A Challenge to Civil Rights Leaders, Police … and Us

by Diane Dimond on September 1, 2014

Taking A Page From Rosa Parks' Civil Rights Book

Taking A Tactical Cue From Rosa Parks

A notion struck me as I studied the continuing stream of news about the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. After his funeral I wondered, could we be witnessing the birth of another historic civil rights movement.

If you are white you may think that’s a ridiculous notion. A recent Pew Research Center Poll reveals that 80% of blacks believe the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that need to be discussed. But, only 37% of whites agreed. Even more troubling: 47% of white Americans think the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

This signals a disturbing disconnect. When 80% of one group of people says there is a basic human rights problem in America the rest of us ought to be willing to listen and discuss.

Michael Brown: Dead at 18

Michael Brown: Dead at 18

The circumstances surrounding Brown’s death have still not been adequately explained, to my mind, and coming on the heels of three other fatal incidents involving unarmed black men and white police officers the basic questions seem clear:  Are cops in America too prone to strong-armed tactics when it comes to black and brown people? Or do young minorities lack respect for others – especially the police — and engage in behaviors that invite the trouble?  How can the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect be improved?

After Ferguson endured two weeks of looting and arson, street demonstrations and violence there were genuine calls for calm and a national discussion about why another unarmed black kid had been shot and killed by a peace officer. Speakers inside the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church spoke about going forward.

An Overflow Crowd at Brown's Funeral

An Overflow Crowd at Brown’s Funeral

Eric Davis urged the packed church crowd to immortalize his cousin’s death with a renewed effort to advance civil rights.

“Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard and let everyone know that we have had enough of this,” Davis said.

Those who came to the service openly said they believe Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson had grossly overreacted that awful Saturday afternoon. Why didn’t he simply arrest Brown if he was breaking a law or use a Taser instead of a deadly gun?

In other parts of town, supporters of Wilson’s answered with the still uncorroborated police version of the events of that day:  The 6’ 4”, 290 pound teenager had struck first and fast, wrestling for the officer’s gun and driving him to use deadly force to defend himself.

But there was no forum for the two sides to talk to each other.

Sharpton Evokes the Past at Brown Funeral

Sharpton Evokes the Past at Brown Funeral

Even the often grandstanding Reverend Al Sharpton, who flew in from New York to attend the funeral, seemed to understand that Brown’s death could be a pivotal event to improving race relations.

“There have been other times in history that became seminal moments, and this is one of those moments,” Sharpton told the congregation. “And, this young man, for whatever reason has appealed to all of us that we’ve got to solve this and not continue this.”

In strong language Sharpton urged all African-Americans to push for positive change instead of hitting the streets with violent protests and, “sitting around having ghetto pity parties.”

Just what Sharpton and other civil rights activists plan to “solve this” remains a mystery.  But here’s a challenge. Get organized. Make the nation truly understand what life is like for inner city minorities who encounter police in their neighborhoods. Take a page from dignified heroes of the past who peaceably fought for their rights.

The Sit-in That Changed Everything - Greensboro, NC

The Sit-in That Changed Everything – Greensboro, NC., 1960

As Rosa Parks did in Alabama in 1955 when she quietly refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person and challenged her arrest. As students in North Carolina did in 1960 when they staged silent sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. As civil rights activists did during a series of marches between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama back in 1965. None of them stopped their peaceful demonstrations until segregation policies crumbled under nationwide public pressure and the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.

To those who declare themselves today’s “community leaders” I say, launch a nationwide movement for change instead of simply showing up to scream into television cameras at the scene of the latest controversial death. Galvanize your people and send them forth in productive and noble ways to change what is wrong.

Is it right that in 2014 minorities must still fight for what they see as their full rights as American citizens? No. No more so than it is right that a police officer is automatically condemned and branded as a criminal when a fatality occurs on his watch.

For the Rosa Park strategy to work in today’s world everyone will, first, have to admit we’ve got a racial problem. And, second, all involved will have to convince their constituents to act responsibly.

It Worked Then, Can Peaceful Demenstrations Work Now?

It Worked Then, Can Peaceful Demonstrations Work Now?

Minority communities have to re-dedicate themselves to promoting a cohesive family structure stressing the importance of education and setting goals. They should instill respect for human life and the idea that a good work ethic means success. Our youth who embrace the temptation of drugs and criminal activity as a suitable way to make a living must be redirected. The startlingly high number of black-on-black crimes has to be acknowledged and addressed.

