Selma, Ferguson, still two Americas
Selma, Ferguson, still two Americas
By Bill Allen
Our America has always been a nation of vision and a nation of dysfunction. Our country has always been separate and unequal in opportunities, wealth and quality of life.
Since, the birth of our nation, we have marched, protested and died for “equal rights”. We voted for and passed laws for “civil rights “. Our blatant cultural and overt prejudice acts and practices were changed. As a nation we sought to be the nation that is outline in our declaration of independence. A majority of citizens have always sought, and genuinely wanted positive changes in actions and attitudes.
This year is the anniversary of “freedom summer” a time in our history that many applied the cliché, “never again”. This was a time where justice and power were for “whites only”. In our communities, housing, jobs, local government, state government, national government, military service, public services and general opportunities were granted based solely on race. We were two Americas.
Since that time we have made some changes. We have moved forward somewhat. But then some incident occurs that brings to light that the changes are extremely superficial. Our proclamations of great changes and accomplishments are shown for what they really are, slightly existent.
In Selma Alabama in 1965, years ago, days of protest, violence against peaceful citizens and loss of lives shocked our moral core. The Bible belt southern democrats were forced to examine what they represented and their passively being part of a wrong path in history.
Some citizens are still wondering how our structures of government and elected and appointed officials have failed to really address citizens’ needs. This is not a republican or Democratic Party specific failure. We have good and bad elected officials in both parties and they are diverse in racial makeup. But clearly for some unknown reason a large portion of the intolerant voices are in the Republican Party. The party of Lincoln, the party that shamed the “Dixiecrats” in the 60’s, are now the party of “dysfunctional tea”
The tragedy that is now in Ferguson Missouri, is history repeating. It is about guns. It is about power. It is about white privilege. It is about law enforcement practices. It is about fear. It is also universal and not limited to the actions of one police officer, one district attorney, or one state governor.
I believe the arson and destruction of property is wrong. Individuals that are involved in criminal activities should face the consequence of justice. We should hold all individuals accountable for their actions and statements of ignorance and prejudice.
It disturbs me that we have reporters and news sources that seek out the same lightning rods of intolerance. Rudy Giuliani’s time as a trusted elected official and voice that speaks for a large majority has long passed. Television news outlets that presented him as an expert opinion on race relations and race issues were wrong in allowing him a platform to spread more fear.
It also disturbs me that more elected officials in Missouri and across our nation have not expressed outrage in what has happened in Ferguson. There is suffering and pain in our nation that is universal. The outrage and call for reform is needed. This is a world movement; there have been demonstrations in Frankfurt, Germany London, England and Tokyo, Japan.
It is also disturbing for me that we have transferred the duties of our elected official to local clergy to calm and bring peace. Elected official sought out our votes to be leaders and to better our lives, be that leader, make the hard decisions and act with honor and purpose.
I find sadness and pride in the actions of the parents of children murdered by individuals with legal impunity. These mothers, fathers and step parents have been models of courage, faith and dignity. I have found pride in the attorneys and individual that represented them and their interest to be true soldier of justice.
There is a limitation on what you can say to parents who believe that their child cannot walk to a convenience store in his neighborhood and not come home safely. Parents are not expecting to have their child murdered for jaywalking. It is unthinkable for most parents to believe that their child could be executed while shopping in a large retail store. No parent is concerned about letting their child play in a public park with a toy gun and having individuals with real guns shoot their child multiple times. When parents have to instruct their child about how t interact with authority figures for them to treat them humanely.
Ferguson is not alone in the despair and questioning of authorities and our legal system. Ferguson has however has set a new standard. Prior to the actions of one district attorney, outrage and demonstrations were done to obtain an indictment and trial.
The new standard is now getting a district attorney to bring an unbiased approach in seeking an indictment for trial.
The district attorney involved in seeking a criminal charge for a law enforcement officer that shot an unarmed child multiple times in daylight without a just cause.
Prior to this case; grand juries were secretive bodies that acted as vehicles for the courts and considered the silent voice in our communities. Grand juries are by law, statutes secret. The district attorney changed this dynamic.
Perhaps he was seeking to justify the actions of his office not to indict a law enforcement officer.
Perhaps his action to release almost all of the evidence and testimony of witnesses and what was not done on the date when an unarmed child was killed in the street.
The questions that will linger in the mind of many will be; why did the body of this child remain in the street for hours? Why did the authorities not conduct a thorough investigation, collection of evidence and measurements of distance, fingerprinting and DNA done at the crime scene? Why did the authorities allow the officer to destroy and keep weapon and clothing connected to the crime? Why were there no incident documents by the police officer involved, supervising officers investigating the crime and witness statements collected on the day of the crime event?
The justification for all involved is the establishment of more panels. The justification from the authorities, court and law enforcement officers are the system worked, everyone did their job.
The district attorney has limited regrets. The police officer has no regrets. The individuals that were accountable for the crime scene investigation have no regrets for inaction and equipment failures. The police chief, the mayor and the governor has some regrets.
The officer involved is still being paid. He is currently doing television and print interviews as a victim. An unarmed child made him shoot him, in the words of this officer, “I was doing my job, I did what I was trained to do “. The problem is why did he not document the incident on the date of the crime? Why did he not remember the training when he discharged his weapon,? Where was the training in securing crime scene and evidence by this office and other crime scene investigator? Why did the district attorney’s office give wrong information and limited guidance in specific charges? Why the officer was not questioned more when giving testimony about rational for shooting an unarmed child? This is all part of doing their jobs effectively and with purpose.
The problem also is the officer almost unbelievable scripted dialog that he purports as testimony. The self serving rational that his life was in danger. The legal crafted statement that somewhat gave cover for a crime; the accounting of three events where he discharged his weapon without cause on an unarmed child.
The problem is there are two justice systems; one for the powerful and the one for the others. The others are the poor, people of color; a system that lacks empathy and compassion.
This is the system meant to serve a vast majority of Americans; two Americas, the continuing battle for justice in an unjust society. There will be no peace in America until we truly live up to the words connected with the establishment of our nation. If you seek elected office or government service remember you sought to make government and your constituents lives better. You are not there to keep America divided.