Black History, Part 4: Criminal Injustice

How often do People-of-Color get blamed for something that a white person has done, because they know of and count on people’s willingness to believe the accusation? For those old enough, you may remember Charles Stuart, that white guy in Boston who shot and killed his pregnant wife in 1989 and tried to blame it on a black man. Child killer Susan Smith did the same thing in 1994. Back in 1923 the entire black community of Rosewood, Florida was destroyed by white vigilantes, and two years before that in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there was a bloody race riot that lasted several days. Both of those incidents were instigated by a white woman’s accusing an innocent black man of assaulting her.

In the case of Rosewood, Fannie Taylor was a married woman whose secret lover beat the shit out of her one day. She had to tell her husband something when he got home and saw her bruises and injuries, but rather than getting her boyfriend in trouble or admitting her own infidelity, she decided to say that a black man raped and beat her up. Actually, Fannie did not say that she was raped. The others added the rape part for their own justification. Of course, he must have raped her. That was his goal all along, wasn’t it? That is what we always do. They all seemed so quick to believe such a preposterous accusation. Black men in that time and place were terrified to have any kind of interaction with a white woman and wouldn’t dare attempt anything so blatant. But apparently, they must be unable to control their sexual urges, so they constantly would risk their very lives in order to accomplish that goal? Of course, since there was no objection from the whites when white men assaulted and raped black women on a regular basis, they always got away with it.

Another fact that they didn’t consider was that this was a small town, and everybody knew each other, blacks and whites alike. Fannie didn’t give an actual name of anybody, and nobody even asked who actually did it. Just saying that he was black was all those “good ol’ boys” needed to get a willing lynch mob together, go into town and burn down the black residents’ houses and their churches and kill any denizens that got in the way. Every black male in town became the suspected culprit. They even tried to blame an unknown, non-existent escapee from the chain gang, who apparently wandered into town, went over to Fannie‘s house and beat her up. But why didn’t anybody in town see him coming or going? There was no investigation and no questions asked. Everybody just believed what they were told. It was not even about suspects anymore. Those men were on a free-for-all lynching frenzy.

It was days after all the killing and destruction was done that the deceitful bitches finally admitted that they had lied. But even if someone had been guilty, how can they justify going after an entire group of people for the actions of only one? They are not so quick to punish their own people en masse when one of them does something bad.

In 1931 two white women from Scottsboro, Alabama, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, falsely accused nine black youths of gang-raping them on a moving passenger train! The women were actually runaways who were afraid that they would be arrested for prostitution, is why they made up the story they did. Never mind that the allegations were utterly ridiculous to begin with; there was no evidence whatsoever against the defendants, physical or otherwise, and they had only the girls’ word for it. Didn’t anybody wonder or even care how the deed was accomplished? If they all were on an Alabama train, the young men must have been confined to the Negro car. Why are those white women with them? Was it just them and no other passengers present to witness it? And if there were, what were they doing, cheering them on?

The “Scottsboro Boys” were tried and convicted nonetheless by an all-white Southern judge and jury, based on perjured testimony and missing or non-existent witnesses. The boys didn’t have a chance. Their defense attorney was an alcoholic, who was drunk throughout the trial, and the prosecutor told the jury, “Guilty or not, let’s get rid of these niggers”! Apparently, nobody objected to that statement, and they all complied.

The boys were granted a second trial a year later, and even after Ms. Bates admitted in open court that she had lied and that the boys were innocent, they were still found guilty and sent back to prison. You see, Ruby’s new testimony was coerced by the defense. Well, so what, if it’s true? So I guess it’s not about their guilt or innocence, is it? All succeeding appeals and trials yielded the same result. Finally in 1937 four of the youngest boys were released and the other five remained in prison. When one of these, Haywood Patterson, was brought up for parole before the governor of Alabama, he was told that if he pleaded guilty (to a crime that he did not commit), he could go free. If not, he would have to stay in jail for the rest of his life. He still would not confess and he died 21 years later in prison.

I would never confess to something that I did not do, no matter what the circumstances, because once you confess, you can never take it back. No matter what transpires later, they will always remind everybody, “But he confessed!“ I have found that people tend to believe a lie more readily than they will the truth. And that is because they choose to believe what they want to believe, regardless of what is the real truth.

