Saturday, December 20, 2014

A little reality . . . . .

"One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic."  -  Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin (1878 - 1953), for those unfamiliar,  ruled the Union of Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1929 until his death.  He was an alley of the US during WWII and help move the USSR from a peasant farming society into an industrial / military power.   Stalin is also responsible for the death of 20 to 62 million Russian's during his rule.  Stalin ruled by fear.  Russian citizens did not speak out against Stalin or his policies for fear of being imprisoned in the "gulag". 

Statutes of Stalin were built throughout Russia and even today, sixty plus years since his death, his image is carried during the May Day Parade and many in Russia (and particularly his home state of Georgia) view him as a "hero".    But the 5' 4" Stalin was directly responsible for killing more then Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot or Josip Tito.  In truth, Stalin is behind only Mao for his murderous ways (Mao is "credited" with killing more then 60 million).  

Clearly, Stalin was not a "good guy".  He did transform the Russian military and economy but he also killed millions and enslaved millions more.  But if he actually spoke the words above as he has been quoted, he was sadly correct. 

Witness the uprising from Ferguson (MO) around the death of Michael Brown at the hands of Police Officer Darren Wilson.  The media has shared over and over the images of protesters carrying signs that read, "Black Lives Matter" but do the protestors really believe that? 

The truth is that black people are being killed in America but if you think the "cops", "pigs", "the man" (whatever we wish to call it) are the problem you are sadly mistaken.  That does not mean any death is acceptable but it means things ought to be put into context.  Think of it like this: we all get drive on public roads in cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and so on everyday knowing that a very real risk of harm exist.  Yet we engage in this because of the risk assessment we have made.  What is the real risk assessment for Black Americans?  Do they, as a group, have a higher rate of homicide in America and if so what group is the greatest threat to them?  The answer can be found by looking at the last ten years of data from the Uniform Crime Report (Federal Bureau of Investigation).  What does this data tell us? 

'04 total homicides in America; 14,121 of that 6, 632 were black Americans (46.9%). There were 15,935 known homicide perpetrators in '04 and of that 5,608 were black Americas (35.2%).

'05 total homicides in America; 14,860 of that 7,125 were black Americans (47.9%). There were 17,029 known homicide perpetrators in '05 and of that 6,379 were black Americas (37.6%).

'06 total homicides in America; 14,990 of that 6,843 were black Americans (49.5%). There were 17,399 known homicide perpetrators in '06 and of that 6,843 were black Americas (39.3%).

'07 total homicides in America; 14,831 of that 7,316 were black Americans (49.3%). There were 17,040 known homicide perpetrators in '07 and of that 6,463 were black Americas (37.9%).

'08 total homicides in America; 14,180 of that 6,782 were black Americans (47.8%). There were 16,277 known homicide perpetrators in '08 and of that 5,943 were black Americas (36.5%).

'09 total homicides in America; 13,636 of that 6,556 were black Americans (48%). There were 15,760 known homicide perpetrators in '09 and of that 5,890 were black Americas (37.4%).

'10 total homicides in America; 12,996 of that 6,470 were black Americans (49.7%). There were 15,094 known homicide perpetrators in '10 and of that 5,770 were black Americas (38.2%).

'11 total homicides in America; 12,664 of that 6,329 were black Americans (49.9%). There were 14,548 known homicide perpetrators in '11 and of that 5,488 were black Americas (37.7%).

'12 total homicides in America; 12,765 of that 6454 were black Americans (50.5%). There were 14,851 known homicide perpetrators in '12 and of that 5,531 were black Americas (37.9%).

'13 total homicides in America; 12,253 of that 5,375 were black Americans (51%). There were 14,132 known homicide perpetrators in '13 and of that 5,375 were black Americas (38%).

Total homicides in America from '04 - '13: 137,296. Total black homicide victims '04 - '13; 67,346 (49%).

