Why do the cities burn?

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 23, 2020

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By Jack Bernard

Bernard is a retired corporate executive.

A lawyer and close personal friend said, “I will never watch a sporting event again!”

The White House says the reaction of black sports figures to the recent events in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is “absurd” and “silly.” Considering the remarks of President Trump regarding the Charlottesville white power rally a few years back, “fine people on both sides,” that’s not surprising. My longtime friend, a native of South Metro, is usually very sharp… but also a longtime Trump supporter with a son who is in law enforcement. It’s easy to see why he as a conservative older white man reacted the way he did. I still like my friend, but was he right?

I know that he was not, and that racism continues to be America’s original sin. It’s not as though the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man attempting to drive away from a domestic dispute, is the only time police have used unnecessary force based on someone’s color.

Decades ago, I rode to work in Atlanta with a retired Army Colonel from PTC, a Georgia native. He told me that racism simply disappeared when the civil rights laws were passed. Prone to bigoted statements, he was vocal about his anti-black feelings. I am certain he said the same things to his children in that his son and his family suddenly moved to lily white Idaho.

That same attitude persists today. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who in November will undoubtedly be elected the next Representative for the U.S. House from the Rome-Dalton area, says for African Americans to just get over it: “Guess what? Slavery is over. Black people have equal rights.” People like Greene and that Army officer are clearly bigots who, regardless of the facts, are willfully blind to the problem of institutionalized racism. Although African Americans have rights guaranteed under our Constitution (as amended, of course), they have been horribly discriminated against since their emancipation after the Civil War. That’s not an opinion; it’s an historical fact. I am from a law enforcement family and know that not all police officers are like Bull Connor of Birmingham. However, his actions were not that long ago, and the police have historically been among those mistreating African Americans the worst. That has not changed…and it’s not just in the South.

As a small child, I grew up in NYC where my favorite Uncle ran an NYPD precinct. It was also in NYC that Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, was choked to death by NYPD officers who were arresting him for illegally selling cigarettes.

Decades back, I lived in Louisville and still have relatives there. A short while ago, police burst unannounced into an innocent EMS worker’s home and shot her to death in a case of mistaken identity. Would that have happened if she were white?

And Ferguson, Missouri, didn’t just have spontaneous riots. They occurred after an unarmed 18-year-old boy (Michel Brown) was shot to death by police for allegedly having stolen a box of cigars. Let’s not forget about the recent George Floyd killing in Minneapolis. He was choked to death by police over a bad check while he and onlookers plead for his life. And, before that there’s the Philando Castile killing, also in Minnesota. He was black, compliant and unarmed… but still shot to death reaching for his driver’s license.

Of course, that brings us back to Georgia, which had the fifth highest number of police killings nationally from 2013-2019. Recently, we had the Glynn County cold-blooded murder of an unarmed, innocent, black jogger by a former law enforcement officer and his son. Then, shortly after we had the Atlanta Police Department killing of a black man, shot in the back at Wendy’s. Apparently, his crime was being drunk and then running away from them.

Nationally, black people are killed by police three times as often as whites. And, police killings are increasing every year. Police have already killed 751 people in 2020. How many of them were unnecessary? Maybe my friend and other Trump supporters should think about that for a while rather than basketball.