Also in 1931, wealthy American socialite, Thalia Massie, living in Honolulu, was brutally beaten by her boyfriend and left for dead by the side of the road. Five native Hawaiian youths happened by, retrieved her, and drove her to the nearest hospital where they dropped her off but did not stick around. Later, when her mother demanded to know who assaulted her daughter, instead of the girl naming the real culprit, her abusive boyfriend, she actually accused the very boys who had rescued her and saved her life. And of course, everybody believed her, and the hunt and the subsequent conviction was on for those innocent boys. This true-life incident was the basis of a very good TV-movie called Blood and Orchids (1986), and starred Kris Kristofferson as a local cop on the case and Jane Alexander as Thalia’s bitch of a mother. Rosewood was also made into a movie in 1997 and The Scottsboro Boys was made into a Broadway musical, no less, presented as a minstrel show!

When 14-year-old Emmett Till left his Chicago home in August 1955 to visit relatives in Money, Mississippi, his mother adamantly warned him, “If you see a white woman coming down the street, you get off the sidewalk and keep your head down. Don’t even look over her way.” Well, not only did cocky, young Emmett not take his mother seriously, he actually dared to defy her warning by catching a white woman’s eye in the local grocery store and then proceeded to whistle at her! The far-from-flattered, vindictive woman, Carolyn Bryant, told her husband what happened, and a couple of days later Roy Bryant and a friend of his showed up at Emmett’s uncle’s house where he was staying, abducted the boy, took him to the woods, beat him to a bloody pulp, shot him in the head and face, wrapped barbed wire around his neck and dumped his body into the river.

When Emmett’s mother went down to claim her son’s body, she was told that his corpse was in a sealed box that was to remain closed. But at her unrelenting insistence, it was finally opened for her. One can’t blame her for wanting to see her son, but of course, she was shocked at his appearance. The boy’s tongue and right eye were hanging down the side of his face, his nose and ears were missing, and when she peered into the hole on the side of his head, she could see clear through to the other side! For the funeral, it was suggested to Mrs. Till that the coffin should be left closed. But she said, “No! I want it opened, so that everyone can see what they did to my boy. Let them all share in the horror.“

As a mere formality, the two men were eventually brought to trial but were, of course, acquitted by an all-white male jury (hardly his peers). The verdict was met with public outrage all across the country, and the incident is said to have been the catalyst for the civil rights movement in the South. I was only 8-years-old when this happened, but I remember hearing about it on the news.

This horrific incident also has received cinematic recognition with two productions so far, a miniseries for television and a feature film for theatrical release. But why did they take 67 years to do it?! It might have helped the burgeoning civil rights movement at the time. So much time has passed that most were not even aware that such a thing had taken place. I was here when it happened and I hadn’t heard a word about it in all these years. A movie would have made a permanent record and caused us not to forget so readily. As the situation in the South has changed drastically for the better over the years, it’s not likely that a similar incident would occur now. But even if it did, it certainly would have a different outcome. Fortunately, these days those good ol’ boys can’t get away with all the racial atrocities they committed in the past.

I do have to put some blame on Emmett’s mother, however. Even from her warnings and protocol instructions to her son, knowing how it was, why did she send the boy down there alone in the first place? If she couldn’t go with him at that time, they could have waited until it was more convenient. Or if those relatives wanted to see him so badly, they might have gone up to Chicago instead. The buses and trains run in both directions, you know. Then, too, the uncle (or whoever it was) did not look out for the boy and protect him, as he said he would. When the two men came to the house to get Emmett, he just let them take him, saying later that he was afraid to intervene. They might have done something to him or his children. Mamie proffered, “So, you chose to sacrifice my child to save your own, then.” But before you accuse him of something, Ms. Thing, where were you, and what would you have done?

Later, when Mamie spoke at a rally in New York City, she admitted to the crowd that she knew what the situation was in Mississippi, but until this happened she deemed it as their problem and no concern of hers. So only now has she become an advocate of civil rights and want to help the cause. That is a common reaction. Many people are apathetic to social injustices until it hits home. As long as it’s not them, they can’t be bothered.

So, do you think that the United States is so upstanding as a nation and sets the standard for moral righteousness for the world? Oh, yes, we’re malice-free and innocent of any wrongdoing, don’t you know. Among our other despicable acts over the years, how could a so-called civilized society accept, condone and allow the lynching of its fellow citizens and consider it sport and entertainment? In the South, especially, the perpetrators of the practice didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. As in the past with other executions, like hangings and death by guillotine, the lynching of blacks became public, social events. They even posted announcements for them in the local newspapers! People turned out in droves to witness them. Some would pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it. “Bring the kiddies along!”

