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What if the Las Vegas Killer was Black, Muslim or God Forbid Both

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

las-vegas-The Las Vegas mass shooting and killing by Stephen Paddock resulting in 58 deaths and hundreds of injured individuals is a horrific event in our history.  The media’s focus on the motive of the killer and the whitewashing of Paddock committing the crime loses the point.  There are no good motives for killing anyone—let alone over 50 persons.  Any killer who kills innocent persons while perched from a high-rise luxury hotel shooting them down as if he were playing a video game, is not a good person. Much of the media has gone out of the way to paint Paddock as a regular white guy.  I can’t but help to think how the media would have addressed the killer if he or she were Black, Muslim or both.

Every possible good trait known about Paddock has been mentioned.   From being prescribed Valium to being a high stakes gambler and an apparently wealthy individual with a girlfriend, the media has struggled to make sense out of his killing rage.  Contrasting the depictions of a good white male figure with how the media describes Black or Muslim killers and victims makes me what to scream out loud.

Assumptions of a bad actor are the routine media response when describing even Black victims, particularly when shot and killed by whites.  Trayvon Martin was said to be “up to no good;” Ditto for Michael Brown who was shot and killed in Ferguson.  The media went out of its way to find anything bad associated with Michael Brown. Media accused Brown of a robbery before police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed him. The alleged robbery had nothing to do with Darren Wilson shooting Brown.  Freddie Gray was portrayed as a criminal instead of the six officers who were on trial for his murder.  Eric Garner was portrayed as a criminal selling loose cigarettes illegally instead of a victim gasping for air while being unlawfully choked to death.

And for Muslims who are involved in killings, there is never any semblance of the media looking into the individual’s life for anything good.  Media almost always looks for everything that a Muslim did wrong, any association with ISIS and coming to this country illegally, if they immigrated here.

But when the white mainstream media looks at a white guy killer, like Paddock, they see themselves and wonder how it could happen.   As a former prosecutor, there is never a good reason for a murder or why someone kills and plans a vicious attack on hundreds of innocent individuals.  So, please stop trying to find out why or how a good white guy went bad.  Or in the reverse, look for the same good traits when reporting about Black and Muslim victims and killers.  It is a two-way street—if you care to look both ways.

 

And while you’re looking down the two-way black and white street, make sure that Black history is not erased in the coverage.  First, the killing of 58 persons in Las Vegas was not the largest mass killing in modern U. S. history—as inaccurately rolled on many network chyrons and stated by anchors.   The largest U.S. killing occurred on the early morning hours of June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  White Tulsa police officers deputized other whites to attack innocent Blacks for what they believed was an attack on a white woman by a black man. In the vicious killing, burning and raping that followed of an entire town of 10,000 Blacks, 300 Black persons were killed; 4000 were captured and placed in jail and thousands more left and never returned.  The area was known as the “Negro Wall Street” in 1921 due to wealthy Blacks residing there. And while some may ask, why is this important at a time like the Vegas shooting?  It is always important to never forget history—and particularly to refrain from erasing Black history.

And lastly let’s remember that all Black is not bad and all white is not good.   And Stephen Paddock was not good—at all.  He was pure evil.  He was a domestic terrorist. So please let’s stop trying to make him out to be a very good white guy gone bad.  He was rotten to the core—his white skin and all.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She frequently appears on MSNBC, CBS News, PBS, Fox 5 DC and Al Jazeera.  Her opinion articles appear in the Washington Post Huffington Post and Baltimore Sun.

 

Black Lives Matter but not to the White NFL Owners

Monday, September 11th, 2017

1397150326000-USP-NFL-NFC-Championship-San-Francisco-49ers-at-AWeek one of the NFL 2017 season started on Sunday, September 11. With all 32 NFL owners and teams refusing to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick due to his protest against racial injustice, my taste buds for the love of football has drastically changed. Kaepernick’s act of kneeling last year for the national anthem in protest of our country’s racial injustice towards Blacks drew disfavor among NFL owners.

