This is that time in America. This is that time in America when we stand around and ask "why would 'they' burn down 'their' community?" This is that time in America when we simultaneously act as if the precipitating event or parallel history are neither relevant nor worthy of addressing. Yesterday, yesteryear really did happen.
This is that time in America when we get on Facebook on a Monday and list a rap sheet as a mitigating factor for violating someone's constitutional right to live, much less a trial by his peers, and then on Tuesday post how we are a "Christian nation" and how the president has shredded the Constitution that you love so much. If the hypocrisy and myopia weren't so staggering, it would be comical. This is that time in America when the Constitution be damned, the phrases "he deserved it," "he had it coming" "he was a... (wait for it) 'thug'" are supposed stronger arguments than actual law. This is that time in America when (once again) what someone did last week or last year is more important than what someone did today to kill you.
This is that time in America when seemingly every unarmed person killed by law enforcement is found guilty of murdering himself without a trial and the same people also have the unmitigated gall to also say the officers are innocent until proven guilty... without even blinking.
This is once again, that time in America.
This is that time in America when people attempt to use Dr. King against African-Americans -- pulling out their single quote known on non-violent protest. Yet, they also manage to miss the ones related specifically to riots. How that keeps happening, I'm not exactly sure. I am sure that Dr. King would have called that "conscientious stupidity."
"A riot is the language of the unheard."
-- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
-- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is that time in America where once again, we wish to be both tremendously ignorant while also "sincere" in our concern for Baltimore, foregoing the fuss and inconvenience of addressing the root issues.
This is that time in America when pundits will trot out statistics about how more white men have died at the hands of police than black men. It is the continuance of that willful ignorance, in an attempt to render moot the specifics of the problem and deny the specious nature of their own argument. This has NEVER been about aggregate numbers or statistics, but the specific CASES; cases involving unarmed men, women and children.
Men, women and children.
It's always been about the false police reports which have been filed, as in the Walter Scott shooting. The details have ALWAYS mattered. I've yet to see the story about the 12-year-old child playing with a toy in a park in his own neighborhood being gunned down on sight who looked opposite of Tamir Rice. When you find it, please forward it to me.
I've yet to see the story of the guy who "committed suicide" by shooting himself in the chest while his hands were handcuffed behind his back after being searched twice as was alleged with Victor White in Louisiana. From the falsified medical examiner report to the official police report and statements, the details have always mattered. When you find the comparable story of someone of opposite ethnicity from Victor White, please forward it to me. Never in the history of the world have I ever heard such a Houdini story of suicide while handcuffed.
I've yet to see reverse versions of Oscar Grant and Eric Harris where they were "accidentally" shot and killed due to mistaking guns for tasers. Grant was doing nothing more than riding the BART. I had no idea people who looked opposite of Grant and Harris were suffering the same. Please send me those stories. This has never been about aggregate numbers of people dying, but instead a system which would allow a 73-year-old man buy his way on to a Tulsa police force with inadequate training and no certification for his .357 magnum prior to "accidentally" shooting a man in his back. If this is going to be that time in America where we devolve into the use of misleading stats to bolster an inaccurate and false conclusion, let me go on record as not being fooled, right now. This isn't about raw numbers, but real names.
This is that time in America that would-be presidential candidates like Donald Trump take blatantly racialized "thug" shots at the president regarding the riots in Baltimore while proclaiming we live in a post-racial America.
Our great African American President hasn't exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!
-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015
The rest of the actual and soon-to-be Republican presidential hopefuls either ask "why" African-Americans are loathe to vote Republican or simply insinuate we're not smart enough to know better. There's no plank in any platform to address the specificity of these issues, only the generalities of "Hillary's emails" and "anti-gay marriage stances."
But I digress...
Were they "thugs" too when 8,000 Ohio State fans burst into the Horseshoe, tore down the goal posts, set fires and had tear gas used on them in January? Is "thugs" about behavior or something more sinister? I guess when you vandalize and burn because of a game, or destroy a ski lodge, you're a "reveler" but for something more serious like murder, in an "urban" setting, you're a "thug" and the president is responsible... simply because he's the same race.
Hey I didn't say it, Donald did.
If that's what it is, then call it for what it is. It's BS.
This is that time in America when pundits like Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post bend over backwards to "apologize" for the Hands Up Don't Shoot movement because in his eyes, it was built on a "lie."
