I am Black, I am a victim


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It always annoys me when someone regurgitates the overused cliche, "Is it because I am Black?" Lewis Hamilton said this once after being criticised about something, and it backfired on him. However, let me change tack a little and suggest there are horrific instances where being Black does mean you are the victim.

Last night, I watched a couple of episodes of a limited series on Netflix called, "When They See Us." It is based on a true story from 1989. There was a bit of Trump bashing in there to keep Hollywood happy, but the film revolves around 4 black "youths" involved in a violent crime. I want to talk about it but I won't, because I don't want this thread to be a spoiler. However, I am finding it very interesting and I highly recommend you watch it.

Do you trust the police and their methods, or do you distrust the testimony of those involved? I have worded that rather cleverly but it will make no sense to those who don't watch it! :D
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I already know how it comes out. I'll avoid the spoilers. The case was mentioned on the CBS Morning News earlier in the week. Since CBS had some influence in the production, they provided a bit of promotion for their docu-drama.


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There is no doubt that "people of color" (the euphemism of earlier times) were treated very badly. There is no doubt that they just wanted to be treated like people (without the qualifying suffix). When things weren't happening because of deep entrenchment of ideas, that (actually natural) resistance to change became polarizing. And there is where the problem started. Police encounters frequently became confrontational because of young black kids and young adult blacks demanding treatment with some respect and a lot less attitude on the part of the white cops.

People of all kinds are naturally resistant to change. Bee, you were just changing jobs not that long ago and expressed your concerns over a change that you nonetheless knew would be positive. Let's be clear: Sometimes, that natural resistance to change is blind to the fact that status quo hurts someone else. So while we can understand that reluctance on the part of white people, that didn't make it morally right. And the confrontations only escalated the tensions.

The aftermath of the Civil Rights movement left us with a continuing problem of attitude on both sides. Agitators defied police and got pummeled for it - but their friends who were along for the ride or who were acting as witnesses also got pummeled. Witnesses for the other side wanted to protect themselves and their community from disruptive influences. And in that confrontational environment, there was still a sad remnant of the attitude that young blacks are usually just up to no good. Before anyone opens a comment about the USA "South" it should be noted that the case in question was in New York City - decidedly NOT the "Deep South" of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The riots in the Watts neighborhood and some race-riot situations in Boston and Detroit were also not based in the USA south., so the problem was more widespread than non-USA folks might realize.

The case in question was clearly depicted in the TV series, perhaps with a little bit of dramatization, in a way that reveals the attitude of the police and prosecutors that wouldn't act to fully assure "due process of law" and for that failure, some young kids were falsely accused. But it also proved that the statue of "blind justice" wasn't also quite so blind as she should have been.

To me, the long-term solution is elusive. I have to question my own feelings on this to in effect "second-guess" whether my feelings are deep-seated from my childhood exposure to bigotry (from my father) or whether I am reacting to a reality of confrontation that perpetuates attitudes of distrust. I have no quick fix. It is up to me to be a good citizen and a friend to all, which is difficult sometimes because of another natural tendency Mankind inherited from his wilderness-surviving ancestors. I refer, of course, to the ability to make quick characterizations in order to effectively flee from danger. It is at least partly the origin of our tendency to judge books by their covers, I think.

There ought be enough in that little exposition to start more than a couple of discussions.


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It's interesting that this issue comes down to race and prejudices - whether personal or systematic. I don't remember the case, nor do I know how it was reported at the time. I didn't really pick up a sense of racial motivation on behalf of the police from the Netflix drama - but I don't know whether that is because I am desensitised to it, or it wasn't there, or because I was so shocked at the way in which the police coerced those children. And they were children, let's not forget that.

Would the police have handled the matter in the same way if the suspects had been white? Or the victim black? We'll never know for sure, but I have my suspicions. To me, the female Detective was so sick of women being raped that it clouded her judgement and she switched from seeing these kids as witnesses, to being in the wrong place at the wrong time - and therefore likely suspects.

The DA was clearly uncomfortable with the lack of evidence. But the zeal with which the adult cops persecuted these kids was shocking.