Our Congress took years of negotiations before it would even pass a bill outlawing lynching or regarding it as a hate crime. President Franklin D. Roosevelt repeatedly refused to sign an anti-lynching bill, saying that it would deem lynching to be a crime. What?! But it is, Blanche. It is a crime! Although FDR’s administration was before my time, I always thought he was one of the better guys, until I learned that about him. You should check out my in-depth discussion about the Atlanta Child Murders in my blog, Conspiracy Theory, Part II: The AIDS Epidemic and Other Medical Speculations.

You have heard of the notorious Hollywood Blacklist of the ’50s, which was implemented by a Communist witchhunt of the film industry. Let me relate to you another, but literal this time, “blacklist” that occurred only 21 years ago. In September 1992, a 77-year-old woman visiting a family just outside the city of Oneonta, NY told police that she was attacked as she slept and struggled with her knife-wielding assailant before he fled. She never saw the man’s face, only his hand, and concluded that he was black, and blood at the scene indicated he had been cut on the hand, police said. This woman also claimed attempted rape. Why do they always think that we are out to rape them? Wishful thinking, perhaps? The victim never said that her attacker was young, but that was added to his description, which prompted the nearby state college (SUNY) to give the police a list of the 78 enrolled black male students to help in the investigation. In the following days, police stopped hundreds of young, black men in the area, questioned them about their whereabouts and checked their hands for signs of wounds. The actual perpetrator was never found, and it was eventually concluded that it was not any of the targeted students anyway. But the release of that hateful list sparked public outcry and national media attention.

In small town New Philadelphia, Ohio in June 1998, a little 5-year-old girl, Devan Duniver, came up missing one day and was found a couple of days later in the wooded area near her house, stabbed to death. After ruling out the child’s parents and her brother as possible suspects, the local police then focused their attention on a 12-year-old, black, neighbor boy, Anthony Harris. Again, there was no physical evidence to link him to the crime, but he was targeted anyway. Where is the murder weapon? What is the motive? Why do we get blamed for everything that happens? And knowing that, you all should realize that we would refrain from doing the things that we are always accused of doing. Do they think that we have no self-restraint at all? We just can’t help ourselves!

But it was during his interrogation that innocent, young Anthony made his big mistake. Not only was the boy, a minor, questioned without his parents or a lawyer present, he did not understand his Miranda rights of remaining silent and whatever he said would be used against him. After many hours of being detained, brow-beaten to exhaustion and told that he could not leave until he admits that he did it, he finally confessed. So then, that was it. End of any more investigation; case closed. Several members of the search party for the little girl reported that they had spied a mysterious stranger lurking around the same area where Devan was later found. He is probably “The Guy”, but why pursue him when they already have a suspect, however unlikely?

Anthony did not get a jury for his trial. His fate was in the hands of the white judge alone. She announced in open court that the boy should plead guilty and save all this time and expense. That’s being impartial? She’s already decided that he’s guilty, on no evidence whatsoever. So the judge sentences Anthony to eight years in prison, but when his lawyer files for appeal, they reopen the case and now everybody feels that the confession was coerced, and his conviction is overturned. He was released after only two years and was even given a public apology. They still haven’t found the real killer, but they are convinced, at least, that it is not Anthony.

A more recent incidence of racial injustice came to media exposure and discussion a whole year after it occurred. It all started in September 2006 in the small Southern burg of Jena, Louisiana, a town of only 3,000 people. Just outside of the high school, which is racially-mixed but predominately-white, stands a shade tree under which the students (the white ones at least) have been known to sit under during recess and other class breaks.

One day at the beginning of the school year, some of the black students at the high school dared to sit under the tree. They didn’t think that they were doing anything wrong. Besides, they had asked permission from the school principal to sit under the tree (which I find to be ridiculous in itself), and he had told them that it was okay. I mean, it’s a public tree; nobody owns it. Well, the very next morning when the kids returned to school, there were three nooses hanging from the branches of said tree. The message was clear. This has been designated a “white” tree, to be used by them and nobody else.

Thus began a chain of events which eventually escalated into international news coverage. The boys who hung the nooses were given a mere slap on the wrist. This was only an innocent “youthful prank,” after all. The blacks staged a protest sit-in under the tree, followed by harassment by the whites. An eventual altercation resulted in one white boy being beaten up by a group of blacks, which was in direct retaliation, mind you (a black classmate had just before been brutally beaten at a white party), and with only the black youths being arrested and charged with attempted murder. The white kid who was beaten claims that the attack was totally unprovoked. Of course, I was not there, but I find it hard to believe that out of all the students in the school, these boys would single out this one to attack, if he is as innocent as he says. He must have done or said something to them. As is always the case, white people can do and say anything to us, but if we respond, we are the ones who get blamed.

