In U.S., Racial Divide Festers, by: M. Wines, on Steps Taken Backwards

Look how far we’d come, and yet, we’re still taking these steps backwards, from The New York Times, as found in the papers today…

Paul McLemore, the first African-American to become a New Jersey policeman, was on the streets of Newark in 1967 when riots following a police beating of a black taxi driver left 26 dead.  He spent decades as a civil rights lawyer and years as a municipal judge in Trenton.  “Of course, there’s been a lot of progress” since Newark’s days of rage, he said recently.   But asked whether a young black man today could find the justice that was believed to be absent in Newark 47 years ago, he gave a response that was starkly different.  “No, period,” he said.  “There’s pervasive racism—white racism.”  For whites and blacks alike, that duality may be the takeaway from a grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a young black man: Much has changed, and nothing has changed.

A nation with an African-American president and a significant, if struggling black middle class remains deeply divided about the justice system as it was decades ago.  A recent Huffington Post YouGov poll of 1,000 adults found that 62 percent of African-Americans believed Officer Wilson was at fault for the shooting of Mr. Brown, while only 22 percent of whites took that position.

In 1992, a Washington Post-ABC News Poll found that 92 percent of blacks—and 64 percent of whites—disagreed with the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers videotaped beating a black man, Rodney King.

“What’s striking is just how constant these attitudes have been,” said Carroll Doherty of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center in Washington.

In Pew polls, blacks mistrust of the police and courts is far more pervasive than it is toward other institutions.  However, a Pew poll earlier this year suggests that African-American under age 40—the demographic that made up most of the people who took to the streets in Ferguson in August—are much less likely than their elders to believe that racism is the main force blocking blacks’ advancements.

That whites and blacks disagree so deeply on the justice system, even as some other racial gulfs show signs of the closing, is perhaps not as odd as it seems.  Decades of changing laws and court decisions mean that the two races now work together, play sports together, attend school together.  But they frequently go home to separate worlds where attitudes and experiences toward the police and courts not only are not shared, but are not even understood across the racial divide.

At the end of 2013, 3 percent of all black males of any age were imprisoned, compared with 0.5 percent of whites.  In 2011, one in 15 African-American children had a parent in prison, compared with one in 111 white children.

Patricia J. Williams, a law professor at Columbia University in New York, said that the war on drugs disproportionately affected blacks—in California in 2011, a black man was eleven times more likely than a white to be jailed for a marijuana felony.

Beyond such disparities, “it’s the little things, like stop-and-frisk, like racial profiling,” that reinforce blacks’ negative attitude toward the justice system, she said.

Kenny Wiley, 26, a black man who grew up in a prosperous white suburb of Denver, has seen both sides.  The Ferguson shooting, he said, destroyed any notion that his race did not matter—that he could “opt out of the negative parts of blackness.”

“I grew up with a lot of economic privilege,” he said, “and still because of my race and my age and my gender, I’m still in certain situations perceived as a threat.”

Mr. Wiley said that when he walks down a street, people don’t see his college test scores, “they see a black man.”

Brain Willingham, a church pastor and black police officer in Flint, Michigan, said he was conflicted by the grand jury’s decision, but concluded that it was correct.

“I now realize that we who consider ourselves leaders in the black community can’t just be against racism.  We have to also be against a portion of black culture that has become increasingly anti-authority and antisocial to a point of self-destruction,” he said.  “This is an enemy we’ve yet to engage in the black community.”

Blacks and whites who are friends found the case a delicate topic of conversation.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Nneka Ekechukwu, 23, a South Carolinan native of Nigeria descent, was having lunch with Denise Henderson, 45, a white friend and co-worker at an information-technology company.

Ms. Henderson, who grew up in a heavily white part of Oklahoma, said she was concerned that the prosecutors in the Missouri case had brought too much of his own perspective to bear in bringing the evidence of the Brown shooting before the grand jury.  “I do think that so much of it was wrong,” she said.  “But I do think it was wrong, for Michael Brown to be fighting with a police officer.”  Then she looked at her black friend.  “But I feel like my saying that, I don’t know, is that an affront to you?”

It was not, Ms. Ekechukwu said, but the same words might rankle her if they came from the lips of someone she suspected of prejudice.  For a person of color, she said, it is difficult not to view the Ferguson shooting as part of a continuum: the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teen ager, by a white Florida man who was later acquitted of murder; the 2009 fatal shooting of an Oakland black man by a white transit officer who was found guilty of manslaughter instead of murder.

When she heard the recent news that a 12-year-old Cleveland boy had been shot by an officer while wielding a toy gun, Ms. Ekechukwu said, “my first question was, ‘Is he black?’”  He was.

This, is the racial divide AT its worst, because the officer that shot Michael Brown was found not guilty, and so, all the African Americans stood up together, saying how it was injustice, and, maybe it was, but, the jury had already made the calls, what CAN you do?  You can’t try the man again, that’s double jeopardy!!!

And this raise an important alert of how people are still divided by the colors of the skin, just like how my family and I were singled out by a BLACK customs officer (and, do ME and my family look like we’re PACKING guns AND knives???  Of course not), but this is still due to the long standing of racism, because whites discriminates against blacks, blacks need to discriminate against some other nationalities, so they don’t feel like they’re the worst kind of people, and, whichever RACE that falls in the BOTTOM of the food chain is still UNLUCKY, and there’s this white cop found not guilty, for shooting a black kid, yeah, that’ll exacerbate the situation all right!!!

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Filed under Awareness, Issues of the Society, Racism, Social Issues, Tragedies in the World, Wake Up Calls, White Picket Fence, Wrongful Deaths

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