Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Because I want to, I can and I am

Many years ago, I as Black man  would have been limited in what I could aspire to do, what I could say and where I could go.  Because of racism and prejudice, there would have been barriers keeping me from doing the simple things I wanted to do. In the past there were blatant separate systems established to funnel me in directions and facilities where others had decided (without my vote) I belonged.  I would have had to go to certain restaurants to eat a meal and specific rest rooms (if even available) meant for people like me.

Thanks to the sacrifices and efforts of many, some who will never be recognized, I now have the ability to try to do and go wherever I want.  I don't take that ability lightly.  I try to honor those who came before me through aggressive and confident actions on my part when I interact with those who even now attempt to place barriers before African Americans.  I want them to see, hear and feel the confidence that now exists in African Americans.  The hateful ignorant words of others are just a feather I can blow away. Whatever they can do I can do.  Fear is not an option.

Freedom to do as you want is very refreshing.  The ability to say whatever you want is thrilling.  Not all I say or write is politically correct.  That is on purpose.  Just having the freedom to express a thoughtful view is exhilarating.  Considering that those African Americans who came before me often could not express their true views without fear of some form of retaliation.  That retaliation sometimes would cost them their lives.

So now when I am asked why I express myself verbally, in writing or through actions, my answer is simple.  Because I want to, I can, and I am.  In honor of those whose sacrifices paved the way for me to do so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reflections on Ferguson, Missouri Police Shooting

A writer writes.

On August 9th I was in St. Louis, Missouri to attend the college graduation ceremony of a college student I hired to work in Human Resources three years ago.  The ceremony was at 10 a.m. at UMSL, (the University of Missouri Saint Louis).  The college campus is several miles south of Ferguson, Missouri.  I did not watch the local Saint Louis news anytime that evening.  So, it was not until I returned home to Indianapolis, Indiana did I hear about the deadly events in Ferguson.

I've waited to hear all of the facts, but that information may not come out for weeks.  Some information of course has been revealed or leaked on purpose.  Apparently the young man was shot at least six times, with two of those shots being to his head.  Apparently the young man was also unarmed.  There has been some mention of a struggle having occurred in or near the policeman's car.  My thoughts were did this policeman call for backup after any alleged struggle?  What would warrant the policeman to shoot an unarmed person six times?  Who instigated and elevated the encounter into a deadly encounter?  At this point I'm thinking that when the facts are revealed, a series of errors will be revealed to have occurred on both sides.  The incident and death of the young man likely could have been avoided if better on the spot decisions were made on both sides.  Lessons learned the hard way.

I do expect adult police to make decisions that will prevent a loss of life.  I do believe the burden falls on the police, who are carrying weapons that can kill someone, to make decisions that result in peaceful outcomes, not quick decisions to end someone's life because it is the easiest answer and less time consuming.

What this event does do is bring on more lack of trust in police by the African American community.  I for one have never had trust in the police.  That is based on images I saw on television over the past 50 some years of police misconduct against African Americans.  The antics of the Los Angeles, California police force in the 1990s are a prime example.  The misbehavior of police in the southern states of these United States of America in the 1960s is a secondary example.  I still recall on national television news in the 1970s the video of an African American man on a rooftop building being killed by a barrage of gunfire, in an obvious overkill method that seemed to be trying to make a point.

So, I have no trust in local law enforcement to protect me. On the other hand, I believe they would be more inclined to violate my rights as a human being if given the opportunity.  I see any encounter with a a member of the police as being a survival event.  One thing I know is that I will not let someone shoot me just because they think they have the right or authority to do so.  Peaceful resolution is the first recourse, then comes self survival.

We wait for the facts to come out regarding the deadly force killing in Ferguson, Missouri.  We can only hope that the events can clearly be explained.  The errors made.  The lessons learned.  From this event must come a change.  A change in police tactics and techniques.  A change in how "suspects" respond to accusers.  Now we wait.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Movies Reflecting Diversity?

A writer writes!

I recently peaked at what  movies are currently playing at local theaters.  Not surprisingly few featured minorities in starring roles.  As a matter of fact few featured minority actors period.  That is not surprising as those who produce films want to produce films that appeal to non minorities.  The film industry is of course about making money, not about writing stories that show diversity.

I do wonder if a non slave or non civil rights related film would appeal to non minority audiences? Also, if you replaced Caucasian actors and actresses in today's popular films with minority actors and actresses would the films still be popular and make money?  Well, it is the story and the performances that makes the movie correct, not the color of the actors, right?
It is true that minorities long to see movies which feature minority actors.  Speaking from experience it is nice to see that your existence is recognized in the movies.  If you the reader are a Caucasian, how would you feel if you had to watch movies that only featured minority actors?  

In the 1960s prior to blacksploitation films being produced, there were very few films made with prominent roles for Black actors.  Those that were released usually featured the same Black actor. Here we are some 50 years later and not a whole lot has changed.
Movies sometime reflect the image we want to see of the world around us.  You sometimes wonder why some films rarely feature minority actors, especially if the films are supposed to reflect today's diverse society.  I especially feel bad when I see movies made to appeal to families with kids, that do not feature minority actors.  The kids have to notice that there is no one in the movie who looks like them.  Come on producers....show a little more diversity in your films.  Even if you don't mean it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

NBA Basketball - Indiana Pacers 180 degrees

A writer writes!

