Do differently? Maybe you should have back in 1619 (op-ed).
This week is definitely full of its challenges, and not just the pandemic or related individual changes in our day-to-and more. There are ample reminders of these which I hope all who are reading are able to work through in as swift, sound, and safe a manner as possible.
This week is a reminder of an even bigger societal challenge which sadly is not only existent since the landing at Jamestown, VA in 1619 with a "cargo" of 20 people of color (or Black people, or people of African descent), but embedded in the mentality of this country in Article One, Section 2, of the US Constitution, which declares any person who is not free would be counted as 3/5 of a free individual for the purposes of determining congressional representation.
Yes, embedded and ingrained that every 5 Black people be counted as 3 people, which is clearly considered certain people as less than human (click HERE for a point of reference).
And while the 13th Amendment eliminates slavery, there's one thing it did not fully eliminate, and that is the 245 years (approximately) of having the mindset and "legal" standing to justify treating said population as less than human. Not only is this evident in matters including (but not limited to) the Jim Crow/Segregation laws, the meeting of the minds which some would say are menial and moronic at best in Pulaski, TN, and other societal areas of concern, but even more troublesome, incorporated in the paradigm of those who are supposed to serve and protect.
For this brief look at law enforcement, an added focus is given to the recent high-profile cases of citizens who are unarmed and victims of lethal force: Dreasjonn Reed (click HERE), Breonna Taylor (click HERE), and earlier this week, the graphically disturbing video showing the arrest and death of George Floyd (click HERE). To get a point of reference and context, let's consider the known data:
1. Even in instances of non-lethal force, Blacks/African-Americans are more likely than any other ethnic group to experience this during arrest (click HERE and scroll to the section Who experienced non-fatal force for a summary). This includes traffic and street stops.
2. While the total numbers show those of Caucasian background are the majority of deaths, relative to the overall percentage of the population, Black/African-Americans are disproportionately represented in arrest data (click HERE for the July 1, 2019 population estimates via the US Census).
With a standard protocol for law enforcement to assess the risk (to themselves and the immediate community), if the person is unarmed (as all three are in their respective cases), they are to use verbal commands and if force has to be used, it has to be non-lethal. Once the suspect is cuffed, it's then a matter of proceeding with booking and related matters as the threat is no longer imminent.
The problem is this protocol clearly is not followed in the aforementioned cases.
Reed is shot and killed, Taylor is shot and killed on a no-knock warrant where the person of interest per the warrant is already in police custody (so why were they there in the first place is a question which needs to be answered), and Floyd is pinned to the street with officer Derrick Chauvin pressing his knee on his neck for nearly 10 minutes; the fact that Floyd pleads that he can't breathe is eerily reminiscent of the police inflicted death of Eric Garner (click HERE).
Clearly, these cases should be open and shut based on the video evidence. However, data shows that even in cases where it is documented law enforcement is in the wrong, there may be a 1% chance of indictment.
And just because there's an indictment, it does not mean it will go to trial, let alone sentencing.
It can lead people to wonder why this is the case.
It also leads to some questions to consider (and get the conversation going):
1. Is there a need to change the current police paradigm?
2. Is there a need to change the training and qualifications for those in law enforcement?
3. Is there a need to make legal changes to ensure when the evidence/date shows wrongdoing, there's an improved likelihood of perpetrators going through the indictment/trial/sentencing cycle?
4. Are changes needed on the local level? State level? Federal level?
5. Are there other causative factors to consider?
6. What levels of consistent engagement are needed in order to better address these areas of concern?
There are some clear challenges and disturbances with law enforcement and community engagement, and keep in mind related disconnects and disproportionate situations are also noticeable in the Spanish-Speaking community (as they are disproportionately represented based on their overall population relative to the population of those who are unarmed victims of force).
And keep in mind we're not even mentioning a segment of the community who feels they can take matters into their own hands, as in the case of the murder of unarmed jogger Ahmaud Arbery (click HERE).
Avoiding the issue, despite the challenging nature of the conversation, is not going to help matters.
When people speak to the issue and use their platform in a logical, rational manner to even have the discussion and see what can be done, too many are dismissive (click HERE). Likewise, when the conversation gets stifled, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, "A riot is the language of the unheard (click HERE)", as is evident in the response of people in Minneapolis (although the mainstream media is not showing that all of those taking things to "that level" are of different background - click HERE for an example).
Where do we go from here?
How do we better identify and address an ongoing societal problem?
Maybe if things had been done a little differently in 1619...