Black and Blue: The All-Too-Often Toxic Relationship Between Communities of Color and Law Enforcement

Twenty-five years ago, Director Spike Lee released the film "Do the Right Thing" which illustrated with startling realism the racial tensions and uneasy relationship between police and the communities of color in Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood. The film's message about the need to alter the fraught relationship between communities of color and law enforcement has assumed renewed importance with the events surrounding the tragic killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson this summer.

One clear message that emerges is that the decision by the St. Louis County Grand Jury not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for that killing cannot be the final word in the discussion about the all-too-often toxic relationship between communities of color and law enforcement.

As an initial matter, the Department of Justice can still conduct an exhaustive investigation about Brown's shooting as well as looking at the broader question of unfair repressive practices in the Ferguson Police Department as a whole. But even though the current focus on police practices was triggered by the Brown shooting, the events that occurred in its aftermath have demonstrated that the underlying problem is neither new nor limited to the shooting of Brown or to the city of Ferguson.

Similar concerns about the use of deadly force in communities of color have appeared throughout the country. The following list is long and by no means exhaustive.

In Staten Island, New York, Eric Garner died after being placed in an illegal choke hold while being arrested for selling loose cigarettes. John Crawford, an African American man, was shot while speaking on his cell phone and holding a toy gun in the toy aisle of a Walmart in Ohio – an open carry state. Milton Hall, a 49-year-old man with mental illness, was surrounded by eight police officers and a police dog and shot and killed in a hail of 46 shots, even though he was armed only with a pen knife and presented no immediate threat to anyone. Levar Jones was shot by a South Carolina State Trooper while reaching into his car to comply with an order to provide his license in a supposed investigation of a seat belt violation. In Oakland, a handcuffed Oscar Grant was shot and killed while laying face down in a Bart station. These and numerous other incidents suggest the existence of a broader systemic problem that demands investigation regardless of the ultimate outcome of the investigation of Officer Darren Wilson.

Spike Lee ended his landmark movie with a dedication to the families of black New Yorkers killed in incidents in which the specter of race loomed large.  Included in the list were Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Griffith, Arthur Miller, Edmund Perry, Yvonne Smallwood and Michael Stewart" all of whom except Michael Griffith died at the hands of police officers.

Although those names may be unfamiliar to a younger generation, they are a reminder of the persistence of a problem that existed long before Spike Lee's movie and, sadly, appears to continue unabated up to the present. Like all good movies, Lee's movie continues to speak to us in part because it is well-made, but unfortunately, it's timeliness is also due to the fact that the problems that it documented have not changed.

If there is a silver lining in the tragic cloud that has surrounded Ferguson, it is that it has prompted organizing and discussions about the larger issues of the improper use of force against communities of color, communities that ask nothing more than to be provided the same protection and appreciation of their humanity as is guaranteed by laws and the Constitution.

It would be sad if that momentum were brought to a halt by the lack of an indictment in Ferguson and we found ourselves, 25 years from now, substituting a whole new list of names from locations across the country, for the ones immortalized in Spike Lee's film.

