A Few Bad Apples
“White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Wednesday that he doesn’t think systemic racism exists in the United States.
‘I don’t believe there is systemic racism in the U.S. I’m not going to go into a long riff on it,’ Kudlow, who is white, said when a reporter asked about the country’s black unemployment rate. Kudlow spoke to reporters at the White House following an interview on CNBC’s ‘The Exchange.’
The existence of systemic racism in the United States has been widely acknowledged by experts and academics, as well as by lawmakers and corporate leaders.
Kudlow’s comments Wednesday came as protests against systemic racism and police brutality have filled U.S. cities of all sizes in recent weeks following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Kudlow, in trying to push back against the existence of systemic racism, touted efforts by the Trump administration on criminal justice reform and historically low unemployment figures for black and Hispanic workers last year.
Asked again by a reporter whether he believes there is systemic racism ‘at all’ in the U.S., Kudlow said, ‘I do not.’
Kudlow said he believes the ‘harm comes when you have some very bad apples’ in law enforcement, and he condemned Floyd’s death.
‘And I think everyone in this country agrees with me,’ he said.” (Stankiewicz, 2020)
As I watched the outpouring of support for George Floyd from white Americans and other ethnic groups, I applauded, but it wasn’t the most heinous example of police brutality resulting in death that I had seen. I don’t say that to minimize George Floyd or the terrible manner in which he died. However, as African Americans we have seen too many black men shot execution-style, even in the back, as was the case with Walter Scott and now Jacob Blake.
In this chapter, I plan to further dismantle the fallacy that racism in America’s system of policing does not exist. Earlier I quoted a Forbes article that spoke about the police experience of Black Americans and the different experiences of white Americans. The quote said that the extent of the different experiences “goes to the heart of the question of whether all Americans feel that they are part of a single nation rather than living in separate communities divided by color and subject to differing rights and burdens.” (Sullum, 2016)
There is a different America that white Americans experience, especially with the police. Comments made by Mr. Kudlow and the president about a “few bad apples” serve only to widen the divide between blacks and whites in America. They fuel dismissive attitudes that divert attention away from what is becoming a national crisis for black Americans.
An August 2019 study entitled “Risk of being killed by police use-of-force in the U.S. by age, race/ethnicity, and sex”(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences https://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1821204116) highlights the disparity between deaths by the police between black and whites.
“We estimate that over the life course, at levels of risk similar to those observed between 2013 and 2018, about 52 (90 percent uncertainty interval) of every 100,000 men and boys in the United States will be killed by police use of force over the life course, and about 3 of every 100,000 women and girls will be killed by police over the life course. Figure 2 displays the ratio of lifetime risk for each racial/ethnic group relative to white risk for both men and women. Note that a rate ratio of one indicates equality in mortality risk relative to whites. The highest levels of inequality in mortality risk are experienced by Black men. Black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police over the life course than are white men. Black women are about 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than are white women… Among all groups, Black men and boys face the highest lifetime risk of being killed by police. Our models predict that about 1 in 1,000 Black men and boys will be killed by police over the life course (96 per 100,000).” (Frank Edwards, 2019)
The Washington Post’s own “comprehensive examination of police shootings showed that black Americans account for just 13 percent of the population but one-fourth of shooting victims. Among unarmed victims, the disparity was even greater: More than one-third of those fatally shot were black.”
Here is an account that made national news but did not garner the attention of some other high-profile deaths. In this account, an armed man was experiencing a bout with mental illness. He hadn’t taken his medication. He was clearly unarmed because he was completely naked.
“DECATUR, GA - A former Georgia police officer convicted of aggravated assault and other crimes in the fatal shooting of an unarmed, naked man was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison.
Robert ‘Chip’ Olsen was responding to a call of a naked man behaving erratically at an Atlanta-area apartment complex in March 2015 when he killed 26-year-old Anthony Hill, a black Air Force veteran who'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD.
Olsen, who is white, was convicted of one count of aggravated assault, two counts of violating his oath of office and one count of making a false statement. Jurors acquitted him on two counts of felony murder.
