This Week in Intolerable Racial Tension

c/o Vannevar

Recently-paralyzed East Liberty teenager Leon Ford Jr., his parents and many of their friends and neighbors yesterday took to City Council chambers to decry both Ford’s quadruple-shooting at a traffic stop in Highland Park which led to no charges, and a perceived pattern of Pittsburgh police not valuing Black lives.

That incident is being raised in the wake of national news about the shooting death of Detroit teenager Renisha McBride on a Dearborn Heights, MI porch, in a case bearing uncomfortable similarities to the Trayvon Martin fiasco.

It reminds me of the case of DeAndre Brown of East Liberty, jailed a month for a robbery he did not commit, seemingly because detectives on his case declined to investigate his stated alibi in favor of sweating out a guilty plea.

Recommended discussion topics:

1) When a chaotic incident wounds “police-community” relations or simply race relations, how does legal liability inhibit the civic repair process? A human response to either the Ford or Brown incidents would be face-to-face engagement between officials and those affected, some argument, some give-and-take, but surely some accepting of mistakes on both sides, or at least statements of “I/We could have done this instead” and “In the future we’ll bear this in mind in this manner.” But when the individual officers and their union are invested in utterly avoiding liability, the City and taxpayers are invested in minimizing liability, and those affected are invested in establishing as much liability as possible, what insidious effect does that pattern have on processing those incidents and the larger agenda of mending divides? While civil litigation is indispensable to the process of civil justice, what can we do to relieve that collateral clipping of the discourse?

2) How great are the opportunity costs to a City when a full one-quarter of its inhabitants perceive, for fairly valid reasons, that they are second-class citizens upon which their City places little value? What is lost when that 25% deduces from experience that they are considered Enemies of the State and of the privileged majority? And how much would it really take to turn that around?

UPDATE: Something like the acceptance of fault described above actually happened today regarding the Dennis Henderson episode in Homewood. Check out the reaction.

4 thoughts on “This Week in Intolerable Racial Tension

  1. Uncle Darren

    This is such a shame. The kid made the mistake of believing he had rights as an American under the 4th Amendment in light of an officer's “hunch”. Then of course, he made the unfortunate decision not to die from the officer's bullets, so he has to now face the most powerful force in all of this country…Government accountants and lawyers who don't want to pay for the mistakes of their officers. I wish I could spin some sense out of this story, but all I can see is that some people who carry a badge simply do not deserve that honor, and the dean counters who hired those bad officers refuse to admit their mistake, because then they'd have to pay.

  2. Bram Reichbaum

    Who, me? Related to this issue? I think they're pretty separate. When the Rev stated a day prior that the faces of our leaders don't reassure anybody of anything, rather it's the resources our government summons, I found that to be compelling.

    More on politics later.

  3. Anonymous

    I don't think it is compelling at all. It is racist. Can you imagine if a white council member demanded that the next council president be a Caucasian?


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