This is the time when I have to metaphorically slap some sense into Capehart and others and explain the obvious. Ferguson didn't burn "because" of Michael Brown any more than Elin left Tiger "because" of his car accident. Los Angeles didn't burn "because" of Rodney King, it was the last straw which happened to be named "Rodney King."
When I reached out to Capehart for clarity on his comments surrounding Ferguson and the unfolding events in Baltimore, he offered the following:
Message received, Jonathan. You are a class act. I'll do this without you... again. Go ahead and sit this one out and take your nap.
After years of documented racial profiling, prior to the federal civil rights inquiry, only a simpleton or someone with grade-school level reasoning would reduce Ferguson to a single person in a single police stop or indict the whole of the surrounding movement, ever. Dithering is not the new black.
To say that Hands Up Don't Shoot was built on a "lie" is to say that police officers protecting and serving in the community is built on a "lie" because of the Rampart scandal, Michael Slager or any other numerous and documented acts of criminal police misconduct. Capehart and others must be intellectually honest, despite how much it pains them to not kowtow and be embraced by the majority community.
To that end, I have yet to read an apology from an active member of the police community for any killing, at any time for any reason. This is that time in America when once again, African-Americans are expected to play by rules not followed by others while also having the original issues ignored.
Hands Up Don't Shoot may have been born as a slogan in and around the time of Michael Brown, but was never solely about or chiefly connected to him. It's been decades in the making. To suggest so, is to say Kahreem Tribble getting hit in the face with a gun by police (on video) while surrendering with hands up is also part of that "lie." I reject that notion as does documented history.
If you asked Los Angelenos, they would tell you about Latasha Harlins, Eula Love, Ron Settles and a host of others which put the metaphorical match in the hand of the jurors of the LAPD/Rodney King criminal trial.
If you asked the people of Baltimore, they would tell you among other things, about the 5.7 million dollars in settlements paid out by the Baltimore PD since 2011. That's just the past FOUR years. This is that time in America where even though the Internet has been invented and Google stock shares are at an all-time high, as a nation we have still opted for the sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Wait, you MUST click this link. See the pictures and the inhumanity which led to these settlements. Cities don't pay out because of police officers staying within bounds of the law, and especially not $5.7 million worth.
This is that time in America when we attempt to dismiss the uncomfortable truths regarding riots.
The resignation of Daryl Gates, widely and deservedly blamed for the out of control LAPD came as a result of the '92 civil unrest. The Christopher Commission, which revamped the department and improved community relations, came as a result of Los Angeles burning. No amount of protest or negotiation prior to that moment accomplished anything close. I'm not condoning what happened, just explaining what did, why it did and the change it brought forth. That is the uncomfortable truth about riots, they force an immediate redress of issues. The federal DOJ inquiry into Ferguson, the subsequent resignation of police chief Thomas Jackson and overhaul of the department only happens because of the threats and realization of violence not in absence of them. This is the language to which Dr. King was referring; as uncomfortable as it may be to hear it.
The Harlem Riot of 1964 stemmed from the killing of 15-year-old James Powell by a police lieutenant Thomas Gilligan. Gilligan alleged that Powell lunged at him with a knife. Gilligan was later cleared by a grand jury. The Harlem riot served as a precursor to riots in Philadelphia, Rochester, Chicago, Jersey City, Paterson and Elizabeth, NJ.
The Watts Riots of August 11-17, 1965 centered around the refusal to allow African-Americans to live in certain quadrants of the city through unofficial segregation and illegal housing practices.
The Detroit Riot of 1967 spanned July 23 -- July 27 1967 in response to a police raid on a supposed unlicensed after-hours establishment. The aftermath resulted in a dramatic increase in minority hiring throughout the city.
The Fair Housing Act was first introduced in the House of Representatives shortly thereafter January 7, 1967. Although Dr. King may have been the voice of the Civil Rights Movement and used the language of non-violence, America had time and time again responded to the language of the riots.
Nonetheless, the bill languished in the House for months.
The Newark Race Riots took place July 12 -- July 17 after the beating death of cab driver John Smith by police. Allegedly Smith "illegally passed" the officers in their squad car. Witnesses say that they saw Smith being dragged by officers, already incapacitated (dead) into custody.
Simultaneous to Newark, the Plainfield riots took place in nearby Plainfield, just 18 miles from Newark.
The House of Representatives not-so-coincidentally passed the bill days later on August 16th, where it then sat for another 8 months, waiting to pass the Senate. The Senate would sit on the bill until March 12, 1968. During that time America was largely violence-free.
