The New Racism

Below is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch. I thought I might comment on it. My comments in red.

By Adrienne Hood

My son, Henry Green was shot and killed by Columbus police on June 6. He was walking with a friend in our neighborhood. Last Wednesday night, 13-year-old Tyre King was shot and killed by Columbus police. He was in eighth grade.

All too true. Sounds horrible, doesn't it? Must be out of control racist cops rampaging on our streets. However, there are just a few minor allegations I would add, you know, just to round out the picture. Really unimportant and inconsequential. Probably not worth mentioning, which is why Ms. Hood didn't, I'm sure. But at the risk of being called racist, I thought I might mention them.

Besides walking with a friend in the neighborhood, I think maybe, just maybe, these allegations may be considered during the investigation of the Henry Green shooting:

1. The neighborhood was South Linden, a particularly crime-ridden area.

2. Henry Green was holding a gun as he walked with his friend.

3. Police identified themselves, as they are trained, and ordered Henry to drop the gun.

4. Henry disregarded the order.

5. Henry fired the gun at the police.

And they might consider these insignificant allegations in the Tyre King shooting:

1. Tyre was committing armed robbery with an accomplice, and police were dispatched.

2. The police found Tyre and ordered him to get down on the ground.

3. Tyre disregarded the order and drew a gun from his waistband.

4. His alleged 19-year-old accomplice was found days later and arrested.

5. The accomplice obeyed police orders; he was not shot.

Totally unimportant and racist, I know. Still, I thought I'd mention them.

My son was stopped, and ultimately killed, as part of the city's "Community Safety Initiative". This program has a troubling history and a bad reputation in communities where people already fear for their safety. We see an influx of plainclothes officers in unmarked SUVs patrolling our neighboroods and jumping out on young people suspected of being up to no good. The way this program is run demonstrates reckless and callous indifference toward the well-being of our communities

Perhaps this is a callous and indifferent question to ask, but how many of you readers, when ordered to drop a gun by the police, would disregard that order and instead shoot at the police? I will be bold here and say not many. I wouldn't. The thought simply would not enter my mind. Most likely, Ms. Hood wouldn't either. But there are some people who would. Those people are called violent criminals. If he indeed fired at police, Henry Green was a violent criminal. He was part of the reason people in the community already feared for their lives. Henry Green is no longer part of the community. Thanks to the Community Safety Initiative, the community is safer. I am sorry Ms. Hood raised a son capable of such violence.

Further, this initiative has a long history of being implemented strategically in gentrifying areas. Poor people and black people who live in or near neighborhoods targeted for development are not only priced out of their homes, but policed out of their neighborhoods. The death of my son, the death of Tyre and the disparity in how different communities are policed make it clear where our city's priorities lie.

Let's pretend I'm the Chief of Police, charged with fighting crime and stopping criminals so good, honest folks can live their lives in peace - that's my priority. Now I know this is probably impractical and racist, but I would employ the majority of my policing in areas where criminals commit crimes. And in areas where few criminals commit crimes, I would employ far less policing. South Linden fits the former description. I would make it as uncomfortable as possible for criminals in South Linden and similar areas and hound them. I know that's racist thinking, but forgive me. I was raised that way.

If a person owns his home, rising prices are a good thing. He gains more equity in his home and becomes wealthier. It's also a sign that police are doing a great job, that criminals are leaving, and good, honest folks are beginning to find the area attractive and no longer avoid it. If you rent, and the rent rises above your means, then you move to cheaper digs, or maybe in with family or friends. That's what I did, racist as it was.

This is why we held a demonstration at City Hall this week, and this is why we will continue to protest until we see change. This is not about the community versus the police. We understand that the way our police do their jobs is a reflection of our city's values. We understand that our sons are dying not simply because of bad policing, but because of a system that values wealth and development more than their lives.

Really? Those are the reasons your sons are dying? Honestly, there are no other reasons? Perhaps a racist perspective might be of interest.

Readers might note that Henry Green's surname is different from his mother's. To those with intact families, this might seem strange, but among people who hold marriage in low regard, it is common. Readers might wonder where Henry Green's father is, and why he hasn't raised his voice on behalf of his son. Or Tyre King's father...where is he? Why is only Tyre's grandmother standing up for him? Neither one of those young men had a father who cared that they died, let alone how they lived, and therein lies the primary reason your sons die. They die for lack of good fathers to teach them how to be good men, and an overabundance of gangsters, drug dealers, and other moral bankrupts to teach them how to be criminals.

