“I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. In the final analysis, the riot is the language of the unheard. What is it that America has failed to hear? … In a sense, our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our winter’s delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these occurrences of riots and violence over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. “The Other America,” 1953.
Sixty-seven years later, we are still asking “What is it that America has failed to hear?” The murder of George Floyd has ignited protests across the country, with the peaceful protests overshadowed by the violent protests. George Floyd was murdered by someone who took an oath to “protect and serve” the public. The resulting protests are a pressure cooker that has blown up in our faces. A pressure cooker filled with frustration and anger over the racial injustice and inequities endured for decades by African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
George Floyd is now another name on the extensive litany of unarmed African Americans killed by police. It must stop. Justice must be served for the murders and people of color must feel safe within our country. Rather than seek to unite the country and try to heal the wounds of racism, Trump stokes division and violence showing he is not fit to be President.
DISPROPORTIONATE KILLINGS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS BY POLICE
Data collected by the Washington Post on the use of lethal force by police officers since 2015 indicate that, relative to the proportion of the population, African Americans represent the minority killed the most by police. According to the US Census estimates, Blacks make up 12% of the population. However, from 2015 – 2019 they accounted for 26.4% of those that were killed by police under all circumstances. In other words, Blacks were the victims of the lethal use of force by police at nearly twice their rate in the general population. Whites do make up the majority of victims of police use of lethal force at 50.3% from 2015 – 2019, but whites make up the majority of the population at 61% while the black population is 12%.
SHAMEFUL LITANY OF UNARMED AFRICAN AMERICANS KILLED BY POLICE
George Floyd is now part of the alarming litany of unarmed African Americans killed by police in the last 6 years. Following is a list of the high-profile deaths of blacks in the U.S. since 2014 involving police arrests, encounters or police investigations:
Freddie Gray: Six Baltimore officers were involved in the arrest and in-custody death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after being injured in a Baltimore police van, touching off weeks of protest.
Sam Dubose: A judge in July, 2015, dismissed charges against Ray Tensing, a white former University of Cincinnati officer who fatally shot Sam DuBose, an unarmed black motorist, during a 2015 traffic stop.
Philando Castile: St. Anthony, Minnesota, officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a black motorist who had just informed the officer that he was carrying a gun.
Terence Crutcher: In Oklahoma, a jury found white Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby not guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the 2016 death of Terence Crutcher, 40, who was shot shortly after Shelby arrived to find Crutcher’s SUV stopped in the middle of the road.
Alton Sterling: Federal prosecutors announced they would not seek charges against two white police officers who were involved in a deadly encounter with Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The killing was captured on cellphone video and circulated widely online, sparking demonstrations across the city.
Jamar Clark: Two white officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were trying to arrest the 24-year-old when he was shot once in the head. He died a day later. Some witnesses said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, but federal and state probes concluded that he was not. Investigators said Ringgenberg felt Clark’s hand trying to grab his weapon and shouted to Schwarze, who then shot Clark.
Jeremy McDole: McDole was a 28-year-old Black-American paraplegic who was shot and killed by police in Wilmington, Delaware. McDole was in a wheelchair at the time of the shooting. Police were dispatched after a 911 call about a man with a gun. The incident escalated when police, standing 25 to 30 feet away with their guns drawn and pointing at McDole, repeatedly instructed McDole to raise his hands. When McDole started reaching for his waist area, police opened fire and killed him. According to police, a .38-caliber pistol was found on McDole after the shooting. Relatives of McDole have stated that he was unarmed. Video footage taken on a cellphone showed McDole shuffling in his chair and moving his hands with no gun clearly showing while officers ordered him several times to put his hands up.
William Chapman II: Former Portsmouth, Va., police officer Stephen Rankin was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for fatally shooting William Chapman II while responding to a shoplifting call outside a Walmart on April 22, 2015.
Walter Scott: Former North Charleston, S.C., patrolman Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting of Walter Scott, 50. Slager had stopped Scott for a broken brake light. Slager claimed he opened fire because he felt threatened after the motorist tried to take his stun gun during a struggle. A bystander captured the encounter on video and the judge found that Slager had obstructed justice by lying to investigators. Slager, 36, is one of the few U.S. police officers in recent years to receive prison time for an on-duty shooting. In a a cellphone video, Walter Scott appears to be running away from patrolman Michael Slager. The video appears to show Slager shooting a fleeing Scott several times in the back.