The Indiana Pacers were the surprise story of the early part of the 2013-2014 NBA basketball season.  A record setting winning streak to start the season.  Paul George being touted as a potential MVP candidate.  But, the young squad of starters were not fully prepared to handle the winning environment.  Once Paul George appeared on a late night television show, you could sense things would shortly start unraveling.  The players were being intoxicated by the notoriety they were getting.  They seemed to forget that they had not yet won an NBA championship.  Winning in the regular season doesn't equate automatically to an NBA championship.

And unravel it did.  After the all star break the Pacers were little more than an average team.  GM Larry Bird sent away Danny Granger and a popular sub.  In return he obtained a center with bad knees and Evan Turner who wasn't the player Bird thought he would be in the Indiana system.  Lance Stephenson departed to Charlotte via agency when the Pacers did not want to give Lance the deal he wanted.  Time will tell whether that was a good or bad Pacer decision.

Now Paul George is injured and likely out for the entire 2014-15 season.  Does this open the door for the Pacers to become a lottery team and get an athletic player via the draft to go along with Paul George when he returns?  If George does come back at the same level he was when injured, the horrific injury could turn into a painful way to get the super talented young sidekick needed to replace Lance Stephenson.

I haven't heard anyone openly questioning the player decisions made by Larry Bird over the past year. None of Larry's moves have panned out into improving the team.  Larry spoke about bringing the core of the team back for 2014-2015. Instead the season will start with the top 2 scorers not being on the team.  Yeah, it's possible that Roy Hibbert and George Hill could be working hard this summer.  That hard work in a dream situation could translate to both those players averaging 20 points per game to make up for the loss of Lance Stephenson and Paul George.  Even with that, the Pacers bench still needs to be better than it was last year.

Hey, the NBA has professional players on all the teams right?  There is no need to panic.  The remaining Pacer players will all band together and win enough games to qualify for the playoffs.  Then falter in the first round.  If that's the case, why go through all the effort to miss out on qualifying to draft an impact college player?  Come January 1, 2015 we will have half an answer on what kind of year will the Pacers have while waiting for Paul George to return.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Another Meaning to "I Will Always Get Out of My Car" - Slogan Honors Officer Killed in Line of Duty

A writer writes!

An Indianapolis Police Department officer was killed last month in the line of duty.  Allegedly a family member of the alleged shooter stated that the officer would not have been killed if the police officer had stayed in his police car.  That response prompted a rally cry of "I will always get out of my car" from the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).  That slogan was printed on the back of T shirts initially being sold by the FOP honoring the fallen officer.

It is understandable that police would react in the manner they have.  Plus it is understandable for the public at large to rally around a fallen officer.  The public only sees that someone sworn to protect them was slain for no reason.

The public is missing another meaning to the slogan "I will always get our of my car".  It's a meaning that the public at large would not know about, unless they were past victims of police misconduct. African American/Black men have long been recipients of the "I will always get out of my car" mentality when it comes to police at times harassing Black Men for no reason than because they can.   Whether it's a white police officer stopping a Black man for "DWB" driving while black to an instance where a white police officer gets out of their car to apply a choke hold to an unarmed Black man resulting in the Black man's death.  In the book "An Actor and a Gentleman" by academy award winning actor Lou Gossett, Mr. Gossett recalls the day in 1968 when Los Angeles, California policemen stopped him, and left him handcuffed to a tree for three hours.  His crime was driving a fancy convertible car in  an area where it was not typical to see a Black man driving such a car.

Historically, whether it was the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles by police, or the instance in the 1970s where Indianapolis Police were involved in the "suicide" death of a young Black man while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car, white police officers have always taken the opportunity to get out of their car.  All those instances of police getting out of their car did not result in honorable behavior towards Black men.  There were instances where white police officers harassed Black men and sometimes falsely arrested Black men, because they could.

The slogan, "I will always get out of my car" therefore has a different meaning to some.  To some who have been harassed, it means police think they have the right to violate, harass, and demean someone based on their authority.  To some it means police have the right to wrongly profile someone as a criminal because of that policeman's personal views of Black people.  To some it means police have the right to shoot a Black man because the police feels threatened based on their personal fears and thoughts.

Police officers have the right to get out of their car and be respectful in the conduct of their duties. Police do not have the right to harass Black men for the sport of it.

Black people understand that police have the right to get out of their car.  We just want you to pause and understand that some police  have not gotten out of their cars and approached us in a respectful manner when all we were doing is driving our car.  We understand your emotional reaction to the loss of your brother in arms.  We just want you to take time to think about the people you are policing and the experiences they have with the police.  Maybe you should print another edition of your shirts.  "I will Always Get out of My car and Be respectful".

Congressional Republicans to Sue the President??

A writer writes!

Just when you think Congress is coming to its senses, they do something stupid.  Recently rather than focus on developing programs and legislation to push the country forward, Republicans gathered together to decide to spend effort and money to sue President Obama for abusing his authority.

Past Presidents have been sued before with the suits dismissed due to lack of standing.  How a law suit will lead to development of options to address various problems is something I have yet to figure out.  Yes, it is harder to engage in discussions with those representing the President to develop compromise solutions to issues.  Apparently House Republicans want to "win,win" and fully impose their views upon the public.

Politics may have once been an honorable institution.  The past decade does not reflect that the political system is improving.  Maybe as the Presidential election years approach we will see more substantive results from Congress.  In the meantime Congress, drop the lawsuit strategy.  You're embarrassing yourselves and the country.