From: C Spinner <>
Newsgroups: soc.culture.african,soc.culture.south-africa,soc.culture.african.american,soc.culture.zimbabwe
Subject: Status: A Diaspora Living in Fear
Date: Mon, 05 Apr 2004 01:25:57 -0700

Threatened by those sworn to protect: realities of racism in institutions

By Earl G. Graves, Jr., Publisher, Black Enterprise, April 2004

February 4,1999: West African immigrant Amadou Diallo is felled by a shower of 41 bullets fired by four New York City police officers. April 7, 2001: 19-year-old Timothy Thomas is killed by Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach. July 5, 2003: Paul Childs, a mentally disabled, legally blind 15-year-old, is fatally shot by Denver police officer James Turney. December 10, 2003: Kenneth B. Walker, a 39-yearold husband and father, is fatally shot by a Muscogee County, Georgia, sheriffs deputy. January 24, 2004: Timothy Stansbury Jr., 19, is killed by New York City police officer Richard Neri.

In all but one of these cases, the victims were unarmed. The exception: Childs had a knife. None of the victims were guilty of a crime. And only the Diallo and Thomas deaths resulted in the police facing criminal charges-and in both cases they were acquitted.

The time has long passed since we were surprised by news of an innocent black person being gunned down by law enforcement. Saddened? Outraged? Resigned? Perhaps. But not surprised. Even though everyone from Republican President George W. Bush to Democratic primary frontrunner Sen. John Kerry condemns racial profiling, everyone knows that any encounter between a black citizen and law enforcement can result in the death of that citizen, even if he or she is unarmed and law-abiding. And everyone knows that the chances of any officers facing criminal charges in these cases, much less prosecution, is just about nil.

Even in post-Rodney King America, the fundamental behavior of police toward black men remains unchanged. In fact, when my good friend New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the shooting death of Stansbury was unjustified, members of the NYPD's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association branded him a traitor and called for his resignation. Also, the death of Walker hits particularly close to home, as he was a life member of my fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. Walker, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Columbus State University in Georgia, was a healthcare analyst for Blue Cross. He was killed after county sheriffs pulled him and his three companions from an SUV, assuming that they were drug traffickers. Needless to say, no drugs or weapons were found. Walker's death demonstrates that regardless of our economic or professional status, any of us can be sentenced to death for DWB (driving while black).

All families pray that their loved ones do not fall victim to a drunk driver or street assault when they are out at night. Black families must also pray against a deadly encounter with the police. I am a former member of law enforcement in New York, yet my wife and I have always counseled our three sons that the police are not necessarily their friend and are to be avoided at all costs. Now, our children must pass the same counsel on to our grandchildren.

The truth is, those sworn to protect them can at any time become a deadly threat.

We must move past our anger and resignation and deal with this issue. We must teach ourselves and our children how to survive encounters with the police. We must demand more African Americans at all levels of law enforcement. We must continue to fight against racial profiling. And we will insist that those sworn to protect its be held accountable for their crimes, as well as their mistakes especially when the result is a loss life.