Obama’s Amazingly Graceful Eulogy

The fallen, but not the forgotten.

Familiarity doesn’t only breed contempt. It creates expectations. Barack Obama has been president for just short of seven years. I read somewhere during his time in office he has made statements at  memorials and  mass shootings in America  19 times. He has to extremely tired of this part of the job.

Yet Obama does it anyway because while it’s a dirty job, somebody’s gotta do it. Somebody has to remind the rest of us America isn’t a great big unlocked insane asylum where the inmates are armed and running buck wild in the streets though it probably looks that way to the rest of the world.

The President isn’t only the Commander-In-Chief of the nation’s armed forces. He’s also the Counselor-In-Chief when yet another senseless act of violence occurs such as the killing of Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lee Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney by a murderous White supremacist.

Obama led a bipartisan group from Washington for Pinckney’s memorial service, and he gave praise to the fallen pastor and those of the parishioners who fell with him.     The president used a country preacher’s cadence that while solemn was  full of hope, healing and grace and  grace particularly was on the president’s mind as he lauded Rev. Pinckney.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life–a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

It was no surprise the president spoke plainly and forcefully on the unaddressed issues laid bare by the Charleston church shootings including the bloody rebel flag the killer wrapped himself in.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise–as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.

Americans have a remarkable ability to focus on something with great intensity and then move on from it. Here today is Rachel Dolezal and tomorrow’s she’s a trivia question. But nobody paid attention when NYPD patrolman Peter Liang was indicted for shooting Akai Gurley That’s the sort of thing which matters while Dolezal’s subterfuge and family matters don’t. The President reminded us there’s still a lot of unfinished business.

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system –and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

Then Obama did something no president ever has done before and may never ever do again. He began to sing. The President of the United State sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Amazing grace —  how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. “

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.

It’s been a long time since I was in church but Reverend President took me there.

I teared up AND got chills. This was the Obama I voted for. Every now and then my president makes me proud and he reminds me why. I could never imagine President McCain or President Romeny responding the way Obama did. Would Rand or Jeb or even Hillary preach and sing from the pulpit? Maybe they would, probably they wouldn’t but whatever they would do they could never do something so perfectly human.

We may not know it yet, but we’re  going to miss Obama when he’s gone.   He’s done some very good things, some very bad things, been exceptional, been ordinary, been inspiring and been infuriating.   Coming off a week where he had won fast- track trade authority in Congress (mostly with Republican support) and two monumentally important decisions by the Supreme Court making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and preserving Obamacare,  the president had enjoyed some significant wins.   We’ve seen many of Obama’s predecessors enjoy good weeks.

What Obama hasn’t been is anything like we’ve ever seen in any American President.    That’s a good thing and a uniquely Obama thing.

The NYPD Has A Victim Mentality

The New York Police Department is the nation’s largest and the most pissed off at their boss, Mayor Bill De Blasio.  Following the killing of two cops by an assassin as they sat in their car,  the police and their unions  lashed out against De Blasio blaming him for creating a hostile environment placing their lives at risk.  I get it the cops are angry at the mayor. What I don’t get is how with that anger, how the police can expect respect when they don’t show any?

De Blasio requested the protests to suspend so that the funerals would not be politicized. The police union should have done likewise. All protests aren’t nearly the same thing. Most protests have a point. This was a public tantrum by the cops as much as any sort of “protest.”   There’s a right time and right place for everything.  In this time and this place where contemptuous cops who exploited the funeral of Officer Ramos to turn their backs and show their asses wasn’t it.

This whole “it’s a cop thing and you wouldn’t understand” thing is a crock. Cops have the same rights as anybody else. They can protest to their little hearts content and when they do they can be called out on it.

Same. As. Anyone. Else.

Officer Ramos wasn’t even in the fucking ground before the cops decided to try to show up the mayor. De Blasio showed more respect and class for the slain officers than his supposed brothers in blue did by pulling the kind of stunt had Rev. Sharpton done it he would be roundly condemned for.

It might be relevant to go back to what was actually said by De Blasio that so royally pissed off the police unions. The flash point seems to have been the comments made by the mayor in the wake of the Eric Garner decision about “the talk” and his wife, Chirlane have had with his 17-year-old son, Dante on how to deal with encounters with the police.

 

This is profoundly personal to me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. And I said to him, I did.

Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.

And that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first, that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same time, there’s a history we have to overcome, because for so many of our young people, there’s a fear. And for so many of our families, there’s a fear.

So I’ve had to worry over the years. Chirlane’s had to worry. Is Dante safe each night? There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night. Is my child safe? And not just from some of the painful realities—crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods—but is safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.

That’s the reality.

That’s outrageous!  How dare the mayor suggest even his son’s life is at risk?

The impression Bill de Blasio was trying to make is his son will be seen first as a Black male and that precludes all other considerations.  The impression Dante de Blasio should be aware of is Blacks are stopped, searched, arrested and imprisoned at rates higher than other races.  Dante should know the incarceration rate for Blacks is six times higher than the national average.

