Black and White Consequences of the Sounds of Silence

Written by Jill Chapin. Posted in Crime, Opinion

Tagged: , ,

Published on July 10, 2016 with No Comments

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are the latest to die at the hands of police.

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are the latest African-Americans to be killed by the hands of police.

By Jill Chapin

July 10, 2016

Americans have been aghast at ISIS terrorist attacks that were not vehemently condemned by the Muslim community.  There emerged a growing suspicion, wondering why they did not rise up and denounce the atrocities committed by those who claimed to be acting in the name of their religion.  Their silence was deafening, and so many of us assumed that if Muslims don’t protest the violence, then they must secretly condone it.

I wonder why this same line of reasoning has not been applied to police who blatantly gun down black men for reasons that did not at all qualify as an imminent danger to anyone.  Wouldn’t the obvious question be: why aren’t the vast majority of police officers loudly protesting the knee-jerk trigger-pulling by seemingly rogue cops?  Could it be that they secretly condone it?

The thin blue line separating citizens from danger seems to have become a solid wall of refusal to acknowledge the sickening consequences of police officers who either are not being well trained or are not being well screened before donning their blues, badges and guns.  But with no outrage expressed by law enforcement officials, it can appear to the public that what they did is in the unwritten book of protocol for handling these encounters with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality.

Those in power are eroding the public trust when they refuse to acknowledge gross misconduct by a small but highly visible number of officers who are supposed to be protecting the safety of  all of us instead of picking and choosing who they want to harass, sometimes fatally. There is a conspiracy of silence regarding the appalling number of black men shot and killed for routine traffic stops or for loitering. Has anyone determined how many white men have been shot and killed by the police in these same circumstances?

Going against all notions of the police protecting the citizens they are sworn to serve, cover-ups of police misconduct are rampant.  When officials refuse to admit that some cops are temperamentally incapable of handling this volatile job, they inadvertently cast a large shadow over the vast majority of principled police officers who serve Americans well.  Let’s be blunt; their silence ends up pitting the blues against the blacks.

The media also is not serving Americans well, unless you count what is spoon-fed to us in the news.  We would be naïve to believe that what is reported is accurate or even balanced.  The L.A. Times had a huge headline that read “Vicious, Calculated and Despicable.” Before reading the article, I assumed they were referring to the senseless killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana with two police officers on top of him, or of Philando Castile in Minnesota who was stopped for a broken taillight and shot at point blank range.  But no, they were referring to the Dallas attack on the police, which certainly was vicious, calculated and despicable, but so were the murders of those two black men.  Yet I could find no corresponding outrage for them. We really must not lose track of the fact that neither one had committed a crime.

MSNBC played up the memorials across the country for our fallen police, which of course is real news.  But were there no memorials for the murdered black men anywhere to be found?

Our news reporting regurgitates what they are told, and according to the police, Castile was pulled over because he fit the description of a wanted man and also he reacted to a gun he saw.  My question is whether we have any real investigative reporters left who are willing to dig deeper to verify the veracity of this story.

Until we own up to the reality that we can simultaneously have both wonderful police and also rogue cops, we will never be able to untangle the mess of emotions roiling through each of us.

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin has been a guest writer and columnist in several Los Angeles area papers for over fifteen years. She has written a bilingual parenting book titled, "If You Have Kids, Then Be a Parent!" and a children's book entitled, "My Magic Bubble."

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