The convicted boys remained in jail for twelve months, because their bail was set so high (as much as $90,000 for one of them), that the families could not possibly pay it. Mychal Bell, the first boy to get an eventual trial, was represented by an incompetent, apathetic public defender and was tried by an all-white jury, DA and judge. Bell’s lawyer at least got his charges reduced to “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.” The deadly weapon in question? The boy’s tennis shoes! My goodness, if articles of clothing can now be deemed as deadly weapons, then we are all breaking the law! I had better stop wearing a belt. I suppose I could beat somebody to death with it. So what if my pants fall down? How do they let people get away with such absurdities in the name of so-called justice? Not surprisingly, but still unbelievably, Bell was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison! That is what caused the public outrage and media attention. People couldn’t believe that this sort of thing was still going on in 2007, fifty years since the trouble in Little Rock.

Civil rights and racial equality in this country seem to be at a standstill or regression rather than a progressive actuality. A subsequent appeal at least overturned his sentence, but Bell was not released from jail right away. There are still those who don’t even believe that there is a racism problem. When civil rights advocate, the Rev. Al Sharpton, was called down to Jena to see what he could do, certain white townsfolk were trying to blame him for the negative media attention that they received, saying that he had created the problems that they were having in Jena and that before he came, everything was hunky-dory. What?! Can you believe the naïve denial they always use when it suits their purpose?

Another disturbing trend that has stemmed from all this is the rash of other nooses and swastikas appearing all over the country, proliferating the media airwaves, thus indicating that hate and racism are still thriving. Someone hung a noose on the office door of a prominent black professor at Columbia University, and swastikas have been found painted on synagogues and other Jewish institutions. Even burning crosses still turn up now and then on people’s lawns. President Bush (Jr.) was so concerned about the so-called terrorism in foreign countries that have nothing to do with us directly, when he should have been addressing the definite and blatant terrorism that was going on in this country at that very minute, and has been going on for all times.

The Klan is still very much active, the Nazis, Skinheads and other hate groups are still active, and the Bush Administration did not do a damned thing about it. All he cared about was keeping those stupid wars in Afghanistan and Iraq going and gaining control of their oil in order to keep his buddy Dick Cheney and their supporters financially solvent and in the pink. My constant complaint about our country’s Administration is that I wish they would try to get our own house in order before they go meddling in other people’s affairs.

Don’t think, by any means however, that this type of thing happens only in the South. New York City, for one, has always had its share of racial injustice, too. Take the headlines-making case of the so-called “Central Park Jogger,” the 28-year-old white investment banker named Trisha Meili, who was assaulted, beaten and raped while jogging in the Park in April 1989. This time the woman did not even make a specific accusation as to who had attacked her, because she was unconscious and unable to speak for some time. So why were five innocent black teenagers arrested and accused of the crime? Again, why is it that whenever a white woman gets raped, or even not, the most logical thing to do is to round up a bunch of black youths, as if that is all we do is to go around raping white women?

I don’t know why these particular boys even were singled out, when there are always hundreds of people in the Park at any given time. There was not a shred of evidence to connect the boys with the crime. None of the boys were even near the victim when it happened. But after more than 16 hours of detention, interrogation and intimidation, the boys falsely confessed (big mistake!) and were convicted, on their confessions alone, and sent to prison. Let me reiterate. If you are ever in a similar situation and you are innocent, don’t ever confess your guilt, no matter what they do to you, because once you do, that’s it. That is the only thing anybody will remember and of which to remind you.

The news media related the story to the public so convincingly that everybody just accepted the fact that they were guilty. They couldn’t say that if it weren’t true, could they? Of course, we now know that it was all made up. There was no truth to any of it, which proves that you shouldn’t believe everything we’re told, even if it is on the TV news. The news anchorpeople report only what somebody tells them to say, and that could be anything. Just because it’s on the news or in print does not make it true. People, including Donald Trump, were even publicly clamoring for the death penalty. For all the crimes and indiscretions that have come to light about Trump himself, I would recommend the same sentence for him! But because the boys were under the age of 18, they had to opt for prison time instead. I have never forgiven Trump for being so adamant in his desired determination to see those innocent boys put to death. If you don’t have the real facts about any situation, keep your damned mouth shut!

