FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Since writing American Justice?, author Paul Brakke has been writing and speaking about dealing with racism, which has been a continuing problem in America, from the days of slavery to today. Despite the many gains by the blacks middle and upper classes, blacks disproportionately face poverty in the inner cities and most are treated like second class citizens. So this resentment occasionally boils over into a confrontation – whether it’s one angry black man raging at a white man or a group of angry blacks joining together to protest, loot, trash, or otherwise attack property in the neighborhood.
In turn, many whites fear blacks and view the police as the first line of defense to keep them safe from black crime, though the mostly white police have had to risk their lives in dealing with crime on the front lines of racial tension — in minority communities where they often weren’t wanted or appreciated, because their tactics were often discriminatory or led to discriminatory consequences. A prime example is when a police officer is quick to suspect and arrest an African-American man who happened to be within a few blocks of where a crime occurred.
As Brakke writes in a recent blog, racial tension has continued to be a problem in this country, fueled in recent years by the death of Freddie Gray in a police van in Baltimore and the shooting by cops Ferguson, Charleston, St. Paul, and Baton Rouge, which finally led to the ambush shooting of cops by Micah Johnson in Dallas, Texas. For the most part the killings have been done by cops, though recently more and more cops are being killed. While many factors may contribute to these killings, a continuing theme is the feelings of anger and fear of the other. The police suspect the black man as up to no good and are more prone to shoot first rather than considering any alternatives, while some angry and alienated black men have been influenced by feelings of injustice to strike back in what is often a certain death following their act.
However, as Brakke emphasizes, it would be a big mistake to attribute the actions of a few rogue police or blacks to police or blacks generally, but there is no denying that racial tension contributes to the impetus for killings. And currently, that tension has come to a head in the face-off between cops and African-Americans. The media often are complicit in tensions, because they contribute to whipping up attention to conflicts. But so are whites who are content to let the situation fester as long as it doesn’t directly affect them. Or they go for simple solutions, such as seeking a crackdown on crime. But they don’t realize that the situation is complex, and a crackdown by itself will only provoke more resistance and fiercer battles.
So, what’s the fix? Accordig to Brakke, just as there’s no single cause, there’s no one single fix. The situation has festered for decades and only gotten worse, so that now about 2 million Americans are in federal, state, and county prisons and jails around the country, and black men are six times more likely than white men to be in prison, while Hispanic men are 2.4 times more likely to be there.
In Brakke’s view, we need to do something, before the racial divide becomes even greater, and he believes a comprehensive plan for criminal justice reform is one place to start, which he calls for in his book American Justice?. As he points out, in these divisive, partisan times, this approach could be the one way that conservatives concerned about cost and liberals/progressives concerned about discrimination can finally get together in a long-overdue bipartisan manner to restore citizen confidence in Washington, DC.
However, not just lawmakers need to get involved. The public has to get involved as well, and push the lawmakers into action. Accordingly, Brakke calls for a national dialogue, where both sides acknowledge their contribution to this sad state of affairs. Then, instead of casting blame on the other side for what they allegedly did wrong, individuals on both sides of the issue or the aisle need to listen to one another more.
Such an approach can begin the national healing, since a key part of this solution is to see things from the perspective or the other side, and then try to reform matters. The first step is to become more aware of the way the criminal justice system works. The police and blacks are certainly aware of how it usually operates, but they are often intimidated and scared when they confront each other in any situation, such as when a police officer stops a car for a traffic violation. What may seem routine when a police officer stops a white driver, whether for a broken tail light, lack of registration, improperly changing lanes or speeding, is fraught with the potential for violence when an officer stops a black driver. While the police officer may fear the driver may have a gun and reach for it to retaliate, the black driver is already thinking about the other black drivers shot by the police and worried if he might be next if he makes the slightest wrong move. So a simple stop is anything but that.
Additionally, Brakke states that whites who don’t encounter the system have to educate themselves about how the system really operates on others who are affected by it everyday, especially in the inner city. They have to realize the monstrosity this system has become for inner city residents. As he concludes his blog on the topic: “We all need to realize what is going on before anyone can hope to reform or fix the system with a goal of ending the division and the fear it brings. So now it’s time to start before the monster of a system we have created gets any worse!”
Copies of the book are also available in PDF format to members of the press.
For more information, please contact:
- TouchPoint Press at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Paul Brakke directly at email@example.com
for questions about his experiences with the system.
- Contact Paul Brakke at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gini Graham Scott at email@example.com
for questions about the system or the book’s relation to current events