Sunday, September 6, 2015

Police Don't Deserve To Die

by Rose A. Valenta

No one hit home on the topic of black lives matter better than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word” during the Civil Rights movement. Also, the great American novelist, Alex Haley, who shed a light on our ignorance and brought the sins of our fathers into the focus of public awareness during the 1970s. Many Americans of color will find humor in that, but that’s the way it was for white folks living up North.

I spent most of my life living in an integrated working class neighborhoods in Philadelphia. I was never exposed to the atrocities happening in the South. Those conversations never came up. I knew our personal history as part of the Underground Railroad and knew that my second great-grandfather on my father's side of the family served in the Civil War in Company E, 1st infantry, Michigan. He was from upstate, NY. Prior to that, we had ancestors, who were indentured servants as early as 1634 in Connecticut. None of them were wealthy and did not own slaves. Later, some served in the Revolutionary War and fought for our freedom (I read Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” in later years). My grandmother always taught me that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and that we are all children of God, regardless of race. She based that on what she read every night in her bible.

I didn’t know how different things actually were until I entered the work force and met people of color, who once lived in the South. I’m glad they moved. I was appalled at some of their stories: public hangings without a trial, the KKK and unbelievable discrimination and torture. I verified that these stories were true with a few friends, who did not shy away from the topic in front of me. About then, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came along and I cheered the Civil Rights movement. I would have marched with them, but my family wouldn’t permit it. They feared for my safety. Had I been blessed with a more rebellious nature, I would have gladly participated.

A cross was burned on Dr. King’s front lawn in 1960. It made headlines.

Many years later, I mistakenly assumed that the KKK had been disbanded. No, I wasn’t wearing horse blinders, the KKK was not in Philadelphia recruiting people and I was not in the South. Our media conveniently lacked adequate coverage about things that needed to be shoved under the carpet or go away. One of my friends, who is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) and writes for a major Philadelphia newspaper, calls it “compliant conspiracy” on the part of the media. The same folks, who forgot to tell us that Jackie Kennedy was a chain smoker or how sick FDR was when he ran for his 4th term (Not that some columnists didn't want to write about controversial topics, but the editor would nix it before it went to print). If the media doesn’t cover it, people are kept in the dark like mushrooms and never get the whole story. Yellow journalism often finds a window of opportunity here, as well, and you still don't get the truth. I don’t plan to move forward as a shroom.

I have tremendous respect for and give credit to the late Dori J. Maynard and her father, Robert C. Maynard, who founded the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which advocates diversity, so that we can now get information from all voices on virtually any topic in the media. I ask myself why it took us so long to figure out that we shouldn't have segregated media, nor one that will C.Y.A. when you are up to no good.

When Ferguson happened, I realized that the KKK still had a strong foothold there, like dust bunnies left over from the Civil Rights Movement. I had a vision of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in D.C. and Dr. King saying "Time to clean house, Ferguson."

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the KKK has not been classified a domestic terrorist organization and their leaders arrested. Of course, I’ve been told on many occasions that they are protected by freedom of speech. Yes, except for speech that incites violence.

Last summer, I saw a video that showed 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, armed with a knife, getting shot and killed by police in St. Louis. That did it for me. I was nauseated. How can the police, armed with guns, kill a guy armed only with a knife that a nightstick could easily knock out of his hand? My husband actually did that very thing 25 years ago, with his nightstick, when he was attacked by a knife-wielding young man in West Philadelphia, while he was working on the Philadelphia Police Department. No one was killed. The man suffered only a wrist injury.

My husband is retired now and when I showed him the Powell video, he sadly shook his head. He too was raised to respect all people as fellow human beings and always chose to do the right thing, deadly force being the last resort.

"Police training" he said, but he is also a former Marine and was trained in martial arts and how to disarm when attacked. This is a recruiting issue that needs to be studied by many police departments. Apparently, the laws governing deadly force have changed and a knife is considered as deadly a weapon as a gun. Kajieme’s death was ruled “suicide by police.” His mother and grandmother didn’t agree. Me either. He could have been talked down.