Then 13 years later, in 2002, forensic DNA led authorities to the real culprit, Matias Reyes, at the time 17, but by then already serving time for rape and murder. He admitted that he had acted alone in the Mieli case. So even before Reyes’ confession, once it was discovered that there was only one attacker–I mean, by that time, Ms. Mieli must have told somebody what really happened–wasn’t that proof that at least four of the boys convicted must be innocent? The five other guys, grown men by this time, were subsequently exonerated and their criminal records expunged.

Interestingly, the boys’ release from prison and the public knowledge that they were innocent all along did not get half the attention or outcry as their conviction had gotten. There was no apology from the courts or police personnel for their gross mistake. They haven’t even admitted that they did anything wrong. But what if those death petitioners had gotten their way and executed the boys before the truth came out? “Oops, sorry” wouldn’t have cut it.

What galls me to no end, though, is how the police and courts can so casually and apathetically convict innocent people on no evidence whatsoever. But then, too, there are guilty ones who get off when everyone is convinced of their guilt. There have been rape-murder cases, for example, in which everyone knows that the guy is guilty; he pretty much even admits it. But his being white, first of all, a celebrity or the son of a prominent public figure, perhaps, the law needs more much proof before they can do anything. In these cases, mere suspicion isn’t enough to prosecute. They don’t want unnecessarily to antagonize somebody important, you see.

Like in the case of our former President Donald Trump, when during his impeachment trial for charges of inciting a riot prior to the Inauguration proceedings and other assorted crimes, although there was definite visual and audio proof of his involvement, we had to endure many days of long, drawn-out speeches and a rehash of all that had gone on before. He did it; what’s the hold-up? He was not arrested, locked-up, arraigned, denied bail for being a definite and probable flight risk, nothing! Why can’t we all get that same concession? Now he has the arrogant audacity to run for President again.

If I, or you, perhaps, had done what Trump did, we would be in prison, no discussion. I have been immediately jailed for much lesser charges for which I was totally innocent and for which they didn’t even have any proof. More often than not, once they target a suspect, they stop looking for anyone else or consider any other possible scenario. It’s this laziness of the police department that allows so many crimes to go unsolved. Either they just don’t care enough or they tend to take the easy way out. You got somebody now. Make the case against them. Why should we do any extra work? It was reported that only a couple of days after those “Jogger” boys were arrested, the officers assigned to the case were seen in a bar celebrating that they had solved and closed the case so quickly. “We got ’em. Next!” Yeah, you got somebody, but are they the right ones?

I recently heard a TV news report that a white youth was videotaped by surveillance camera stealing various articles from a church. The reporter said that the video was taken in May, and now it’s August, and the thief has not yet been apprehended. They don’t even know who he is! I’ll bet you that if he had been black, they would have had somebody in custody long before then, even if it wasn’t the right guy! They are always trying to assure the populace that criminal justice bears no racial bias, but time after time, I have yet to be convinced of that fact.

It was right here in the Howard Beach section of Queens that three black men were harassed, chased and beaten with baseball bats and crowbars (killing one of them), by a mob of local white youths, when their car broke down in the lily-white neighborhood in 1986. Four of the white boys eventually were convicted, but during their trial their team of attorneys tried to turn all the blame to the black victims by digging up their past indiscretions and trying their best to discredit them. What were they doing there anyway? They must have been selling drugs. (They weren’t, of course, but so what if they were? Whites have never dealt drugs in the black-predominant areas? From whom do they get them, then?) They even, although unsuccessfully, tried to pick an all-white jury, hoping that it would help their case.

Thankfully, justice did prevail this time, and the defendants were found guilty and served prison time. But this is New York, where everyone, regardless of their color, should be allowed to go anywhere in the City as they please. We don’t keep white people out of Harlem, for instance. In fact, as of late, they have practically taken it over for themselves. When I have the occasion to venture into Harlem now, I see more whites on the street than I do blacks. White people can go anywhere they want to with no restrictions. But the rest of us don’t have that privilege. Over the years I often have been found in neighborhoods that I “should not be in.”

A large number of Korean immigrants settled in Los Angeles and opened their own businesses in South Central, which is predominately-black, but there always was animosity and resentment between the races. The blacks didn’t like it that the Koreans were making a viable living in their neighborhood, and the Korean store owners mistrusted all blacks, thinking that they were always up to no good and out to get them. Well, if that’s how they feel, why did they go there? Why not open their businesses in their own section, Koreatown, or in the lily-white neighborhoods? After being told that I am not welcome somewhere, I would take my business elsewhere.