I have been an ardent NFL football fan most of my life. Growing up in Baltimore, my family religiously followed the Baltimore Colts and now the Ravens.  I proudly attended the Super Bowl parade in Baltimore in 2000 with the defensive dream team of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. And then in 2013, I watched my beloved Ravens’ win over San Francisco against then quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  As an added bonus, I attended the Ravens’ honor at the White House following their 2013 win.  My brother played high school and later college football—further increasing my love of the sport at a very early age.

None of my experiences will allow me to watch the NFL make an example of Colin Kaepernick for asserting his first amendment right to free speech.  If Kaepernick had done something in violation of his contract or committed a crime, perhaps, I could see the need for punishment.  The irony is the NFL over the years rarely banishes a player for committing criminal acts, except perhaps former Ravens player Ray Rice.

Case in point is former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis who was charged with two counts of murder when two men were stabbed to death in 2000 following a Super Bowl party. Lewis later struck a plea bargain deal and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He continued to play until his retirement.  Lewis commented recently that Kaepernick should play on the field but give up his social justice voice on and off the field.  Kaepernick has reportedly stated he will not protest, if signed by a team.

 

Recently Lewis alleged the Ravens refused to sign Kaepernick due to tweets by Kaepernick’s girlfriend. Give me a break.  Interesting enough, the Ravens did not back Lewis on this insane comment. They know the real deal as to why Kaepernick was not signed.  And it has nothing to do with a girlfriend’s tweet but everything to do with a black man asserting his opinion on racial injustice in a silent kneeling position during the playing of the national anthem.

Seventy percent of all NFL players are black players. NFL players are allowed to play in a sport that, in recent concussion studies, shows extremely harmful effects to their health due to head concussions.  Many NFL players suffer with degenerative brain disease known as CTE which for many years the NFL denied existed.

The real control over players’ health, earnings, livelihood and right to speak out on social justice issues lays with the white NFL owners. All 32 NFL owners are white.  NFL owners want Black players to play football at all costs, including giving up their health, knowledge about the risks of playing and freedom of speech afforded to them in the Constitution.

 

The U.S. Constitution and the first amendment have nothing to do with the NFL and playing football, if the truth be told according to league owners. And if the real truth be told, black lives have nothing to do with football, according to NFL owners, except to make white owners and the NFL richer. In 2015, the 32 NFL teams earned $12 billion dollars.

And the real truth is Black Lives matter but just not to the NFL. Colin Kaepernick knows the real truth. And for that reason, NFL owners refuse to sign Kaepernick.  For those who stand with Kaepernick and the reasons underlying his protest, a boycott of the NFL and its sponsors deserves our unwavering support.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She frequently appears on MSNBC, Al Jazeera, PBS, CBS and Fox 5 DC as a legal analyst. Her opinion articles appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.

Donald Trump’s Dog Days of Summer

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

 

The dog days of summer are usually referred to as the hottest days of the summer, particularly from mid- July to almost the end of August.  And Labor Day has come to mean the unofficial end of summer with vacations ending and students returning back to school.   The dog days of the Trump Administration have been particularly hot.  With summer closing to an end, I thought that now is a good time to evaluate the Trump Administration’s summer days.

 

Trump’s Administration has been hounded with its failure of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, the ever- ongoing Trump-Russia investigation by Special Prosecutor Mueller, Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville Nazi/white supremacist rally, the Twitter roll out of elimination of transgenders in the military, pardon of Sheriff Arpaio and now the expected ending of “DACA”, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

 

For the past 8 years of the Obama Administration, the Republican Party vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and leave millions without health insurance.  Trump declared the repeal and replacement of Obamacare would be the very first thing that he intended to accomplish.  With a Republican controlled House and Senate, it seemed very likely that the Affordable Care Act was on its death bed.  A vote in favor of repeal and replace would have likely left more than 16 million people uninsured by 2026.  And yet in the summer of 2017, the Republicans and the Trump administration failed to accomplish their signature promise. On July 28, 2017, during the wee morning hours, the repeal and replace voted failed with deciding votes by Senators John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) joining the Democrats.

