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Eric Garner

Photo: www.commondreams.org

The issue of young men of color dying in police custody has been dominating the national news of late and rightfully so. Millions of Americans in many cities — mostly people of color — live in fear and/or distrust of the police in their communities and this is not a recipe for a healthy society. Concerted action — protests, demands, and action by community leaders and elected officials — are all necessary if we are are going to tackle this unacceptable situation.

Dana Millbank of the Washington Post was right recently when he wrote that President Obama would do well to seize the moment surrounding the outrage that’s occurred across the political spectrum in the Eric Garner case out of New York (tragically pictured above) in which a young man was killed by a police choke hold. As Millbank noted, the Garner tragedy offers some glimmers of hope in that the killing is actually drawing harsh assessments from white commentators on the right who rushed to the defense of the police officer in the Ferguson, Missouri case.

What to really DO about the situation, however, is less clear. Millbank says President Obama should  look at creating alternatives the grand juries for investigating police deaths. Others are pushing the idea of police body cameras. Those are both promising ideas as far as they go.

The real solution that no one really seems to want to talk about, however, is this: Read More

Commentary
Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

In case you missed it, the Fayetteville Observer has added its voice to the growing chorus demanding a fully-fledged federal investigation of the hanging death of Bladenboro teen Lennon Lacy.

This is from an editorial published in the paper this week:

An independent pathologist hired by the state branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says substantial evidence calls the official explanation into doubt and suggests instead that Lacy could have been murdered, with race a motivating factor.

The NAACP has asked Thomas Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, for a federal inquiry into whether a hate crime occurred or Lacy’s civil rights were violated. But Walker’s office doesn’t comment on whether there’s any investigation.

This specific type of death, by hanging of a young African-American male, has a history in this country and this region. That history includes quick dismissals by state and local officials who wanted to look the other way. Because of that history, there are doubts.

The NAACP pathologist’s analysis offers additional cause for doubt. The organization is right to seek federal involvement.

This is not something we want to be in doubt about. We need a genuine effort to discover and analyze the physical and circumstantial evidence in Lacy’s death.

Seek out the truth, then offer a public accounting that will cast aside the burden of doubt.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

It seems counter-intuitive to many of us that, when confronted with an angry person breaking rules or engaging in questionable behavior, the best course for a person of authority is to simply walk away. But as countless teachers and mental health professionals have learned down through the years, deescalation is, in fact, regularly the best choice.

A fine editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record makes this point — among several others — in a discussion of the Ferguson, Missouri disaster and its implications for other communities with similar police-community tensions. As the editorial notes:

[Former Ferguson police officer Darren] Wilson frequently invokes his ‘training’ in explaining his encounter with Brown, which involved only 90 tragic seconds. But more police forces are stressing ‘de-escalation’ to avert physical confrontations. ‘We haven’t taught officers to just walk away,’ Cambridge, Mass., police Commissioner Robert Haas told the Associated Press. Some situations demand the use of force. Others don’t. In some cases, the best weapons are patience and reason. And the best fight, the one avoided.”

Here in North Carolina — home of the late, great Andy Griffith who taught weekly TV lessons as “the sheriff without a gun” — such an obvious truth ought to already be embedded in our community DNA. Let’s hope experts of all kinds keep speaking up and reminding us of the logic of such an approach until it become common wisdom once again.

Read the entire N&R editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

Voting rightsA new, lengthy and in-depth report from the Center for American Progress raises real and important questions about racial discrimination in the use of provisional ballots. The report, “Uncounted Votes: The Racially Discriminatory Effect of Provisional Ballots,”  looked at the use of the ballots throughout the country during the 2012 election and found that:

“Of the more than 2.7 million provisional ballots that were cast in 2012, more than 30 percent were not fully counted or rejected all together. Moreover, according to this first-of-its-kind analysis, in 16 states, the use of provisional ballots is more frequent in counties with higher percentages of minority voters.”

The report also holds up North Carolina as one of the 16 states:

“After controlling for population and examining county-level data in each state, we found that during the 2012 election, voters in counties with a higher percentage of minorities cast provisional ballots at higher rates than in counties with lower percentages of minorities in 16 states. Those 16 states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Utah.

Our findings raise serious questions about the health and integrity of the voting process in these states. Read More

Commentary
Photo: thinkprogress.org

Photo: www.thinkprogress.org

If you need something to bolster your resolve to keep battling for justice this afternoon, check out this story on the U.K.-based news site, The Guardian about one of the driving forces in the court challenge to North Carolina’s “monster voting law.” The story profiles 93-year-old Rosanell Eaton — an African-American woman and NAACP activist with vivid memories from her younger days of previous efforts by conservative, white politicians to deny her the right to vote.

And then there was the day in 1939 when Rosanell turned 18 and gained the right to vote. She was a vibrant young woman, eager to learn and engage with the world, and determined to have her electoral say at the first chance. But when she arrived at Franklin County courthouse, she was met by three white officials.

“What are you here for, young lady?” one of them asked.

“I’m here to register to vote,” she said.

The men looked at each other, then back at her. “Stand in front of us,” she was instructed. “Look directly at us. Don’t turn your head to the right, nor to the left. Now repeat the preamble to the constitution of the United States.” Read More