Of course teenage boys (and girls) are capable of bad things. But the regulations around how they are to be questioned have evolved and been implemented for a reason. Those convictions were unsafe. Imagine had they been convicted in a state where the death penalty was allowed.

Your last point is very interesting to me, Doc. You note your upbringing and your personal experiences. I've said this before on this forum, but here is a good example. It's okay to have prejudices. It's okay to acknowledge them. It's not okay to treat someone differently because of those prejudices - but you know this yourself because it's clear to me from what you say that you are trying to be aware of your potential biases.

The evolutionary argument only goes so far, I think. It was fine when we were cavemen with predators hunting us. But that was prehistory. We've evolved further - and continue to evolve. The argument is tired now and while instinct may kick in to preserve our own lives, we are also capable of complex thought and problem-solving. So while I agree that self-preservation is a factor in our biases - it is not logical to assume another race of human beings are predatory and therefore a threat.


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Oh - and one final thing. The tv drama gave an update on the Central Park 5, showing us what had become of them since their incarceration.

The victim, Trisha Meili, didn't even get a mention.


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Ah, yes... evolutionary prejudicial tendencies. It is OK to say "prehistory" and we should be over it - but biologically we haven't changed that much. Our bodies during gestation go through evolutionary recapitulation. We still have the lizard brain stem that makes us territorial and tribal. You and I (and many other members of this and other forums) are capable of complex problem-solving. But our human brothers and sisters are sadly not uniform in this capacity to think our way out of an evolutionary paper bag. We might indeed be homo sapiens (thinking man) but not everyone wants to think. Look at the mindlessness of religious fundamentalists. Look at the mindlessness of political mobs These people, for all of their mindless failings, are nonetheless just as human as we are. A phrase comes to mind that I don't use because of my own religious stance, but regarding the mindless types in this world, "There but for the grace of God go I."

I didn't really pick up a sense of racial motivation on behalf of the police
Because by that time it was no longer formally institutionalized, separatist ("separate but equal") ideologies were below the surface. People paid lip service to the concept of equality but actions speak louder than words. It was perhaps not overtly biased of the cops, but the question is, how well did they investigate? How hard did the defense lawyers work to get them off? How hard did the D.A.'s office push? It is the subtle biases that cause us to do less than our best to find the truth, or to do more than we should to make a case, little issues of hidden racism that can lead to miscarriages of justice.

I used to work for a guy who was black and brash - but a damned good businessman. Jim S. was always exhorting his people to perform well - and quick to reward any of us who did something special. He used to tell us "There is a phrase, 'good enough for government work,' that goes around in contractor circles. But you must understand that the standard is actually higher than you might show in private industry. When you work for me, remember that I work for the government, and the government works for the people. You owe it to the people of this country whose taxes pay your salary to give them work of such quality that no-one could possibly complain." The point of this little diversion was that there have been times when "good enough for government work" permeated many places at many levels. Including levels where the DNA that was found on Ms. Meili didn't match ANY of the five defendants, but that didn't stop anyone or even slow them down. And that was a case of "going through the motions" for law enforcement. I believe that {mount soapbox} if you are going to use the power and might and majesty of government authority to deprive someone of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, you owe it to them (and to yourself) to dot every i and cross every t in pursuit of the truth. {dismount soapbox}.

As to M.s Meili, the original victim: https://www.oxygen.com/martinis-murder/where-is-trisha-meili-the-central-park-jogger-now

She has gone on with her life.


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I work for the government too. I understand the obligation.

In fact just today I was talking to my boss and saying that I need to deliver the value of my salary+ back to the organisation.

I goofgled her too. I'm glad she has found a peace of sorts. But my point was more about the fact that she was ignored in the round-up at the end. And she's just as much of a victim.
As one might expect, the woman who was head of the prosecutorial team denies bias and says there was a lot of evidence of wrong-doing even if the rape charges were wrong. Apparently there was some racial unrest in the park that night that involved other types of violence. She claims that the TV production was mostly fabrication. (Reported this morning on CBS This Morning news show.)