I had the privilege of being on the Channel 10 South Florida Roundtable this past Sunday. We took on some tough issues surrounding the recent bill passed by the Florida legislature in response to the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. While some aspects are good (increased funding for mental health), many have concerns as to how this will eventually affect students of color.
Check out the footage here and share your thoughts!!
Over the weekend, two police officers from the New York Police Department, Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were gunned down in their police cars at close range and lost their lives. The lone gunman had posted pictures on social media before and after the murder, and had made statements that this was in retribution for the recent police involved deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
The backlash has been instant and fierce. Social media has been on fire, as well as mainstream media. The “us versus them” mentality has gone into full effect. I have seen statements from both sides that have been completely horrific. I have seen statements from police officers which basically amount to “it’s all out war on African-Americans” (and not put so politically correctly); I have also seen statement from African-Americans basically saying that those police officers deserve to die, or that somehow, their lives are less valuable as a result of the actions of the police officers that were involved in the recent high profile deaths of African-Americans.
Here is the danger in this thinking. We have now gotten to a point where we are in a standoff in our thought process. And from that standpoint, there can be no winners. There is no middle ground. The onlyway we can have progress is to find a middle ground.
At the end of the day, what do we really want? All of us, as a nation?
We want police working with the community; we want an end to senseless deaths in all forms; we want peace in our streets.
We want life to go back to normal where everyone can go to work and go about our business without looking over our shoulders, whether you are a police officer or a civilian.
By getting so entrenched in our positions and making statements that are so offensive to either side, we can never reach a point of compromise.
Because here’s the reality — unless we are willing to quit our jobs and do the job ourselves, we need the police to keep us safe. And if we cast the police out, the police department ceases to exist. So, we need each other, and MUST find a way to work together.
Let’s address violence as a solution.
Looking back in American history, violence has not been the route to success. During the civil rights movement, there was a debate as to whether or not African-Americans should follow the early, more militant path of Malcolm X , noted for his quote of “by any means necessary”, or follow the nonviolent path of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The path of Malcolm X seemed to be more energetic, and the quickest way to get results. Dr. Martin Luther King’s path was painful. There were more deaths and was a slower path to success.
However history told the final story. And in the end, it was Dr. Martin Luther King’s way that proved most effective. Malcolm X eventually converted to Dr. King’s way of thinking. I recently watched a special on PBS entitled “Many Rivers to Cross“. It was a very poignant series which covered the many decades of African-Americans in the United States. It discussed the history of the civil rights movement.
It also talked about Bloody Sunday.
When Dr. Martin Luther King led the march in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, he and the other marchers were confronted by police officers who brutally attacked them while they were protesting peacefully. The media documented this atrocity. As a result, the civil rights movement received many more supporters of all races, including leaders from the Jewish faith, from the Catholic faith (there were nuns in full habits marching with the civil rights movement!) and the movement towards voting rights gained more momentum. Alabama was exposed as a hotbed of intolerance. This incident was one of the catalysts of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Selma is an example of how the nonviolent path is so effective. If the marchers had been violent, they would not have gotten the support from such a wide base, and the resulting laws would not have been enacted.
After the video of the death of Eric Garner was released, if you look at the protests that resulted, you would’ve noticed that there was a wide range of protesters from all races in the crowd. Many people were very disturbed by the tactics used in the video. No matter what your stand on the grand jury findings, this was an opportunity to discuss policing in the 21st century, and to explore whether or not current methods were working or needed to be changed. The act of this lone crazy gunman threatens the positive dialogue that was being started.
So where from here?
This is the perfect time to show decency. Let the New York Police Department grieve, and support them in this time of sorrow. No family deserves this. This was a horrible act and no one should sanction it. And if your argument is “they wouldn’t do that for us“, I say, hold yourself to a higher standard! If you do, then you inherently challenge others to either do the same, or expose them for who they are. You’d be surprised at the results. I find once you elevate, people elevate with you.