Total known homicide offenders '04 - '13: 158,065. Total known black homicide offenders '04 - '13; 59,270 (37.9%)

Although just an overview several things stand out (1) Blacks in America account for 13% of the population but as a community they account for 49% of all homicide victims from '04 - '13. Let that sink in. A cohort that makes up 13% of our entire population actually accounts for 49% of all people murdered in America are black!  If that isn't a "WTF" statistic, I don't know what is.  (2) Although Blacks account for only 13% of population as a community they account for 37.9% of all known homicide offenders. Again, let that sink in. Once more a cohort that accounts for just 13% of our entire population accounts for 37.9% of all known offenders or a rate of 2.91 higher then the actual percentage of the population that cohort accounts for (also consider that this percentage and rate could only go higher if all offenders were known).  Again, another "WTF" statistic that nobody seems to want to address or discuss even though we are told "Black Lives Matter". 

I believe part of the problem, if you look at the numbers, is that homicides (and all violent crime) have gone down in America but as you can clearly see they have not gone down` within the black community. I believe this is where a big part of the problem comes from; people are dying and they are dying at a greater rate then any other ethnicity. That's a real, serious, unforgivable and I would argue unaddressed problem. So I think some of the anger about Michael Brown's killing in directed, in general, at the horrific rate of murder within the black community. I also believe that it can be addressed - quickly.

Addressing this should begin first with Mothers and Fathers. Next extended family. Then the Church and Community. Only if this becomes an individual priority for people to look in the mirror themselves will this change. It isn't impossible but it isn't easy. More importantly, IMO, Michael Brown's killing, while tragic, isn't a opportunity to demand changes from the system unless first changes are demanded from individual community members and from one another. If we are really to live the principals of "my brother's keeper", now is the time and if Michael Brown's death provides the catalyst then he did not die in vain. If after all the rhetoric, rioting, protesting and so on all that occurs is a "systematic change" for the police, courts and so on without the greater community demanding changes then American as a community will have failed our children again.  Think about it we are now nineteen years past the "Million Man March" (Oct 16, 1995) when Black Leaders called on Black men to address the economic and social issues harming the Black community.  Imagine that one year before Michael Brown was born millions gathered either in person or in spirit to "transform" the Black community. 

Think about how children will be impacted if parents don't embrace positive changes. Better yet, its fair to ask if Mr. Brown was from a positive environment where those around him largely supported positive choices? Well, I can't say anything prior to 9 August when the entire world learned Mr. Brown's name but since that time we know that many of those close to him have not acted in a manner that would be consistent with Michael learning positive values that keep him and the community safe.

After the decision of the Grand Jury was read Michael's stepfather, wearing a t-shirt that said, "I am Mike Brown" was caught on video tape repeatedly screaming; "burn this s**t down" and "if I get up there I am going to start a riot".  Did he actually feel that way? Sure - at that moment. Does he actually feel that way? He says no and I have no choice but to take him at is word. The Attorney for the family (Mr. Crump) has said it's not appropriate to judge him for this because he is human and was acting on emotion. OK. But isn't it a fair question to ask if "acting on emotion" and in a criminal manner is "common" for those that surrounded Michael prior to his death?

In truth the step-father hasn't been alone in behaving in an inappropriate manner and the fact that this language / behavior isn't being addressed is extremely concerning as I believe it will be a catalyst for even more caustic behavior in the future.

Consider, what if the threats to "burn the city" or "murder Mr. Wilson" continue. Are there not enough people who are weak enough to actually attempt or honestly follow out on those threats? We know that as of today 36 business have been either looted, damage or burned. We know that at least two police cars have been burned and another three damaged. So clearly, someone is getting the message to "burn the city".

I have been following this closely and have been amazed that the Brown Family and those close to them have sent such conflicting messages. Let me first say that I have found nothing contradictory about Michael's father and honestly feel his words and actions have been a terrific example. But, I digress, fair or not - some have judged this behavior and made the assumption that because of it there exist a confirmation that Michael Brown must have been a "thug".

Think about the raps published by Mr. Brown. I get it that cussing, talking about drugs, guns, killing and gangs are part of the music but isn't it also true that if you surround yourself with negative images you invite negativity into your heart? I understand that this is an unfair judgment but it's also a judgment that people make everyday about others at work, with family and with friends.

Think about the fact that two months ago Leslie McSpadden, the uncle of Mr. Brown willingly published a song on YouTube (Google (although I do use links a lot, I won't link to this video): "Leslie McSpadden Mike-Mike, the uncle of Michael Brown finally speaks and puts his emotions into a tribute song dedicated to his slain nephew r.i.p. Mike Mike #MB #Gang") where he rapped:

"Darren Wilson that's your a@@ you m***********g f*g"

"if we don't get justice we gonna fight you with a 9"

"if we don't get justice for my nephew Michael Brown, I put that s**t on Kaden we gonna burn the city down" (notice how its the same threat he stepfather made? Somebody has been saying / thinking / talking about this - folks don't just spontaneously bust out with; "burn this city down").