The challenge to law enforcement?  Adopt new policing practices that focus on community relations and better management of tense situations. Anyone with a brain understands that police officers put their lives on the line every single day and their dedication needs to be honored, their need to protect themselves acknowledged. But there can surely be fewer bold displays of military-like might, increased use of Tasers instead of guns, more dashboard cameras to capture the indisputable facts of a situation and updated training for officers who patrol at-risk areas. Police academies should include specific course work in race relations and psychological techniques to diffuse disputes.

But there is a third component: The rest of us. We have to truly listen and understand each other.

This can be an important crossroad moment in the way issues of race and poverty and crime and confrontation are dealt with — but only if we seized the moment.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Hesse September 1, 2014 at 9:06 am

ABQ Journal Reader Dave Hesse writes:

“Diane..another well written treatise on this situation..trouble is, like me, you believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy…It just makes too much sense to expect the citizens of this great country to actually get along and embrace many of the issues you mentioned…one huge problem…we can’t “un-teach” what has been taught for way too long…I saw in person the bathrooms and drinking fountains that were for white or colored only…..I went to the University of Texas when black athletes were “not invited” to participate in varsity athletics..I saw eating establhments that just flat didn’t allow negroes to eat there..I witnessed my father in law berating the black waiters at the country club, because, since they were very busy, it took a bit longer to get another full glass of water…there’s a wonderful song from the musical “South Pacific”…”You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught”…I think it is evident that many folks have been carefully taught, and the whole matter of race relations will remain quite foggy for generations until folks stop doing such a good job of teaching…”

Dave Hesse, Albuquerque

Reply

Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 11:57 am

Noozhawk Reader Jintao Hu writes:

“Dear Diane,
I read your article, “After Ferguson, a Challenge for Civil Rights Leaders, Police, and Us”. I agree with you and I would like to add some more.
First, blacks need to change their culture. I am not talking about drugs, gangs and single moms, I am talking about positive life styles. For example, my wife and I are National Park lovers, we have seen Whites, Asians, Latinos in every park but seldom seen blacks there. This example illustrates that blacks are too comfortable with staying in their world. They need to get out their world and get into the world of others. This is essential to see and understand others perspective. The parents, in particular, must create a positive living style for their children.
Secondly, life is about competition. If black folks could not win the competition against Asians and Latinos who mostly don’t even speak English well, they have no hope. Sport elites should not be their only models. My impression is that black folks sometimes have goals too big to match with their capabilities. In order to change, they must start from small things and they must work harder and harder. Do they understand this?
Thirdly, the rest of us must help them truly, sincerely, and honestly. If we as parents refuse to see our children living on welfare and we feel undignified of being on welfare, we shall not vote to increase food stamps. I am sorry to see so many of us are doing just the opposite. It seems to me that these people care their own compassion or sympathy rather than the future of the people who need help. If we care about the black people, we should have a better system that forces them to work harder, rather than giving options to go the easy way. This is the only way to change. Do we understand this?
As an Asian immigrant, I have been struggling from day one on almost everything in this country – English, driving license, finding a room, legal working permission … you name it. In my 13 years living in this country, I have achieved many things, eventually I got my Master’s degree, an 80k job, a house, sending both my children to colleges… every single achievement was made with huge effort and cost. After Ferguson incident, I have noticed a couple of people talking about Asian success but few of them mentioned about what price Asians have paid. I am willing to pay the prices for the things because we appreciate the opportunity to work here, live here, and enjoy whatever we got here. Are black folks willing to do the same to earn the life?
Thanks for allowing me to speak out the thoughts stuck in my head for years.”

Best regards,
Jintao Hu

Reply

Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Noozhawk Reader alluphill212@gmail.com writes:

“This story getting old! Don’t lower yourself to this racist crap!Just more of the same ,it will never end.”

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Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Noozhawk Reader Mateo Jose alluphill212@gmail.com writes:

“It will stop when blacks have equal rights in this nation.”

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Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Noozhawk Reader ccdaniels replies to Mateo Jose

“What rights don’t I have? I vote, I have a business, my children are college graduates. Tell me again what I can’t do. Stop crying about racism and go on with your life.”

Reply

Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Noozhawk Reader Mateo Jose replies to ccdaniels

“I’m not going to “go on with my life” when I see injustices like this. I have empathy for these people and that’s exactly why I’m down there protesting at their sides.”

Reply

Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Noozhawk Reader pitriver writes:

“Why don’t the black people look at themselves as being the problem. They can’t read, or talk in a normal sentence, can’t dress themselves, kill each other willingly, but it’s everyone’s fault but their own. Maybe if their attitude changed and they took pride in themselves the jails would not be full of black male gangbangers, dope dealers, car thieves, and home invasion criminals. They have the same opportunities as everyone else. If they don’t like where they live then move.”

