My cousin Donald, of whom I thought, was cooler than Cool Whip was a cop in NYC following his stint in the Marines, Second Div, during WW 2. Sometime during the early fifties I was visiting with him and he told me a story about his job. One item still sticks in my memory today was when he took a machete bare handed away from a guy in Bedford Stuyvesant, which was one of the lesser neighborhoods in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Bed-Stuy as it was called was a very poor neighborhood of predominantly black people and day in and day out, Donald the cop would go to work in what may have been the “armpit of Brooklyn”. Like every dirt poor group of Americans from the Irish, Italian, Jewish, you name it, crime and grit were rampant. This is what Donald saw day in and day out and as one would expect it helped form his opinion of the current group of poor Americans that he would see on the job. The fact of the matter, as having seen not much else of black Americans, as in those days there was not a lot of intermingling of the races, he was essentially became a racist as a result of his having the Bed-Stuy view as his only window on blacks. My guess is he would have hated the Irish if his job took him daily to Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan and home of the notorious “Westies” gang.
I bring this up as it can relate to today’s face off with police officers who work in poor black neighborhoods. Like all dirt poor urban ghettos, no matter what race or ethnicity, crime was and is rampant. Chicago stands out among them. There are two issues with policing these neighborhoods today, one of which is and statistically speaking one can find racists in every occupation and every color. The second issue is one of fear. Now despite Obama’s pronouncement without having any facts on the shooting of Philando Castile by the Hispanic cop, pronounced this racism. This of course only further inflames and it has the current divisions in America.
In the Castile case, he was shot several times and not just once. In the video, which his girlfriend shot as he lay dying from bleeding out, you hear the cop in a very agitated voice trying to explain his actions to the girlfriend. Now in my humble opine based on how many shots and the agitated cop as depicted in the video, this was not “racism” per se: He was scared shitless!
So the question that must be asked was “why was this officer so afraid that it affected his judgment?” There can be many answers from being unprepared for his job due to insufficient training? He may have been unstable to begin with and should not have been hired? He may not have been required to “walk the beat” in the hood and get to know the folks who lived there other than the bad apples? In any event, while he may not have been a “racist” in the pure sense, there may have been factors that made him so fearful of black people that he simply “lost it” and over reacted.
Now let’s not be afraid to look at all of the reasons and let’s consider what my cousin Donald had viewed as his daily interaction with the poorest of the poor and worst criminal elements in the shit hole he had to police which led him to become a racist. First one has to admit that like every group of Americans that have started out poor and living hard, there is crime and different attitudes to the essentially middle class cops who patrol those streets. Today there is a close parity between blacks and the rest of America in upward mobility and joining the middle class or above. Thus black Americans like every other group have grown into the fabric of America in virtually all aspects. The problem and the violence lay in those communities where many have not left poverty or the violence poverty breeds.
Until the politicians stop pandering for votes and throwing money at all the wrong places as well as pushing all the wrong issues simply for votes nothing will change. Let’s take gun control, which nothing may happen with other than a few tweaks as in reality only a few tweaks are required. Tweaks such as banning folks on a no fly or watch list, providing they are not restricted unduly as they are now from getting off these arbitrary lists as well as disallowing the mentally ill from owning guns as well. The reason why Democrats always go to gun control is that not only is at a Republican issue re the 2nd Amendment and thus can “set up the Republican straw man”, but it is also a faceless issue, as they are arguing about guns and not the real and harder issues on the ground.
It is all too convenient to pick out statistically low incidents of shootings by cops and not the high incidences of shootings by blacks of blacks in Chicago. That my friend is a much bigger problem to solve and until we try and bring opportunity and real education into the poorest neighborhoods there is no solution. This means Charter schools or any other effective means necessary to educate the kids so they have a chance at life outside of the hood. It would mean infrastructure investment, tax credits to companies willing to build, hire and train those living there in order to help the residents lift themselves up from poverty. No successful person is interested in killing another person. It is only a kid on a corner with no hope in life other than slinging dope who will kill.
The bottom line is that we have a problem in the poor black neighborhoods and unless everybody from government, to businesses and the people who live there do the things that can provide hope and a share in the American dream rather than the American handout, which has not worked since the sixties, we are doomed for more of same.
If we do not fix this then cops will enter these neighborhoods in fear or simply fail to police with vigor when major denial such as in Baltimore by an inept administration causes them to retrench.