One morning last week, a frightening dream awoke me at 5:30 a.m. In the dream, a tremendously accomplished white man was speaking to a group of black boys regarding successful living. I was sitting in the back of the room. Looking around, I realized that none of the boys were giving attention to the presentation. I stopped the speaker and went into a rant about these boys missing an opportunity to prepare for successful living. I woke up in the midst of that rant. I was relieved to realize this was a dream, but I know well that this is reality for too many black Americans.
My contention is that much of what plagues black Americans as a group by way of high rates of crime, unemployment, poverty, incarceration and so on is our failure to take anywhere near full advantage of the opportunities that are available to us. I am convinced that this bypassing of opportunities is rooted in feelings of hopelessness and because too many black Americans see themselves as victims. The contributing factors to this bypassing of opportunities show through in the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. In what follows I share some thoughts on the Ferguson events giving insight to the “why and how” of this bypassing of opportunities. Please visit the website below to read a summary of those events.
Now to some contributing factors.
People of influence who feed the hopelessness and victim mentality. Attorney General Eric Holder goes to Ferguson and talks about being stopped by a police officer because he (Holder) was black. Apparently, his aim was to identify with those who are black and share the pain of their perceived mistreatment by white police officers. This validates their victim status. After the grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, Holder presses on with an investigation intended to determine whether Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights. That is, shot him simply because he was black. Even though lawyer after lawyer has said the facts do not support such a claim, the Attorney General is pressing on. The message received has to be one of Holder looking out for victims of white police brutality toward blacks. More confirmation of the victim status.
Then President Obama joins the conversation and focuses only on police departments and officers as the sole cause of the distrust that exists among black Americans toward police officers. The action to correct this situation is put squarely on police departments. In an article about Ferguson titled “Obama Speaks” Matt Berman quotes the President:
“’The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates,” Obama said, highlighting the need for criminal justice reform. “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America.”’
The message to black Americans is you contribute nothing to causing the tension between your communities and police departments … you are just victims. With that victim mentality comes hopelessness.
Disregarding facts. The facts of this case have been presented, but many people simply refuse to consider them. Case in point is that Michael Brown is on video manhandling and robbing a store clerk minutes before confronting Darren Wilson. The Brown family attorneys argue that this incident has nothing to do with what happened between Brown and Wilson. How can it be that what he did in that store does not show him as capable of attacking a police officer?
Further, reports indicate that Brown had enough marijuana in his system that it could make him act as Wilson and other witnesses testified. That is, charging Wilson after initially leaving the officer’s vehicle. One source is an article by Barbara Hollingsworth at CNSNews.Com titled “Evidence Michael Brown was High on Pot and Carrying a Bag of It.” This is a long segment, but extremely relevant.
“Michael Brown had THC, a behavior-altering substance found in marijuana, in his system when he was killed on Aug. 9, by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, according to a toxicology report performed at a St. Louis University lab. The toxicology screen, which was done on Aug. 10, found ‘12 nanograms/ML of Delta-9-THC’ the primary psychoactive ingredient in pot, in Brown’s bloodstream at the time of his death. This amount of Delta-9-THC in Brown’s blood was more than twice the amount that in Washington State — where marijuana is legal — would allow someone to be arrested for driving under the influence. ‘Delta-9-THC detection in the blood defines impairment,’ according to the report. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) ‘seriously impairs judgment and motor coordination,’ according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).’”
Add to this the forensic evidence that Michael Brown did attack Wilson in the officer’s vehicle. All disregarded by so many people who offer no plausible explanation for refusing to accept the reasonable conclusions from this evidence.
Disregarding facts allows one to go on seeing him or herself as a victim.
Media bias. Bias is defined as “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.” Without doubt, most media in America is biased in favor of promoting black Americans as victims. Consider how Sunny Hostin, a CNN reporter, handled an interview with Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden. Hostin asked if the mother believed her son attacked Darren Wilson. The mother’s response was, “No.” Remember what I just said about the forensic evidence of an attack. More importantly, Hostin did not ask if the mother believed her son attacked and robbed a store clerk or if she believed he had marijuana in his system. The answer to both would have to be “yes” and that would not fit the biased argument Hostin wanted to make which promotes the victim status of black Americans.