 

The ongoing Russia- Trump investigation has continued to heat up and dog Mr. Trump.  It shows no signs of going away. With leaks abundant, it appears that each summer day brought a new revelation.  There were times that White House reality show was turning faster than any televised soap opera.  With a search warrant of Trump’s former campaign manager and chief campaign strategist Paul Manafort’s house on July 26, 2017 to revelations about previously undisclosed June 9, 2016 meetings with Don Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort and a Russian lawyer evolving around possible collusion, there was no letting up.

 

Beginning in mid-June, the Mueller focus began centering on targeting Trump for obstruction of justice and Kushner’s finances and business dealings. And even Vice President Pence lawyered up in mid-June with hiring of outside counsel. Despite all, Trump tweeted claiming victory against the investigation on June 16, 2017.

 

Unfortunately for Trump, Mueller did not wave a white flag and give up on the Trump-Russia investigation. Instead the efforts intensified. And Trump had to add lawyers to his legal team along with Kushner and Don, Jr adding additional counsel in the form of criminal defense attorneys.

 

In mid-June, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) director testified that Russian hacking occurred in at least 21 states.   In July, Trump refused to blame Russia for meddling in our election. Instead of relying on information from DHS, he relied on the word and denials of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit—as if Putin was going to admit anything.

Towards the end of July, it was leaked that Special Prosecutor Mueller was allegedly investigating Trump’s business deals, had his tax returns, the same ones Trump failed to disclose. A special prosecutor has the power to subpoena documents during its investigation.

Now CNN and MSNBC are reporting that Mueller has brought on top IRS Department of Justice prosecutors.  The heat is really on.  A case on the Russia collusion may take months if not years to complete an investigation.  Whenever prosecutors follow the money trail, it is a much easier case to prove matters such as tax evasion.  While they are not as salacious as the Russia-Trump collusion, tax matters are less reliant on fact witnesses.  Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion instead of the alleged violent acts he committed. In cases involving mob members, it was often tax evasion that brought them to justice and jail—instead of the crimes of murder and obstruction of justice.

And on August 3, news outlets reported Mueller impaneled a Washington grand jury to investigate the Trump-Russia thing. As a former prosecutor, the grand jury means the Trump-Russia investigation is not going away any time soon. Politico reported on August 29, that special counsel Mueller and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has teamed together on the investigations.

 

The most egregious and morally repulsive aspect of Trump’s summer were his comments surrounding the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi/KKK/white supremacist rally in August. Counter protester Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist whose car attacked protesters.  Instead of denouncing the hatred, bigotry and violent actions of Nazis and white supremacists, Trump defended it. He stated publicly that there was blame on “many sides”—meaning Nazis and the counter protesters against bigotry and hatred were both to blame.  As an African American, I know which side the President stands on in with respect to blacks and Jews versus white supremacists. Throughout history, White supremacists openly lynched, burned and terrorized blacks in many parts of the country. And now a U.S. president openly condones their racist and bigoted conduct.

With fall approaching and the dog days of summer leaving us, things will not cool down for Trump.  And it will only get hotter for the Trump Administration. Unfortunately, things are heating up for everyone else as long as he remains in office.

 

Why Ben Carson Lacks a Brain, a Heart and a Soul

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

 

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

On Monday morning, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson,  referred to slaves as immigrants who came to America in the bottom of ships—yet wanting a better way of life, during his address to HUD.  Ben Carson’s remarks show either his ignorance of history or that he has sold his soul to Donald Trump for a cabinet position as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  I suspect the latter.