I have two stories that illustrate this problem. The first happened about 30 years ago. I was a young college man doing yard work for some extra money. As I worked, three neighborhood boys perhaps 8 years old struck up a conversation with me. Two were black, one was hispanic, all were poor. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I asked the boys what they wanted to do with their lives. Did they have any dreams they hoped to realize?

The hispanic boy said he thought he'd like to be a vetrinarian, but didn't think it would happen because of the expense.

I said, "If you work hard and get good grades in school, you can make it happen for yourself. Don't give up on your dreams. Fight for them. Look at me. I'm not from a rich family, and I'm going to college. You can too."

The first black boy said he didn't know what he wanted to do. I told him not to worry, that life and experience would teach him his talents and guide him down the right path if he had the courage and persistence to follow it.

The second black boy said with enthusiasm, "I want to go to the pen."

I was confused. As I was an English major, I asked, "Pen? What do you mean? You mean like a writing pen?"

"No, the pen. I want to go to jail."

With a bemused chuckle, I said, "Jail? Are you joking? You don't want to go to jail..."

"Yes, I do. That's where my uncle is, and he's tough. He's the toughest guy I know, and I'm gonna be just like him."

Then the boys were off, and I was left speechless for a good five minutes.

The second story happened just this last Memorial Day. I attended the Worthington parade with my wife. As we watched various floats, bands, and groups pass by, a certain sort of dance troupe composed entirely of young black girls perhaps 6 to 12 years of age approached.

When they reached us, a rap song began to blare from the back of a van that led the group, and the girls began to gyrate in a disgusting fashion culminating with all the girls (except for the very youngest) simulating sexual intercourse. I kid you not. Their legs were spread wide, and their butts were high as they put their palms on the ground. Then they lowered and raised their butts several times as if they had a young man beneath them, and then ended with a sort of orgasmic spasm as their supposed "teachers" shouted, "That's right, girls! Shake that booty!"

Tell me, why wouldn't your children die when you teach them lifestyles of death?

We're calling on city leadership to stand with us in the moment. We're calling for a drastic shift in priorities for the city of Columbus. We want less investment in aggressive policing tactics and more investment in programs that are proven to actually keep communities safe - drug treatment, violence-prevention initiatives, and restorative-justive programs. We're also calling on Prosecutor Ron O'Brien's office to appoint an independent prosecutor to oversee the investigation into my son's death, into Tyre's death and in all police-involved shootings.

Let me get this straight...government programs have all but replaced fathers in your community, made you woefully dependent, and effectively ripped the soul from your community...and you think you need more government programs. It's like you relocated your slavery from plantation masters to government officials and now complain because the government's shackles aren't tight enough.

The last thing anyone needs in this country is more governmet programs. What you and all of America needs is very simple and painfully obvious.

We need God.

If God-fearing men taught their children the ways of God, criminality and police shootings would plummet, because where God is, evil cannot long abide.

We do not trust the police to investigate themselves; in O'Brien's 19-year tenure as prosecutor, no officer has been indicted in a fatal, on-duty shooting.

Perhaps you could name a case during O'Brien's 19-year tenure as prosecutor (aside from accidents) where a fatal, on-duty shooting was not justified. I think you'll find it extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Since Tyre's death, we've witnessed two more high-profile killings of black men by police - one in Tulsa and one in Charlotte. The epidemic of police violence against communities of color is a national crisis that must be addressed on a national level. But it can, and must, be addressed at a local level as well.

It's no more an epidemic than it's ever been. As near as I can tell, police kill about 300 black men a year over the entire nation, and almost always for justifiable reasons. How many of your sons do home-grown black criminals kill each year across the nation? Thousands, and without a squeak of protest. Which situation would any reasonable person consider an "epidemic"? I suppose what motivates black protest is not the number of deaths, but the political expedience of certain deaths.

You can see my take on the Tulsa shooting in last month's post. The man was a criminal, high on PCP, and disregarding police orders. I would wager the Charlotte shooting occurred under somewhat similar circumstances.

I miss my son every day, and I will until I die. Tyre's family now lives with that same burden. I pray that no more families in our city will have to know this pain. This will only be possible if Columbus makes a true, fully funded commitment to safety and justice for all communities.

I am sorry for your pain. I cannot imagine my pain and shame if my son leveled a gun at police and died because of it.