Social media allowed me to follow what was going on and I was somewhat relieved when Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey went to Ferguson to discuss police body cameras. I decided that if I was black and a mother of teenagers, I would never live there. I would move north.

Many fatalities later - God rest each and every one of their souls, we have taken down the Confederate flag -- albeit 150 years late -- have "0" tolerance for bigots like Donald Sterling and have a Black Lives Matter movement. We are seeking solutions. I have no problem with the movement. It will bring awareness onto the front page of newspapers and open up dialog. Hopefully, it will be a diverse dialog providing us with the entire picture. What I do have a problem with is the negative, criminal influence of Minister Louis Farrakhan on the movement. I want to know the name of his plastic surgeon. Anyone who can camouflage that much evil has to be good.

I have heard Farrakhan speak. He is a powerful speaker, but he is wasting his God-given talent on sending the wrong message.

God said “Thou shalt not kill.” Farrakhan said about a month ago that he is looking for 10,000 strong men to do his bidding and says things like “If the government will not intercede in our affairs, we will rise up and stalk them! and kill those who would kill us.” These are not God’s words, these are evil words and could be interpreted as seditious conspiracy (18 U.S. Code § 2384), especially when people are actually dying and police targeted. He has freedom of speech to call white people "crackers" but he is not protected by the First Amendment to advocate murder. He wants people killed.

Although our First Amendment does not protect speech that incites violence, Farrakhan does not pledge allegiance to the American flag nor does he recognize American citizenship, he says he has “left the plantation,” whatever the hell that means. He thinks he is above the law and is not making progress nor seeking to improve our future. We must respect our judicial system, or lobby for change. If our young people listen to him, they will end up in jail or worse.

Farrakhan can recount black history better than the Empower Encyclopedia and claims that we are "400-year-old enemies." While knowing about black history is important, we live in the here and now and need to move forward. We are not enemies; we all want the same things for our children. As radio host, Jesse Lee Peterson, asked recently, "where is the white tyranny?" We have black leadership in many cities across the country, in Congress, as past Secretaries of State and even our POTUS is biracial. How many years does he expect folks to pay for the sins of previous generations, when all he needs to do is admit that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. set us on the right path to progress when he said “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us...” and my personal favorite “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”? We do not need the negativity or hate rhetoric coming from folks who advocate murder and choose to divide us. He is corrupting our youth.

His rhetoric is also sexist. Women are not "second" anymore we are equal (Mary of Bethany).

Farrakhan is obviously brainwashing his immediate followers and should be arrested and put in jail for sedition. Why else does he need to come packing and have a team of bodyguards to enter and exit a speaking engagement in a house of worship?

I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement should distance itself from Louis Farrakhan and align with someone like Alveda King because ultimately all lives matter. We are all important and deserve respect from each other. We can change laws through proper channels; vote for public officials, who act on our behalf and complain if we are not happy with the service police and first responders are providing in our communities.

The only time the police are your enemy is when you are up to no good.

Typically, substance abusers don't like the police. Parents have to understand that the police do not make the laws, they only enforce them. They are the wrong targets. If you don't like the laws, petition your legislators and get your kids off drugs.

Our dedicated police officers don’t deserve to die because angry, impressionable, often emotionally distraught individuals are listening to the misguidance of an unlicensed minister with an agenda, who is living in the past. Any mother of young men can tell you how easy it is to lead them down the wrong path at a certain age when all they want to do is rebel against authority and the system. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center has Farrakhan under its radar.

The Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit in the 1930s. Look at Detroit today, it is in ruins. If I was a zealot, I could say something about wrath.

Minister Farrakhan knows he is wrong. You can be sure he is lining his pockets. I believe in the Constitution and First Amendment rights as much as anyone, but he has sold his soul for a microphone to incite. I am urging all good people, who believe in the real Word of God and value the spiritual well being and eternal soul of your son or daughter, to boycott his event at the National Mall on October 10th.

2 John 1:10-11 "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works."