A 19 year-old African American walks into the Legal Rights Center (LRC). He insists on seeing the Executive Director.
He’s a large man, his speech is fast, his eyes are angry. He pulls up his shirt to show the swastika he alleges the police carved on his back while he lay on the street in North Minneapolis.
There are witnesses. Three women and a man who saw it happen during another man’s arrest. “Raymond”, we’ll call him, was objecting to the arrest when two officers took him down to the pavement, face down, while one of the officers used his key to etch the Swastika into his flesh. He was not arrested.
Police abuse of power, racial profiling, the use of unreasonable force, shootings, and prosecutors and grand juries looking the other way always have been the way it is in America. What’s new is the public outcry, the jarring of consciousness and conscience among those who do not live in places like North Minneapolis, Ferguson, or one of the poorer African-American neighborhoods in Cleveland or New York City.
After several years of the LRC Executive Director referring complainants to the Minneapolis Police Civilian Review Board without satisfaction of remedy, I proposed something out of the ordinary. We went directly to the commanding officer of the 4th Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department.
The Commander’s attention seemed to wander as I introduced myself and Raymond until Raymond pulled up his shirt. The Commander asked if Raymond got the number of the squad car or remembered the badges of the officers. He didn’t. The Commander then, to my great surprise, named a number of officers, asking if Raymond recognized any of the names. Those officers were well-known for terrorizing the North Minneapolis African-American community.
“This is way beyond Internal Investigation,” he said. “You need to take this to the F.B.I.”
Raymond didn’t trust the F.B.I. any more than he trusted the Minneapolis Police Department. He decided to let it go.
Lots of people like Raymond have decided over the years to let it go. Until Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson and a grand jury decided not to indict him. Until 12-year old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer in Cleveland. Until Eric Garner died of a police officer’s choke hold saying, “I can’t breath!” The inferno of anger boiling over across the streets of America is new only in the breadth of consciousness and conscience.
It will take time. It will take a change of heart and mind. But, mostly, it will NOT change until America gets it straight that for most African-Americans being black is also an issue of class. Class is about power and powerlessness. Only when what we call “the middle class” understands that its interests lie with African-Americans in Ferguson, Cleveland, NYC, and Minneapolis will thing change in America.
Attorney General Eric Holder just released a Department of Justice Investigation report. Click HERE for the story.
It’s all about the economics: up or down. There really is no middle. “Hands up!” “I can’t breath!”