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson sentenced Olsen to a total of 20 years, with 12 years to serve in prison, followed by eight years of probation.” (Brumback, 2019)
This next account is one of the most disturbing accounts I have ever seen. A mental health professional, Charles Kinsey, is trying to help his autistic patient because someone has called the police, and his patient is carrying an object that could be misconstrued as a weapon. Kinsey is concerned that his patient may die because he was not complying with the police officers’ instructions. He was incapable of understanding them. (Fieldstadt, 2016)
The police officers have all taken protective positions behind telephone poles and cars and have their weapons out, aimed and ready to fire. Then something unbelievable happens; one of the officers shoots his assault rifle, but not at the patient. He shoots it at the black unarmed mental health professional who is lying on the ground, on his back, with his hands fully extended in the air.
Something in this police officer’s experience caused him to consider the unarmed black man a greater threat than the non-black man who is sitting up with an object in his hand and not complying. It is interesting to hear that one of the policemen described the patient as “white.” Kingsley’s blackness was considered a greater threat while lying on his back, complying with instructions, with hands outstretched in the air and while yelling that he and his patient were unarmed.
The SWAT officer who shot Kinsey said that he was trying to save him from the threat of the patient and “missed.” Yet Kinsey, who was shot in the leg, was left handcuffed and bleeding on the ground “for 20 minutes” until the paramedics arrived. (Fieldstadt, 2016)
“A North Miami police officer who shot an unarmed caregiver of a man with severe autism in 2016 was found guilty of a misdemeanor Monday.
Officer Jonathan Aledda was found not guilty on two felony counts of attempted manslaughter, but the jury found him guilty on one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence, according to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
Aledda shot behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey in the leg — even after the therapist laid down on the ground, threw his hands in the air and tried to explain to officers that he and the man he was caring for were unarmed...
The state attorney said the guilty verdict showed that the shooting was not an accident, but a crime.
‘Since July 18, 2016, our community has been traumatized by North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda’s shooting of mental health therapist Charles Kinsey. Tonight, a jury decided that the shooting was not an error or an accident but the crime of culpable negligence,’ Rundle said in a statement.
Kinsey was assisting Arnaldo Rios-Soto, who had wandered from MacTown Panther Group Homes, when police responded to a 911 call about a suicidal man with a gun. Rios-Soto was unarmed but clutching a silver toy truck.
The moments leading up to the shooting were captured on a cellphone video that went viral and sparked widespread outrage as an apparent example of excessive police force against an unarmed black man…
Kinsey, who said he was handcuffed and left on the road for 20 minutes until paramedics arrived, is suing the city…
The incident also led to calls for police to receive better training in dealing with people who have mental disabilities. During the incident, officers pegged Rios-Soto to the ground, handcuffed him and detained him in a police car for nearly four hours, his lawyer said at the time.
‘Police should take an active role and visit group homes, schools and community centers in their cities and towns and meet their residents who live with significant disabilities so they are never perceived as threats by just merely existing,’ Rios-Soto's attorney, Matthew Dietz, told NBC News Tuesday.” (Fieldstadt, 2016)
The following are local incidents involving excessive but non-lethal force:
In this video, an officer continues to manhandle an 11-year-old, black, 6th grader even after school officials say his use of force is excessive. The girl wants to go home, and the school officials say that she can’t leave. She decides to walk around school officials and exit the building to wait for her mom to pick her up. The school calls the police for assistance.
What happens next follows the pattern that I have previously outlined as a typical police response when a person doesn’t comply with their instructions. The officer gets so caught up in the girl’s failure to listen to him that he forgets that she is unarmed, a child, and female.
(NBC New York, 2019)
Since the onset of COVID-19, I have seen many videos of white people becoming belligerent when asked to wear a mask. In this video, a black woman became belligerent when asked at a Walmart to wear a mask. She is asked to leave and doesn’t. A black cop who doubles as a Walmart security guard attempts to cuff her. As she resists, he lifts her almost shoulder-high off the ground and bodyslams her, face first. This was striking to me. It was as if the narrative on how to treat black people who are resisting even transcends dealing with someone of your own race.
Video: https://rebrand.ly/Bodyslammed (TomoNews US, 2020)
My purpose in sharing these stories is not to bash the police, nor to characterize all police as racist with an agenda that targets black people. My point in this chapter, even this book, is to show that racism is a problem, and it’s a problem in our system of policing. However, I don’t think the biggest problem with racism lies in the systemic, disproportionate use of force and/or violence by the police against black people. I think the greatest manifestation of racism is evident in those who can look at all the facts and still say that it doesn’t exist.
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