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Sensitivity Training for Racial 911 Calls Could Be Good Thing

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Criminalizing ‘Racial’ 911 Calls?


Crimes come with punishment, both light and severe.


However, when crimes have a racial overtone, that crime can escalate into the hate crime category, which usually results in stiffer penalties.


Making a false police report constitutes a crime and recently many African-Americans have had 911 called on them for just existing and breathing.


Now, New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton wants the district attorney’s office to consider hate crime charges if the D.A. finds out that the cops were called on someone simply because of the color of his or her skin and he has filed legislation to make that a reality.


While the term hate crime is extremely harsh and often reserved for violent criminals, there needs to be more of a deterrent for people calling the police on innocent African-Americans.


And additional punishment is necessary for people making these false claims, because those false claims can very easily lead to loss of life for an innocent and unarmed African-American at the hands of a police officer who erroneously views that person as a threat.


Earlier in the month, Hamilton, an African-American politician, and some of his campaign workers and volunteers canvassed the public streets of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, N.Y. trying to drum up votes for his reelection bid.


A lady, who happens to be White, said she did not like Hamilton’s criticism of President Donald Trump and his immigration policy and she requested that he leave the public street and stop campaigning.


When Hamilton said no, the lady said she would call the police on him.


Hamilton, thinking she was joking, continued campaigning with his staff and volunteers.


When the police officers arrived and saw that no crime had been committed, they let everyone involved proceed with their day.


But that incident led Hamilton to believe that people who call the cops on African-Americans just because they are African-American should face jail time, fines and/or even sensitivity training like some employees at companies like Starbucks had to take after allegations of racial discrimination at a Philadelphia coffee shop.


“My civil rights were violated and other peoples’ civil rights are being violated,” Hamilton said. “We have to make sure people understand you can’t call the police on someone who isn’t doing anything wrong.”


While I agree with additional fines and I definitely agree with Hamilton on the sensitivity training, I disagree with jail time unless it is totally egregious.


Furthermore, I do not want someone who has prejudice to be lumped into the same category as someone who actually physically assaults, threatens or kills someone just because of the color of his or her skin.


Like all crimes or offenses, there are levels to prejudice, and calling the cops on someone because of skin color does not equal some of these neo-Nazis and White supremacists by a long shot.


But the sensitivity training is very intriguing, especially if the person has to pay out of pocket for it and if they do not complete it they will face additional punishments.


Sensitivity training can be something like defensive driving in which the hate crime status disappears after completion.


My rationale for this is because racism and prejudice often grows because of a lack of exposure.


Like it or not, many White people and some non-White people, have not had experiences with people of other races because in many ways Americans still self-segregate.


When I talk to some of my close friends, who happen to be White, about race relations and racism in America they have no clue about the racial divide in America because it often does not adversely affect White Americans.


Many people do not know when they are saying something that could be racially insensitive.


Likewise, many people do not know when they are saying something religiously or sexually insensitive.


Many people only know their experience and cannot put themselves in the shoes of others.


They only see their point of view and their experiences.


Many people probably think if I have never seen racism or experienced it, it must not exist or people are simply playing the so-called race card.


After comedian Roseanne Barr lost her reboot of the sitcom, “Roseanne,” I had a conversation with a colleague about why calling an African-American a monkey, ape or anything similar is one of the most racist things a White person can say about or to an African-American.


He told me that Barr calling Valerie Jarrett, a former White House staff member under President Barack Obama, should not be considered racist because someone once called former President George W. Bush an ape or monkey, and President Bush is White.


I had to explain to my colleague that White people, as an entire race, were never considered animals or monkeys like the entire African-American race was once considered.


During our discussion, I had to explain to him that this country once listed African-Americans as animals in the United States census.


The United States never considered White people animals.


White people were always considered human beings and to America and many European countries, White people considered themselves to be superior human beings or the master race.


Some segregationists throughout the Jim Crow South would even have signs in the windows of their business, saying no niggers, apes or monkeys allowed inside.


When I explained the history behind Barr’s obvious racial slur, which she has a history of hurling at African-American women like Susan Rice, he understood why everyone was so upset at the polarizing comedian.


Our conversation amazed me because I did not know that so many White Americans have no clue about what African-Americans endure and/or endured in this country of ours.


Many just think we are making excuses when all we are trying to do is educate them and hopefully help the country heal from its systemically racist past and present.


Hopefully, my colleague walked away with a greater understanding and appreciation of the plight of African-Americans and hopefully that will change his attitude and the attitude of those he comes in contact with.


And if Hamilton finds success with his proposed bill, hopefully sensitivity training will teach people more about other cultures, histories and experiences.


This is needed because the purpose of criminal punishment is rehabilitation and re-assimilation.


Locking people away and not teaching them the error of their ways will never correct the errors of society.


This article was published on Friday 24 August, 2018.
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