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August 30, 2014, 10:19 am

Blacks, police have a troubled history

When race, equality, and fairness are taken into consideration, there is far too much to be outraged about in these United States of America. Just a few minutes ago I learned that Andrew Bloomberg, the 29-year-old police officer who participated in the brutal beating of Chad Holley, was found not guilty of the beating.

The video of the beating has gone viral, and few doubt that an actual beating took place. Actually, using the word “beating” severely misstates the case against Bloomberg and some of his fellow officers yet to go on trial. In the video, Chad Holley is lying face down on the pavement, surrounded by five offers who are kicking him in the head, on the shoulders, on the legs, and then stomping all over his body.

Bloomberg says they had to stomp the outstretched Holley because he was resisting arrest! I say Houston police allowed their inherent racial biases to mistreat Mr. Holley. Indeed Chad Holley’s beating makes the Rodney King beating look like a garden party.

Let’s be clear: Holley was caught in a bold daytime burglary. But even criminals have and enjoy the presumption of innocence until convicted. By beating the 15-year-old Chad Holley, Houston police violated his civil rights. Bloomberg and his gang of police hoodlums (Isn’t that what they call Black youngsters when they are collectively involved in criminal activity?) have been fired from the Houston police force. But Bloomberg, the first of the pack to be fired, faced an all-white jury that let him off without as much as a slap on the wrist.

Police brutality has been as big an issue in Houston, as it has been in other urban centers. Indeed, a group of Black ministers just ended their three-decades-old partnership with the police department because Chief Charles McClelland changed the terms of the partnership, installing a rule that stipulated ministers couldn’t criticize the police or the city administration, thus violating the ministers’ free speech rights. As a result of the absurd edict, 150 Houston Black ministers turned in their police credentials.

I guess Chief McClelland can justify his gag rule against ministers by considering the many times they have been forced to comment unfavorably on police shenanigans. In March, Annika Lewis, 26, was beaten as she tried to record her own arrest in Houston. Then, the police took her video card so she would have no record of the arrest. Her husband was charged with “resisting arrest” with no other charge against him. Resisting arrest might be based on asking why you have been stopped. I am outraged.

I am also outraged at the backlash from the African-American church over President Obama’s support of marriage equality. I’m outraged because there are those who suggest that the African-American community might prefer a flawed Obama to a racist, hateful and austerity-embracing Romney, a man who has said that despite a national deficit, he would increase defense spending, and cut social services. Why do we need more defense spending? This hawkish position represents nothing but pandering.

If African Americans stay home because they disagree with President Obama’s stance on marriage equality, we are cutting off our nose to spite our face. I don’t mean to be flippant when I say that if you don’t like gay marriage, just don’t marry a gay person. It is ironic that the political party that would advocate for a smaller role for government wants government in our private space, regulating marriage and abortion. Would conservatives be consistent for once? Their hypocrisy is an occasion for outrage.

Yet my capacity for outrage diminishes when I look at these incidents through the lens of history. Sitting at the base of Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru, as I am now doing, encourages one to embrace stillness and serenity. It also reminds us how insignificant the day-to-day is when the arc of history is considered. Machu Picchu is the Lost City of the Incas, an estate for Inca leaders Pachacuti and Tupac Yupanquai. It was also a spiritual center. Its presence was forgotten, or buried in natural vegetation when the Spanish “conquered” the Inca. It took until 1911, when Yale lecturer Hiram Bingham, with the help of an 11-year-old Indian boy, Pablo Alvarez, is credited as the first Westerner to “find” this spot. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Yale University has agreed to return artifacts that Bingham stole (in the name of scientific inquiry, of course) from buildings in Machu Picchu.

Viewing a space that was built between 1400 and 1450, basking in its history more than 700 years later, reminds us that moments are fleeting unless we make them something more. How many times have we rallied against police brutality? How much, or how little, has that reality changed? Each of us is a minnow in the ocean of history, and history belongs to those who hold pens. The Inca produced architecture, engineering and so much more, but they didn’t develop a written language. The Spanish swallowed much of their history. Will the history of African-American relationships with “law enforcement” personnel also be swallowed? That depends on us. — (NNPA)


Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is president emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.