McKinney PD Should Award Commendation Medals, Just Not to Their Officers

As the situation in McKinney continues to play out over the disgusting and disgraceful assault on a minor by former officer Eric Casebolt, I couldn’t help but notice there was an act of bravery seen in the now viral video.  No, it wasn’t Casebolt and he clearly was not in danger of losing his life, as one recently removed principal suggested.  It was a reflexive reaction of courage.  It just wasn’t performed by any of the people in uniform.

The country has watched the number of incidents of police brutality continue to mount across the country as cellphone and security video has been opening up a world of violence to white America that many either chose to ignore or didn’t know existed.  The ease with which video can be taken and shared is exposing the reality that racism is far from dead and there are widespread systemic problems with the justice system in the US in regards to its treatment of minorities. 

The problems have been there for a very long time and now we are getting an increasing number of first-hand looks at it.  Some in the privileged white community may think things were not like this or better in the past but not everyone was able to so easily film the Rodney King-like police offenses of yesteryear.  Whether it’s police shooting children, someone running away, or someone doing exactly what was asked of them, it’s gone on forever and ignoring that reality is simply stupid.

That said, the onus is heavily on the police to change their ways and mend the fences they continue to destroy.  One way they can do this is commending citizens for recognizing when their officers are committing a crime and using their words (and not violence) to try to stop it.  And this is exactly what some of the brave kids at the pool party clearly tried to do.

When Casebolt begins his assault on the child, some of her friends instantly react to what was clearly an act of brutality.  One of the young male teens even ends up in handcuffs for having the audacity of recognizing a crime and getting near ex-officer Casebolt when he was manhandling a child half his size.  Casebolt maniacally responds to this offense by pulling his weapon.

And that’s why it was so brave for these teens to even step near an out-of-control officer when he was clearly overreacting to the situation.  It had to have crossed their minds at that point that they could end up being the next Tamir, the next Akai, or the next Freddie.  That fear was put aside to stop an act of violence.  It was put aside for what most of us recognize is a thing called morality.  They saw their friend being hurt and they simply wanted it to stop.  Even at the potential cost of their young lives, they tried to non-violently step in and do what was right and what was just.

And there is no defending what Casebolt did in any way.  His near-immediate resignation spoke volumes considering the lack of justice other officers have received in various incidents around the country.  That resignation would not have happened so quickly if his actions were, in any way, defensible.

In light of this, the McKinney PD should schedule a ceremony with all the bells and whistles they would bestow on their own.  They should put on their fancy uniforms and line up in front of a stage to honor the courageous teens that recognized a crime being committed when they saw it and reacted appropriately.  It’s the least they can do to begin the necessary repair of their now tarnished image.

Some Lessons Society Still Hasn’t Learned From Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I listened to the newly discovered recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech from December 7, 1964 in London, I couldn’t help but notice how many different lessons from his speech we still haven’t learned as a society.  It’s a little more than 50 years later and we still struggle to get over so many hurdles that should have been accomplished so long ago.  Here’s a few instances from the speech that jump out for me.

With the growth of slavery, it became necessary to give some justification for it. You know, it seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong in the beautiful garments of righteousness.

While slavery is obviously an evil of the distant past, as it was at the time of the speech, there are still instances where wrongs are thinly justified by almost irrational justifications.  What has really struck me lately has been the white justification of recent police killings of African-American men and children.  One of the commonly shared themes on social media I have witnessed by white posters has been the sharing of horrific stories of African-American men committing crimes against white people and asking, “Where’s the media on this?”  “Where’s the public outcry?”  “Where’s the protest?”  “Where’s Al Sharpton?”

The problem with this, obviously, is it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.  Criminals are criminals and they will commit horrific acts that are unacceptable to society, regardless of the color of their skin or the color of the victim’s skin.  Police officers, however, are supposed to be highly trained peace officers that keep the public safe and respect the rights of all, also regardless of skin color.  There have been some clear instances where this hasn’t been happening and for white people to justify the criminal actions of those that have been trained to act within the law (and have paid no price for it) by posting stories of black-on-white crime is despicable.  This is the definition of “reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong”.

