Black makes you a suspect, it is natural that you will feel persecuted.)

Police brutality in Ferguson

And here we understand how Black communities in Ferguson and across America immediately reached the conclusion that, if an unarmed Black teenager got killed by a White policeman, the only possible explanation is that the policeman is a trigger happy racist who used a pretext to kill an innocent Black boy.

The police would say instead that policing Black neighborhoods is an extremely dangerous endeavor, because there are too many armed and violent criminals in these areas. Therefore “tough law enforcement” is totally justified.

But we know that this “toughness” can easily be construed as “willful brutality”, in many instances with cause.

So, here we are. Blacks believe that the police are out to get them. Whites believe that most young Blacks are dangerous, and therefore they welcome aggressive police actions aimed at them.

As you can see, we are in a real mess in which both sides have a good argument. This makes finding common ground a close to impossible challenge.

How do we break the cycle?

But reasonable people –Black and White– would probably agree that if young Black people could stay in the mainstream, get a good education, and then a good job, much of this now gigantic problem of Black crime-tough policing-perceptions of brutality-protests would disappear.

Black marginalization, whatever its causes, leads to Black crime. Black crime, very often violent crime, leads to harsh policing in Black neighborhoods.

And this leads to Black perceptions of intentional police brutality. Mostly White police forces are maliciously targeting all Blacks, including peaceful, law-abiding citizens, without any cause.

Therefore when Michael Brown in Ferguson, or any other seemingly innocent Black person elsewhere, gets killed by a White police officer, the instinctive reaction is: “Here we go again. They just want to kill all of us”.

Getting young Blacks to stay in the mainstream

But if most young Blacks would stay in the mainstream, get good degrees and good jobs, Black crime would decline, and with that all perceptions and exaggerations whereby “most young Blacks are criminals” would gradually fade away.

Having said that, I fully recognize that the hard part going forward is in devising smart policies and incentives that will stop and reverse Black marginalization.

However, I am sure that any constructive policy has to start with making a good education truly available to all Black children, even those living in the really tough neighborhoods.

In fact, these are the children who need it the most. If poor children do not get a good education, then –by definition– the way forward becomes extremely difficult.




Ferguson Killing Interpretations Expose America’s Racial Divide

WASHINGTON – Because of the killing of Michael Brown, a Black teenager, by a White policeman, in Ferguson, (Missouri), Black residents and many others coming from other localities are venting (often in a violent way) their frustration and resentment against a White establishment that they perceive as biassed and repressive. It is abundantly clear that the Black community sees  the mostly White and excessively well armed local police force as a bunch of attack dogs used by Whites to intimidate Blacks.

The killing proves the larger point

Whatever the official investigation may come up with, most Blacks immediately bought the reconstruction of the sad event that proves their point. The White policeman for no reason harassed the Black boy walking in the street. The Black boy had his hands up in the air, in a clear gesture of surrender. But the policeman shot him anyway –at least six times.

So, there we go again. This is what is to be expected from White cops whose main job is to instill fear among Blacks. A gratuitous killing here and there is simply meant to reinforce the hard reality that Blacks have no chance in a White dominated society.

Police brutality

Yes, police brutality directed at Blacks is just the most visible manifestation of a fundamentally racist America. You may tell us that segregation may be illegal now. Theoretically Blacks and Whites have equal rights. But, in practice, we know that nothing has changed. And, in case you had any illusions, just look at the Ferguson killing, and you’ll understand what is really going on.

US flag upside down

For me, the saddest manifestation of what amounts to a feeling of total Black alienation was TV footage about the daily protest showing a Black young man carrying the US flag upside down, with the stars at the bottom.

That really jolted me. The American Flag, “Old Glory”, the Stars and Stripes banner that should symbolize national unity based on our shared values and beliefs, treated instead as the symbol of a horribly unjust nation. By carrying the US Flag upside down, that young man tells us that he does not belong to this America, an America that –he firmly believes– treats him and all other Blacks as second class citizens, or worse.

Too many stereotypes

So, is this the real story? Is the Ferguson killing yet another reminder that America is still fundamentally racist?

Well, yes and no, we are told by Juan Williams. Williams is an African American, and a very thoughtful commentator capable to look at American racial and civil rights issues and dynamics with uncommon fairness and objectivity.

In an excellent WSJ piece, (Ferguson and America’s Racist Fears, August 20, 2014), Williams provides needed context. Beyond the specific facts that led to the Ferguson tragic killing, there are layers and layers of perceptions and misperceptions on both sides of what still remains a racial divide. These misperceptions prevent both Blacks and Whites to confront the real issues, while hiding behind self-serving, stereotypical interpretations.

