To overcome racism we need to overcome separation and ignorance. Familiarity, socializing, play and fun together breeds closeness, affection and care.
By now we all know that officer Darren Wilson (who shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown Jr., in Ferguson MO, on August 9th), was not indicted and will not go to trial in state court. There is still an ongoing federal investigation that might yield a different result and Michael Brown’s family has the option of a civil suit (for more information on the killing of this unarmed young African American by a police officer, “Why did Officer Darren Wilson Kill Michael Brown?”).
Attorney General Eric Holder said:
“Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now…although federal civil rights law imposes a higher legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.” He concluded by echoing some of President Obama’s and Michael Brown Sr.’s comments by saying “This sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve…though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence. Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrance of their son be conducted peacefully.”
As one can see from the video, eye witness accounts, documents and the unprecedented detailed and trial like grand jury proceedings (with only one side presented by a prosecutor seemingly intent on avoiding an indictment), there is plenty of probable cause to go to trial by jury for a determination of culpability or vindication (please remember that the only job of a grand jury is to determine if there is probable cause for an indictment of the accused to go to trial, not to determine the outcome of such a trial.)
St. Louis prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch said in a televised address Monday night, announcing that after weighing the evidence, at least nine of the 12 members of the grand jury (nine white and three African American), decided that Officer Wilson acted within the limits of the lethal-force law:
“The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact and fiction.”
Actually that is not accurate. Blacks Law Dictionary defines Grand Jury as:
“A body of citizens, the number of whom varies from state to state, whose duties consist in determining whether probable cause exists that a crime has been committed and whether an indictment (true bill) should be returned against one for such a crime.”
So it is less fact from fiction and more a basis for taking this case to the finders of fact, a jury of one’s peers.
There were many things not done right in this case, including the trial like unprecedented grand jury proceedings, apparent Prosecutorial bias (his father was a police officer shot and killed by a black man and his brother, nephew and cousin all serve in the St, Louis police), other similar cases like the Earl Murray case, the long unusually involved process, the decision to announce the grand jury decision late on a Monday night and the national guard being called in advance of any need, to mention a few.
And still the obvious question remains. Is this racism? Is this the inability of one group to empathize with another? Are we forever doomed to be fearful and untrusting of the “Other?” Doomed to always assume the worst about those different from us, and blindly doing our best to fulfill that prophecy?
3/5 a Person – Article I, Section 2 of the Original Constitution stated:
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons [i.e., slaves].”
This formula was created as a compromise between Southern and Northern states to determine representation in Congress (Northern states did not want slaves counted and Southern states did, both for the obvious reason of increasing or decreasing representation depending on whether you owned slaves or not). One can also argue that the Northern states wanted to exclude slaves to weaken slavery and bring about it’s demise, while Southern states wanted to include slaves to increase their influence and strength to keep and expand slavery.
But all this misses the main issue that still affects us greatly today. It is the perception of the “other” as a less than we are entity that causes these tragedies. It does not matter if historically it was a political mathematical calculation that led to this ridiculous compromise in 1787, during the United States Constitutional Convention, which is hard to accept but relatively easy to understand. If you view another group as less than you, and you have all the power, you end up with results like these and killings of unarmed African Americans by white armed Police Officers.
And this is not just a race issue. It cuts across any and all groups defined and stereotyped by the another, usually larger group in power negatively. Whether it is race, ethnicity, religion, color, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, disability, socioeconomic status, circumstances of birth, hair color and complexion (and feel free to add your own experience and world view here…), at different times in history most groups, in addition to African Americans discussed above, were subjected to discrimination, persecutions and violence. Native Americans, Jews, Asians, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hispanics, Kurds, Gypsies, Tutsi, come easily to mind, and the list goes on and on.
Banality is defined as “so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.” And that about sums up racism, as well as any and all prejudices and group hate. There is no doubt that racism (and all hate) is learned.
Children are not born racist or haters of any group or person. They grow up to be one by observing and learning from their environment and role models, family and friends. Humans are social creatures and we need to be validated and accepted, which sometimes leads us to conform to racist and hateful behaviors and attitudes. There is only one antidote to that, and that is familiarity (and no, “familiarity does not always breed contempt,” it mostly breeds acceptance, closeness and care.) Once we get to know and spend time with other kinds of people, we realize how much like us they really are. They feel and hurt, they love and laugh, they want a better future for their kids and a better society and world for all of us to live and thrive in. This is a problem we can solve and an issue we can greatly improve upon. Equality and fairness only works if it applies equally and fairly to all of us. And that is the only way to make our world better.