The final Sean Bell act of injustice

By Michael Vass | February 17, 2010

I’m in NYC on business and I was checking the latest local news for what’s going on in my old home. That’s when I noticed this small item of news that hit at about 11pm. The resolution of the Sean Bell case.

A quick summary of the case. Sean Bell was having his bachelor party with 2 friends at a strip club. They had a minor argument with a man in the club and decide to leave. The man follows them and approaches their car. The men in the car attempt to leave. The man that followed was a cop. He and 4 other officers, in the strip club on a different matter, fire 50 shots into the car – killing Bell and wounding the 2 other men in the car. Bell and his friends were unarmed.

Those are facts. The debate is whether this was justified, excessive, or a crime. The coverage of the case was centralized in New York City, and was spotty from day one. The news media overlooked initial claims by officers that there was a 4th man in the car that escaped the barrage of bullets without injury with a gun in hand. An individual that was never seen by any witnesses nor verified in any manner.

So what has happened in this case that has floated slowly through the criminal justice system for 4 years? The criminal charges were dropped by judges. The Feds have decided that they won’t pursue charges either.

Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation. – Justice Department statement”

Is anyone surprised?

There seems to be 2 ways the criminal justice system reacts to African Americans (and often any person of color). IF they are a huge entertainer, like say Snoop Dogg or lil Wayne, they get mutiple chances to evade jail as they break the law over and over. Like the recent decision to allow lil Wayne to delay his jail sentence so he can get his personal dentist to take the diamond out of his mouth. Like you or I would be allowed to delay going to jail for dental surgery that any dentist can do, including those in a prison.

The other side of the coin is far less cavalier. This it the side most people of color get to see. That’s where African Americans are seen a violent criminals that need to be stopped at all costs. Where people of color deserve to be shot, as often as possible, because they might rise up like the undead and raise hell with them.

It’s that kind of justice that causes the kidnapping, sexual abuse, and rape of Megan Williams by 6 Whites (men and women of vartious ages) to go virtually unspoken by the media. It causes the muder of Oscar Grant at the start of a year to be discarded, even as riots unfold because of the murder – a murder of an unarmed man. It allows men like Bell, Diallo, and many others to be shot so many times as to be the human equivalent of cheese – each the murder of unarmed men.

In each case, and others like the assault by 15 officers in Philidelphia against 3 men, the person of color was assumed to be violent, deadly, and apparently impervious to bullets. In each case the trials take multiple years, plenty of time for witnesses and the media to forget what happened. In each case the reports of officers being absolved of their wrongs is announced in the dead of night, a weekend, over a holiday, or a combination of the previous.

Over the years I have recorded case after case of the warped justice system in America. I have seen police officers walk away from acts of depraved brutality, while I have seen people of color sledgehammered by the very same system for minor violations of law. I have seen the justice system bend over and kiss it’s ass to make sure that whatever celebrity gets one more chance to cause a problem with drugs, violence, and/or guns.

The justice system isn’t flawed. It’s broken. The latest example of it with Sean Bell is just another reminder to police across the nation that as long as the person has a skin tone other than White, they can do damn near whatever they please.

For those that think President Obama ushered in an era of post-racial America, I submit this case. I submit his action to even acknowledge the Oscar Grant case that happened just before his inauguration. But for those that hold out and hope for change there is this

“Ms. Paultre Bell said she hoped to get the attention of the White House. “There is a history of black men being killed by police officers, and something needs to be done,” she said. “We’re hoping to eventually meet with President Obama, and that he’ll do something, because this is a national problem.”

I agree with Ms. Bell that this is a national problem. But I’m also sadly willing to take odds that President Obama neither responds to them, or any of the cases that I have mentioned or exist in this nation, nor will he publicly address the problem. Because America is anything but post-racial.

Will this ever change? Not until the day that news of these kinds of abuses of power and corruption of the justice system are as prominent in the news as the attention given to Paris Hilton and Stephanie Pratt wearing the same dress gets. The same attention that Burger King’s business moves for the breakfast market gets. The same attention that Sarah Palin talking about Family Guy episodes gets. Are you understanding the disparity yet?

I feel bad for the Bell family, but more than that I feel afraid. Because it seems I have a bull’s eye on my head, just like every other person of color in America. And that is a feeling you never get used to.

Topics: Black and White | 1 Comment »

One Response to “The final Sean Bell act of injustice”

  1. Commentary: Trayvon and our silence | VASS political blog

    [...] tensions and prejudice. Over the years we have spoken out clearly and loudly about Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Adolph Grimes, Amadou Diallo, Robbie Tolan and Megan Williams among other cases and [...]

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