Eric Harris: Former Tulsa County volunteer sheriff’s deputy Robert Bates, 74, was sentenced to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter in the death of Eric Harris, 44, who was unarmed and restrained. Bates, who is white, has said he confused his stun gun with his handgun and shot Harris. That shooting led to the temporary suspension of the reserve deputy program after a report found poor training of the volunteer officers, a lack of oversight and cronyism.
Tamir Rice: Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer in a recreational area. Officers were responding to a report of a man waving a gun. The boy had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband and was shot after the officers’ cruiser skidded to a stop, just feet away from the child.
Akai Gurley: Rookie New York City police officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter in the death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley. Liang, an American of Chinese descent, said he was patrolling a public housing high-rise with his gun drawn when a sound startled him and he fired accidentally. A bullet ricocheted off a wall, hitting and killing Gurley.
Michael Brown: Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in in Ferguson, Mousori. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the U.S. Justice Department opted against civil rights charges. Wilson later resigned. The death of Brown led to months of sometimes violent protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Eric Garner: Eric Garner, 43, died after a white officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes. Garner repeated the words “I can’t breathe” 11 times while lying face down on the sidewalk. A grand jury declined to indict that officer, or any others involved in the arrest. The city agreed to pay a $6 million civil settlement.
Breonna Taylor: In mid-March, police officers barged into Breonna Taylor’s home in Louisville, Kentucky, in the middle of the night and discharged a spray of bullets that struck and killed the 26-year-old EMT. Taylor, 26, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were in bed when they heard the officers enter at around 12:40 a.m. According to the search warrant, police believed a suspected drug dealer named Jamarcus Glover, who did not live with Taylor and had already been arrested elsewhere, was keeping drugs or money at her house.
Ahmaud Arbery: Arbery was a 25-year-old black man who was out jogging and was chased by armed white residents of a South Georgia neighborhood. After police officers found Arbery bleeding out in the middle of the Satilla Shores neighborhood, the then-police chief John Powell sent a frantic text message wrote in all caps saying “GUNSHOT – 219 SATILLA DR – OFFICER CALLED THE SCENE OF CONSTRUCTION SITE WITH MALE TRESPASSING. … OFFICER ARRIVED AND HEARD SHOTS FIRED.” There was no mention of a burglary in the text message, even though Arbery’s mother said the day of the shooting she was told her son was shot by a homeowner in the middle of him burglarizing a home. Video released months after the shooting showed Arbery was shot and killed during a struggle over a shotgun pulled on him by Travis McMichael. According to the original police report, Greg McMichael said he and his son saw Arbery running past their home, got their guns, got in their trucks and tried to find him in the neighborhood. The men followed behind a running Arbery for more than four minutes. Initially, Police chose to believe Greg McMichael rather than investigate the incident as a murder.
TRUMP’S HISTORY OF RACISM
President Trump’s use of military force to quell protesters angry and frustrated over the racial injustice and inequities endured by African Americans at the hands of law enforcement should come as no surprise to anyone. Trump has a well-documented history of racism years before he was elected, while he was running and since being elected President.
President Trump’s racism dates back to 1973 when his housing management company was the target of a Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division civil lawsuit over allegations that he and his father as real estate developers were keeping black and Puerto Rican people out of their apartments.
It was in 1989 that Donald Trump purchased newspaper ads calling for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five,” four black men and one Latino man accused of rape who were later exonerated by DNA evidence and released after being exonerated as not committing the crime. During the 2016 presidential election, Trump still insisted the “Central Park Five” were guilty.
For at least eight (8) years, Donald Trump was front and center of the “birther movement” and questioned former President Barack Obama’s American citizenship thereby questioning Obama’s legitimacy as President of the United States. In 2011, Trump called on President Obama to release his birth certificate and went as far as to offer to give $5 million to one of Obama’s charity of choice if he released his college records and passport.
In 2015 when Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency, he said “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”
During the Presidential election, Trump said “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
In May 2016 during the presidential campaign, Trump suggested United States Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born and raised in the United States and who oversaw the class action lawsuit against Trump University, was biased against Trump due to his “Mexican” heritage claiming American born Curiel was from Mexico.