"Darren Wilson I don't know if you listen but I got a silencer so you can cancel Christmas, ketch you walking out the house wrap you like it's Christmas, b***h I am MB game you either with or you against, squash".

Is it fair to question how such negativity, if present when Michael Brown was alive, could have impacted his outlook of the world around him? I think the answer is no that it isn't fair but the truth is "the fair is in August" and life isn't fair and people make those judgments daily.

Think about the fact that, Mrs. McSpadden, Michael's Mother, is currently under investigation for a robbery and assault committed against Michael's Paternal Grandmother (Pearlie Gordon) and an uncle of Michael's. Apparently on or about 18 October at Red's BBQ in Ferguson (ironically enough the same Red's BBQ that was either burned, damaged or looted the other night during the riots), Mrs. McSpadden and several others assaulted Ms. Gordon and at least one other person who were selling "Justice for Mike" t-shirts. Mrs. McSpadden allegedly took 1,400.00 worth of merchandise and 500.00 cash before leaving. (Google the headline: "Police investigating assault & felony robbery following fight among Michael Brown`s family" by Chris Haynes). Again, people will (fair or not) look at this and question just what type of environment was Michael Brown raised. We all know this is true even if we don't admit it.

This was a tragic event but it is being made into something it isn't. The killing of Mr. Brown was not racially motivated nor is it a cause for "civil rights". There is a color involved but it isn't black or white but rather "GREEN". Which makes me wonder after the trips to Hollywood, Washington D.C., Atlanta, New York and of course the trip to the Hague when is Michael Brown getting a headstone? According to CNN (Google the headline; "In the shadow of the storm called Ferguson, a quiet grave" by Moni Basu 19 November) Mr. Brown remains in an unmarked grave some 90 days after his death. But . . . . it's all about remembering "Mike" and "Justice for Mike" or "Hands up, Don't shoot" or . . . . something. Who knows. Maybe it really is about "burning the city down".

See, I know I am being judgmental and in some ways maybe even "mean". But the truth is we need to start being honest with one another. Parents need to follow the old Michael Jackson song and take a long hard look at "the man in the mirror". Leaders need to honestly start asking if they are putting the community first or if it's the next election that matters. We as a community need to honestly ask why we can't just simply find a common ground. It's not that hard - honestly.

But it will NEVER be done when the opine is "black men being killed by cops", "unarmed teenager (who just assaulted a store clerk and who the Grand Jury believed assaulted a police officer)" or "the system". If the black community wants change . . . . . first; clean up your own house before you ask others to clean up. Secondly, realize that black men are killing other black men at a rate higher then any other group in America and if this isn't addressed it will be self inflicted genocide. Nobody is telling black men to harm one another except other black men. Until this is addressed stop trying to sell the ruse of "oh, the cops" as it rings hallow. It's like addressing a symptom only to be killed by the disease. Again, I know this sounds judgmental and maybe even mean but guess what . . . it's also true. 
Like Stalin said . . . "a single death is a tragedy; one million a statistic".  We are being asked to examine and change our judicial system and for each individual Americans to take a good look in their heart and change any ill feelings they may harbor against the Black community.  I am in favor of both but I know unless the Black community begins to address the very real issues within the Black community changing the judicial system or asking people to examine their own hearts will have little impact.  I actually believe if this is what occurs it will have a negative impact in the future.  If the underlying issues are not addressed and changed and the rate of crime continues at some point in time you reach a "tipping point" where people who have been asked to change and examine the social / judicial structures throw up there hands and no longer participate. 

Admit it or not we are a far less racist society today then we were 40, 50, 60 or even . . . 19 year ago.  America has made great progress.  But today we are told "Black Lives Matter" after the death of Michael Brown.  Isn't that the same message spoke 19 years ago at the "Million Man March"?   I believe if things continue to be ignored the truth is that we will again have another "tragedy" in the near future.  The problem is that an individual tragedy is overshadowing the overwhelming and underlying true problem.   

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