Sunday, March 22, 2015
"A lot of good has come of the Ferguson protests, not the least of which is the Justice Department's report, which documented widespread, institutionalized racial bias in the Ferguson, Missouri police operation" so said Gabriel Arana in a recent column for the Huffington Post discussing journalist Johnathan Capehart's admission that "hands up, don't shoot" were a sham.
What "good" has come out of the protest? How many buildings / businesses have been destroyed? How has this impacted the residents of Ferguson's shopping needs? How have the property values been impacted? What has the impact been on home owners or auto insurance rates?
If the "good" is that people are now "aware" - really? People, most people anyhow, already knew that bigotry existed. The trouble is that in the case of Ferguson there was no bigotry regarding the case of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. The entire narrative of "hands up, don't shoot" was false. People were hoodwinked, bamboozled into buying a narrative that turned out to be a lie. That narrative polarized our nation. Those that wanted to "wait" and see what an investigation showed were called racist.
Regarding the Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division (DOJ-CRD) (DOJ report) let's review it and have a national conversation, please. But let's be honest and open about everything.
First, let's turn the DOJ-CRD report over to qualified statisticians at an appropriate University that does criminal justice research. Is the report real? I have read all 105 pages of the report and do not believe that it would hold up to a true Chi Square analysis (mostly because it doesn't contain enough data to actually do one). The report does not contain any statistical data sets and bases everything off of the concept of "disparate impact". There is no argument that tickets issued were invalid only that more black residents were given tickets as opposed to other residents.
The fact is, simply saying that 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations, and 93 percent of arrests are of black residents does not prove racism. The reality is that the DOJ's own Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2011 Police-Public Contact Survey (BJS-PPCS) shows that nationally, blacks were 31 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over for a traffic stop. Because the population of Ferguson is 67% black this would mean that black motorist in Ferguson should comprise 87.5% of all traffic stops and the DOJ report puts the number lower. While some will say the 31% shows "racism" by itself what they need to know is that the BJS-PPCS report also shows that 42% of all of those stops are of women and not black males. Further the DOJ-CRD report fails to mention the age of the population in Ferguson and that many of the non-black community members are beyond what most consider the typical age of criminal behavior (i.e. above 40 years of age).
The DOJ-CRD report does not provide a matrix for what crimes were committed or why arrest were made nor does it show what the conviction rates are. The trouble with this is that (1) the DOJ had these records and decided not to share them, why? (2) The DOJ-CRD report offers no comparable rates for comparable crimes committed by white (or non-black) offenders. As such the "statistics" are nothing more than an unsupported statement.
The DOJ-CRD report further asserts that the court / police set up a "revenue generating operation" with tickets and fines. The trouble here is that such a system is common in many communities and particularly in communities with a low (mil) tax base. I worked in and around the the Cities of Flint, Detroit, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor and Port Huron for years and know that the same ticket, fine system is in place. In truth the City of Washington D.C., where the DOJ is located, has one of the most punitive systems in the nation and they are, like Ferguson, a black majority city but unlike Ferguson the City leadership is majority black. Google the case of Megan Johnson, a D.C. resident, who lost her vehicle after ten unpaid parking tickets. Her fines were doubled, vehicle confiscated and sold at auction and then her tax refund confiscated to pay the excess amount.
If all of that isn't enough to raise serious questions regarding the legitimacy of the DOJ-CDR report the final issue, IMO, is the that State of Missouri AG Office has published a Racial Disparity Index for the last 15 years. That report (with index and matrix) is available online and in truth the rate of disparity has fallen in Ferguson for the last three years. Further, the adjoining communities within St. Louis County actually have a higher index rating than Ferguson (meaning more blacks are pulled over and ticketed). Is the DOJ-CDR report saying that the AG's report is wrong?
It's important to see what the actual crime rates rate is in Ferguson and the surrounding communities (St. Louis County). This information can be found at another part of the DOJ; Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Uniform Crime Report. Those numbers overwhelmingly show that arrest rates for blacks in St. Louis County are far higher than those of other ethnic groups. Further the rate of offender / victim (who is committing a crime against whom) is also far higher for black on black crime than other ethnic groups.
