Tavis Smiley: We Need More Than the President’s “‘Hands Off’ Approach to a ‘Hands Up’ Crisis”

President Obama speaks about recent unrest in Baltimore during his joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP)
President Obama speaks about recent unrest in Baltimore during his joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday.
(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

We don’t need another commission; we need leadership, and we need to act.

For some, the death of Freddie Gray is yet another example of police brutality in a season that has seen too many dead black bodies stacking up too high in America’s morgues.

Others cite national crime statistics to justify their claim that this is just another “isolated incident” of police misconduct, not an assault on the lives of black men and boys.

Fair enough, but how many isolated incidents equal a pattern?

Every time another precious black life is lost under mysterious circumstances and we regard it as just another “isolated incident,” we demean the unnecessary death and disrespect the dignity of black fellow citizens.

There is a pattern here. It might well be a pattern that we have yet to acknowledge or come to terms with, but there is a pattern.

A pattern of unconscious bias where black boys are more likely to be mistaken as older, perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime, according to the American Psychological Association.

A pattern that causes black men and boys to be demonized and end up dead even when they pose no threat to the life of the arresting officer. Is Gray dead for merely making eye contact with an officer and running away? Is that a crime? Did running away warrant the death of an unarmed Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C.?

A pattern that leads to predatory policing rather than community-based policing in neighborhoods of color.

A pattern of citizen disbelief that for decades has deemed the stories of victims suspect, until the advent of video, which now regularly proves that police aren’t always so virtuous.

A pattern in which every time this happens, we engage in a faux national conversation about police misconduct and race relations until the looters stop looting, until the fires have been doused. And then we return to business as usual.

What’s tragic about these riots in Baltimore is that they will be used once again by the chattering class to suggest that African Americans don’t respect police authority.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Indeed, because black folk are the disproportionate victims of violent crime, black communities across America welcome community-based policing that protects and serves them.

Click here to continue reading.

SOURCE: USA Today – Tavis Smiley

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