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Hardy L. Brown

Blacks See Police Abuse & Justice Differently than Whites

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If the shooting and killing of Oscar Grant by a White police officer of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Agency while he was laying face down with his hand on his back was not enough for police abuse, I wasn't surprised that an all- White jury only found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter. In other words, the officer was not guilty of murder even though Grant did not pose a threat to him. The officer said he was intending to pull his taser gun to subdue Grant, however other officers were holding Grant down at the time.

It is this kind of so-called accidental shooting or beating by White police officers of Blacks that reaffirms my belief that the way Blacks and Whites see police abuse and justice in America is different. We take the same evidence as presented and draw different conclusions over and over again.

There are many to draw from but let me remind you of a few: the O.J. Simpson verdict was seen differently by Blacks and Whites in America. In the Simpson case, Whites were mad at the jury for acquitting him even though the evidence was circumstantial and some police officers committed perjury. There were 9 Blacks, 2 Whites and 1 Hispanic on his criminal trial that found O.J. not guilty. Yet on his civil trial, it was made up of 9 Whites, 1 Hispanic, 1 Black and 1 mixed of Asian and Jamaican heritage, where they found O.J. guilty using the same circumstantial evidence. Many Blacks say now that O.J. is locked up in Las Vegas, Whites are satisfied.

We also witnessed the video of the Rodney King being beaten by four White police officers and we came to a different conclusion on what happened. Some of then-Mayor, Tom Bradley’s friends got mad at him for saying our eyes have seen the video and it is clear to us that abuse was evident. The officers were brought to trial and charged with using excessive force. The trial was moved to Simi Valley in predominantly White Ventura County where a jury of 10 Whites, 1 Hispanic and 1 Asian acquitted the officers of any wrong doing. A riot broke out afterwards in Los Angeles which resulted in 53 dead, 2,383 injured, 7,000 fires and $1 billion dollars in damage. Rodney put a stop to much of the violence with his now famous “Can we all get along” statement.

The horrific police shooting and killing of Tyisha Miller by four White police officers, this was also seen differently by Whites in Riverside than the Black community. Even when the District Attorney released diagrams of the shooting; showing that Tyisha was shot 12 times in the back while sitting unconscious in a locked car in a well lit parking lot at a service station, whites believed it was a justified shooting.

Russ Leach was hired as chief of the police department to bring trust and peace to the community after this incident. Progress between law enforcement and the community has moved gingerly together until recently. I say recently because the chief was caught driving under the influence and the department tried to sweep it under the rug. The way police officers and elected officials gave Leach special treatment has reopened wounds of mistrust from Blacks and Latinos in the community. It clearly demonstrates that Whites are treated differently than Blacks and Hispanics in our legal system.

In 1996, a movie called A Time to Kill was made starring Matthew McConaughey, Samuel Jackson and Sandra Bullock about a Black man who was on trial for killing two White men for raping his 10 year old daughter. Jackson was defended by McConaughey and Bullock. McConaughey realizing he was losing the case instructed the all-White jury to close their eyes as he walked them through this brutal act of two beer drinking men having their way with this little innocent girl. His last statement to them as he described this act was imagine that this girl was White. It was at that moment that the jury saw they would have killed the two men if it was their daughter. It brought tears into the eyes of many on the jury as McConaughey was bringing his summation to a close. They ruled that Jackson was not guilty of this violent act he committed. I know it was a movie but the lesson in it was people had to take a look at putting themselves in a Black father’s position of protecting his little girl.

During all of these abuse incidents and trials, people come together seeking ways to close the division between our law enforcement system: police, district attorney’s office, and court system and then we are once again reminded of this division when another police abuse incident happens.

There is still mistrust between people of color and the police department in every community throughout America because we see police abuse and justice differently than Whites.

Jerry Louder a Peacemaker

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Matthew 5:10 Blessed are the peacemakers for they are called the sons of God

When I got the news Sunday of Reverend Jerry Louder’s passing, I thought there goes a peacemaker. Ever since I have known Rev. Louder he has been a servant of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ always smiling, with words of encouragement and seeking to bring people together. Author Howard Clarke interprets the peacemaker verse in Matthew 5:10 as those who calm disputes in a community. Some other writers have interpreted peacemaker to mean if it takes doing violence to end a conflict then that is keeping the peace.

