Andrew Brown Jr, Age 42, is Shot Dead

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On the morning of April 21st, a police team from Pasquotank, North Carolina, is sent to ‘execute search and arrest warrants’ on Andrew Brown Jr, who had a history of prior convictions and resisting arrest. 

They find him at his home, in his car, having just returned from a morning drive.

Mr Brown resists the arrest, drives off instead and as he does the officers fire 13 shots into his car, one hitting him in the back of the head and wounding him fatally, after which he crashes into a tree 50 yards from his house.

Mr Brown should not have resisted arrest. 

He should have stepped out of his car and surrendered.

There were several officers surrounding him with plenty of weapons to fire away.

What’s wrong with this picture?

There is no mention in the article that anyone was in danger from Mr Brown’s actions.

No mention of what his convictions had been, what kind of crimes had Mr Brown committed to warrant the size of the police force sent out to arrest him.

He was still living in his home, even going out for a ride that morning and then returning.

He wasn’t racing out of State to avoid capture, so just what were the infractions?

Probably minor.

Still, he was in violation of the law and he should have surrendered.

But he didn’t.

What could possibly be wrong with a man who is so defiant with the police, recklessly so?

Something was wrong. Something that needed a different kind of intervention than a posse of cops armed to the hilt and ready to shoot the person.

Answer anyone?

Then here it is.

Send in two social workers from the county, a man and a woman, to knock on his door.

‘G’morning, Mr Brown. We’re social workers with Pasquotank County and we’ve come to chat with you for a moment. May we come in?’

No, he wouldn’t let them in but he was willing to step out into the porch.

‘What’s this about?’ asks Mr Brown, warily.

‘We know you have a history of resisting arrest and there’s a warrant out for you. Look, resisting arrest can get you into a whole lot of trouble. What’s the problem?’

‘Things are not going well for me…’ replies Mr Brown.

‘So you need help… maybe we can help. We’ll do what we can, but we want to stress that resisting arrest can get you killed. Do you want to live?’

Mr Brown smiles as he drops his head. Maybe he’s not sure he wants to live.

‘Let me restate that,’ says one of the social workers, ‘resisting arrest will get you killed. Is it worth it?’

Mr Brown shakes his head slowly.

‘Then let us help you. How about if you turn yourself in? We’ll do what we can to get some financial and mental health assistance for your family while you’re in custody,’ says one social worker.

‘And we’re willing to work with you to keep you from getting in trouble again, whatever it is that you did,’ says the other.

‘You’ll do that?’ asks Mr Brown, a hint of relief. 

‘Yes. We’ll do the best we can.’

‘I… I have trouble learning… ‘ begins Mr Brown, ‘I have trouble thinking… I don’t make good decisions… but I’m not a bad person… you get what I mean?’

‘We do,’ say the two social workers in unison.

‘And on top of that I haven’t been working. I get so angry sometimes. I can’t provide for my family.’

‘Let us help you,’ replies the lady social worker. ‘One step at a time.’

‘Will you be willing to come in with us today?’ asks the other social worker.

‘Turn myself in?’ says Mr Brown.

‘Yes.’

Mr Brown lifts his head and swallows hard. He closes his eyes for a moment… then he nods in assent. 

‘It’s your decision Mr Brown. We’re not with the police. It’s up to you.’

‘I know. Thank you for coming out. Let me go in and tell my family.’

Dear reader, think about it.

Could this have been the case for Andrew Brown Jr., age 42 in Pasquotank county, North Carolina? 

Yes.

And if so, he would be alive today. Alive to learn to be a better man, a better father, a better citizen.

Alive.

Sad, isn’t it? How easy it is for guns to take the place of words.

And will the African American leadership in our nation please send out a call to all African Americans to not resist arrest, not run from the police? Please. 

Just so we can give words a chance.

Oscar Valdes.   Oscarvaldes.net

Dijon Kizzee. Los Angeles. 8/31/2020

Another Black man killed. Ten shots fired, said a neighbor.

Why?

The investigation is still under way but this is what I’ve read in the press.

Mr Kizzee, 29, is riding a bike when a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s patrol car observes that he is in violation of a vehicles code. When they attempt to stop him he runs away.

Stop.

