Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Open Season on Black Folks

Open Season on Black Folks*

“The shootings occurred at about 4 a.m. Saturday outside the Kalua Cabaret, a strip club where Bell’s bachelor party was held. The survivors were Joseph Guzman, 31, who was shot at least 11 times, and Trent Benefield, 23, who was hit three times. Guzman was in critical condition Sunday and Benefield was stable.Relatives of all three men — many of them stoic, and some crying — attended Sunday’s vigil but none spoke publicly.At a news conference Saturday, Kelly said the department was still piecing together what happened, and that it was too early to say whether the shooting was justified.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15889445/

A shooting incident in Queens New York where New York police officers shot up a vehicle carrying several black males coming from a bachelor party flashed on the news the other day. One man was killed after being hit with fifty rounds, another man was hit eleven times and a third was hit three times; who knows how many rounds were fired into their car altogether? The community is upset, rightly so;but for the New York police department it seems it is business as usual. The officers in charge have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the proverbial “investigation”. The mayor Michael Bloomberg is doing his best to put a damper on the emotions and spin the situation in a non-controversial light. However the history of the New York police department’s reckless disregard for black life may catch up to him. The major mainstream media outlets reported an angry crowd demanded to know why unarmed men were fired upon and why the police used such inordinate amounts of fire power. Thus far the community has not been given reasonable or rational answers!
This latest incident brings back the painful memories of Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima two men of African descent the New York police ruined their lives. Amadou Diallo was murdered after being shot forty-one times and Louima was brutally tortured by New York police officers who in both cases were subsequently found innocent of any wrong doing by white juries and or review boards. While the spotlight is currently on New York City we must keep in mind the problem of police brutality and violent over reaction against African people by the police is a national phenomenon. “Each year, thousands of allegations of police abuse are filed across the country. While videotaped police actions-such as those documenting Philadelphia police officers beating a man after a vehicle chase, Miami-Dade officers kicking a man in the face after a vehicle pursuit, and Los Angeles police officers using excessive force to disperse political protesters during the Democratic National Convention-displayed the problem vividly in 2000, most incidents of alleged police abuse took place away from public scrutiny. Because of inadequate investigative and disciplinary systems, relatively few police officers who violate departmental rules, or the law, are held accountable. Victims seeking redress faced obstacles that ranged from overt intimidation to the reluctance of local and federal prosecutors to take on police brutality cases. During fiscal year 1999, approximately 12,000 civil rights complaints, most alleging police abuse, were submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, but over the same period just thirty-one officers were either convicted or pled guilty to crimes under the civil rights statute stemming from complaints during 1999 and previous years.” http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/usa/index.html
Following 9-11 most of the blatant racial profiling normally aimed at people of African descent was turned on Muslims and Arabs; few examples of police brutality against black folks made headline news. Now we are seeing a rash of incidents not only in New York but around the country. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney recently sent a letter to the US Department of Justice asking them to favorably receive a delegation from Atlanta seeking a federal investigation in the recent murder of an elderly black woman by Atlanta police. The problem with turning to the federal government for relief is that its’ hands are dirty also. “In September, the U.S. produced-five years late-its initial report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. With unprecedented and welcome candor, the report acknowledged the persistence of racism, racial discrimination and de facto segregation in the United States. The tenor and content of the report signaled the Clinton Administration's recognition that despite decades of civil rights legislation and public and private efforts, the inequalities faced by minorities remained one of the country's most crucial and unresolved human rights challenges. One of the report's most significant weaknesses was in its consideration of the role of race discrimination in the criminal justice system. It acknowledged the dramatically disproportionate incarceration rates for minorities, noted the many studies indicating that members of minority groups, especially blacks and Hispanics, 'may be disproportionately subject to adverse treatment throughout the criminal justice process," and acknowledged concerns that "incidents of police brutality seem to target disproportionately individuals belonging to racial or ethnic minorities.' But it did not question whether the ostensibly race-neutral criminal laws or law enforcement practices causing the incarceration disparities violated CERD, nor did it acknowledge the federal government's obligation, under CERD, to ensure that state criminal justice systems (which account for 90 percent of the incarcerated population) were free of racial discrimination. The report did acknowledge the dramatic, racially disparate impact of federal sentencing laws that prescribe different sentences for powder cocaine versus crack cocaine offenses, even though the two drugs are pharmacologically identical. The laws impose a mandatory five year prison sentence on anyone convicted of selling five grams or more of crack cocaine, and a ten year mandatory sentence for selling fifty grams or more. One hundred times as much powder cocaine must be sold to receive the same sentences. By setting a much lower drug-weight threshold for crack than powder cocaine, the laws resulted in substantially higher sentences for crack cocaine offenders. Although the majority of crack users were white, blacks comprised almost 90 percent of federal offenders convicted of crack offenses and hence served longer sentences for similar drug crimes than whites. While recounting the Clinton Administration's unsuccessful effort to secure a limited reform of the cocaine sentencing laws (a reform which, in any event, would still have left black drug defendants disproportionately vulnerable to higher sentences), the report did not venture an assessment of whether the current laws violate CERD. Nor did it consider whether the striking racial differences in the incarceration of drug offenders at the state level was consistent with CERD, reflecting the Administration's general reluctance to subject the U.S. war on drugs to human rights scrutiny.” http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/usa/index.html
When we look at the policies procedures and practices of the “justice system” we see indeed it is open season on black folks; this allows police officers to be overly aggressive and violent towards black men (a long standing pattern in the US), it allows the courts and so called review boards to exonerate police who shoot, abuse and or kill black people (Diallo, Louima and Patrick Dorismond) and when we factor in the courts and the disproportionate incarceration rates of African men and women we see a clear pattern of color and class discrimination. The really sad aspect of all this is we just take it and wait for another incident, to replicate the pattern. Even the recent shooting incident in New York there was a community protest, the mayor of New York met with the slain man’s family and community representatives but nothing came of it thus far. It seems it will be business as usual; open season on black folks continues.

-30-

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