We cannot hold an entire police force accountable for the acts of a few. The majority of police officers that I have met in my career are good decent folks who want to do their job and get home to their families. The same applies to African Americans — the majority are law abiding citizens who want a good life for themselves and their families, and want to see justice in the world. Neither side should be painted with the same negative brush.
Change is a tough thing. We want it, but it comes at a cost. Change does notneed to come at the cost of human life. We are a civilized country, and we hold ourselves out as such to the international community. Death can cause us to realize change is needed; but if we start to condone violent acts against each other, then we are no better then the foreign countries that we criticize. We need to distance ourselves from those who promote violence, and we need to stand tall and claim our human dignity. There is a time to grieve, and there’s a time to act. Declining to protest for several days until the funerals are over will not harm the movement. It would actually gain the respect of many people and would bring a conciliatory tone to the issues at hand. It would also highlight our strength and decency as a people.
I will end with a quote I will be using a lot in the coming days from Dr. Martin Luther King: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio came under fire for regarding comments he made regarding what he has told his son about how to interact with law enforcement.
Mayor De Blasio, who is married to an African American woman and has a biracial son, stated in a recent interview:
“It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country,” de Blasio went on. “And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cell phone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”
The head of the New York City Police Union was infuriated, and stated that the Mayor “threw cops under the bus” and was not helping race relations.
Here’s the deal.
Mayor De Blasio a white man, and a parent, is speaking his truth.
He’s speaking of the discussion that thousands of African American parents have with their sons across the country on a daily basis.
He’s a responsible parent, making sure his child knows how to act appropriately in a police encounter. Be polite, don’t make any sudden movements, don’t do anything to escalate the situation.
He’s also being practical! As angry as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch may be, does he really want people making sudden movements in police encounters, creating situations where officers will have to draw their weapons?
I should hope not!
Mayor De Blasio’s statement is actually helping race relations…because when African Americans make similar statements, it can be viewed as an overreaction. “Their kids must be doing something bad.” “They’re just paranoid”
But the Mayor says it…this draws attention to the fact that this is a real issue.
So before dismissing his comments, listen.
Knowledge trumps racism.
Understand what the other side is saying. Mayor De Blasio is speaking his truth. So speak yours and let’s have a productive dialogue on how to move policing forward as opposed to “us” vs “them”.
Not all kids of color are bad; not all police officers are bad. If we start from that premise, we may actually get somewhere!
See my list of my practical tips on interacting with law enforcement here.
I’ve stayed pretty quiet in recent weeks, absorbing all that has been going on. One thing is incredibly clear; education is needed on both sides. If we don’t know the rules that govern us, as well as our past, we are doomed for the future. If we don’t understand each other, we are doomed period.
So here is Part 1 of my series entitled “Knowledge Trumps Racism” — because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, knowledge is power.
I start from a historical perspective — David Ovalle from the Miami Herald wrote a very thoughtful piece on the last time a police officer was indicted in Miami for a shooting death in the line of duty. It was 25 years ago last Sunday, and left a long legacy.
In a city long torn by racial tension, a uniformed police officer fatally shot a black man. Days of upheaval and rioting riveted the nation.
A series of investigations scrutinized the officer’s use of deadly force. He claimed self-defense. Would the cop face criminal charges?
The case that exploded in Miami in 1989 still resonates today, echoing the murky, racially charged confrontation that has put a 24/7 media spotlight on the small Missouri town of Ferguson.
Twenty five years ago Sunday, after a trial that lives on in local legal lore, jurors convicted Miami Police Officer William Lozano for shooting and killing a motorcyclist. It was the last time any police officer in Florida was convicted for an on-duty shooting.
The Bible tells us to love thy neighbor. Even if you don’t subscribe to a particular religious belief, most people have a basic need to help others.
Arnold Abbott has spent the last 23 years of his life doing just that. He runs an organization called “Love Thy Neighbor Fund”, which feeds the hungry in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The organization was created in the memory of his late wife; he dedicated his life to aiding the homeless upon his retirement from the jewelry business.