English: NYPD Dodge Charger #2909 in midtown M...

Cops under siege or hunkering down into a bunker mentality?

 

However, what Dante should really worry about isn’t so much isn’t simply being stopped and frisked, handcuffed, jailed and sent to prison as it is Black male teens are 21 more times more likely to be shot than a White male teen.  These facts are shrugged off as an unfortunate side effect of Blacks simply committing crimes disproportionate to their numbers in the overall population. Rudy Giuliani on Fox News have referenced this phenomenon and the implication could not be clearer: White cops shoot Black suspects because so many Black suspects are committing crimes.

Where this oversimplification falls apart are the “crimes” committed by Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice or John Crawford were trivial at best or in the case of Akai Gurley, no crime at all was committed

Putting on a badge doesn’t grant any extra rights to the police and pointing it doesn’t make someone a cop hater for doing so. Some defenders of the cops are incapable of distinguishing between criticism and disrespect.

No cop who thinks his authority to kill makes him untouchable, unquestionable and above criticism deserves respect. In fact, they don’t even deserve to be a cop.

The protestors marching in the streets of New York didn’t kill the two officers. Ismaaily Brinsley did that but by latching on Eric Garner’s death as the excuse to commit double-homicide (and nearly triple as he first shot his ex-girlfriend), it provides an opening for anyone looking an opening to discredit the protestors and repudiate the criticism directed at the police to say, “Look what you made happen!”

Such shrill charges are bullshit. The protests aren’t happening in a vacuum. They are in reaction to grotesque acts of police brutality and a justice system which time and again declines to hold officers responsible for it.

In fact, I don’t consider the protests to be “anti-cop.” That’s generalizing. The protests are anti-BAD cop. Citizens unhappy with how they are being served and protected are well within their rights to air their grievances and demand bad cops be held accountable.

Any cop who doesn’t think they should be held accountable has an option: quit! There’s always work for security guards.

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The Execution of Eric Garner by the NYPD

He didn’t want to be arrested, but he shouldn’t be dead.

It was hard to miss Eric Garner.  He was 6-4 and between 350 and 400 pounds.  He was hard to miss, but easy to kill.

Garner was protesting a NYPD officer’s attempt to arrest him for selling illegal cigarettes.  Several cops wrestled the father of six to the sidewalk as he yelled, “‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! Get off of me, get off of me.”   Sgt. Daniel Pantelo applied an illegal choke hold on Garner who apparently suffered a heart attack and died.  The event was captured on video as the cops angrily ordered a man recording the assault on Garner to step away.

To serve and protect, huh?  Who protected Eric Garner from the NYPD.

I’m sure some apologist for the cops will say this was all Eric Garner’s fault. He had no business being a 400 lb diabetic with chronic asthma and resisting the po-po.

But mostly he had no damn business being so Black. That’s always a crime.

This story will fade from the headlines. My attention to it will not. I will await to see how justice handles a gross injustice.  On social media I’ve seen talk that Garner’s killing is simply another manifestation of life and death under the oppressive boot of an aggressive, militaristic police force that acts as an occupying force to keep the niggers, spics and poor White trash in their proper places.   Well, there may be some truth to that, but let me say this about the talk of Americans living in a “police state.”

The NYPD has a long and troubling history of police brutality, but there is a difference between police “brutality” and living in a police “state.”

In a true police state, Eric Garner would never be stopped by the authorities, accused of selling illegal cigarettes and die as an officer executes an illegal choke hold and executes him on the spot.

In a true police state, Mr. Garner would not be allowed out on the streets to freely roam as he likes. He would be stopped, compelled to produce his identification, state his business, and suffer detainment and incarceration should the authorities dislike his response.

This is not the reality of the situation. The reality is Black men being belligerent with White cops never ends well and when you’re big and scary-looking on top of being Black that simply compounds the drama.

People are looking for a devious, Machiavellian explanation for the sorry fate of Eric Garner when the age-old, obvious one explains it well enough

This is not a police state.

Unless these cops walk.

As they walked for Clifford Glover.

As they walked for Randolph Evans.

As they walked for Patrick Dorismond.

As they walked for Eleanor Bumpurs.

As they walked for Anthony Baez.

As they walked for Sean Bell.

As they walked for Amadou “41 Shots” Diallo.

THEN it’s a police state.

Garner was summarily executed on a New York sidewalk.

A Case of Cause and Fatal Effect?

DT_Kimani Gray

Kimani Gray was either the villain or a victim.

If you’re a young Black or Latino male living in New York City, your color makes you a suspect and suspects get stopped and frisked.

Some get dead.   Can I say for a fact the heavy-handed Stop and Frisk policy of the New York City Police Department that carries the blessing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a contributing reason to why Kimani “Kiki” Gray is dead after being gunned down by two undercover cops?   No, I can’t say that.  What I can say is when the police are given a blank check to stop whomever they want for whatever reason they want, they will abuse  the policy and when people are always considered a suspect eventually one of them is going to get hurt.