Black man on a bike in apparent violation of a vehicles code = probably can’t afford whatever it is he has to do to be in compliance.

Stop.

He is not bothering anyone.

Stop.

Blacks are very wary of police interventions, a legacy of years and years of injustice.

Stop

The two officers inside the patrol car as they observe Mr Kizzee riding his bike.

Officer 1 – there he is, breaking the law. Have to stop him.

Officer 2 – but should we? He’s not bothering anyone, probably barely scraping a living.

Officer 1 – an infraction is an infraction is an infraction.

Officer 2 –  dude, in this climate, with people on the edge, with so many incidents, I say let it go. It’s nothing.

Officer 1 – what if he’s carrying a weapon?

Officer 2 – What if he is, he could just be transporting it from one place to the other, or he’s just needing it to feel secure, who knows?

Officer 1 – buddy, I don’t know about you but I didn’t sign up for this job to be a social worker, so we’re stopping this guy. Have to protect the community.

We know what happened next.

Mr Kizzee didn’t heed the call to stop, the officers chased him, then confronted him, Mr Kizzee reportedly struck one of them in the face (the officers were not carrying body cameras), ran off again, more chasing, Mr Kizzee drops a bundle of clothes he was carrying and it reveals a gun.

The officers shoot and kill him.

Stop.

Stop.

There’s a gap in there, right?

Yes. There is no mention of Mr Kizzee even reaching for the gun dropped with his clothes.

But shots were fired.

Ten shots. Not two four six or eight but Ten.

Just as a precaution. Right.

Something wrong there.

Yes. Recklessness. Impulsiveness.

Should Mr Kizzee have stopped when asked? Yes Yes Yes. By all means, stop when a policeman orders you to.

But there has to be a place for balanced judgment.

Life can’t be this cheap.

Mr Kizzee was a man. A poor man, likely. A Black man. The bike was probably the only means of transportation he could muster.

He deserved a little break.

How many people are moving around at this very moment in any city with a gun in their vehicles? Probably thousands. But they are not as poor as Mr Kizzee. They have that extra layer of protection that money gives them.

It is heartbreaking.

Yes, we need law and order, but we have to cut a little slack to those who are not making it.

Or to those who are likely to distrust the police. Or to those who may have poor judgment.

Please.

We need police, yes, but we need officers who think.

What happened to police leadership? With all that is happening in our nation today, did they not find it in themselves to take time to anticipate events, to take time to speak to the officers about exercising extra caution?

Ten shots. Ten. 10.

And Mr Kizzee wasn’t even holding a gun.

There’s something so wrong.

An investigation will follow, surely, and the officers will likely be absolved of any wrongdoing.

And Mr Kizzee’s life is lost.

He may not have been making any significant contribution to society but his was a life.

And that should be enough to command respect. Just that alone.

What cheapened his existence?

Let us stop. Think.

And may the name Kizzee forever prompt us to do so.

Which is why protests are justified.

And why looting and destruction of property are not.

Not, because to do so is to demean the loss of Mr Kizzee.

We don’t know at what stage of existence Mr Kizzee was but what is certain is that he didn’t need a bullet. Or ten.

He needed something else.

Can we remind ourselves of that?

To the officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department: we need you but, please, think and feel, for those that you shoot are your brothers and sisters. Sometimes flawed, as we all are, but still your brothers and sisters.

And fellow Americans.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for a Nation and other books. Available on Amazon.

Oscarvaldes.net

The Racial Protests. When Will They Be Over?

Not anytime soon, judging by the forces we see in play.

On the one hand there’s a reckless defiance of authority in the black community, borne out of a very long history of injustice and mistreatment.

On the other there are police departments that are confused, overreacting, seemingly unable to grasp the complexity of the challenge at hand and lacking guidance.

There has been a lack of responsible leadership on both sides.

From the African American community, there has been a lack of leadership speaking out for restraint. Calling out loudly for people to protest peacefully and not burn or damage property. Calling out loudly for African Americans to not dare an officer who’s holding up a gun with a threat to shoot if you don’t comply.

