Rev. Al Sharpton Leads March, Rally Over Eric Garner's Death On Staten Island
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The tragic shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager in Ferguson Missouri, has caused all fair-minded and not so fair-minded US Citizens to once again turn their attention toward this seemingly increasing trend that is so basically against everything that is fundamentally democratic.
Brown's killing only adds to the growing number of African American males killed by police over a reasonably short period of time. It's as if there was some nationally resolved theory that the negative effects of Black males on American culture can be nullified by separating this element from US society's mainstream. A change in policing and sentencing led to an increase of African American prisoners in less than a decade. There are over 7 million people in our jails, prisons, on parole or in some form of law enforcement control and an inordinate number of them are African American males.
Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts and the fact that the U.S. incarceration rate was 753 per 100,000 people in 2008 and is now about 240 percent higher than it was in 1980 is extremely significant during a period in our history when budgets and spending are causing such gross financial problems for municipalities, states and the Federal Government. These facts could not help but cause those whose job it is to think about such things to arrive at a profound conclusion that if the problem of having to provide for so many African American males, without any productive results, could be eliminated; and at the same time reduce some perceived influence of negative behavior in society at large, this would be a worthwhile endeavor.
I once read a quote from an Asian philosopher that went; "How do you win the obedience of one thousand rebellious macaques (monkeys)? Savagely kill one in clear sight of the others."
The effects of mass incarcerations and police killings in African American Communities have served to further disenfranchise a large segment of the US population and damaged the fabric of our American society at large. Societal elements that were designed to serve and assist all Americans, such as educational institutions, health organizations, law enforcement organizations, etc. seem to have become less tolerant with people of color, in many cases to the point of adopting a zero tolerance policy. It is now known that Brown was not the only African-American man killed by police in recent weeks under somewhat questionable circumstances. There was the killing of:
Eric Garner at Staten Island, New York on July 17: A 43-year-old asthmatic father of six. He was confronted by New York City police officers for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. And,
John Crawford, Beavercreek, Ohio on August 5: A 22-year-old who According to the Beavercreek police department was said to have disregarded officers' orders to disarm before being fatally shot in the chest. And,
Ezell Ford, Los Angeles, California on August 11: A 25-year-old who, when police was conducting an "investigative stop" on a Los Angeles sidewalk, reportedly "wheeled around and basically tackled the lead officer. And,
Dante Parker, Victorville, California on August 12: A 36-year-old pressman at the Daily Press newspaper. He was tasered repeatedly when he resisted arrest, He began breathing heavily and was taken to a hospital, where he died. And,
Kajieme Powell, St. Louis Missouri on August 19: A 25-year-old St. Louis resident armed with a knife is dead after two police officers shot him in north St. Louis. Powell was pronounced dead at the scene. He was mentally ill.
President Richard Nixon is quoted as having said; "You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to." I'm sure President Nixon would be content to know that such a system seems to have already reached the implementation stage.
Oscar Eason, Jr. is Chairman of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs. http://www.caa.wa.gov