 

Ironically, the Dred Scott decision was decided on March 6, 1857, some 160 years to the day that Carson made his outrageous statements about slaves being immigrants. Dred Scott went to court to sue for his freedom.  Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney wrote in the decision that blacks, free or slaves had no rights which the white man was bound to recognize.  Slaves were involuntarily brought to America from various African countries, taken away from their families to work for free in America.   They were not immigrants—they were property with no rights

 

 

Before whites descended upon West Africa, many Africans were wealthy, could speak several languages and conducted business with Europeans—traveling to European countries.  A visit to the African American Smithsonian museum is in order for Mr. Carson.  Everything was taken away from my ancestors once they were ripped away from their countries and taken across the ocean to build this country.  Their culture, religion, money, property, language, name and family were taken away as they became slaves and property of whites in America.   Slaves were sold and treated as less than animals to build the country that we now call the United States of America.  Slaves built this country on their backs.  And they were not immigrants.

 

Ben Carson has become like that family relative at holiday dinners who makes outrageous comments that no one believes while others try to convince him of his lack of knowledge.  But Carson is not that family member. He is a highly educated, trained and world renowned neurosurgeon who appears to have lost his mind, his soul or both.  And his words matter.

 

Carson further reminds me of all the major characters in the Wizard of Oz.  The tin man lacks a heart; the cowardly lion lacks courage. And the scarecrow lacks a brain.  Ben Carson lacks all three. He lacks the intelligence to know that he is being played a fool by a rich old white man named Donald Trump.  I doubt that Carson does not know his statements are false. And therefore social media online comments that he needs to read up on history are probably not necessary.

Ben Carson has become a true Trump spokesperson—someone who prides himself  or herself on “alternative facts” as Kellyanne Conway refers to which are otherwise known as lies.   A lie by any other name is still a lie.

And Mr. Carson’s assertion that slaves were immigrants is a lie.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from University of Pennsylvania.

 

Update:  Later on Monday evening Mr. Carson on Facebook stated:  “Slaves were ripped from their families and their homes and forced against their will after being sold into slavery by slave traders,” he wrote. “The Immigrants made the choice to come to America. They saw this country as a land of opportunity. In contrast, slaves were forced here against their will and lost all their opportunities. We continue to live with that legacy.”

 

Dear Police: Black People are Humans Too

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

 

Black-Lives

September proved to be a killing month of African Americans at the hands of police. Thirteen year old Tyree King running away from police in Columbus, Ohio, Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma with hands upon while being shot, Keith Lamont Scott, suffering with a brain traumatic injury in Charlotte, North Carolina and Alfred Olango, suffering from an epilepsy attack in San Diego County, are the most recent and notable names known in the media. The Guardian and Washington Post have kept as accurate a tally as possible since there is no federal database of police shootings and killings. In 2016, almost 800 persons have been killed at the hands of police. In 2015, it was 990. It averages roughly 1000 lives taken each year by police. From the period of 2005-2015, 54 police officers were charged with either manslaughter or murder. That averages out to 5 police officers charged per 1000 killings each year.

 

It seems as if the recent wave of police killings of unarmed blacks are coming fast and furious in September. It really never seems to let up, leaving many African Americans and those persons standing on the side of justice, swirling with an array of emotions from anger, sadness, sorrow, numbness, stress, tension, anxiety and a host of every other imaginable emotion. I know at times, I have gone through the entire gambit of emotions.
There is much talk and little action being done. While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spoke on the recent killings, neither said what they would do as President to change the culture of racism and injustice. Trump during the first Presidential debate stated he would bring back stop and frisk. Stop and frisk measures were declared unconstitutional because the outrageous practices racially targeted blacks and Hispanics, in addition to doing nothing to deter crime. Trump proudly announced his endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police which actively supports police officers who have shot and killed innocent persons. And Clinton mentioned during the debate that systemic racism must be addressed. How to stop the killings of unarmed blacks is the big question.