The Negro in the United States turned his eyes and his mind to Africa, and he noticed the magnificent drama of independence taking place on the stage of African history…And with this new sense of dignity and this new sense of self-respect, a new Negro came into being with a new determination to suffer, to struggle, to sacrifice, and even to die, if necessary, in order to be free.

I can’t help but notice how these same words could be spoken about the Arab Spring and the quick changes that came to so many countries in the Arab world.  While things are still in the process of changing in many of those countries and conditions are far from perfect, U.S. actions in relation to the events were (and continue to be) deplorable.  Instead of embracing the people and protesters who put their lives on the line for what our government says it loves, the U.S. government continued to back certain authoritarian regimes and turned a blind-eye (or continued to arm regimes) as countries like Bahrain brutally put down protests to maintain their grasp on power.  Our government officials can pay all the lip service they want to freedom but their actions are a much clearer indicator of their true feelings.

We all know what happened as a result of the old Plessy doctrine: There was always the strict enforcement of the separate, without the slightest intention to abide by the equal.

To say that equality in the overall system reigns supreme today is simply ignoring reality.  The justice system became incredibly lopsided in terms of incarceration rates shortly after King gave this speech as the drug war was ramped up.  Pew Research notes, “In 2010, all black men were six times as likely as all white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails”.  It shouldn’t be surprising that is coupled with disparities in education spending.  The Center for American Progress found U.S. “schools spent $334 more on every white student than on every nonwhite student”.  While the days of overt segregation may be done, the covert methods of segregation are far from gone.

…all types of conniving methods are still being used to keep Negroes from becoming registered voters.

The only words that need to be changed to relate it to Republican and Tea Party actions of present day are the last three.  Just delete those and insert “voting”.  And using the miniscule amount of voter fraud as justification is just another instance of thin rationalization.

So we can see that there is still a great gulf between the haves, so to speak, and the have-nots. And if America is to continue to grow and progress and develop and move on toward its greatness, this problem must be solved.

We just found out the top 1% will own more than half of the world’s wealth by next year soooo, this has not only not changed for the better, it’s gotten incredibly worse.  I’m sure Dr. King would be rightfully appalled.

Today, great leaders, like Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe, are among the many hundreds wasting away in Robben Island prison. Against a massive, armed and ruthless state, which uses torture and sadistic forms of interrogation to crush human beings, even driving some to suicide.

While King might not be surprised torture and sadistic forms of interrogation are still being used today, he would probably be shocked to know the U.S. government was using them recently and using rendition to allow more harsh methods.  How could the people we elected choose to commit crimes that we knew were reprehensible so long ago?  Still an astounding decision.

If the United Kingdom and the United States decided tomorrow morning not to buy South African goods, not to buy South African gold, to put an embargo on oil, if our investors and capitalists would withdraw their support for that racial tyranny that we find there, then apartheid would be brought to an end. Then the majority of South Africans of all races could at last build the shared society they desire.

A few situations around the world come to mind here but none more prominent than Israel and the continued support given to it by the U.S. despite the crimes it commits against so many in the West Bank and Gaza.  The U.S. has the power to pressure the Israeli government into allowing the formation of a Palestinian state yet does the exact opposite by continuing to arm Israel, who then uses those arms to kill thousands of Palestinians using incredibly questionable justifications (there’s that word again…).  The U.S. has the answer to the problem but chooses to ignore it.

…we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, theists and atheists—will be able to join hands and sing…

Religious tolerance?!  Blasphemer!!

I’m kidding, of course, but this is certainly a lesson that still hasn’t made its way into the psyche of America, and that definitely includes parties on both sides of the political spectrum.  The amount of Islamophobia running rampant in the Western world right now is startling.  King would be heartbroken, for sure, but would fight on as always.

…there are some things in the world, to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation, discrimination, colonialism and these particular forces. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I must say to you tonight that I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

Maybe the most powerful words to live by in the speech.  Certainly worth the quote.  If only we could all be so lucky as to be so maladjusted…

 

Why Ferguson Shooting is Officer Darren Wilson’s Fault

Re-posting this since nothing has changed this reality, including all of the variously disputed autopsy results.  Officer Wilson performed his job poorly and, as the decision now looms very close, should be justifiably punished for his actions.

As the situation in Ferguson continues to unfold, one aspect of the shooting should be examined profusely: the initial action of Officer Darren Wilson.