I like Jerry’s kind of peacemaking because when it is done there is no resentment left or conflicts to keep growing. Most people do not like peacemakers because it is not macho or confrontational but in the eyes of God, He calls them Sons of God according to the scriptures. Not bad to have peacemaker as your tag line.

I recall during the height of the police shooting and killing of Tyisha Miller, Jerry was always seeking to bring people together. He would meet with the clergy of all denominations to present his views of getting the people together. He would meet with the elected leaders to convince them to meet and seek common ground where others felt no common ground existed. His actions reminded me of Jesus standing between the stoners and the woman who had sinned. Jerry knew the Tyisha Miller Steering Committee had legitimate grievances against the police department from past treatment and that there were also good police officers in the department. He also knew that the elected officials wanted to find a solution to end the conflict but the trick was how to do that without looking like they threw the entire police department under the bus. Jerry pressed forward with his smile and jovial demeanor for the entire year without giving up on seeking peace for the community he loved.

As a husband he was faithful, loyal and very proud of his children and wife Phalia. Not many people could organize a large event in a short period of time and have a professional performer on the program like Phalia. You have to be a peacemaker in the home because she always enjoyed making him look good at all of their events. He was an example to all of us of what a marriage relationship should be.

The last time I spoke with Jerry, last year at the Riverside Convention Center, he was talking about his struggle with cancer. He had just gotten up from his sick bed and was on his way back the next day for chemo treatment.

We shared our faith in God and the power of Jesus to see us through these obstacles in life, while telling me of the other events he was planning. I liked that about Jerry, he never took the “pity on self road” that so many people go down when faced with his situation.

His smiling face and his voice has been silenced from us but his legacy of seeking peace in community conflicts will forever be remembered by every one who knew him.

Black Unemployment Rate a National Disgrace

Congress took a recess from working and failed to extend the unemployment benefits for the unemployed. This is the only income millions of Americans have coming into their house to put food on the table. It is bad news for this group with a national rate of 9.4% of unemployed people, but for Blacks it is 14.4% unemployed with no let up in sight. Michigan has the highest unemployment rate for Blacks at 22.5% and in California Black unemployment is at 15.3%. Now if 9.0% is called a recession what do you call it at 15.0% and holding? I call it a “National Disgrace.”

Congress should be ashamed to collect their $174,000 salary that these same unemployed people helped by paying taxes when they were working. The leadership of congress gets $193,000 per year no wonder they want to stay elected.

Rev. Marvin Yancy sings a song on Men of Gospel CD called “Heavy Load” with words that, God is going to lighting up the heavy load we are carrying; until He comes He is expecting our so-called Christian government leaders to pick up the slack by doing the right thing until He comes. The Black community has been carrying a heavy load for a long time. President Obama should issue an Executive Order to extend the unemployment benefits and let congress deal with it when they get back.

Loose Lips Sunk McChrystal's Ship

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This past Sunday Rev. Larry Campbell, pastor of St. Paul AME Church of San Bernardino preached from the book of James chapter 3 about our untamed tongue. He used as a subject “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” And of course one of his examples was General Stanley McChrystal who was relieved of his duty by President Barack Obama. While neither the scripture nor Pastor Campbell went into detail on why we do what we do, the tongue does do that to us from time to time. In the case of McChrystal, according to to published reports he and his staff were contacted by a writer of an article for corrections on the article before printing.

So it is clear to me that what McChrystal said about President Obama not being prepared or uneasy in the presence of military brass is truthful to the general.

I have listened to television and radio commentators talk about the incident trying to make sense of why McChrystal did or would do such a thing. Some agree, while others disagree with the general as well as him resigning or being fired. None of these commentators are Black which of course leaves me to draw my own conclusion as to why McChrystal said what he said and others scratching their heads as to why an intelligent and trained military man would do such a thing.

Verse 10 of James 3, gives us a clue as to the capabilities of the tongue with regards to praise and cursing from the same mouth. We as people are not like plants where if you plant a fig tree you will get figs. Paul in Romans 7:21, also gives us another way to look at humans when he wrote “when I want to do good, evil is always present.” We as a people want to do what is right but sometimes wrong wins and based on historical data of white and Black relations in America, evil won out.