Why can’t African American leadership step out and say, ‘we know you are frustrated, fed up with the systemic racism, but please do not dare someone who’s pointing a gun at you. We want you to live so you, too, will benefit from the changes that we are working on. We do not need you to be a corpse, or a memorial or in a wheelchair. We want you to value your life because you matter to our communities and the nation.’

Then there’s the police.

The present trend is to put all fault on them. But the police are us. They are a cross section of the society at large. If they are who they are today, flawed and problematic, it is because they are us.

Police has needed, for the longest time, to learn about the importance of having a social perspective on the work they do. Today’s officer, cannot simply say ‘I am a cop. I’m not a social worker.’ You can’t do that because that is not what the present work demands.

Today’s police work, particularly when dealing with the African American community, requires a special sensitivity. It calls for every officer to be fully aware of the history of mistreatment of African Americans at all levels of the justice system, from legislators to judges, prosecutors and on down, and the cumulative detrimental effect that has had on them.

We’re talking about mistreatment and unfairness that runs deep and dates back centuries. Mistreatment that is still present today in our jails and prisons, mistreatment present in laws that restricted Blacks from homeownership, that made for longer sentences, as when shorter terms were given to offenders charged with possession of powder cocaine because they were more likely to be white, as opposed to those charged with possession of crack cocaine, who were more likely to be Black.

For years we have known that if you’re Black you’re more likely to be stopped by police or face added obstacles for promotion or entry to graduate programs.

The cumulative effect of all those acts of aggression has resulted in an attitude of defiance, which sometimes has turned reckless.

But the shooting has got to stop.

Police have to understand what has led to the reckless defiance we see today so they, themselves, are not reckless in turn.

Police, like most of us, need to be thoughtful in addressing Black folks.

The right to carry a gun does not relieve police of that responsibility.

African Americans are simply asking the rest of us to not overreact. To be mindful that they, themselves might overreact and to, please, be patient with them.

They are saying to us, ‘do not forget that African Americans have internalized the hatred with which we have been treated, as when we grade each other on account of the lightness of our skin, the lighter the better.’

African Americans are asking the rest of us to breathe before we act.

So they can breathe, too.

Even if they are in the wrong, they are asking us, ‘please do not be violent.’

They are saying to us, ‘Be considerate, be mindful that some of us may be inappropriate.

They are saying to us, ‘We’re willing to learn. But please be fair. Be open. Be kind.

If we are wrong, then we are wrong and need to be corrected.

If we are violent, please stop us. But be mindful of our past, of where some of that may come from. Do not simply shoot us.’

They are saying to us, ‘Just be thoughtful. We want to value our lives like you value yours. So be kind. The great majority of us want to obey the law, but also want to live in a world that is fair to us.’

They are saying to us, ‘We welcome those voices that preach restraint, because sometimes, the accumulated rage we’ve lived with, impairs our judgment.

Please do not forget that the great majority of us want fairness.

Fairness in economic opportunity, in educational possibilities, in access to health care, and we will do our best to continue to contribute to this nation.’

That plea for life, lives deep in the heart and mind of every African American.

Will we hear it?

It is there when they ask for room to breathe.

Will our policemen hear it – those who don’t already do?

My hope is that they will.

Like I hope the rest of us will, too.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation and other books. Available on Amazon.

Oscarvaldes.net

Dear Amy

                                                                                                                   

You’ve made your decision. And I think you are wrong.

The cruelty of some police officers has brought to the surface one aspect of the repression under which we live. There is a measure of freedom in our country but there is much political repression as manifested by the vast differences in the quality of our schools and the profound disparity in longevity, access to health care, housing and opportunity between sectors of our nation.

Racial differences are a way to direct that repression, and African Americans bear the brunt of it. That does not mean, however, that it should fall to an African American to lead the effort to remedy the problems.

That distinction should fall to the person presently most qualified.

The reason you were in contention to be the Vice Presidential candidate owed to your performance during the primary campaign. You had distinguished yourself by your pugnacity and balanced approach to difficult matters.

That has not changed.

Other candidates came and went but you persisted.

So why disqualify yourself?

A fair allocation of resources is an urgent matter in our country, and it will take contending with reluctant and entrenched interests to push through the needed changes and make them stick.

That’s where your pugnacity comes in.

