All people’s lives matter

>> Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ON DISTANT SHORE
Val G. Abelgas

More than a century and a half after the a bloody civil war ended slavery in the United States, and almost half a century after the civil rights movement ended decades of segregation and discrimination, the nation is again teetering back to the dark ages of racism following the bloody developments of the past week.
The shooting to death of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota early in the week triggered nationwide protests against indiscriminate killing of unarmed blacks by the police. The peaceful protests were usurped by the senseless shooting of 12 Dallas police officers, five of them ending up dead, by a lone black gunman, who was himself killed during a standoff with responding policemen.
It was a chaotic close to a bloody week, a carnage that has brought America back on the edge of a racial crisis. A day after, people from all sides of the racial divide were back on the streets nationwide to grieve, to protest and to vent their anger over what is happening to this country.
The two top police officials of Dallas echoed what many of those protesters were saying.
“This must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens,” said Dallas’s police chief,
David Brown, who is black.
“We have devolved into some separatism and we’ve taken our corners,” Malik Aziz, the deputy chief of police, told CNN. “Days like yesterday or the day before, they shouldn’t happen. But when they do, let’s be human beings. Let’s be honorable men and women and sit down at a table and say, ‘How can we not let this happen again?’ and be sincere in our hearts. We’re failing at that on all sides.”
The police official was talking about the shooting of the police officers and the shooting to death of two black men the day before in Louisiana and Minnesota.
The police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota – the 122nd and 123rd killing of a black man by police officers so far this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union – were both caught in videos that shocked the already angry and scared American people, particularly those in the African-American community.
The first video showed Alton Sterling pinned to the ground outside a store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when he was shot in the chest and back at close range by police officers.
The second video showed the death of Philando Castile, who was shot several times by a police officer after he was stopped for an alleged traffic infraction in a St. Paul suburb in Minnesota. The video, which was taken by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was sitting next to him in the car, starts seconds after Castile was shot. “He was just getting his license and registration, sir,” the girlfriend calmly tells the officer. She says to the camera that he was not reaching for the gun he was licensed to carry.
“Would this have happened if the passengers, the drivers were white? I don’t think it would have,” Gov. Mark Dayton said at a news conference on Thursday. “All of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”
This is the same question people have been asking since the issue of indiscriminate police shooting of black people came to national attention with the 2014 killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in an encounter with a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Ferguson shooting triggered protests in Ferguson and elsewhere for nearly a year and a half before the city government agreed to reforms after Department of Justice investigators found that police officers there regularly violated constitutional rights. The report said minority citizens were routinely harassed by police officers and shuttled through a court system that further exploited and victimized local residents.
But the police shootings did not stop in Ferguson. In Chicago, for example, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times also in 2014 by a police officer later indicted on charges of first-degree murder. And obviously there were scores more such incidents as revealed by ACLU.
But even more frightening is what has transpired after last week’s killings. It would seem that the anger that black people have been keeping in their hearts has begun to explode with the ambush of the Dallas police officers, who were there to help secure the protesters and to keep the rally peaceful. Another ominous sign is the reported presence of some alleged members of the Black Panthers who were seen carrying shotguns. Under Texas laws, people are allowed to carry licensed gun in public.
Even more frightening is the reaction of many white supremacists as shown in social media where many of them are calling on fellow neo-Nazis to take up arms and be prepared for a “racial war.”
Some print and online publications are not helping any to mitigate the anger between the two sides of the racial divide, and are in fact pouring gas into the flames. The New York Post, for example, splashed the inflammatory headline ‘CIVIL WAR” on its front page after the Dallas shooting while The Drudge Report, an ultra-conservative news website, bannered “BLACK LIVES KILL” on its first page.
The violence of the past week should not result in further violence. They should instead prod local officials to institute reforms to make police officers more respectful of the citizens they have been tasked to protect.
Black Lives Matter. That’s the movement that came to life after the Ferguson shooting. Law enforcement officer should start looking at black people and other minority persons not as criminals, but as human beings because people’s lives matter.

The violence – from both sides of the racial divide – should stop. Let not America go back to the dark ages of racism. As Attorney General Loretta Lynch pleaded after the Dallas carnage: “Turn to each other, not against each other.” (valabelgas@aol.com)

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