General Stanley McChrystal’s action is rooted in a deeply held belief by many in America that a Black man has no rights or authority that they have to live by or take orders from, even as president of the United States. That was how seven of the nine members of the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case back in 1857. We still have many people who think that way today and McChrystal has not had to confront his deeply held position until he came face to face with Obama handing out the orders. There are many people in America like McChrystal and that is why the commentators are having a hard time trying to figure out why McChrystal would mess up his career over a stupid comment. Many people have had to come face to face with that situation not only in the military but in corporate America when the supervisor is of color.

McChrystal has studied the history of the military and he knows how Blacks were treated, first with not allowing us to carry guns and then not having White soldiers under the command of Black officers. I am sure he was taught at West Point how to follow orders especially from the Commander In Chief. But, like most people when you think you are in a safe zone with others who think like you, you will do and say what you really think. Even the reporter who wrote the story thought he had better let them review this before it goes to print. I’m sure the reporter was thinking I want to make sure I write what they said and capture the true meaning of what was said. By this time McChrystal was thinking the public would say I am right and join with me in belittling President Obama, after all he is a Black man who happened to get elected president.

But just like back in 1857 with the Dred Scott decision some people (believe it or not Republicans) were outraged and elected President Lincoln and he signed the “Emancipation Proclamation” that abolished slavery in America in 1863. That single act also gave birth to the KLAN and some racist politicians in the south joined the Democratic Party. These racially motivated politicians did not change political parties until President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act Bill. Then the racially motivated Southern Democrats rejoined the Republican Party where they reside today. It is safe to say that McChrystal was banking on them to join with him since they are pro military with a cowboy maverick mentality. However, since the story was done in public, in writing, for the world to see they could not stand behind him and lose our form of government. If they were to support him we would no longer have a civilian Commander in Chief but military controlled government.

So back to the pastor’s message that “Loose Lips Sink Ships” it is also true that what is in you will come out when confronted with the right circumstances. It is equally true that loose lips will not only sink ships but will also get you fired by the president of the United States.

 

California Utilities Must Do More

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The Greenlining Institute of San Francisco released its annual Supplier Diversity Report of private utility companies in California regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission. This report gives out letter grades to companies like a school report card given in public schools to students, from A to double FF. Then in the comment section they make notes on improvements needed or improvements from the last reporting period. It is a great way to keep companies on their toes if they care about their image or if they are serious about the management objectives set by law some twenty years ago. The companies agreed to award at least 15% of their procurement contracts to minority, women and disabled owned companies. Needless to say after 22 years all have fallen short but some are not even trying as identified by the report card.

The overall grade assigned to Verizon is an “A” along with AT&T, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas which is owned by Sempa. Receiving a “D” is Edison and PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric). Coming up with a "F" is Cox Communications and Sprint.

In the detail of the report it is broken down by the disadvantaged groups covered by law and the rule of General Order 156 enacted in 1988 by the California Public Utilities Commission. I am interested in the spending done with the African American group as outlined in the report.

Southern California Gas received an “A” for doing 5.7% business with the African American community; AT&T received a “B” for 5.1%; Verizon received a C for 3.9%; PG&E received a C for 3.7%; San Diego Gas & Electric a “D” for 2.1%; Sprint received a “D” for 2.1% and Edison a “F” for 1.8% which is lower than the last report.

None of them are at parity to what these groups spend in electric or gas payments or in phone bills or cable bills each and every year. Combined the so-called minority population in California is almost 60 percent, yet these companies spend less that 8% combined of rate payer monies with us and even less with African Americans.

Now it is not all their fault but the system of owning the right kind of business to do business with them can be improved by these companies. It starts with employment into the company and then beginning a company supplying the raw materials or services the company needs or uses. I remember the late Al Yzaguirre began his career as a meter reader with Edison and went on to open his electric business. He could not get the people at Edison to give him small contracts even though they were referring other ex-employees’ businesses. The same was true with Mike Darby who started his own business. In my opinion, Blacks and Hispanics who work for these companies are not afforded the same procurement opportunities when they leave or retire.

None of these utility companies produce lawyers yet they contract out for services. None of them own insurance companies yet they contract out with them. None of these companies own food companies yet they contract out for catering services. None of these companies own a public newspaper yet they advertise all the time. They contract with public relations and advertising agencies all the time yet they own none. I cite these services because I know we have some of these businesses in the Black community.