Last Wednesday, he was arrested and cited for doing what he and his volunteers had been doing on a regular basis.
Not only was that shocking…what made it worse was that he is 90 years old.
So, one can imagine the media frenzy, as the police handcuffed this elderly man in his white coat, as well as his volunteers, and cited him for doing good works. The news went viral…even Jon Stewart weighed in on his show.
The Mayor of Ft. Lauderdale, Jack Seiler, had stated this was part of the enforcement of a new city ordinance. He further explained this past Sunday on WPLG Channel 10 South Florida’s This Week in South Florida the reasoning behind the ordinance.
Bottom line? Hygiene. The area in which Mr. Abbott conducted the feeding was near the actual beach. Mr. Abbott believes that the homeless has the right to eat their food while enjoying the natural beauty of South Florida’s beaches. Mayor Seiler states that under the ordinance, all feeding of the homeless needs to be done close to restroom facilities (standing or a portable toilets), and with other hygiene restrictions. Mr. Abbott states that he met all of those requirements….but the interesting compromise that came from that on air roundtable interview was that there would be no further issues if he moved his feedings to a local church.
Both gentlemen discussed the effect the feeding of the homeless had on the tourists. Mr. Abbott said that the tourists he encountered would commend him for his actions, and would often offer to assist (a request he quickly grants); Mayor Seiler states that the tourists are horrified and claim they would NOT return to Ft. Lauderdale Beach until this horrible homeless problem is solved.
And now, we have arrived at the true struggle between views on the homeless. “Oh how sad, yes I’ll donate, but don’t come near my car, stay away from me you stinky person, hide the problem from me so I can enjoy my vacation” vs. “There but for the grace of God/luck/a good family go I”.
There are so many misconceptions about the homeless. They did not all get there from alcoholism, drug addiction or some form of laziness/irresponsibility. In this latest economic downturn, it could be as simple as the unemployment benefits ran out and the person had nowhere to go. It could have been a terrible turn of life events, and the person did not have the friends/family support to get back on their feet.
And, on this Veteran’s Day, think about those wounded warriors who came back from war suffering from PTSD, and could not get back on their feet. Some of the homeless are veterans who volunteered, risked their lives for us in various wars, and we have forgotten them – abandoning them to live on the streets.
Yet, we subject those who assist the homeless to possible fines and jail time rather than working with those who have the passion for change to find real solutions.
There’s this lady called Karma. And she does not like to be trifled with.
So, as we wait for election results, there’s no better time than now to be reflective. My blog, The Resident Legal Diva, has recently had its one year anniversary. Ironically, I took on a 30 day Blogging 101 challenge…because why not? Nothing like a challenge to step up your game! In the next 30 days, you will see a lot of posts from me covering a variety of topics (which remain a mystery to me at this moment)!
The first assignment was to talk about my blog. Why am I writing publicly instead of writing a personal journal? Who do I hope to connect with? What is the end goal a year from now? And what’s the story behind my tagline?
Whelp, let’s get started.
Why am I writing publicly instead of writing a personal journal?If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I am a prosecutor. (If not, welcome!) I love the law. The law brings equality; the law brings change; the law brings justice. Often, the media gets it wrong (ratings are king). Often citizens get it wrong (due to just not knowing). Sometimes the system gets it wrong. Facts and details get lost in the struggle between passion, history, and confusion as to how the system works. My goal is to educate people about how the system really works, and what goes into the decision making process in cases. Also, I want people to know what their rights are, and what remedies are available. This can only be done in a public forum. With the internet reaching more and more people every day, what better way to educate the world?
Who do I hope to connect with?EVERYONE! My blog is not just for legal professionals (who are always welcome by the way). It’s for the students, the curious, the old, the young…anyone who cares about the world we live in and how the law governs us.