Black criminals?

Yes, Blacks feel persecuted, and many times with cause. There are many recorded instances of White police brutality. But Whites, also with cause, in many instances feel threatened by Black crime and violence. Hence their fears, often exaggerated, that unfortunately lead to a collective indictment: “All young Black males are violent criminals. If you see a group of them approaching you in the street, run. If you have a gun, you may have to use it to protect yourself.”

And Williams argues that White fears are not unfounded. The statistics related to Black crime and Black violence, often gratuitous, are staggering. In America most homicides are carried out by young Black males. Although African Americans are only 13% of the total US population, about 50% of all people killed in America are Blacks, in most cases killed by other Blacks.

Hence the White stereotype: “Most Blacks are violent criminals. We need a well armed, tough police force to protect us against them”.

Most White policemen are racist

And you can see what effect the policies inspired by this perception produced on the other side of the racial divide. The fact that White policemen routinely treat so many Blacks as suspects, far too often using rough methods and/or unneeded violence, proves the point held almost universally by Blacks: “We are the innocent victims of White police brutality. And police brutality is just the most visible aspect of persistent White racism”.

Both sides have a point, while both sides exaggerate.

Ferguson tragedy provides ammunition to both sides 

If we go down to the known details of the Ferguson tragedy, (sadly we still do not have the whole picture), there is enough material there for both sides to prove that their stereotypes are in fact the truth.

The convenience store video of Michael Brown, (the young man later on killed by the police officer), confirms any and all White stereotypes about the average young Black criminal.

In the video we see a 6-foot-3 inch, almost 300 pounds Michael Brown entering the store and quite openly, in fact almost casually, stealing a box of cigars. When confronted by the (smallish) store clerk who demanded payment, Brown simply pushed him aside and walked out, as if nothing had happened.

Now, this is not your idea of “shoplifting”, a type of petty robbery in which the perpetrator, hoping to hide his actions, is concealing something he has taken from the store in a bag or in one of his pockets. Your typical shoplifter knows he is doing something bad and tries to hide his theft, while hoping to get away with it.

Thuggish behavior

Michael Brown did nothing of the above. In broad daylight he gets into a store, helps himself, quite openly, and then he walks out, shoving aside the protesting store clerk. Did he know that his illegal act had been caught on camera? Probably yes, but obviously he did not care.

Well, any White person watching this video will tell you that this is typical thuggish behavior, revealing a Black young man who does not care about rules, laws, potential risks, or anything else. He steals something, and that’s OK. As far as he is concerned, laws do not exist; or at least they do not apply to him.

Police brutality

But then let’s fast forward to Brown’s confrontation with the police officer that ended with the gunshots that killed him. We do not know what happened. We only know that the White policeman shot Brown, repeatedly, and killed him.

And this shooting is enough evidence to allow Black community members to conclude that this is just another instance of police brutality targeting Blacks, something believed to be absolutely true by most Blacks.

And in this death we find the reason for repeated protests: “There is no justification for gunning down an unarmed person. Whatever Michael Brown might have done, his alleged crime certainly did not mandate killing him. The fact is that Brown was killed because he was Black. We all know that”. 

Too much force

And so we get into the difficult issue of “excessive violence”, often used by police in questionable circumstances. Indeed, why is it OK for policemen to shoot and often kill any suspect not complying with their orders? We all know that there are means other than guns –I think of pepper spray or tasers– to temporarily incapacitate an unarmed suspect resisting arrest without shooting him. Why aren’t they used?

Indeed, even assuming that the White policeman was trying to arrest Brown because he knew about the convenience store robbery, certainly there is no proportion between stealing a $ 50 box of cigars and being killed because of this theft.

Misperceptions feed bias

Well, we could go and on. Beyond the specific circumstances of this sad case, the real issue is the persistent racial divide fueled on both sides by stereotypes, exaggerations and misperceptions. And it is clear that these unchallenged stereotypes create the screens through which Blacks and Whites see and then judge tragic events like the Ferguson killing. And, sadly, the same stereotypes are used to justify police aggressive law enforcement, and Black resentment against it.

As Williams pointed out in his WSJ piece, no, it is not true that all young Black males are criminals, although it is true that far too many are. No, it is not true that all policemen are racists thugs using any pretext to wound or kill Blacks. But there are many instances of excessive force used by police, for no apparent reasons.