Though Trump continues to make one error after another, it is not a certainty that Biden will become the next president so we will need a strong ticket that appeals to a majority of Americans to elect him.

Your performance as a prosecutor in Hennepin County in Minnesota proved to be flawed when you declined to file charges against officers involved in the death of African Americans. That was 20 years ago. You then embodied strong community biases. But you now convey the sense of having evolved.

That quality is essential to persuade all of those who have yet to evolve, to adopt a fair and non discriminating frame of mind which will be needed to push through critical reforms.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canada wore a black face at a party when he was younger and later apologized. So have others.

There is no purity. There is, instead, the willingness to accept our mistakes, confront the prejudices we grew up with and work with them.

I think you have done that and are doing that. The task never ends.

So don’t take yourself out of the contest to become Biden’s VP. Put yourself back in. Call him back and say you’ve reconsidered. Great saints were great sinners.

It is laudable that you wish to defer to an African American woman insisting that there are plenty who’re qualified for the job, and I agree that there are. But you have been in the thick of the fire and learned a good deal along the way.

Given the polarization Mr Trump has fostered, a white woman in the Democratic ticket will have greater appeal for the undecided voters than an African American woman would.

Democrats need to win in November. We have to do that first.

Should that happen, the woman candidate Biden chooses will get a chance to pick an African American woman to be her running mate in 2024, should Biden not wish to run again, or in an environment more receptive to women candidates, face an African American challenger.

There is a profound sense of renewal flowering in our country. The brave youth of this nation is leading a vigorous movement. They will need people with much experience and a commitment to reform so that their efforts are not wasted.

You have a chance to be a leading figure in the tough task ahead. Don’t sit this out. Fight the good fight. Biden will make his choice but don’t you step back.

Later today, some of the best our country has to offer will be protesting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the President will hold a rally. He has already warned that protesters will not be treated with a kind hand. It is difficult to accept that our president is so willing to ignore the spirit of justice that animates the protests. He can do so, because he seems incapable to accept their courage. When he sees the protesters, instead of being struck by their willingness to step front for what they believe, he is filled with envy.

I say envy because it is unacceptable that, in the face of protests across this nation, he has yet to muster the strength to address us all and say, ‘we will do what we must to bring justice to our land’.

As I write this blog, just hours before the protesters convene in Tulsa, it is my fervent hope that no one is injured or killed.

Oscar Valdes is the author of ‘Psychiatrist for A Nation’, available on Amazon.

Oscarvaldes.net

The Atlanta Killing of a Black Man. The Failure of Imagination.

Rayshard Brooks was shot Friday night (6/12/20) outside a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta.

Yes, he had a Taser gun in his hands,

Yes, he had fought with the police moments before,

Yes, he should not have.

But Rayshard Brooks was running away from the officers when he was shot.

He was not a threat to them.

Why did the two white officers,

As they approached Rayshard Brooks in his car where he had fallen asleep And where he sat intoxicated with alcohol (he failed a sobriety test),

Not say, to themselves, under their breaths,

‘Let us not kill a black man today.’

Why did the two white officers not say,

‘Let us consider the offense as we approach this man asleep in his car,

Let us consider the offense before we react.’

Why did the two police officers not say,

To themselves, not to anyone, just to themselves,

‘Let us not kill a black man today.’

They could have said it,

And if they had, maybe Rayshard Brooks might be alive today.

There was a failure of imagination in the police department in Atlanta.

A profound failure.

When the entire force gathered at their stations before going out on their shift,

Those in charge should have said to the officers,

‘Our reason for being is to protect the lives and property of the city of Atlanta,

But let us not kill a black man today.

Please, not again.

Let us think before we use our weapons,

Let us ask ourselves, are we really in danger?

Let us not overreact because our pride has been hurt,

And let us never forget that a man running away is not a threat to us.

So please,

Let us not kill a black man today.’

There was and is a failure of imagination in the police department of the city of Atlanta,

A failure of imagination that led to the excessive use of force,

A failure of imagination that didn’t allow the officers confronting Rayshard Brooks,

To ask themselves,’ now why would a man be asleep in his car, drunk, and blocking the drive thru lane? What could possibly be happening in the life of this man?’