Reply

Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Noozhawk Reader malta14 replies to pitriver:

“What would your attitude be if, just because of the color of your skin, you were accosted by police, searched, etc. etc. Google the statistics, especially with New York’s stop and frisk law. If you’re a black mother, you don’t want your son out after dark. Is that freedom for black men?”

Reply

Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 4:23 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Gunhild Vetter writes:

“There is a time when people need to start making choices for their life. Ask Dr. Ben Carson about choices his single parent mother made for him and his brother when they lived in the ghetto so they would not get involved in the gangs. I know plenty of successful people of various colors who made the choice to get an education and not become dependent on the government and become slaves to the system

Michael Brown made some choices that night by robbing a store. Later he was walking down the middle of the street when the officer driving by asked him not to walk in the street and Brown attacks the officer causing extensive injuries. I saw just a short blurb about it but nothing since. Through the grapevine I heard that he has serious injuries and there was question if he would be able to return to work. Something the media is not telling us.

I will admit that there still is racism going on and since Obama became president it is worse than before, only now it is in reverse. Since my friends are multicultural, I often find it very offensive when one of them is discriminated against when we are out. Why can’t people look at each other as part of God’s family and not at how much or little pigment one has in their skin. Why can’t people take responsibility for their actions and choices instead of blaming others for their lack.

Like Ben Carson, everybody has an opportunity to get an education and prepare themselves for a career of their choice.

The media also plays a big role in trying to make this a civil rights issue like in the 60s because than they could have big headlines about riots, fights, and what not. They keep harping on certain things until they can get people to believe it. A good example is the climate change being caused by man. In a way they are right, but the real cause is sin in man. According to a modern day prophet David Wilkerson, who wrote several books about 30 years ago describing exactly what is happening in California today with the drought, is really God’s judgment on our nation, a nation that was so blessed by God and is now turning its back on God. Wonder if it is too late for the nation to repent and turn back to God.”

Gunhild Vetter

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Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 4:25 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Mary Anne Edwards writes:

“Diane,
Great column today on Ferguson! Having watched this unfold, have lived thru many of these conflicts and could not agree more!

I see HUGE numbers of black youth being raised without a male role model and with real negative attitudes toward authority. Like all of us, I see this young man, brutalize a shop owner shortly before the confrontation. Then we hear about the ‘gentle giant’, the mean cop who used deadly force against him and then the riots and lawlessness.

There are problems that can only be resolved by the Black community, but I totally agree there are police tactics that need to be brought up, discussed and fixed. Tasers…where are they? We have so many deaths by police here in New Mexico..in fact the Albuquerque police are under investigation by the Justice Department. Our police deserve to be trained in the very best procedures and protocol…self defense in situations like this and use of deadly force. There are so many layers to this it boggles the mind, but your column was a great start.”

Mary Ann Edwards
Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Twitter pal bobconservpat writes:

“@DiDimond Diane I understand and sgree your point Sharpton/Jackson thrive on the division to the detriment ofgroups they claim to protect.”

Reply

Diane Dimond September 1, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Twitter Pal auntjesssays writes:

” @DiDimond Sharpton and Jackson are instigators. Not represent of peace to me.”

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Diane Dimond September 2, 2014 at 12:02 am

Twitter pal 60bourbon writes re: #Sharpton #JesseJackson

“@DiDimond grandstanding is much easier and less complicated for them ….. its like they pseudo care about a cause ??”

Reply

Diane Dimond September 2, 2014 at 12:03 am

Twitter Pal SmawtAss 9:32pm writes re: #Sharpton #Jackson

“@DiDimond They’re gross. I think that’s all they are doing, exploiting the situation for face time.”

Reply

Diane Dimond September 2, 2014 at 12:04 am

Facebook Friend Carmen Matthews writes:

“Diane, I especially like these two messages in this story: “Just what Sharpton and other civil rights activists plan to “solve this” remains a mystery. But here’s a challenge. Get organized. Make the nation truly understand what life is like for inner city minorities who encounter police in their neighborhoods. Take a page from dignified heroes of the past who peaceably fought for their rights…”To those who declare themselves today’s ‘community leaders’ I say, launch a nationwide movement for change instead of simply showing up to scream into television cameras at the scene of the latest controversial death. Galvanize your people and send them forth in productive and noble ways to change what is wrong.”