I can attest to Edison, PG&E and Verizon doing some positive things in the Black community and with Black media but it is nothing in comparison to what they spend in other communities. I can also add the Black Press has done some positive things for them such as presenting a positive image at hearings as well has putting on some worthy events for them to partner with, so the relationship is not one sided.

Now while these companies might, and I say might, purchase a table or two at your annual dinner it is nothing compared to the millions they spend at the country clubs or on fishing outings or business conferences with other groups. They have private booths at sporting arenas even sponsor propositions to convince voters to vote.

It is high time that these utility companies take the General Order 156 to heart and put forth every good faith effort to reach this goal of 15% before the public rises up and demands that the spending or procurement opportunities are in line with our population let alone what we spend with them.

They can begin immediately with doing more business with known businesses owned by African Americans.

If you want to read the full report click: http://www.greenlining.org/resources/pdfs/greenlining:st.supplierdiversity2010.pdf

Is Racial Discrimination Widespread in Jury Selection in California?

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I am asking this question because of an article I read in the Arizona Informant Newspaper published by the Campbell family of Phoenix quoting Bryan Stevenson from the “Equal Justice Initiative” on a study they completed stating that race was still a consideration in jury selection in several southern states where the study was done. He cited the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which involved equal protection under the law that Republicans initiated and passed. In that same year, the US vs. Cruishank case was brought before the Supreme Court where hundreds of Blacks were massacred by Whites. The court ruled the civil rights laws were unconstitutional because Blacks had no rights and threw out the case, thus none of the Whites involved served any time in jail. In that case it was an all White jury nine White male Supreme Court Justices, who decided the outcome of the trial. It was not until 1964 with the passing of the Civil Rights Act that we as Blacks got legal equal protection under the law. The same law that Rand Paul of Kentucky says he would like to take away again if elected to the United States Senate, in 2010.

Now we have the case of Oscar Grant, the young Black man shot in the back while lying on his stomach in hand cuffs by a White police officer in Oakland. They requested the case against the officer be moved to Los Angeles because they do not believe the White officer would get a fair shake in Oakland which is in Alameda County. There are 187,802 or 12.9% Blacks in the county and 108,121 or 29.8% in the city of Oakland. In Los Angeles County we have 867,971 or 8.8% Blacks with 370,718 or 9.9% residing in LA City. When you combine the two counties together that is over 1 million Black people. This case is the first of its kind in California where a police officer is being charged with murder. The officer said he was reaching for his tazer or stun gun but accidentally pulled his revolver and shot Oscar. The attorneys have made their selection of people to sit on the jury with the judge’s approval and not one is Black or Latino. I refuse to believe they could not find one Black out of a million to sit on the jury.

The trial of this case has just begun so no one knows what the verdict will be but the handwriting is on the wall that he will be found not guilty.

The other reason for the question is my wife received a call Friday from a local law school graduate regarding a bad experience he was having in the Riverside court. This is typical treatment for Blacks in Riverside’s court system. One court building was moved from a community with a high concentration of Blacks and Hispanics into a middle class White community even though the people using the court were Black and Hispanic. Several years ago we did a few stories on court cases where Blacks were purposely excluded from performing their civic duty. I have heard of similar complaints in San Bernardino County.

There are some interesting reasons to deny Blacks from jury selection the study found. Things like “low intelligence”, “wears eye glasses”, “walked in a certain way”, “dyed their hair”, and countless other reasons. They also found that some district attorney’s offices explicitly train prosecutors to exclude racial minorities from jury service and how to mask racial bias to avoid a finding of discrimination.

I am reminded through my former work in Affirmation Action that even though the rule, policy or procedure has the appearance of a neutral application but always has a negative outcome it is still discrimination in most instances.

We have a new opportunity in Riverside to remove any practices of this kind with the election of a new District Attorney. Judge Paul Zellerbach will be assuming his new duties soon and we should meet with him to assure that none of these practices are in the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

We want a district attorney who will tell any law enforcement officer “do your job and bring us the evidence to support your case.” We want a district attorney that will tell his staff “do your home work on every case because we do not want to convict anyone by using a racially biased jury.” We want a district attorney that will represent the law and all citizens of the county regardless of race, gender, religion, status or political affiliation when it comes to jury selection.

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