by Patricia L. Dickson 12/9/14
In a heated exchange, PBS host Tavis Smiley told Sean Hannity that“racism is still the most intractable issue in this country, it’s a part of everything we do still.” He made this claim while discussing the incidents surrounding the police handling of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Mr. Smiley also stated, in refuting President Obama’s remarks on BET that we cannot compare what is happening now with what happened fifty years ago, “It is open season on black men, and it is in many ways as bad as it was fifty years ago.”
The meme that Mr. Smiley and other prominent black Americans keep repeating is that police officers have such a negative view of black males (which Smiley and others attribute to racism) that they place less value on their (black males’) lives. That in turn causes the police officers to set out from the get-go to shoot to kill.
Now, there is no evidence that supports that claim. However if that is the case, how did the police officers come to view black males so negatively in the first place?
My parents always taught me that people would view me in the way that I presented myself. In other words, if I do not respect myself in the way that I dress, speak, or act, people will not show me any respect. I have never once been taught that the way I am viewed is the fault of others.
The soul-singing group The Staple Singers recorded a song in the late sixties and earlier seventies titled Respect Yourself. Mr. Smiley apparently blames police officers for the way he claims they view black males.
Later, he argued “with regard to Mr. Brown, when you hear Officer Wilson in his testimony refer to him as a demon and describe him in the way that he did, we go back to my earlier point, Sean, that too often black men are already presumed guilty and that officers, not all, but too many, come at us with an approach that already raises the level of tension before you get to the unfortunate and untimely death of Mr. Brown in Ferguson. It’s the way we are viewed too often from Jump Street number one.
I listened to a black radio broadcast this weekend where the discussion was the Brown and Garner cases. Every guest on the show stated that police officers needed to be trained on how to deal with black people (mainly males). I listened for forty-five minutes (that was all that I could take), and not one of them ever said anything about black males needing to change their behavior.
What am I missing? I do not understand how the black community can continually blame police officers without balancing it with the need for black males to make some changes on their part.
Patricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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