One of those Korean store proprietors created some trouble in March 1991, when Soon Ja Du falsely accused 15-year-old Latasha Harkins of trying to steal a container of orange juice. The teen was approaching the counter to pay for the juice, but when she turned her back for a moment, the other woman shot the girl in the back of her head and killed her. She still had the two dollars in her hand. Ms. Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but instead of her having to serve any prison time, the white judge gave her six months probation and fined her $500. That was it. This prompted some civil unrest, along with the subsequent Rodney King case in 1991, when several Los Angeles cops were caught on videotape beating and kicking and tasing Mr. King repeatedly. King, now deceased, was not completely innocent this time, however. He had been drinking quite heavily and was stopped by the officers for speeding. But still to use such excessive force on anybody is unpardonable. When the officers were acquitted of the charges, it resulted in several riots across the country, the one in L.A. lasting for five days!

In February 1999 Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old Guinean immigrant, was returning to his home in the Bronx when four policemen, who were not in uniform, approached the young man as he passed by them. The cops claimed later that Amadou “matched the description” of a serial rapist that they were pursuing. (Yeah, that old excuse.) Now from Amadou’s viewpoint, he sees four strange white men coming towards him, so, understandably, he starts running up the steps to his apartment building to get away from them. Just then the boy reached into his pocket, probably to retrieve his house keys, and one of the cops yells out, “Gun!” to his partners, and instead of waiting to see what the object actually was (it was his wallet, by the way), those trigger-happy assholes just opened fire on this innocent, unarmed youth and pumped 41 (!) bullets into his body, just in case, I suppose, that the first 40 didn‘t take. Now I ask you, how can those cops’ actions in any way be justified? Even if he had been The Guy, he wasn’t raping anybody at that moment, so shouldn’t he at least get a trial to determine his fate? That was out-and-out murder, no doubt about it. But the cops went to trial themselves and were acquitted of all charges. How do these people live with themselves?

TV commentator Tavis Smiley related this story to Katie Couric on her show one day. When he was attending Indiana University in Bloomington (my Alma Mater) in 1983, Tavis’ black friend, Denver Smith, who was a football star and scholar with no criminal record, was gunned down by four white police officers. They shot him in the back 21 times, then tried to tell everybody that it was self-defense, although the young man was unarmed! Can you believe the audacity? He was said to have had some kind of altercation with the cops. So, if you talk back to a cop, it follows that you will most likely pay with your life?! Even without knowing the details, I am pretty sure that the so-called altercation was provoked by those cops. As a rule, blacks don’t voluntarily confront white, stoney police officers for the desired pleasure of starting a fight or disagreement with them. As far as I know, the murdering policemen have yet to be convicted of anything.

Aggressive action towards blacks is often the result of mistaken identity. But it seems that white people hardly ever “match the description” of any suspected criminals. Our trouble is, however, since we all look so much alike, you see, we are often mistaken for someone up to no good. But even so, find out who people are first and wait for an actual threat with a weapon before you kill them! I am not the only one who has said this, but we all are pretty sure that if Smith and Diallo had been white, those cops would have not been so quick to blow them away, no questions asked.

I read that the police force in Salt Lake City has gone through an effective retraining program, and as a result, there has not been a single killing by a cop on an innocent civilian in several years. Minimum force is supposed to be used when apprehending somebody anyway. These cops have to learn not to be so quick to shoot somebody before they know what the situation is. Just because that black man “fits the description” of a reported suspect, does not mean that he is The Guy. “He had a gun,” they always claim. Just because he is reaching into his pocket does not mean that he is going for a gun. Wait and see what it is first before you shoot him. If it does turn out to be a gun, although it almost never is, if he doesn’t comply when ordered to drop the weapon, just shoot it out of his hand. That should not be a difficult thing to do. They all have had weapons training. When someone is running away and the cop shoots them several times in the back, they were no immediate threat to the officer at the time, but he will still claim self-defense just the same.

To let the cops tell it, they are never at fault. “I didn’t have a choice,” they will insist. Sure, you did. You could kill them or you could choose not to kill them. By shooting them, you made your choice. If they are running away, shoot them in the knee. They probably will stop running. Or how about equipping cops with tranquilizer darts instead of bullets, like they do with rogue animals? That way they could stop the fleeing suspect without killing them. Then if the suspect later turns out not to be the right person or not guilty of a suspected crime, at least their life will have been spared.