Racism is a very serious issue and a civil society should work to address the concerns. However claiming "racial disparity" and calling an entire department "racist" without quantifiable data is worse. It places a red letter of accusation on those allegedly committing the act without verifiable data and as such labels them "racist" without a reasonable accounting. For those that see this as a "good" what such things do is excuse the past behavior (tickets, arrest) as being only the result of racism when even the DOJ-CDR report does not allege this.
I believe the narrative of this report was completed in a vacuum. The DOJ wanted to find something to support a supposition regardless if they could prove it or not. In truth the seven, clearly bigoted, emails that they found were from four years ago. The legitimate questions then are; why did those emails stop? Was the culture of the department changing and was that change coincidental with the hiring of the Police Chief who has now resigned as he was hired three years ago? Was Officer Wilson part of that changing culture as he was also hired not long before the emails ended? Is it a coincident that the emails ended during the same time the MO State AG's Racial Disparity Index shows that Ferguson's numbers were falling (unlike several of the adjoining communities)?
Regarding Officer Wilson the reality is that the DOJ could find no evidence to suggest he committed a crime. Just as the State Grand Jury found. Just as the three autopsy reports found the physical evidence supported him. Yet, we are told that this event was the tipping point although we now known that the "hands up, don't shoot" narrative was completely false. How then are we being asked to buy into the narrative that a department shown by the MO State AG to have declining racial disparity numbers, with an apparent stoppage of bigoted behavior (emailed jokes) and with a newer Police Chief (who presided over the falling numbers) is racist. This simply defies linear logic.
Where is the media in being responsible and examining this report? While several newspapers have questioned the report as of this time not one (minus the New York Post) has openly said the report is either "fake" or "unverifiable". Why? This is important. We are seeing an entire community (Mayor, City Council, Court, Police) all being thrown under the bus and called "racist" without any real statistical evaluation of the data. Regardless of which side you are on this is inappropriate and must be questioned.
But it goes back to the sell of the narrative. We were all told about Mr. Brown just recently graduating HS and wanting to attend college. We were told about his family being destroyed by his death. Most folks waited with great concern to hear from Mr. Brown's mother and father and followed as they went to the Hague, presented themselves at events in Atlanta, Miami, New York and Washington D.C. As a father you can only imagine the heartbreak the family is feeling. But then the "narrative" is confronted with reality and you find:
(a) Mr. Head (Step-father) and Ms. McSpadden (Mother) are being investigated for assault / theft after allegedly beating and stealing (money and "I am Mike Brown" t-shirts) from Michael's fraternal grandmother last year? BTW; just how long do investigations take in Ferguson that an incident from Oct 18, 2014 is still under investigation?
(b) Michael's uncle (Leslie McSpadden) published the song "Mike, Mike" on YouTube before the grand jury decision was announced and clearly threatened to kill Mr. Wilson and burn Ferguson to the ground ("Darren Wilson I don't know if you listening, but I got a silencer so you can cancel Christmas, ketch you walk'in out the house and gift wrap you like it's Christmas", " "Darren Wilson you motherf-ing f(a)(g)", "If we don't get justice for my nephew Michael Brown, I put that sh(it) on Kaden we gonna burn this city down").
(c) Mr. Brown's step-father (Louis Head) the night the verdict was announced, "burn this (b)(i)tch down, burn this (b)(i)tch down".
(d) The day after two police officers were recently shot in Ferguson Leslie McSpadden tweets: "Woke up in a GREAT mood this morning :-) 2 cops shot in Ferguson last night. You ain't seen shit yet wait till summer". Understand this is "alleged" but after the threats issued in the Youtube song and the pending assault investigations it's not really a stretch.
(e) Mr. Brown's uncle Leslie Lavon McSpadden tweets the day after the police shooting; "IF my FAM woulda got JUSTICE in August maybe those two cops wouldn't have got shot LASTNIGHT. But if IF was a 5th we would all be drunk". Understand this is "alleged" but after the threats issued in the Youtube song and the pending assault investigations it's not really a stretch. It's uncomfortable to admit but reality tell one that it's reasonable to think, what really was the narrative and was it just a "sell" and if so why?
