As one of my Twitter friends noted yesterday regarding the decision not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner: James Holmes, who shot and killed 12 people while wounding 70 others in an Aurora movie theater, was apprehended alive. But Garner, an unarmed 43-year-old father of six, had to be illegally choked to death in order to be subdued by Pantaleo. Despite the fact that the coroner ruled Garner’s death to be a homicide, the grand jury committed yet another injustice against the African-American community by refusing to indict Pantaleo.
There only needs to be a majority for a grand jury to indict or not. Fifteen panelists on the 23-member grand jury in the Pantaleo case were white. That’s not necessarily an outright indication of racism, but at the very least it’s fair to suggest that the 15 white panelists will never truly understand what life was like for Eric Garner — to be stopped-and-frisked or to be relentlessly watched or unjustifiably profiled by law enforcement. It’s no wonder that Pantaleo wasn’t indicted. When reviewing the video of Garner objecting to being targeted by two officers, the white panelists were racially incapable of relating to why Garner was angry and simply reached the conclusion that his actions justified being suddenly swarmed by half-a-dozen officers who appeared out of nowhere, wrestling him to the ground, choking him and forced his skull into the pavement until his heart stopped.
But instead of attempting to understand the full scope of what men like Eric Garner have had to endure, we too often hear closed-minded white people suggest that the number of black men profiled and killed by police during arrest scenarios is merely commensurate with the black male crime rate. And this is supposed to make profiling and excessive force okay.
It’s a cheap and superficial argument, insinuating that black men are somehow asking for it. Throughout the day yesterday, I heard from various people, especially Joe Scarborough supporters, who told me that Michael Brown and Eric Garner decided their own fates, both individually and societally, even though, in a fair and just world, neither of them deserved summary executions in the street.
Even though many in the Scarborough camp refuse to accept statistical reality (a sign of possible racial bias itself), let’s take a look at some of the massive disparities between the white and black experiences within the criminal justice system.
–Right off the bat, younger inner city African-American men are far less capable of affording effective legal counsel and are therefore convicted more often than white suburban men.
–Around 13 percent of drug users are black, yet 46 percent of blacks are convicted on drug charges. Put another way, five times as many whites as blacks reportedly use and sell illegal drugs, yet blacks are incarcerated for drug offenses 10 times more often than whites for the same offenses. Why?
–Prison sentences for blacks are 10 percent longer than sentences for whites.
–Prosecutors seek mandatory minimums for black suspects 21 percent more often than whites.
–Blacks are 20 percent more likely to be convicted.
–The Justice Department reported that blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to be searched during traffic stops — three times more likely, while police officers are four times more likely to use force. Likewise, blacks are also three times more likely than whites to be arrested during traffic stops.
–A 2005 DOJ report based on 80,000 cases determined that even though whites represented 70 percent of the population, they’re only stopped nine percent of the time.
Could it be that the statistics showing astronomical urban street crime by African-Americans are significantly skewed by racial bias and profiling? Clearly.
Fold all of this into the awful reality that too many African-American neighborhoods have been rigged for poverty (and thus desperation and resentment) by the white establishment since Reconstruction, and no wonder there’s an appearance of an unmitigated black crime epidemic warranting ongoing fatalities at the hands of overzealous police officers.
Speaking of which, we probably shouldn’t overlook the fact that in addition to racial profiling, police officers are increasingly turning toanabolic steroids, the side effects of which include heightened aggression.
If only law enforcement was half-as-vigilant about corporate criminals who are responsible for exponentially more death and destruction than street criminals could ever possibly inflict. Tens of thousands of people die every year from pollution and other related corporate activities, and corporate crime drains billions from the economy. Will any greenhouse gas polluters be held accountable for the destructive impact of the climate crisis? How many people die every year because they were denied medical treatment by their insurer? The coal mining activities of Alpha Natural Resources alone are responsible for a 42 percent higher rate of birth defects and a reduction of life expectancy by 1.5 years. Last year, a factory run by a supplier of clothing for Gap stores collapsed, killing 1,100. Yet, incongruously, we cross to the other side of the street whenever we see low pants and brown skin, but we brush right on by white skin and an Armani suit.
White people don’t often notice the unfairness or the lopsided justice because we don’t really have to. It doesn’t really touch us. Everything’s comparatively great, so why bother? Consequently, too many white guys lash out from a place of total ignorance, suggesting that Michael Brown deserved to die because he was a “thug” and that blacks deserve to be profiled because they’re the real killers. No degree of trolling or flailing on cable news will erase the reality that harrowing injustices in the form of deadly systemic racism continues to thrive in our culture — racism that executed Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and which exonerated Dan Pantaleo and Darren Wilson.