It’s a frightening notion that human error or misconduct is automatically punishable by death. That means that no one is safe. If you are suspected of any wrongdoing, you deserve to die on the spot. “Oh, he was innocent? Well, sorry, then. My bad.” But even if they are guilty, they don’t have to be killed. Whether a person-of-interest is guilty of a crime or not, if they are killed before they are actually arrested or even accused of anything, they are deprived of receiving a fair trial to determine their innocence or guilt.

And only a cop can get away with this type of cold-blooded murder, which I think is totally outrageous. Policemen should be held up to the same moral standards as everybody else. Commonly, when blacks are involved in some kind of crime, whether they are guilty or not, it’s usually a hands-on offense, like physical assault with bare fists or some kind of blade. You whites tend to take the more cowardly, sneaky approach by planting bombs, starting fires, sniping and infecting people with deadly viruses. If you don’t see them in the actual act, then they probably won’t get accused. You have to prove it first, you see. We blacks don’t get the same concession. As you have learned from the previous accounts, they don’t have to see us do something for us to be blamed. A simple accusation, or sometimes even not, is all that is required to get us in trouble with the law. No actual proof is necessary. In my blogs, On the Road With Cliff and Stereotyping and Profiling, Racial and Otherwise, I relate some of my own horror stories involving the police, that I am fortunate enough still to be here to tell about.

Our next and more recent case of a white man getting away with murder is George Zimmerman, then 29, who, on February 26, 2012, shot and killed a 17-year-old black youth named Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense, although Martin himself had no lethal weapons on his person and was not an immediate fatal threat to the other man. Of course, I was not at the trial, so I don’t know everything that was said or addressed, but it seems to me that certain aspects of the case were apparently overlooked or disregarded altogether. The fact that Zimmerman was carrying around a loaded gun should have been a point of discussion. “Oh, he had a permit for the gun.” So does that give him the right to go around shooting innocent people at will? He was supposed merely to be on neighborhood watch, not appointed vigilante.

The boy was minding his business, on his way to and from the local convenience store, and Zimmerman was following him in his car, because he “looked suspicious,” whatever that is supposed to mean. Undoubtedly, there must have been other white people on the same street. Didn’t any of them look “suspicious” as well? Why was Trayvon singled out? I don’t know what all really went down that day, but the two subsequently got into a fight, with Martin possibly getting the upper hand. I don’t know who started it, but I suspect that it was Martin who was actually defending himself from his aggressor.

The defense attorney told the jury, “My client had no other choice but to kill his assailant.“ I can think of several other choices. Since Zimmerman had a car and the boy was on foot, why didn’t he just drive away if he thought his life in such danger? The fight would have been avoided altogether. Zimmerman had been ordered to remain in his car and not to pursue the “suspect.“ So the fact that he did get out of his car would suggest that he approached the boy and provoked the ensuing altercation. If he didn’t have a gun, Zimmerman would had to have found another way to defend himself, wouldn‘t he? The prosecutor did say, “The defendant didn’t shoot Trayvon because he had to. He shot him because he wanted to.”

Self-defense is protecting oneself from an apparent danger or threat. When people take self-defense courses and classes, they are taught how to defend themselves against molesters or attackers using their own bodies and wits. All the martial arts teach the same methods. The instructors don’t give everybody guns and tell them to shoot anyone who crosses you. I would think that actually killing an opponent would be the last resort. Try anything else except that. And, too, if Zimmerman, a grown man, is unable to defend himself against a kid, then why is he the head of the neighborhood watch? And he shouldn’t be packing a rod anyway! Why does a person carry a loaded gun or any weapon, if he doesn’t expect to use it? “Hmm, I’d better take my gun with me tonight. I might need it.“ That suggests premeditation right there!

After the shooting, 44 days passed before Zimmerman was even arrested! And that was only because of the public’s outrage and protest. The police apparently thought that he was completely in the right. Why make a big deal out of nothing? Then it took another 16 months before his trial. I have been arrested immediately for not doing anything. So it’s not all that surprising that he was let off. It seems that some minds were already made up about his innocence, due to their reluctant conviction. They all tried so hard to avoid making this case a racial one, but I and many others are pretty sure that if it had been a white boy, he wouldn’t have been so quick to kill him, let alone scrutinize and harass him in the first place. If it had been a black man killing a white teenager, for any reason, they would be deciding on his punishment (death or life imprisonment) rather than why he did it. Oh, no, race has nothing to do with it whatsoever. How naïve do they take us to be?!