Regarding the shooting of the two police officers it was initially reported that Mr. Jeff Williams admitted responsibility. Then you start seeing that Jeff "Loc" Williams aka Jeff Dgaf Loc is a 20 yr old black male from St. Louis County. He is Facebook friends with Dorian Johnson and Piaget Crenshaw. Mr. Johnson was with Mr. Brown the morning of the theft from a liquor store in Ferguson and the subsequent shooting death of Mr. Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. Ms. Crenshaw was the witness that appeared on CNN and stated that Mr. Brown was shot by Officer Wilson while he was surrendering and that his (Mr. Brown) back was turned when Officer Wilson shot him. Both Mr. Johnson and Ms. Crenshaw were discredited by other witnesses and by the forensic evidence.
Mr. Williams shared the a video reenactment of the Brown / Wilson conflict on 15 January 2015 with the comment "F-d up". The video has been widely discredited based on the eyewitness testimony along with the physical evidence however websites like "alwayz turn up" have been sharing it.
Mr. Williams, like Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brown, had an affinity for Swisher Sweets cigarillos and on 23 January 2015 shared he desire to get high when he wrote; " Need swisher...cant sleep gas wat Ismoke". But smoking blunts wasn't Mr. Williams' only enjoyment as he wrote, "Codeine da. Only thing tht keep me away from da lies" on 28 Dec 14.
Mr. Williams also had no problem threatening violence or saying that losing his life was of no concern to him. On 2 January he wrote;"It's so easy to take somebody life.... Bt y'all #$%$ scared to bang....smh........ Gotta Have da best of both worlds" which proceeded "Stop making threats cuz I swere I hate living......#$%$. shut up or kill me" from 28 Dec 14.
Mr. Williams has uploaded several photos of himself (or others with him) throwing gang signs. In a post from 10 March 2011 he was given great advice by someone after uploading a photo of a gang sign by a user named Jessie Mooney that read: "Please dont tell me you are suppose to be in some type of game, Little man you dont know what road you are heading down Nephew. but i know you think you are grown up now, so it don't matter to you what i say. If you was smart you will not be putting these types of pic up on the net." So clearly Mr. Williams had people in his life trying to keep him from making bad decisions.
Mr. Williams also shared that he has a son (born in 2012). Although he shared numerous post about getting high, various rap lyrics and other things he shared only one photo of his son in 2012 and nothing since.
The point with all of this is (a) don't make your Facebook profile public. (b) don't post photos of yourself with drugs, making gang signs and so on for the entire public to see. (for those that don't know the term "Loc" is most often a reference to "Crips" and means; "Love Only Crips").
I am sure "protesters" will come out and say that Mr. Williams was not a part of what they are doing however just like his friends list how Mr. Johnson and Mr. Crenshaw it also shows several other folks who have been associated in the media with the "protest". So . . we will see.
I feel bad for Mr. Williams. He is a 20 year old guy with a child along with an apparent drug and gang problem. Not a wonderful start and to now add firing a weapon into a crown and hitting two people. Damn.
But after being arrested and getting an attorney Mr. Williams story changes and it becomes how he was "beat up" by the police. Maybe he was, no clue. But, I sure hope Mr. Williams lawyer goes to YouTube and views the video, "RAW: Protesters fight outside Ferguson Police Station" by user DMailorinliespir1978. The video is from 12 March 2015 and appears to show Mr. Williams getting into a fight with a much larger man and getting hit several times. Might this explain the "bruises"?
So once again it becomes rational to wonder, are we being sold another narrative? Honestly, when that question is asked (and given everything it should be) the real impact of the Ferguson protest has been to create a greater divide, to demand that black Americans commit to a particular narrative and if they don't they will be called names like Mr. Capehart was. Finally, white Americans, many anyhow, simply don't want to say anything because they don't want to be called a "racist". So, really, has any of this been "good". No, I don't believe so. Mr. Brown was killed and his family and friends will live with that loss. Mr. Wilson will never get his life back and will never work in his chosen career field. And you and I, mom and pop America are pushed further apart all because of a lie, "Hands up, don't shoot". It never happened yet the damage is real. Nice.