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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Letter from America: What a week!

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

This past week, Hollywood actor Robin Williams, one of the funniest guys in the planet, took his own life by committing suicide. He was suffering from depression, anxiety and the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. It is so difficult to believe that Robin who amused so many through his acting and spontaneous jokes was himself in such a dire condition that he probably needed more amusement to hang onto life than others that he had entertained all these decades!

Fifty years ago, America's living rooms were interrupted with images of peaceful protesters in Selma or Washington or Chicago being bitten by police dogs, sprayed with fire hoses and pummeled by batons. At that time, the mainstream media, comprising mostly white journalists, failed miserably to tell the truth about the protest marches. Like the embedded journalists that we saw during Bush Jr.’s genocidal campaign in Iraq in 2003, the White media relayed the viewpoint of the police. They simply could not relate to the life experience of a Black American.

This created an atmosphere of distrust and hostility and eventually it became unsafe for white reporters to venture into the black community.

Fifty years later, Missouri is burning. Americans again are witnessing similar images. The shooting death of a black teenager - Michael Brown - by a white policeman and the subsequent police clampdown on protests in 2014 is similar to how law enforcement treated civil rights marchers and the media in 1964. This time, instead of dogs and water hoses, their tools are stun grenades and assault weapons. The police force is now fully militarized who are using war gears. In recent years, the Pentagon has supplied local police forces with military equipment worth billions of dollars, which are now used against its own citizens.

In recent days, Ferguson has witnessed riot and widespread looting and as a result curfew has been imposed from midnight to sunrise by the state governor to stop such incidents.

From reports in the TV media and other news outlets, we are told that Brown and Dorian Johnson, 22, were walking in the middle of the street, en route to either Brown's grandmother's house (according to Brown's mother and grandmother) or to Johnson's house (according to Johnson), when a Ferguson police officer confronted them. The officer told the young men either "Get the f*** on the sidewalk" or "Get the f*** out of the street."

The young men replied that they were "not but a minute away from our destination, and we would shortly be out of the street," Johnson told CNN. The officer drove away but stopped and backed up, almost hitting the pair, Johnson said. He said he wasn't sure what prompted the officer to return. Johnson told MSNBC the officer said something to the effect of "What'd you say?"

"We were so close, almost inches away, that when he tried to open his door aggressively, the door ricocheted both off me and Big Mike's body and closed back on the officer," Johnson said. Later Mike was killed by the police officer.

On Friday, six days after the shooting, Ferguson police revealed that Brown was the "primary suspect" in the strong-arm robbery of a convenience store moments before he encountered police and was killed.

A store surveillance video shows a man pushing a clerk before walking out the front door with a box of Swisher Sweets cigars worth $48.99, according to information released by police. The Brown family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said that the person in the video appears to be Michael Brown. Even then it does not justify the killing of an unarmed teenager.

On Friday, police revealed the officer as Darren Wilson, 28, who is white and a six-year veteran of the department without any history of disciplinary action.

Racial tension has long been simmering for years. Despite Ferguson being 68% black, Ferguson's police force is nearly all white. Blacks in the town comprise 86% of all vehicle stops and 85% of all arrests. Over the past week, black residents of the town have complained of racial harassment from law enforcement. That, combined with the trend of unarmed black men being the victims of extrajudicial killings, makes the racial implications of Brown's death quite strong.

Ferguson remains one of the most segregated places in America and the crime statistics is very high in this city.

Racism is obviously not dead in the USA. It is simmering and sometimes comes out in the open. We got a good dose of it earlier from the highly publicized case with former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, a white, Jewish American. He was heard telling his girlfriend that he didn't want her to bring black people to his games or post pictures with black people on Instagram.

Many of the U.S. lawmakers are outright racists, esp. in the southern and more conservative states. Many are unabashedly bigots also.

Gavin Ellzey, the vice chairman of the Kansas Republican 3rd Congressional District Committee, advised on Twitter in early July that “offending Muslims is the duty of any civilized person.” Ellzey added, “Especially with a .45.”

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said the state party has “no responsibility for or connection to the public statements of private citizens who perform volunteer work for the party.”

When such is the attitude of a lawmaker, what can we expect from ordinary John Doe’s, who are taught, preached and programmed to hate the ‘other’ people? Thus, we learn that on July 19 a 26-year-old Muslim woman when walking to her car with her 5-year-old daughter was attacked by a group of three — two men and one woman — all white in outside the local mall in the Meridian County of Michigan. They surrounded her and attempted to pull off the woman’s niqab and abaya — the traditional veil and cloak that some Muslim women wear in public. The woman was knocked to the ground while her attackers shouted slurs and cursed at her. The assailants fled after the woman’s husband, a Ph.D. student, heard her cries and rushed to the scene. The woman was hospitalized for 36 hours, complaining of chest pain and numbness in her left arm.

Meridian Township Police announced that one of the attackers, Jonathan Patrick Deuel, will be the only suspect charged in the attack. The ethnic intimidation charge is a felony which could cost Deuel up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The misdemeanor charge could carry an imprisonment of up to 93 days and fines of up to $500. The two other attackers have not been charged by the police and remain on the loose.
Well, not everything was bad the past week.

On a positive note, Chadian troops have rescued 85 Nigerians by Boko Haram. An official of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Maiduguri confirmed the rescue of the 63 male and 22 female hostages. Something to cheer for in these days of hopelessness and global disorder!

- Asian Tribune -

Letter from America: What a week!
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