July 2 marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The legislation is considered a landmark piece of civil rights legislation in the United States which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
We sure have picked some crummy ways of commemoration.
By now, you know about the tension in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. The uproar over the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown — a black teenager — by Darren Wilson — a white police officer — on Aug. 9. The majority of police in Ferguson are white, while the majority of residents are black. As you might guess, racial motives are being thrown around non-stop. It doesn't help when there are two wildly differing accounts of the incident with one supported mainly by the police department.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, a relatively short distance away in St. Louis proper, a mentally disturbed 25-year-old Kajieme Powell was shot and killed by two police officers. As you may have guessed, the victim was black; the police officers were white. Again, major discrepancies occur between a video recording of the incident and a statement from the city chief of police.
Fly across the country more than a month ago to July 1 and Los Angeles, Calif., where a 51-year-old woman — Renee Pinnock — was videotaped being pummelled by California Highway Patrolman Daniel Andrew. Andrew is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and was walking onto a freeway where she would be a danger to herself and others. Rather than simply restraining her, Andrew pinned her down, straddling her body as he punched her in the face three times, supposedly for her own good. Again, police officer is white, while the punching bag is black.
Now I'm going to do something no one else has done; I'm taking out the race card.
In each of the three cases, the officers felt they — or others — were threatened. In each case, there is video taken of the incident that both collaborates and disputes the policemen's stories.
Whether or not race played into each of the incidents is less important than this: In each case, the police officers involved used excessive force. In the case of Brown, the victim was unarmed. While Powell had a knife, the officers had ample opportunity to diffuse the situation, but started the encounter belligerent and sent it spiraling out of control. Pinnock was not only unarmed, but hardly in the physical condition to cause a police officer any harm whatsoever.
Yes, the case can certainly be made each incident was racially involved. However, the real problem was inappropriate use of force by the law officers involved.
Finding the blame is important, but is lethal force necessary to find the truth?