|Grand Central Station 5:33pm - protesters react to no indictment for Pantaleo|
Listening live to New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio's press conference in the aftermath of the failure of the Staten Island grand jury to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the choking death of Eric Garner, like many I was left marveling at the sheer magnitude of the dysfunction in our nation's justice system.
While a special grand jury comprised of 23 residents of Staten Island would not indict a cop for using an illegal choke hold that killed a man arrested for selling loose cigarettes, a different Staten Island grand jury did manage to indict Ramsey Ortiz on a shaky gun possession charge - Ortiz is the 22 year-old Hispanic man who filmed the now-famous video of police arresting and killing Eric Garner.
Think about that for a moment.
Since the founding of this country it's been painfully obvious to the nation and the world that not only does the US justice system target and treat people very differently depending on the race and ethnicity of the accused, but now, even in 2014, it's becoming glaringly obvious that there are no meaningful legal repercussions for members of American law enforcement who kill unarmed black men - even innocent people like Amadou Diallo, or more recently in Brooklyn, Akai Gurley.
With each failure of local prosecutors to hold police officers accountable for the taking of human life, the growing racial gap in this nation widens.
These decisions by prosecutors and the courts have the perverse effect of actually energizing conservative Americans who are highly susceptible to the hysteria, bigotry and hatred intentionally generated by right wing media in order to 'divide and conquer' their voter base.
Bizarre hyper-conservative radio host Laura Ingraham's absurd comments about protesters earlier today on her show offer a textbook example.
|The Real Ugly American: Right-wing hate radio host Laura Ingraham|
A listener who sounded like Archie Bunker was on the line suggesting that the average "Joe Six-Pack" (media code for angry working-class Republican white guys) like himself would begin coming out onto the streets to confront protesters.
Ingraham disagreed with her conservative caller, suggesting that "our people" won't be coming out to protest because they're "working and have families to support."
Take a moment to listen to the brief clip of the segment of her comments that were posted on MediaMatters.org; listen to the casual tone with which she says it.
Her barely concealed bigotry is laced with common ignorant assumptions. While she suggests that only unemployed black people with no work ethic who don't care about their families have taken to the streets to protest the unchecked use of lethal force by police, take a look at the photo above taken in Grand Central Station on the east side of Manhattan at 5:33pm this evening by a Twitter user - that looks like a pretty diverse group of protesters to me.
Laura Ingraham asserting to a live radio audience that "our people" (and we know who she means by that...) don't take part in their Constitutional right to protest is as absurd as it is irresponsible.
Perhaps she was in a coma during the spring and summer of 2010 when thousands of mostly white Tea Party activists filled town halls, parks and streets to voice their opposition to the idea of all Americans having access to affordable health care.
Or maybe Ingraham was simply on a different planet in late May of 2010 when a large crowd of Tea Party protesters angered at the Affordable Care Act lined up outside the US Capitol building and hurled obscenities including the word "nigger" at Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they emerged from meetings.
The fact that the original Boston Tea Party for which the Koch brother's faux-politcal movement derives it's name was in fact, a riot likely slipped her mind too.
Now I'm really trying to stay on point here, but Ingraham's comments are important to note as they demonstrate the kind of base level ignorance that underlies today's conservative movement with its elevation of warped perception, ignorance, narrow-minded ideology and opinions over facts and truth - but it's typical of the divisive brand of offensive vile that spews out of her mouth on any given day.
When the American court system continually fails to indict law enforcement officers for taking the lives of African-American boys and men in cases where lethal force is clearly not necessary or called for, it serves to reinforce sub-conscious beliefs about the perceived inferiority or violence of people of color.
It lends legitimacy to the deeply ingrained bigotry etched in the minds of people like Ingraham.
It also sanctions the troubling view of some Americans that the lives of people of color matter less in this nation - some of those Americans are media executives, publishers and journalists too.
|12 year-old police shooting victim Tamir Rice|
As an article by Eric Boehlert on MediaMatters.org reported yesterday, Cleveland.com included a photo of a mug shot of the slain child's father in the November 26th article that was supposedly about the shooting of the child by rookie police officer Timothy Loehmann.
A different article on November 24th detailed a drug charge against Rice's mother from 2013 for which she was sentenced to probation.
Boehlert reported that numerous readers, media experts and even some employees of the Cleveland Plain Dealer expressed confusion as to what any criminal or court records of Tamir Rice's parents had to do with a rookie Cleveland police officer gunning down their child while he was playing in the park.
As Boehlert's article states: "Depicting black/brown boys and men as violent criminals from poor upbringing is an established media narrative that Tamir didn't quite fit. But Cleveland.com, the website of the city's former paper of record, tried to make him fit into the narrow narrative anyway, by reporting on the criminal misdeeds of his parents instead," wrote former Plain Dealer reporter and columnist Afi Scruggs. "It's an old, but tired trick used by the news media, especially when it comes to a black or brown person being killed by law enforcement."
As Mayor DeBlasio noted during his emotional and personal comments earlier this evening, it's past time that people awaken to the fact that this is an American problem - not just a black or white one.
Prosecutors and police must begin to recognize that if reasonable cause exists to bring charges in the case of a wrongful death, then charges must be brought; regardless of the race of the victim.
I can't put myself in the room with the 23 members of the special grand jury in Staten Island who found no cause to bring charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo.
But for an average reasonable citizen, for anyone who's watched the disturbing video of Eric Garner desperately pleading, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe!" while Pantaleo holds his neck in a vice grip and four or five other cops secure him, I think most people would come to the conclusion that it was reasonable that the officer had to bear some measure of responsibility for Garner's death in a court of law.
After all, it's not like Daniel Pantaleo was breaking up an armed robbery or arresting a murderer - Eric Garner's only crime was selling some loose cigarettes.
That and being a larger than average black man on a street in America.