If there had been imagination in the police department of the city of Atlanta,

Then maybe the officers approaching Rayshard Brooks might have said to him,

‘Say young man, good evening, you have fallen asleep at the wheel,

And you’re blocking the lane,

Seems like you’re needing some help.’

Rayshard Brooks was not hurting anyone, but himself,

And who knows what pressures he was under that he had taken to overdrinking.

Imagination opens the door to compassion,

And we all need a little of that, don’t we?

Even the two officers who approached Rayshard Brooks.

Imagination and compassion.

And let us not kill a Black man today.

Demonize Others and you Dehumanize Yourself. The George Floyd Case.

The knee… there it was… pressed hard against George Floyd’s neck as he lay prone on the ground, his hands cuffed in back.

‘Mama… please… I can’t breathe…’ said Floyd as he lay helpless, pinned in place by the pressure of the officer’s knee.

But the officer seemed deaf. He couldn’t hear the plight of the man he had completely neutralized. He couldn’t hear the call for help of a man who, at no point, had been a threat to him.

George Floyd had been drunk and had bought cigarettes with a fake 20 dollar bill. The store clerk called the cops.

George Floyd did not put up a fight, having allowed himself to be cuffed, but then objected to going in the back of the police car. So the officers pulled him out and George fell or was thrown to the ground.

And there he lay. With the officer’s knee taking away his life. Moment by moment.

The other officers, meanwhile, swirled around, not one of them, not a single one of them, having the common sense to tell the officer pressing down on Floyd’s neck to ease up, please, you might kill the man.

Ease up, you don’t know what kind of shape that man under you is in.

Ease up, you don’t know what damage you are inflicting.

Ease up, we’re here over a fake 20 dollar bill.

Ease up, the man under you hasn’t physically hurt anyone.

Ease up, please, because you might take his life away.

No.

The other officers kept swirling about, just as onlookers videoed the scene and tried to persuade the officer pressing on Floyd’s neck to come to his senses, to please realize what he was doing.

But the officer didn’t get it.

And then George Floyd was dead.

It happened on Memorial Day in Minneapolis, a liberal American city, with excellent universities and sound institutions. A city with lots of good people.

But the accumulated wisdom of the city’s citizens had not passed through to the leadership of their police department.

For that officer’s knee to have stayed so long on George Floyd’s neck, that officer had to have demonized him. Yes, Floyd had to be a very bad man. He deserved to be punished on the spot. Never mind waiting for his day in court.

George Floyd had bought cigarettes with a 20 dollar fake bill, so that’s what you get for it in the city of Minneapolis, a knee on the back of your neck, so watch out people.

What the officer pinning George Floyd down chose to ignore, or never bothered to look into, or was never told about, or just wasn’t within his reach, was that as he demonized George Floyd he dehumanized himself.

None of the officers’ higher ups had made a point of making that clear, or maybe they thought that knees that pinned people down were good deterrents.

Maybe the Minneapolis police department had a department of psychology, maybe not. If they did, then they hadn’t been showing up. They hadn’t gone out to see the troops in action, and spot potential problems.

George Floyd was killed by an officer of the Minneapolis police department. It happened on Memorial Day, the 25th of May, 2020. Four days later, on the 29th , the officer was charged with murder and he began to be referred to as a former officer. But the whole department is responsible for George Floyd’s death.

The greatest fault ought to lie with the leadership. The ones at the very top. The ones entrusted with the task of thinking about the value of human beings, about the importance of not demonizing others.

It is very easy to single out the officer with the knee and put all the burden of wrongdoing on him.

To single him out is to divert attention from those who, having the responsibility of selecting and educating the officers, have failed to do their jobs.

It falls to the leaders of the department, to continually be reminding their troops that their task is to restrain, not punish, and that the more force at their disposal, the more careful they have to be so as not to inflict harm.

We’re all at risk for demonizing others. It’s the easier path. It does not require much thought.

The higher task, on the other hand, is to acknowledge the value of every human being, and as we do, we will likely find value in ourselves.

The officer pinning down George Floyd, had not found much to value in himself and so, he thought, there could not be much of value in George Floyd.

Oscar valdes is the author of ‘Psychiatrist for A Nation’, available on Amazon.

oscarvaldes.net