Reply

Alan Gray September 4, 2014 at 10:22 pm

Diane, Jintao Hu points out the obvious that many people just want to ignore. The death of a young man, Michael Brown, is a bad thing. We all have choices and decisions to make. Sometimes we make poor decisions – even the smartest people make poor decisions. Michael Brown made several poor choices, but he was aided in those choices by his family, his community, community leaders, politicians and various governments. In the end, he was responsible for the choices he made. I saw other people in his community trying to keep the peace when others wanted to create unrest. Those people made choices that seem poles apart from Michael Brown and the agitators. How is that possible? We may never know exactly why, but some smart people better work out the reason and do something about it, otherwise, these problems will never end.

Jintao Hu makes excellent points. Here is a story written by one of my contributors not long ago, that illustrates the need for struggle: http://newsblaze.com/story/20140717152045ronm.nb/topstory.html
It seems that some people just want answers and success handed to them on a plate. Life doesn’t work that way. Think about what happens in the wild, Africa for example … Make wrong choices out there and a lion will have you for dinner.

I’ve seen people saying why wasn’t a taser used. Some people have died from being tasered and sometimes a taser doesn’t stop someone intent on what they are doing. You and I were not there, we don’t know there whole story yet, so most of what we say about it is conjecture. All we know is that there was an altercation and the young man is dead. We also know how he behaved a short time earlier in the store. We don’t know what was going on in his mind at the time, but if he assumed the officer knew about the store, be night behave very differently from the way he would if he was just having fun with his friend. We all need to track this case and then examine what we thought and said at the time, in light of exactly what happened.

Finally, the race baiters need to stop doing what they are doing, and if they have a national audience, they need to use their exposure for good and not for playing the race and victim cards every time.

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Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Northern Virginia Daily Reader Billy Davison writes:

“More whites are shot by police than any other race. You dont see hordes of whites looting and burning stores. More than likely if you’re shot by a police officer you deserved it.”

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Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Northern Virginia Daily Reader Larry A. Peters writes:

“The police do not have to develop any new procedures. People of all races must do as they are told when confronted by police. When they tell you to get on the ground, you don’t run your mouth, you get down on your face. All races have to clean up their act. When you have creeps like Jessie Jackson beating the drums, the people will become enraged.”

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Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Northern Virginia Daily Reader Vera B. Herriott writes:

“Agree Larry A. Peters New Procedures = More Police officers killed on duty. They are already under too many restraints. Criminals already have more rights. We need to stand up for our officers who protect us. They are putting their life on the line every day.”

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Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Northern Virginia Daily Reader Michael Cash writes:

“President Johnson was faced with the issues exemplified by the recent killings of unarmed black folks by police officers and reflected in the structural racism of our society. He formed the Kerner Commission to study and report on the issues. They came back and said that this country was made up of two societies: one white and one black; and they were very unequal. Very little has changed since that time. White privilege is a huge reality in this country that way too many white folks do not want to deal with. The previous comments simply reflect that fact.”

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Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Northern Virginia Daily Reader Jane Mackie writes:

” In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers. Unless America can either reduce its colossal gun ownership rates or fix its deep social problems, shootings of civilians by police—justified or not—seem sure to continue.”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/08/armed-police

Reply

Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Northern Virginia Daily Reader William Pierceall Sr. writes:

“Yeah, if someone could let the Supreme Court know that we found out racism isn’t as dead in America as they said it was… that would be great.

There is no such thing as ‘a little racism’ in a historical framework. The first step is admission America has had a race problem that has continued uninterrupted since slavery.

What’s more realistic?
1) That an entire region of the United States that supported slavery in the late-1800?s and supported segregation in the 1950?s and 60?s suddenly stopped being racist, or.

2) The racist southern Democrats in the south became Republicans during the 50?s and 60?s when the Republican party shifted toward an idea called the “Southern Strategy,” where the GOP appealed to the racism in southern whites who didn’t like African Americans voting for Democrats.”

Reply

Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I respond to Northern Va. Daily reader Mr. Pierceall:

“Sadly, I would also have to add, Mr. Pierceall, that there are countless DEMOCRATS who are also racist. White Democrats who practice racism against Blacks and/or Hispanics and Asians….and Black Democrats who practice racism against Whites, Hispanics and/or Asians.
Honestly? Racism knows no political boundaries I’m afraid.

Reply

Diane Dimond October 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Northern Virginia Daily Reader Carroll Nickens writes:

“Some of these comments illustrate the racial divide in the country and they still “don’t get it”. Inflammable remarks about Jesse Jackson does not help. Black folks only want “equal” treatment”, not white privilege!”

Reply

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