November 26, 2014
Anyone who cares about the future of this country has probably been watching the news, or in some cases, participating in the aftermath of the police shooting of a young black man, and now following the announcement that the Grand Jury has not found cause to indict the policeman.
Rotating back and forth between MSNBC and Fox news, one can get a sense of the two extremes in points of view:
- Michael Brown was murdered by the white policeman in yet another example of law enforcement racial profiling and prejudice against young men of color. He was unarmed and was trying to comply when he was shot repeatedly. This would not have happened if the young man had been white.
- A young man robbed a convenience store, threatened the proprietor in the process, caught on videotape, and a few minutes later aggressively challenged and then threatened a white policeman who was simply doing his job, ultimately causing the policeman, in fear of his own life, following prescribed procedures resulting in killing the young man. Color had nothing to do with it.
However, these conclusions are also evident from this incident and it’s aftermath:
- Many Americans strongly believe this was a terrible injustice.
- Many also see this as a critical opportunity to protest and appeal the continuing injustice imposed on young men of color by white law enforcement.
- It is certainly possible that media on the Left is stoking protest and potential damage to the innocent, whether intended, or in good faith to their beliefs.
- Whatever is the truth of this incident, the response is reflective of a deeper sense of disenfranchisement among young men of color and all Americans of color.
- Reflecting the reality that there has been a history of racial prejudice among some elements of white law enforcement, and some of it continues.
- There is also a high crime rate among young men of color.
- There is a high unemployment rate among these young men.
- It is not hard to understand why many in this population feel there is prejudice, not only in law enforcement, but in education and employment–essentially in all forms of opportunity. There is truth to this feeling.
- There is justified anger among these people.
Regardless of the merits of the catalyst, I argue that a significant portion of the dilemma is the result of our allowance of a high level of inequality: gender inequality, age inequality, religious prejudice, national and cultural prejudice, and especially racial prejudice. All of this is intertwined with income and wealth inequality, which in turn is exacerbated by our prejudices.
And at the bottom of this increasingly steep pyramid of wealth and opportunity are young men of color. Some say there is no need for action to help, that this is a land of great opportunity. They single out the few examples among young black men who have somehow navigated the gauntlet from poverty and made it to a level of success. The rest of us sympathize, recognizing that for the vast majority, the deck is still stacked against them.
Here in my part of the country, there are a few organizations which have raised enough to help several hundred of the youth of color annually, providing same sex mentors to supplement single or no parents, and to help them qualify for decent colleges, proving there is lots of intelligence and talent there–just the need for a helping hand, the kind most of us had at least four of, during our growing years, not counting grandparents’ hands.
If the protesters can prevent damage to the innocent, if they can stay peaceful and avoid violence, these protests can raise awareness of the problems. If not, the protests may convince skeptics that young men of color do not abide by the law and do not deserve help.
I challenge anyone to dispute this: If these young men felt they had equal opportunity, equal access to education and jobs, we would experience far less of the incidents which lead to the altercations. Young men would not be stealing cigarillos. They’d be home with their families, preparing for work the next day, walking the dog, just like you and me.
It is our responsibility to assure equal opportunity. If we do a good job of that, we won’t have to talk about redistribution, and we won’t need so much money for social support programs, such as welfare.
Let’s get started!