 

The silence among fellow police officers is what is most troubling to me. Silence is the same as condoning the shooting deaths of unarmed African Americans. Charlotte’s Police Chief said the video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott did not “definitively” show a gun was shown. Few officers ever speak out against injustice. In the shooting death of Walter Scott last year in Charlotte, NC another police officer supported former officer Michael Slager’s account that Scott had a gun pointed. It was not until video taken by a bystander revealed both Slager and his partner lied. Scott was running away at the time with his back towards the officer. More officers need to speak the truth. If as some contend, that it is only a few bad ones, one would think other officers would be more vocal and speak out. The code of blue appears more powerful than standing with justice. Zero tolerance by police departments is another way to bring justice to an unjust situation. Police are being provided with body cameras but many somehow conveniently find it impossible to always wear them or turn them on. There are now police officers who are finding ways to prevent a dash camera from video. If police were given no warnings to wear and turn on body cameras or else termination, perhaps they might remember to wear and use them. Instead police are given free pay and leave time when a killing occurs and placed on administrative duty—a paid vacation or desk duty.

 

I know that I am sick and tired of seeing innocent lives taken at overzealous and racist police officers. As Desmond Tutu once said, “ If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” And for most police officers, they have become implicit in the killings of innocent and unarmed African Americans by choosing to remain silent or condoning their fellow officers’ actions. So they have chosen to stand with injustice rather than truth. As long as police are silent and victims appear powerless, there will be more unrest in America until the boiling pot completely boils over.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal commentator, speaker and former Baltimore prosecutor. She frequently appears on MSNBC, BET, CBS, C-Span, PBS among other news outlets. Her Op-Ed articles appear in the Huffington Post, Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.

McKinney Police Incident Makes Me Ask if it’s 1950 or 2015

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

police-chase_mediumAs I was attempting to relax and unwind on a Sunday afternoon at my local Starbucks, I happened upon the McKinney, Texas police video taken on Friday, June 5 of excessive force used once again on blacks. This time, it was an out of control police officer using excessive force and treating black teenagers at a Texas community pool as if they were visiting a whites only pool in the Jim Crow south in 1950. The only thing he needed to be truly reminiscent of the 1950’s were the police dogs, batons and hoses. I hope we will not ever go back to those days. The video is set forth here.

The back story is apparently police were called to a community pool for a disturbance. The video shows the clearly disturbing activity was the police and the treatment of young blacks in bathing suits and pool attire. Gawker spoke with the individual filming the video.

There are so many issues that can be addressed by the video starting with the excessive force by an out of control angry police officer used towards what appears to be law abiding teenagers. Then there’s the question of how verbally abusive the police officer acted towards the crowd of black teenagers. And notice in the video that none of the black teenagers acted inappropriately towards the officer at any time shown. There’s the level of lack of respect, profanity and over the top excessive force towards a young girl in a bathing suit. There’s not much threat a tiny teenager in a two piece bikini can be to a police officer. And yet, the officer depicted in the video held her down while she lay crying on the ground with him on top, exhibiting extreme force on her small body. As an African American, it’s difficult to explain the actions of this police officer to black teenagers. How does one prepare black teens for police encounters of this nature? There is no way. The only bright side is no one was killed.

While there may be some that will say the video does not show the entire incident, it shows almost 8 minutes of what I view as despicable behavior by a McKinney, Texas police officer. And it should warrant investigation, suspension and ultimately firing. Of course, the latter is not likely to occur. While others may state this was the behavior of just one police officer, the problem is there are so many officers like the ones in McKinney across the country when interacting with minorities. And I saw comments on Twitter that indicated the teenagers disobeyed a police order to leave the scene. Even assuming if that is the case, there is nothing that justifies the use of force, tackling and out of control excessive force behavior by the officer.

When I see the video through my lens as an African American and a former prosecutor, I see a police officer that needs to be terminated. Unfortunately, there are so many others like him across the country. Many police departments in this country need a total reorganization from top to bottom to weed out the bad actors. When I see incidents like the McKinney one, I see how deeply racism is embedded in this country.  And then I  realize how difficult it will be to rid this country of police brutality towards minorities. I  wonder how everyone is not outraged at how some police officers treat blacks in 2015. And then I have to wonder to myself if it’s 1950 or 2015 in the minds of many police officers in America.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor. She often appears in the media addressing issues on law and race on Al Jazeera America, MSNBC, BET, CCTV- America, C-Span, NPR, PBS, RT America and others. She often contributes to the Huffington Post.