Dr. King was assassinated April 4, 1968, where upon the cities of Washington D.C., Baltimore, Louisville, Kansas City, Wilmington, DE and Chicago most notably descended into riots.
One week after riots enveloped the nation after the murder of Dr. King, President Johnson immediately signed the Fair Housing Act/Civil Rights Act of 1968 in to law. It wasn't the life of Dr. King which hastened this move; it was his DEATH and the riots which followed. It once again was the language of heretofore unheard, speaking loudly and unmistakably.
The rioters in Baltimore can't express this frustration and anger in the way I can here. This is why I'm here.
This is that time in America when we will continue to opt for sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity while history repeats itself. This is that time in America when we again will use the riot to condemn the people and culture of the afflicted but not to address the pain prior to the onset of violence. This is that time again when riots are used to denigrate black people as a whole and kick around as a political football.
The Hands Up Don't Shoot movement is tremendously flawed in many ways and illogical and unproductive in much of its methodology. I have never agreed with the strategy, but that in no way delegitimizes the struggle. It is a "lie" to suggest that its relevancy was ever in part or irrevocably tied to or born from Michael Brown and shameful to suggest or write in our public discourse (looking at you Johnny).
It is as much tied to Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Walter Scott and those who died similarly in generations before. This isn't about gross statistics, but gross negligence in how our communities are policed. The victims' pasts (criminal or otherwise) mitigate the justice they deserved only as much as the sexual history of rape victims mitigates the justice deserved after having been raped.
As in... not at all.
Freddie Gray had his spine snapped for "running," and by all video, police and witness accounts, there was no struggle or crime committed on the part of Gray. But this is that time in America where we get on FB and argue he was unfit to see a courtroom.
This is not about pizzas, wedding cakes or a business promising in the future to deny service, Jonathan Capehart. That was the bigger lie, Religious Freedom Acts in Indiana and beyond are of greater civil rights consequence than why Baltimore and Ferguson burned. That has been the more injurious and deceitful lie. One which Capehart felt no need to apologize to mass America.
This is the fight for justice, not outrage over hypothetical wedding and pizza parties yet to occur. John Crawford and dozens of others no longer with us were real, not abstract rhetorical legal challenges. We watched Walter Scott, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice die right before our eyes. I am not going to put pizza sales on the same rung of importance as others have and surely won't apologize for it after the fact.
Capehart should remember that distinction the next time he feels the need to apologize for a movement on any level or "mistakes" in terms of his own piss-poor commentary. His mistakes are not that of the community, he speaks not for us and are unrelated to the overarching issue of justice.
But back to riots...
Nonetheless in 2015, there is an enforcement provision for engaging in unlawful conduct as a means of social protest. Be it rioting or peaceful in nature, if you break the law, you will be prosecuted and imprisoned.
The same can't be said about law enforcement killing certain unarmed members of certain communities.
This is again that time in America someone always argues that African-Americans "need" to start protesting "black on black" crime. 1) it's not true and 2), there is no such thing. Crime is crime. Crime in urban areas does not have a racialized component, only that of opportunity. Black criminals are not specifically seeking out other black people to victimize. Crime happens in crime-ridden neighborhoods, irrespective of the color of its inhabitants. Poor victimize those within their reach... other poor people. The difference is, if the perpetrator is caught, he will be prosecuted and jailed. The same isn't true in terms of unlawful deaths at the hands of police... video or not.
But once and for all... as to "black on black" crime. This is again that time in America I need to post these same links.
Stop the lies.
Justice is not for some people on some occasions who live in some communities who are deemed of some importance. Freddie Gray had as much of a right to life as the unborn fetus so politicized for decades. Remember that the next time you wish to lecture African-Americans about abortion in our communities but are mum on police brutality, health care and affordable education.(Looking at you, GOP presidential field and Right-to-Lifers). Riots always...always pushed America back to where it must look itself in the mirror.
This is that time in America when we must stop apologizing for standing on the side of justice all of the time for everyone.
This is that time in America when we must once and for all stop willfully engaging in sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Or... we can revisit this in regard to another city six months from now. The history is clear. The language of the unheard is harsh and of few words. The cost of not listening has been demonstrably worse.
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is host of The Mo'Kelly Show on KFI AM640. The Mo'Kelly Report is a syndicated politics and entertainment journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and all commentary is welcome.