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I suspect that early white American settlers would have invaded a white nation, conquered them, killed them, or put them on a reservation and/or enslaved them exactly as the native American Indians and African slaves. Also, I believe Americans opposing illegal immigration amnesty, also oppose all illegal immigrants, including English people into the US.
Everything in American history against the Indians, blacks, and Mexicans is not personal. Maybe it's luck of the draw who gets invaded, annihilated, or enslaved. Red and yellow, or white, some factions have had dominating ambitions since the first caveman. Simply stated, there are other reasons besides race or religion.
As relelated to the Ferguson, Missouri riots, rioters apparently reason that thug's privileges exceed the rights of society to enforce law, barring that no credible evidence which disputes the police account comes forward. We are witnesssing a sub-culture, which accepts "anything goes" as a reasonable alternative to compliance, and acts unfairly brutalized when confronted with duly authorized force.
For whatever reason, it statistically follows a disproportionate segment of blacks, although whites and others are not immune. We can all choose to be bad, myself included.
This culture clash occasionally spills over into violence. It gets messy sometimes . I see the root cause as difference of opinion based on a combination of beliefs, needs, or end game.... while others simply label it race related. That thinking seems oversimplified and racist in itself.
It's only relationship to race is the free will of those who choose to act that way. Granted, there are situations where it is hard to control yourself, but try using them on the Judge and see how far that gets you.
It is normal to have ambitions, and ambitions often lead to disagreement, and disagreement leads to violence, and violence to force, and force to tragedy. And he who has the most force and duly constituted authority and support of the dominant culture usually wins.
And the unhappy losers wail and flail and cry foul, solicit sympathy, create unrest, and threaten violence, while trying to change the perception of the dominant force as being evil....
They may convert a few ,but also reinforce the reasoning of their social counterparts and reinforce greater polarization between the two interest groups.
Expanding outward,with regarding the illegal immigration issue, the native indian nations didn't let just anyone, including their own race from another tribe, uninvited enter their territory without restrictions. You got permission, invaded, or entered at your own risk. Culture-clash is often misdiagnosed for racism, usually intentionally, to trick believers minds to condemn their self- beliefs as irrational and impose guilt, thus weakening them... All in the name of thought control and behavior modification.
I don't want eternal strife either, but it is ridiculous to deny culture-clash as the root cause and cry racism instead.
They argue I am an immigrant too, and yes that is true. But I am also currently clinging to remain as part of the established dominant culture, and thus exercise my right to change the rules as is my personal best interest.
That is not to say others aren't welcome. But, request permission to enter, advance our knowledge, bring your skills, be entertaining, have something to offer besides getting on my nerves, learn the language, no weird religions, or unsightly dress, sucky music, no promoting communism...etc.
The history of earth is one of changing borders. Every time an invading force establishes new boundaries and establishes a new dominating culture, certain expectations of compliance are the spoils of war.
This is not to say that I resent others based on language or race. But I will say that clashing cultural differences are annoying. I hate rap music, I hate sagging, I hate excessive cussing, I hate salsa music, I am annoyed by constant jibberish I can't understand. I hate communism, I hate obnoxious religious culture Muslims, annoyed by Amish ,and I don't like the Muslims dress. I am a white skin, country life, love guns, etcetera and I need a little space and privacy.
My ancestors settled/invaded America because life in Europe sucked with overcrowding,and excessive government restrictions. So we expanded and invaded and occupied this territory. We didn't single out the Indian, could have been Spanish, Arabs , Asians, Africans,....pick one doesn't matter. And If we couldn't hold our borders today, then it would be up to our conquerors to set the cultural expectations. Don't just sneak in here and expect us all to be ok with it.
Also, note that white people have killed each other enough on a scale to de-bunk us as racist. Our cultural clash during the American revolutionary and American civil war demonstrate our motives as ones of conflicting interest, and over-shadow any other contrived reasoning.
Even American slavery was circumstancial that it targeted blacks. I am going on record here to say that I personally would never consider imprisoning another human for the purpose of a forced work animal, as I find the practice repulsive for personal gain. I got too much pride for that. But some people of all races, religions, and cultures, would stop at nothing to increase their wealth.
I believe it was availability, pricing, and safety to select primarily blacks for slavery. No doubt anyone who endorses slavery could give a damn if their stock was Asian, African, European or else as long as they performed their assigned tasks. A book named " White Cargo" supports this notion.
Analyzing and investigating history shows every race at some point enslaved others for labor purposes, including their own peoples. Furthermore, I believe we always have and will continue to work towards promoting our own perceived personal self interests, up to and including any expense to others. Sometimes it's greed and sometimes it's self preservation. I'm not promoting it, I'm just expressing my thoughts based on what I think I know.
I think we're all naturally self-serving to an extent, and it is only the lowest level that we allow ourself to stoop which defines who we are. Some are better than others.
I futher observe the less religion you have produces less guilt and makes you more suitable to adaptation...and justify anything...and is potentially dangerous, and permits you to pursue extreme ,illegal , or immoral avenues. We won't go there,
In ending, I'll predict that with the unilateral immigration executive action, it has empowered and emboldened a new movement, and that a new crop of Al Sharpton's and Jesse Jackson's of the Hispanic order will emerge and keep flames fanned with large hispanic groups, and bolder demands to pursue another agenda. I guess none of us should be surprised.

Vandy Hill

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Why is it that it is Officer Wilson and HIS Family that are in hiding? If the police were truly the cause of the trouble, wouldn't Officer Wilson be out in the open? And wouldn't Mr. Brown's family be the ones in fear?
Can you smart people at the ACLU explain that to me?


I lived in Bedford Stuyvesant, and I'm white. And the whole place was gang-riddled. In fact there was a case about it on national television and that's all I'm going to say about it.
You don't live lone when you say too much in that place. I hated it there. And they treated every last citizen like they were in gangs even when they weren't, b/c stupid is just the way Big Brother rolls.


It does little good to enact more laws making racial profiling illegal. Police will still to continue to target anyone who even "LOOKS" black hoping that their Next of Kin won't have the education or ability to sue. It's as if "shoot first, hope that their next of kin isn't a lawyer, later" is the mentality. It's the reason that even though time and time again it's been proven that whites have more "contraband" and actually do more drugs and sell more drugs, white people aren't pulled over by police and harassed and searched "just because they're white" because white skin doesn't fit the "profile" that they've learned in Police Academy ever since Operation Pipeline in the 80's. When I say that the 70's were the last decent decade to be alive - I mean it's because in the 80's all of THIS started.

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