Always blame the other side

The persistent American racial divide will continue until both Blacks and Whites will abandon their encrusted prejudices and honestly look at real and complicated facts –Why so much Black crime? Why so many trigger happy cops?– and try to find real avenues for improvement.

So far, the two communities are trapped by their own biases that can be summarized in this simple sentence: “Whatever we are doing, and some of it may be excessive, it is clearly caused by the other side. It is obvious to all that it is their horrible behavior that forces us to react”.

 




Black Victim Of Police Shooting In Ferguson Was A Suspect In A Robbery

WASHINGTON – I have observed in a previous piece how in America a single episode of “White on Black” violence gets saturation coverage, while the daily killings of young Blacks by other young Blacks are essentially ignored.

Racist America

The simple fact is that any instance of “White on Black violence”, especially when the violence comes from a White police officer who kills an unarmed Black man, (this is the Ferguson, Missouri, case that is receiving major coverage), is used to reassert the larger point that “America is still essentially a racist country”.

Indeed, the plight of African Americans is the result of discrimination, intimidation, and much worse, as the gratuitous Ferguson killing illustrates.

Blacks are perennial victims

My point is that to use the rare instances of police or other White violence against Blacks to make the larger point that all Blacks are the perennial victims amounts to an enormous historical misrepresentation. This assertion is false and truly unhelpful, as it allows Black communities not to look into the root causes of poverty and marginalization. Much easier to say: “We are poor because we are all victims”.

Residual racism

Let’s be clear.There is still residual racism in america. It would be disingenuous or worse to deny this fact. However, today we do not live in a country that is pretty much like segregated America circa 1959 or 1960. The idea that now, just as before, innocent Blacks are the routine targets of police brutality is just nonsense.

Discrimination is illegal

Landmark civil rights legislation was passed in 1964, that’s 50 years ago. Any type of discrimination on the basis of race is illegal in America.

This of course does not mean that discrimination vanished. But it is no longer the accepted, (indeed in many states it was legally endorsed), daily practice. It is the exception, and not the norm. And when it does occur, the authorities must intervene, in order to uphold the law.

Indifference when Blacks kill Blacks

At the same time, I also note a complete disconnect between the saturation coverage (and related national outrage) of instances of “White on Black” violence, even though such episodes are few and far between, and the total indifference regarding the daily carnage in which scores of Blacks are killed by other Blacks. (More than 450 killings a year, just in Chicago).

Somehow, only homicides in which White people killed (defenseless) Blacks matter. This selective focus is the result of denial. Black communities simply ignore the facts, however overwhelming, that would contradict their preferred and totally false interpretation of history that portray them as perennial victims.

The killing of Michael Brown

Be that as it may, the killing of young Michael Brown by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is now “the case” that has energized Black communities. This sad killing has caused daily demonstrations that often turned violent. The African American community demands “justice”. Why was an innocent, unarmed Black 18-year-old killed by the police?

The facts may contradict the narrative

Well, it would appear that Black leaders and other community activists were a bit hasty in making up their minds as to the actual facts of the case. Michael Brown, the alleged victim, according to witnesses and surveillance video, had just robbed a convenience store with an accomplice. His physical description was given to the police. According to the police, Brown was stopped in the street by an officer.

Now here vital details have not been established with absolute clarity. Black witnesses affirm that Brown did not resist arrest. The police say that Brown tried to get hold of the officer’s gun and that’s why he was shot.

What happened?

These are diametrically opposed accounts about what preceded the fatal shooting. I do hope that the facts will be established, as soon as possible, by an impartial and credible investigation. There should be no doubt as to what actually happened.

Needless to say, even if we assume that Brown was a petty criminal who had just stolen some cigars from a convenience store, this is no justification for using excessive force against him, let alone shooting him. If he did indeed resist arrest, and indeed tried to get hold of the gun of the officer, then what happened was a tragedy; but not a homicide motivated by racial prejudice.

The story we were told may not be true

Still, while we wait for the results of the official investigation, the official narrative of the innocent young Black man just passing by, minding his own business, when a vicious White policeman, for no apparent reason, kills him, turns out to be at least incorrect, most probably a fantasy.

It would appear that Michal Brown, (the victim, we are told), had just committed a crime. A petty crime, but a crime nonetheless and the police, doing their job, where looking for him.

Wrong example?

While all this and more is sorted out, it may be wise to tone down all the protests and the marches. Whatever Black leaders and their followers want to believe about racism and discrimination, it may very well be that this time they picked the wrong example to make their case.