By Robert E. Meyer
The United States has had a long history with the ugly stains on its collective conscience of racial prejudice and institutional discrimination, particularly against African-Americans.
Few of us in the middle class will ever be in a position to understand or empathize with the plight and frustration of inner city youth who belong to racial minorities.
In consideration of the above assertions I will write with my thoughts on the recent tragic confrontations between police and African American males that has dominated the news cycle.
Balancing the other side of the ledger, Ronald Reagan once stated that…
“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
Ferguson is yet the most recent example of ignoring the above principle, which was little more than common sense, a generation removed.
Perception becomes reality. What did the American people see via the mass media? Threats of violent protests in Ferguson if the cop involved in the incident was not indicted by the Grand Jury for the shooting of Michael Brown. Is that a call for justice or the working out of mass extortion?
Whenever anyone demands justice, justice is usually the last thing they really want. Normally a call for justice is a desire for revenge of some sort.
I vividly recall a terrible moment in my own life. I struck a bicycle rider who seemingly came out of nowhere in front of my car when I pulled out from a stop sign. The youth involved was not seriously hurt, but he was interviewed by the investigating officer who said that I probably wouldn’t receive a citation. The officer told me the youth admitted the bicycle had no brakes and that he drove in front of my car to avoid running into the side of my car. The officer had to consult with his captain before he could determine my legal situation. While waiting for the officer to call, I remember asking for justice. But then I thought, what does justice imply? Does justice mean that I need to be immediately accountable for all the transgressions for which I was never punished, or just that I wanted to get out of this particular predicament?
We see numerous protesters holding their hands up and yelling “Don’t shoot,” thus falsely depicting the incident and irresponsibly creating outrage based on urban legend. People have a right to protest, but should at least be factual about what they are protesting.
Of course, when supporters of the Ferguson lawlessness are questioned about evidence to confirm their assertions, their quick-draw response is that there were conflicting testimonial accounts of the incident. Yes, conflicting testimony, but only one version that is corroborated by the forensic investigation.
The use of the Grand Jury in the Ferguson incident was also criticized, but I seriously doubt that the actions of the festering mob would have been more rational had a jury later acquitted the officer.
We see ideological leaders all too eager to connect the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents with a common threat of police-force racism without any evidence to support that position. The usual suspects were busy stirring up trouble instead of trying to calm the masses. And such activism creates disdain for and possibility of violence against the police. Furthermore, any new policies that come out of the aftermath of these cases will place greater pressure on the police in situations where snap decisions must be made. Police will be so sensitive to public scrutiny and punitive actions, that it could make them ineffective.
We see cultual icons who are “defining deviancy down,” creating a situation where deviant behavior becomes so prevalent, it is deemed to be normal and reasonable. This “protesting” makes a mockery out of movement perpetuated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and sets race relations backward by attempting to justify lawlessness.
The demonstrations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. succeeded in large part because of the way they were conducted: peacefully and with principle.
While frustration and anger in minority communities is justified, looting and molotov cocktails can only harm race relations by reinforcing stereotypes and creating a backlash. They are actions of law-breakers and opportunists.
One man being interviewed suggested that looting in Ferguson was justified to raise awareness and show that the protesters were serious. When the reporter protested that the business owners were innocent, the man said “Well, so was Michael Brown.”
It should be noted that conservative commentators have been very careful in drawing distinction between culpability of police actions in Ferguson versus those on Staten Island. They will at least acknowledge that the Staten Island incident implies an excessive or negligent use of force, whereas the Ferguson incident seems to be a question of self-defense. But, neither incident implies a racial motivation. As for the Grand Jury, it is difficult for the public to know all the evidence that was being considered in reaching a decision.
In any case, “protests” of this nature cannot be tolerated. If the police must be held accountable, so should citizens.