Equal Protection Under the Law Still Elusive for Many …
“The answer to injustice is not to silence the critic, but to end the injustice.”
Novelist Richard Wright, 1908 – 1960
Each morning, millions of Americans wake up and start their day expecting to routinely go about it as any other. They seldom, if ever, think to themselves that this day could be the last day of their lives; or whether they could be involved in a serious accident, be a victim of domestic violence, road rage, etc.
Many people start out each day striving to do good, work hard, go to school, and care for others, in full pursuit of happiness or their version of the American Dream. Many are accustomed to taking the simplest things in life for granted.
Yet, day to day life proves to be very perilous for all if you consider the annual statistics gathered by The National Center for Victims of Crime whose statistics are compiled from data provided by the FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, the Council of Better Business Bureaus along with numerous public and private agencies.
For instance, in 2013, Crime Clock Statistics illustrated that a violent crime occurred every 27.1 seconds; one murder every 37.0 minutes; one rape every 6.6 minutes; one robbery every 1.5 minutes; one aggravated assault every 43.5 seconds.
However, keep in mind that The Crime Clock should be viewed with care. The most aggregate representation of UCR data, it conveys the annual reported crime experience by showing a relative frequency of Part I offenses. It should not be taken to imply regularity in the commission of crime. The Crime Clock represents the annual ratio of crime to fixed time intervals (Source – FBI.gov).
I think you get the picture that it’s a dangerous world, posed by those individuals operating outside of the law. Fast forward to 2016 and contrast the previously stated perception of danger against a backdrop of how those individuals trained to serve and protect us from harm are now cast in a similar light as potential perpetrators.
As Bob Dylan so aptly stated in his 1964 song, “The Times They Are a-Changin,” and the country’s dichotomy with law and order will never be the same.
In September of 2015, it was reported by the Mint Press News Desk, “that people were killed by police in every state except Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont, three of the country’s least populated states.”
The new fear in America is one of distrust and fear from policemen and criminals alike. The invisible line of trust that tells you the police have my back is fast eroding. A simple outing to the store, a jog in the park, a walk in the mall or just hanging out at a friend’s home or your own could turn deadly. In today’s culturally charged environment, it’s not such a far-fetched idea. From January 2015 through February of 2016, 1,282 people have been killed by police; this according to the Guardian’s “Counted Database,” known as the single most comprehensive information available on police killings.
Their statistics point out that a majority of police victims are White, but that Blacks are killed at a disproportionate rate relative to the total percentage of the population.
The Guardian and its Counted project continues with the help of individuals across the country to count the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States throughout 2015 and 2016, to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.
What about the countless numbers of those who did not get killed by police but instead suffered traumatic physical or emotional harm? These individuals in many cases find themselves forced to live and survive between the shadows of our society. Literally, they are out of sight and out of mind of their families, friends and the cities in which they reside.
Trapped between the public’s allegiance to law enforcement on one hand, and the failure to be acknowledged or supported by others because of the stigma associated with police brutality issues on the other hand. Police violence is now in the forefront of social media, news and talk shows on a daily basis. How would you cope if your world and new reality undermined your sense of fairness and justice?
Take the case of Antwynette Houston. These are just some of the questions she asks herself each and every day. The single mother of two was returning to Louisville, Kentucky from a funeral and made an early morning stop to purchase a donut before going home. The stop forever changed her life with the city she loved, her family, friends and her career.
Her assault by a policeman and the subsequent treatment by the justice system left physical, emotional and financial scars which may never be remedied.
I asked Ms. Houston to describe what took place on that early morning of August 3rd of 2013, she said,
“I live in Louisville Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby. I’ve lived in this city my whole life and have never felt afraid to do anything. On August 3, 2013 all that changed. I was attacked one early morning around 3 a.m. by an off duty LMPD officer. I had just returned from an out-of-town funeral and decided to stop at a gas station for a snack before going home. My nine-year-old son was sleeping in the backseat.
The incident stemmed from a verbal altercation over a parking space, which was initiated by the police officer. The result in the end was that he completely separated my shoulder. I sustained multiple injuries and had surgery twice on my shoulder. I am still unable to use my arm today. I’m currently seeking help to undergo a third surgery.
I have addressed this issue many times with the chief of police and Mayor, the officer has never been disciplined or suspended. Despite the public outcry, Louisville’s chief of police ruled that the officers’ actions were “Lawful and Proper” even though he was off duty and had no probable cause to stop me.
This broken judicial system has changed me from an independent hard working mother and proud citizen into someone who is unable to work or provide for my child. Sadly, I believe that city officials in Louisville, Kentucky care more about horses and appearances than they do about the lives of a woman and a child.
My life has fallen apart in the two years since this incident. The Mayor, the police chief, and the officer, who assaulted me still work, eat, sleep and support their families. I was raised to be a good person respectful of the law. I raised my children to do the same. I did nothing wrong. Yet daily my body is wrecked with severe pain as a result of my injury, I can’t afford needed surgery, I can’t work, I can’t sleep, and I feel isolated and shunned. It takes everything to keep going. I just want my son to know its ok to fight for what’s right even though we are struggling not to become homeless. My only chance is to ask others to join me in my fight for fairness and justice.”
The plight of Antwynette Houston may or may not be unique, but it is a personable one that harkens us all to attempt to grasp where America is headed and what that reality will bring. While there is still time, Americans might want to put into practice the principle that Martin Luther King, Jr. famously quoted “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The lines are being clearly drawn. We all live in one America.