During a campaign stop, Trump looked over a crowd and ask out loud to the crowd of supporters “where’s my African American” as if to show he had support of African Americans.
On January 27, 2017, just seven days after being sworn in as President, January Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries arguing it was needed to combat terrorism. The move sparked numerous protests and legal challenges.
In August 2017, after a 20-year-old white man drove his car into a crowd at a white nationalist rally in Charlotesville, Virginia, killing one anti-racist protester and injuring 19 others, President Trump said that there was “blame on both sides” regarding the deadly violence that was instigated by white supremacists.
President Trump during a ceremony in the White House to honor the World War II Navajo Code talkers, one from New Mexico, took the opportunity to call Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”.
During the football season, Trump proclaimed that professional football players, who were predominantly African American and who “took a knee” during the national anthem to protest the treatment of African Americans should be fired.
The New York Times reported in December, 2017 that President Trump said in a June meeting about immigration that Haitians “all have AIDS”, a statement denied by the White House.
On December 24, 2017, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump described Nigerians as people living in huts and that they would not want to return to them. He reportedly told members of congress that African countries where “shit hole” countries and said 40,000 had come from Nigeria and would never “go back to their huts” once they had seen America.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
WHAT ARE WE FAILING TO HEAR?
Sixty-seven years later, we are still asking “What is it that America has failed to hear?” The words of Dr. King have been proven true once again with the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police Officer and the protests that have ensued across the country.
We must finally do something about ending racism once and for all for ourselves and for the sake of our future generations. As individuals, we must, in some manner, make it very clear to all who we interact with, our families and friends alike, and people we work with that racism is not tolerated on any level and it must be condemned in no uncertain terms.
Our law enforcement community must understand with complete clarity that police brutality, excessive use of force and deadly force based on racial profiling and the presumption of guilt because of a person’s color and not evidence will not be tolerated. No Hispanic, no African American and no person of color should ever feel uncomfortable talking to any police officer or feel they cannot call the police to ask for help or to report a crime. Police must recognize that performing their motto to “serve and protect” is not determined by skin color.
Out of crisis and chaos can come opportunity. Once again, we have an opportunity to look within ourselves and acknowledge the racism in this country is very real, very pervasive and tearing our communities and our country apart. We must look within ourselves and our communities and finally do something about it to end racism once and for all. As citizens of a free country, we must seize this opportunity and reach out to all communities of color more than ever before and work together to end racism in this country and for our future generations. As individuals, we must, in some manner, make it very clear to all who we interact with at work and in our daily lives, our families and friends alike, that racism is not and will not be tolerated on any level and it must be condemned in no uncertain terms.
WHO TRUMP IS REFLECTS RACISM IN AMERICA
Trump has made it clear he is interested only in a “law and order” approach to the protests over the murder of George Floyd. His answer is to militarize the response to the protests that will inflame his base and that has resulted in violence and chaos in the streets. Trump could care less about the underlying issues of racism and police brutality that have sparked the protests. Trump is deaf and blind when it comes to racial injustice, and will never hear, much less understand it.
President Trump promotes hostility, mistrust and violence. He seems to thrives on it and enjoy it. Trump promoted violence when running for President, he has done it at his rallies and he is doing it again after the killing of George Floyd. He repeatedly uses harsh rhetoric to trash journalists and political opponents during campaign rallies creating and inflaming an extremely divisive political environment of hostility, mistrust and violence.
Trump blames the media for the “anger” in this country, refusing to take any responsibility for it himself. What Trump does best is to stoke violence which is what makes him so dangerous. His cult like right-wing extremists’ supporters respond favorably to all he does raising fears that they may act amid the violence and tension surrounding public health closures, amid the ongoing global pandemic and now the protests over the killing of George Floyd.
Just when you think things cannot get any worse, Trump makes it worse stoking violence. Trump has decided to start a real war, a civil war, with American citizens to deal with the civil unrest by declaring himself “Your President of law and order” and demanding National Guards be activated to quell the protesters. Extremists are more than happy to participate in violent civil disorder and to watch as the country is burned to the ground. Trump has confirmed he is totally unfit, incompetent and totally unprepared to be President by ordering the military to deal with the protests over the killing of George Floyd.
America hears loud and clear that Trump stands for racism and hate that can no longer be tolerated in the White House. Come November 3, we must all let him hear loud and clear he is not fit to be our President.