One 30-year-old local who gave his first name only as Carlos, didn’t hear the fatal gunfire but saw the hysteria aftewards and walked to the police tape.
“A lot of people were clapping and laughing,” he said.
“Some were saying, ‘They deserved it,’ and another was shouting at the cops, ‘Serves them right because you mistreat people!’” he said. –story in The Daily Beast after the assassination of officers in Brooklyn by someone who seemed clearly crazy
I can’t breathe! -Eric Garner
It’s horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. -son of slain officer Ramos
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I seek to understand why cities still explode over racial issues, why citizens would celebrate the murder of police officers, why officials seem tone deaf to a community’s concerns and even blind. As a child of the ’60s–the era in which civil rights became a focus– I can’t help but wonder why we are still in that place.
Why? I’m looking for answers, solutions and an end to the polarization that keeps each side in its own camp. That’s where we sit. In our own camps. Watching a smoldering fuse to a keg of dynamite, waiting for the explosion. Because it’s coming. And it could be bigger than anything we’ve ever seen.
Under what possible circumstance could it be morally right to celebrate the killing of police officers? Are we that kind of people?
Is it helpful for police to turn their back on Mayor DiBlasio? For unions to foster an us/them mentality?
Does it make any sense for officers to be enraged because Mayor DiBlasio felt he had to speak to his biracial son about how to deal with police should he be stopped? Would anyone possibly think that those “enraged” officers would be anything but white?
Let’s get real. As an officer friend of mine said to me yesterday: “There’s immaturity on both sides.”
What kind of understanding? All kinds.
Maybe we should understand that the Mayor’s wife is black and his son is biracial, giving him a view that most white people don’t have. Maybe we should understand that our black President has the same view. That their life experience could be an advantage for our nation and could help inform our views. Or we could criticize their observations and blame them for the assassination of officers by a deranged individual.
Maybe we should understand that killing cops is just flat wrong, regardless of how wronged we feel. It’s wrong. There is no grey here. Killing is wrong but killing cops? That’s orders of magnitude MORE wrong, if there is such a thing. People who celebrate such things should be…well, I am not a violent person. But they certainly should NOT be given any air time.
Maybe we should “get” that the cop killer was unbalanced and that he alone was responsible. Not the Mayor. Not the President. The only hands with blood are the killer’s. Who didn’t even live in Brooklyn.
Maybe we should say “Enough with the inflammatory rhetoric” and understand just how irresponsible (and immature) it is.
Maybe more people should understand that officers walk out the door for work every day not knowing what “end of shift” is going to really mean. Maybe they should put themselves in the officers’ shoes for a moment.
Maybe we should really take in all that law enforcement does for us every single day.
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I started writing this piece after Ferguson, when I saw a CNN special. I rewrote it after the Garner grand jury. And now, here I am again, shaking my head in horror at what is about to explode. It could explode before I post this. Because we really ARE looking at a smoldering fuse.
So here’s what I started to write, slightly updated.
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When I see a TV program that explores the opposing “camps” that have formed over racial issues I can’t help but tune in. Because I want to learn.
The CNN series, Black in America, has some fine reporting and a few months ago I found Soledad O’Brien’s segment, Black and Blue, particularly riveting. O’Brien reported from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of NYC, where aggressive policing has had a serious impact on young men in the mostly black community. In an 11-year period, the NYPD reported making more than FIVE MILLION STOPS.
Good, proactive policing, you’d think, right?
Well, hang on to your hat:
O’Brien pointed out that more than 80 percent of those stopped were African American or Latino, and some 88 percent of the stops failed to result in an arrest, citation, summons or evidence of a crime. Of course, the “theory” is that if you stop people about the small issues, it prevents bigger ones.Unfortunately, many were stopped for no issue at all.
A police officer whose identity was blurred out told her that NYPD officers were forced to meet a quota on which senior officials were evaluated. Hence, the extreme number of stops. This quota system has been mentioned in recent days as playing a role in how police officers have been forced to stop people in New York City. This was a super-bad decision, it seems to me. A policy that was bound to blow up.
Inexplicably, the new NYC mayor appointed a new police commissioner–the same guy who initiated these policies in 2002. I saw this commissioner for the first time at the TV press conference on the Garner case and he sounded really tone deaf to me, making dumb preliminary remarks to reporters about the new building they were in and the restaurant that was due to open soon. I mean, seriously? At a televised news conference about steps being taken to avoid another Garner? Tone. Deaf.
But. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how damaging it is to stop young people (or old) who were not doing anything wrong. Except maybe being black in a bad part of town.
On the CNN program I was particularly taken with a young college student who had been stopped by police some 100 times–for no reason–and his mother’s constant refrain to remember how Martin (Dr. MLK) responded in the face of provocation back in the days of the civil rights movement. Here we are, some 50 years later and people of color are still having to turn the other cheek. And the police? They sounded scared to death. Terrified. As I would be.
It’s been couple years since Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman in Florida and more than a year since his Zimmerman was found not guilty. The fullness of time has revealed Zimmerman to be a troubled guy (at best) to those who have been paying attention to the little news stories here and there about his actions and behavior. There have been quite a few, but most recently, he threatened to kill a man during a road rage incident in Lake Mary, Fla. To say I was surprised by the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case is a understatement. While there’s much to remember about that case, one of the most astonishing was the number of reasonable, good people I know who defended Zimmerman out loud. And astonishing is too mild a word.
As far as I can tell, he murdered Martin and what he’s done to date has only reinforced my opinion. No, I wasn’t on the jury. But it just seems obvious that he lives in Crazytown.
And then, Ferguson, Mo. Same old, I’m afraid, just a little twist on it. It’s more difficult than ever to figure out what really happened in Ferguson because these days our “reporters,” and I use the term loosely, all represent a point of view. Fox, National Review, MSNBC and all the rest–they’re not objective and certainly not ” fair and balanced.” So those who want to blame the black community will find ample evidence of its culpability in the spin that Fox and other conservative media outlets put on the story and those who want to pin the blame on police will also find stories that twist the facts in that direction. As M said the other day, not all black people are criminals and not all cops are bad cops.
The trouble is, we can’t figure it out from the media coverage. Those of us who really want to know what happened in Ferguson are left in the dark. Maybe if there’s a civil trial. But maybe not. We have no way of knowing what really happened in ANY situation today.
The next high-profile case was Garner’s. The guy was stopped for selling untaxed single cigarettes and then accidentally killed. I mean, did the guy really need to be approached like that for cigs? I get that merchants had complained about him. And that he was resisting, or at least officers thought he was. But the response seemed excessive on the video. He shouldn’t have died.
Look around at the world. I don’t have to tell you that it’s a mess. And it starts here at home. The widening racial divide is troubling. More than troubling. Because I don’t know why it’s still there. More than 50 years after law enforcement in the South SET DOGS AND HOSES on civil rights protesters, where are we? Have we made any real progress since the days of separate drinking fountains? It’s not a specious question. And the answer to that is the bigger picture behind this violence we see against law enforcement.
I am well aware of how slowly the wheels of change move. But on this, the gear shift seems to be stuck in reverse and that shocks me.
The sun sets every day, giving us an opportunity for a fresh start at dawn tomorrow. The day before us is a blank slate. Anything can happen. Including good. And including change.
I ask myself, What can I– we– to change this situation?
It feels like precious little.
But I’m asking you the same question. What can we do to begin to close the racial divide that seems to be getting only wider? How do we deal with the polarization in this country that’s only getting worse?