The only witness to the initial contact outside of Wilson is Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, so this is a bit of a he-said-he-said.  But, as has been widely reported, according to Johnson the first words between both parties were Wilson’s and they allegedly were, “Get the f— on the sidewalk.”  This may seem insignificant, but it most certainly is not.

We have to remember that police officers are supposed to be “peace” officers.  In order to keep peace in every civil situation, a peace officer must deescalate the atmosphere, such as keeping angry combatants away from each other and calming them down to a level where talk can ensue.  If Wilson did use those exact words when first contacting the two young men, he failed to do his job and actually escalated a calm situation.  If anyone wants to dispute that, fine.  Just show me where it says in any law enforcement training manual to start out every calm situation with a profanity while clearly disrespecting a person.

In fact, we could even say there is a bit of racism in Wilson’s profiling of the men, which is easy to prove.  If the person walking in the street had been an old white woman, would Wilson have used the same words and tone in the initial contact?  How about a white man in an expensive suit?  In defense of Wilson, let’s have all the old white women and rich white men step forward and tell their stories of how Wilson cursed at them when fracturing an incredibly minor law that was hurting no one.

That would be the sound of crickets you are hearing right now.

Simply put, if Wilson would have treated a different person with some actual respect, then his words and initial action should be heavily questioned.  I’m not saying Wilson stopped because he is racist.  I’m just saying his attitude certainly suggests there was a tinge of it present.

And I know what the reaction to this will be: you are not a police officer so you don’t know what it is like dealing with people, particularly criminals, on a regular basis.  Maybe so, but I do know a definitive way to make situations worse: treating people horribly from the first contact, which is what happened.  And if a police officer has lost the ability to do this, maybe it’s time for another profession.

All said, it’s Wilson’s fault this situation delved into a dead body in the street.  Despite the clear attempts at demonizing Michael Brown, Wilson failed to do his job appropriately and that is why we are where we are now.  Wilson deserves to be put on trial, just like anyone else would be in a similar situation if they were not wearing a badge.

Why Ferguson Shooting is Officer Darren Wilson’s Fault

As the situation in Ferguson continues to unfold, one aspect of the shooting should be examined profusely: the initial action of Officer Darren Wilson.

The only witness to the initial contact outside of Wilson is Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, so this is a bit of a he-said-he-said.  But, as has been widely reported, according to Johnson the first words between both parties were Wilson’s and they allegedly were, “Get the f— on the sidewalk.”  This may seem insignificant, but it most certainly is not.

We have to remember that police officers are supposed to be “peace” officers.  In order to keep peace in every civil situation, a peace officer must deescalate the atmosphere, such as keeping angry combatants away from each other and calming them down to a level where talk can ensue.  If Wilson did use those exact words when first contacting the two young men, he failed to do his job and actually escalated a calm situation.  If anyone wants to dispute that, fine.  Just show me where it says in any law enforcement training manual to start out every calm situation with a profanity while clearly disrespecting a person.

In fact, we could even say there is a bit of racism in Wilson’s profiling of the men, which is easy to prove.  If the person walking in the street had been an old white woman, would Wilson have used the same words and tone in the initial contact?  How about a white man in an expensive suit?  In defense of Wilson, let’s have all the old white women and rich white men step forward and tell their stories of how Wilson cursed at them when fracturing an incredibly minor law that was hurting no one.

That would be the sound of crickets you are hearing right now.

Simply put, if Wilson would have treated a different person with some actual respect, then his words and initial action should be heavily questioned.  I’m not saying Wilson stopped because he is racist.  I’m just saying his attitude certainly suggests there was a tinge of it present.

And I know what the reaction to this will be: you are not a police officer so you don’t know what it is like dealing with people, particularly criminals, on a regular basis.  Maybe so, but I do know a definitive way to make situations worse: treating people horribly from the first contact, which is what happened.  And if a police officer has lost the ability to do this, maybe it’s time for another profession.

All said, it’s Wilson’s fault this situation delved into a dead body in the street.  Despite the clear attempts at demonizing Michael Brown, Wilson failed to do his job appropriately and that is why we are where we are now.  Wilson deserves to be put on trial, just like anyone else would be in a similar situation if they were not wearing a badge.