Or blown away in a hail of 11 bullets like Gray was.   This is what we know so far:

 Kimani ‘Kiki’ Gray was shot several times by two officers patrolling East Flatbush in an un-marked car around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night.

According to the NYPD’s account, the officers spotted Gray standing with five other young males in front of a home at E. 52nd St., near Tilden Ave. As the officers approached, Gray separated from the group and adjusted his waistband in a manner the officers deemed suspicious, the department says.

“After the anti-crime sergeant and police officer told the suspect to show his hands, which was heard by witnesses, Gray produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers, who fired a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times,” Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department, said.

Gray was taken to Kings County Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The officers–one a veteran of eight years, the other a veteran of five–have not been identified. They have been placed on administrative duty while the shooting is investigated.

The kid was “adjusting his waistband” and he “produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers.”  What’s the problem here?  Sounds like an open-and-shut case.  The cops did their jobs and a thug is pushing up daisies.   Next!

gray_demonstration

Following Gray’s death there have been protests and clashes with cops.

But the devil is always in the details and some of the details don’t line up with the official version.

Tishana King claims to have watched the entire scene unfold from her window. She told the Daily News she is “certain [Gray] didn’t have anything in his hands” when he was shot.

King says Gray was backing up when the officers began shooting. “Kimani started backing up,” she said. “The cop took out his gun and started firing at Kimani.”

“His [Gray’s] hands were down,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he let off [fired] his gun. There was no reason. No false move.”

A police source told the Daily News the officers who killed Gray initially reported to supervisors that he pulled a gun. King gave a tape recorded interview to the NYPD hours after the shooting and never mentioned the teen possessing a firearm.

A .38-caliber Rohm’s Industry revolver was found at the scene.

Multiple witnesses have claimed Gray begged not to be killed.

Sharon Smith told the Voice she witnessed the shooting and said her daughter was outside when it happened; “[She] heard him say ‘don’t kill me, don’t kill me.’ And they say ‘stay still’ or they going to shoot you again.”

Eventually, I can accept the truth.  It may take me a while before I do and I’ll get there after kicking and screaming all the way, but even when it ticks me off, I’ll accept the truth no matter how unpleasant it is.

In Mike Bloomberg’s New York,  if you’re young and Black you’re guilty of something until you prove you’re not.   Kimani Gray was young, Black and now he’s dead.  That IS the truth.

Is the mayor more worried about Big Gulps or bad shootings?

Who was Kiki Gray?   It depends on who’s asking the question.   When it’s his friends Gray is just another 16-year-old hanging on with his boys smoking some marijuana when the cops roll up and the drama starts.   There are reports in the New York Daily News that Gray might have been a member of the Bloods.  There is a video  of  a teenager who looks like Gray seen taunting and slapping a rival Crips member.

There are two problems with this.   The first is a lot of kids  look just like Gray.   The second is even if Gray was in a gang, did those cops know that before they shot him?

This is exactly what is wrong with these “official investigations.”  The names of the cops haven’t been revealed.  What’s in their personnel files?  Have they ever been involved in any shootings before?  Gray may not have been an angel, but what dirt is under the fingernails of the guys who killed him?

The  NYPD’s official policy is one of intimidation, harassment and confrontation.    Did Gray run because he was afraid of being stopped and frisked while he was carrying a gun?   Did he compound the mistake by pulling the gun and pointing it the cops?   The NYPD and the newspapers are saying that’s exactly what he did and that’s why he’s dead now.  Eyewitnesses tell a different story.   Whose version of events will be the final one?

You're not under arrest, but you are under suspicion.

You’re not under arrest, but you are under suspicion.

We already know that answer, don’t we?   In a surveillance society where a large portion of your population are permanent suspects the policy of  Stop and Frisk can be the cause with fatal side effects.

March 14, 2013 —  The NYPD is set to record its 5 millionth stop-and-frisk encounter under Mayor Bloomberg today, according to an analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union based on an extrapolation of Police Department data.

About 4.4 million of the stop-and-frisk encounters, or 88 percent, were of innocent people as they did not result in an arrest or summons. More than 86 percent of people stopped were black or Latino.

“This disturbing milestone is a slap in the face to New Yorkers who cherish the right to walk down the street without being interrogated or even thrown up against the wall by the police,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The NYPD’s routine abuse of stop-and-frisks is a tremendous waste of police resources, it sows mistrust between officers and the communities they serve, and it routinely violates fundamental rights. A walk to the subway, corner deli or school should not carry the assumption that you will be confronted by police, but that’s the disturbing reality for young men of color in New York City.”

The NYPD have stopped the citizens of the city they are charged with protecting over 5 million times.  That’s more than the combined populations of Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

That’s something to think about.  In a city where the color of your skin constantly makes you a suspect it’s easy for a routine stop-and-frisk to escalate into a fatal encounter.