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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Saturday, December 28, 2013
CRIME CRACKDOWN COMPARED TO SLAVE ROUNDUP
Arrests of '32 worst of the worst' leaves this community infuriated COLIN FLAHERTY
The reporters thought they were the good guys: Chattanooga is one of the most dangerous cities in America, and their series for The Times Free Press was creating pressure for local officials to do something about it.
Just one month ago the paper was bragging about the initial results of its Speak No Evil series: Police arrested “32 of the worst of the worst” in this city of 176,000 and the newspaper obliged by putting their pictures on the front page.
Everyone arrested was black.
The first phase was over: First, recognize that “most violent crime comes from a very small pocket” of people. Then tell them to stop. Or move. Or get arrested.
Two weeks later, the paper was ready for the next step: Organize a meeting to convince residents in high-crime neighborhoods to give up the code of silence and start calling police when they see a crime.
“quickly turned into a diatribe about prejudice and racism in Chattanooga. A number of comments revealed a strong belief that the black community has been treated unfairly by whites. Several speakers referred specifically to the November arrest of 32 black men that police called the ‘worst of the worst’ criminals in Chattanooga.
“‘Don’t just single out our kids,’ one black man said, speaking into the microphone. ‘Are they the only ones that commit crime?’ he asked to cheers and hollers.”
The focus of the forum was the so-called High Point initiative, named after a North Carolina town where the approach reduced crime.
That did not matter to Concerned Citizens for Justice. Members of the group believe that white racism is behind the poverty and injustice that creates so much violent crime. And that white people often commit similar crimes, but the police ignore them.
Members of the group packed the meeting and they were in no mood to listen to the newspaper’s facts: “Of the 122 shooting victims in Chattanooga from Jan. 1 through Nov. 21 of this year, 114 were black, six were white and two were Hispanic, according to figures provided by police. Of the 63 known suspects, only one was white.”
The paper patiently reported that “Kevin Muhammad, a Nation of Islam youth worker, said the white community also has a code of silence. He also compared the High Point Initiative to the days when police would round up slaves. When he did, much of the crowd cheered.”
The CCJ posted comments live from the forum at is FaceBook page: “CCJ member, Janelle Jackson, bringing up the history of ‘no snitch culture’ and that race is a part of this conversation because we know that regardless of what has been told to us, the ‘worst of the worst’ in this city are NOT 32 black men.”
The CCJ rejected the idea that the Code of Silence had anything to do with crime. Or that the disproportionate number of black people involved in violent crime has anything to with it either: Other than the fact that black people are victims of relentless white racism.
We find it very troubling that the “War on Drugs,” racial sentencing and arrest disparities, police brutality, income and access inequality – racism and poverty – were scarcely addressed while the bulk of investigation and blame fall on the community’s “code of silence.”
The NAACP joined in with a lukewarm statement, agreeing that crime is a problem, but so is racism, poverty and racial disparities on arrests and crime and imprisonment
The Chattanooga push back was not too much different from what happened earlier this year in Kansas City, Mo. After three years of regular and frequent and often intense black mob violence – much of it centered at upscale County Club Plaza and created by as many as 1,000 black people – the city council enacted a curfew.
In April, a councilman complained that all of the 34 people cited for curfew violations were black. “The data is the data,” city councilman Jermaine Reed told KMBC news. “That’s what I’m looking at. We’ve got to be honest and have an honest conversation. Say, ‘Here’s what it says and have an honest conversation, as well.’”
Reed did not return calls and emails for comment.
Congressman (and former mayor) Emanuel Cleaver got about as honest as it gets: When reporters asked what he thought about the curfew he tried to warn the council away: “All we are going to do is make a lot of black kids angry and they are going to take out their anger somewhere else.”
The brutal treatment of Black people continued well after slavery legally ended, through the days of Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and, to a certain extent today. The trauma caused by this psychological brutality resulted in severe damage to the mind of the victims, which manifested as an identity crisis, self hate, low self worth, and a distrust of the world at large. This mentality has been passed down through generations.
In Wilmington, Del. – another city even ahead of Chattanooga on the many “most dangerous” lists – had similar push back: Councilwoman Hanifa H. G. Shabazz said the hyper violence in Wilmington is a remnant of slavery and is causing mental illness, causing black people to become self-destructive. She said she came to that realization after watching the movie 12 Years of Slavery.
Shabazz wants the Centers for Disease Control to investigate this mental illness afflicting black people and her city council agreed unanimously.
In Rochester, another site of frequent and regular and intense black mob violence, City Councilman Adam McFadden said the violence at a local beach was no big deal. White people are just not used to it:
“I think what you saw at the beach is what [many have] been seeing in many of our neighborhoods for two decades,” said McFadden to WHAM TV news. “It’s just that you had a lot of people there who are not used to that culture and got to witness it personally.”
Back in Chattanooga, the one white person who stood up to talk admitted that white people have been treating black people poorly and contributing to all these problems in and out of Chattanooga.
“I can’t apologize for the past, but I can make the future better,” said June Corn.
The paper recognized that fighting crime might not be as easy as finding criminals and locking them up:
“The hurt and anger that echoed through the auditorium suggested that Mayor Andy Berke’s new violence reduction initiative faces an uphill battle among the very people it’s intended to help.”