What is the end goal a year from now? I hope to have (and continue to have) great dialogues with folks from all walks of life. My eyes have opened to issues as a result of discussions started on my blog. I love to teach, but I enjoy learning as well. The exchange of ideas is the only way our world will get better — it is the way to promote understanding.
And what’s the story behind my tagline?The Resident Legal Diva…I’m your in house legal expert. And I love the word “Diva”. I’m on a mission to reclaim the word from the negative connotations that come from reality television. A Diva is a woman who is well spoken, well put together, and who carries herself with grace and elegance. Most of all, a Diva is successful from her own intelligence, hard work and merit. Notice there are no temper tantrums, outbursts, or generally “acting a fool” in that definition. What I described is the definition of a “hot mess”…which does not deserve air time (not on this blog anyway!). And the rest “My Collection of Thoughts About Real Life and the Law”…is just that. My thoughts…my opinions…but always open for discussion!
Looking back, the last year of blogging has been fun, uplifting, emotional, and really enlightening. Here’s to many more!!
Since it is 20 days away from election day, I’m shifting my focus to politics and the law. I am a firm believer in educating yourself on the issues and knowing what you are voting for. All elections are critical, not just the presidential years!
An interesting article was published by the Associated Press today, indicating that the frustrations of the community in St. Louis have risen to new heights. There has been a movement by some African American voters in St. Louis County, in response to the events in Ferguson, to vote for Republican candidates in the upcoming election. The feeling is that the Democrats in power, from the local level to the governor’s office, have ignored the needs of the community that has supported them faithfully for decades.
The emotion that some voters have of being “used” is not uncommon. Time after time, candidates and elected officials across the country appear in the communities that need them the most only during the election cycle; they are not seen again until the next election. Certainly, those politicians should be held accountable.
But as the old phrase goes, “look deep before you leap”.
Make sure to research whoever you are voting for. Votes should not be cast out of anger, or revenge, because it is the community who suffers in the end. Take a look at each candidate, and look at where they stand on ALL the issues. If they are in the legislature, pull their voting history. Look at what organizations or charities the candidate dedicated his or her time to. These are all signs of whether or not the candidate’s interests align with yours.
If the Republican candidate appeals to you across the board, fine.
If you find that your values are not compatible, then the next best strategy is to put pressure on the leaders of your local Democratic party, letting them know that the current slate is unacceptable. Find a candidate and back them, whether via write in, or a grassroots movement. As we have seen in recent history, social media is a powerful tool in getting information, and creating campaigns. This is why it is critical to vote in your party’s primaries — the primary votes send a clear message to the party as to whether or not an elected official is on the right track.
Another article came out today indicating that a record number of African Americans are seeking elected office right now. Some of those candidates are running as Republicans. See the article here. This is a perfect example of taking charge of your destiny, and being the change you want to see.
The funeral of Michael Brown today is another chapter in an ongoing tragedy. In moving forward from here, the discussion needs to be had regarding what do we tell our children about how to interact with police? How should we interact with police?
Essence.com published my tips this weekend:
In the wake of the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., as well as the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York, and the others killed by police in questionable circumstances, the question is “What do we tell our children about interacting with the police?” It’s not about assigning blame on the victims’ actions. It’s about arming our young people with knowledge that could help save them in the future.
Pull right over. If your child is driving a car, and sees police lights in the rearview mirror, he or she should pull over immediately. If it is not safe to pull over immediately, slow your speed and signal that you are pulling over. Failure to pull over puts police officers on high alert that there may be a problem (even if there isn’t one). Think about it from a police officer’s perspective. Why wouldn’t you stop? Do you have an open warrant? Do you have guns or drugs in the car? Based on their occupation, police officers are trained to assume the worst in every situation.
So as I mentioned earlier this week, NYPD’s controversial “Stop And Frisk” policy got a reprieve due to an appellate courts scathing review of the trial judge in the lawsuit. Here is my latest article on the topic, published on theLaw.tv. Feel free to leave your comments below!