Did the defense team think that a jury of six women would elicit sympathy for poor Trayvon, their being mothers and all? But as it turned out, their being white, too, they empathized more with Zimmerman, having the same fear of blacks that he apparently has. If the man has any kind of conscience, I think he knows what he did was wrong, and that everything that happened is his own fault. I don’t see much of a future for him either. Is he really free now? He’s now publicly despised. He receives constant death threats, and his own parents have said that they think he should stay in hiding for the rest of his life. Who is going to hire him for anything, and who wants to work with him? He has to watch his behavior and actions from here on out, because I doubt if he would be excused if he harms or kills anybody else. He might be better off in prison after all. By the way, if someone is convicted of vehicular manslaughter, don’t they take their license away and forbid them to drive? Zimmerman has proven to be irresponsible with a firearm, so why was he allowed to keep his gun after his acquittal? So, I guess some feel that he still hasn’t done anything wrong.

Then there is the recent case of poor Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black youth from Ferguson, Missouri, who was shot to death by a white police officer. And although the boy was unarmed, he was deemed a physical threat to the cop and therefore had to be dispatched. The case never even made it to trial, as a Grand Jury ruled against any wrongdoing on the officer’s behalf. There was no evidence except for the dead boy! No charges were made and the policeman got off scot-free…again!

These trigger-happy cops always use the excuse that they fear for their lives when they are confronted with potential suspects. Well, that is part of the job. Confronting armed criminals is what they do. They always want to blame the common citizens for their actions. You can’t control human behavior. If you don’t like constantly having to put your life on the line, then maybe you shouldn’t be a cop. Find something else to do. Everyone is not cut out to be a police officer. I wouldn’t want to do that. If a person decides that they want to be a trial lawyer, for instance, but find they are unable to speak in public, then maybe they should confine themselves to a clerical position. How can the police forces of major cities gain the public’s trust when it’s they who the people themselves fear for their lives on a daily basis? If we are afraid and don’t like cops in general, it’s probably for a good reason. I certainly have my reasons not to trust them.

There is another recent Central Park incident that did not even involve any kind of assault or injury. It was merely a matter of unwarranted paranoia and racial prejudice. In May 2020 Christian Cooper, a published author, was in the Rambles section of the park birdwatching, when he spied a young, white woman letting her dog run free without a leash, which is an infraction for that section of the park. This is a known rule of which I’m pretty sure Amy Cooper should have been aware. Christian–they might even be distantly related–proceeded to tell Amy to put her dog on a leash, but instead of complying, the woman decided to call the police with this complaint: “I am in Central Park, and there is an African-American man here who just threatened me and my dog. Please send the cops immediately.” I expect she thought that if she cited the man to be black, it would work in her favor, knowing how we are usually regarded by the police. If the guy had been white, she wouldn’t have called anybody, first of all, but she wouldn’t have said that “there is a white man here threatening me.” Luckily, Christian had the good sense to make a video of her call, which was helpful in his case, when he posted it on social media. Christian was now in the clear as being completely innocent, and Ms. Cooper was charged with making a false complaint to the police. She was also fired from her job when her boss deemed her to be a racial bigot. I hope she has learned something from that experience.

Despite my vast travel experiences in the past, when I am not working, I am pretty much a homebody. I am not aware of certain aspects of the outside world. I learn human nature behavior from the movies and TV shows. I have noticed that white characters on screen are so trusting of the police. They consider them their friends who are always willing to help them in time of need. We frequently see them phoning the police or threatening to call them for the slightest of reasons. That is something that blacks don’t tend to do. Expecting how they regard us, that we are the ones who are usually up to no good, they are never accommodating anyway. They have been known not to respond when we need real assistance or take their own sweet time to get there. I will speak to a patrol cop only when I am lost somewhere in the city and need directions. For anything more serious, I just take my chances.

[Related articles: Black History, Part 1–Did You Know?; Black History, Part 2–Slavery and Its Aftermath; Black History, Part 3–Racism via Show Business; Black History, Part 5–Biased Concerns; Color Issues; Some Racial Observations; Stereotyping and Profiling, Racial and Otherwise; Walt Disney, a Racist? Who‘d‘ve Thunk It!?]

5,811 thoughts on “Black History, Part 4: Criminal Injustice”

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