Hostin is not alone. This kind of stuff pervades mainstream media.
Operating with too little information. Maybe because of the rush of life, some people act on far too little information. Sadly, there are those who take advantage of this information deficit. Clearly, many people across this nation believe that a prosecutor’s job is to simply seek to convict those suspected of committing a crime. Consequently, there was this outcry for the District Attorney handling the Darren Wilson case to get him to a jury trial. People verbally attacked him for presenting all available evidence to the grand jury and not just evidence that might result in an indictment. Against that backdrop, consider this statement from the General Standards of the American Bar Association regarding duties of a prosecutor:
“The prosecutor is an administrator of justice, an advocate, and an officer of the court; the prosecutor must exercise sound discretion in the performance of his or her functions. The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.”
So, people were and still are calling for Darren Wilson to face a jury. Not being able to get what operating on too little information leads them to believe should be the outcome produces frustration and anger. It also adds to the feelings of hopelessness and being a victim.
Failing to begin with the end in mind. Franklin Covey developed “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Habit 2 is “Begin with the end in mind.” Would somebody please explain what President Obama, Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, the parents of Michael Brown, the mainstream media, protesters, looters and everybody else of like mind are trying to accomplish regarding Ferguson and the rest of America. I heard one black man who was in the middle of the protesting and looting back in August say, “We want them to give us jobs.” Who is “them?” Might it be those small business owners in Ferguson who were put out of business because of the protesting and looting? Might it be those merchants whose businesses were blocked on black Friday? A lawyer for Brown’s parents said the parents want all police officers to wear cameras. Will cameras stop black males from committing crimes and cause more of them to stay in school, build strong families, take care of children, respect authority and take advantage of opportunities? I doubt it. As best I can tell, from the White House to every part of America, there is just a lot of flailing going on and black Americans are the primary losers followed closely by the rest of what has been a great country. That flailing does nothing but promote hopelessness and a victim mentality among black Americans.
A vapor of accountability. Republican Party staffer Elizabeth Lauten posted comments that strongly criticized President Obama’s daughters for what she viewed as inappropriate dress and demeanor at the recent turkey pardoning ceremony. Within days, because of public outrage, she resigned from her post as communications director for U.S. Rep. Steve Fincher, Republican-Tennessee. On Nov. 24, following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, Louis Head, Michael Brown’s stepfather, loudly called on a crowd to burn Ferguson down. All I can find is that he is being investigated. Meanwhile, his wife and others are defending him by saying he was angry. Lauten is harshly punished immediately while Head is the subject of an investigation that I expect will go absolutely nowhere. Even though I think Lauten was punished unfairly, her calling to account was immediate. That is not the case with Head. I will be surprised if he is ever held accountable for his actions. Now that it seems every event adversely affecting a black American is blamed on racism, holding black Americans accountable is a vapor … it seems present but disappears quickly.
Against this backdrop, I invite readers to track how many looters, in spite of all the video, are brought to justice. I was just watching an interview of Mumtaz Lalani who operated a business for 25 years in that looted and burned area of Ferguson. His business was looted three times since Aug. 9. One event was on Aug. 17. There was video of the looters and his employees identified some of them for the police. Asked if anything had been done by way of holding the guilty accountable, his answer was “No.” Lalani also commented that he had expected the National Guard to be present and protect his business last week, but it did not happen. Accountability is just a vapor.
Again, the message to black Americans is that you are victims who need to be understood. I wonder what message is received by those business owners who were looted and some burned out.
Two Closing Thoughts: What I have presented shows a sad condition among black Americans; however, the process of creating hopelessness and promoting a victim mentality wins votes for those who claim to help alleviate pain in the black community. “Claim” is the important word. Second, the terrifying fact is that hopelessness is spreading to non-blacks. Abounding hopelessness is a formula for the collapse of a nation.
Photo: Michael Brown