Deteriorating race relations in the US

Today saw another grand jury, this time in New York, fail to indict a white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July 17 death of Eric Garner, a 43-year old black man, a father of six, who had been stopped for peddling loose cigarettes. The police put him in a chokehold, a practice that is actually prohibited by the New York City and many other police departments, and he died despite his cries that he could not breathe. So a man died for the trivial offense of selling cigarettes.

The whole incident was caught on video and the medical examiner had earlier ruled the death a homicide but once again we have the extremely rare situation of the target of an investigation being allowed to testify before the grand jury, and the prosecutor, who almost always gets an indictment, failing to get one in this case.

The county prosecutor handling the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice has said that he too will put the case against the policemen who shot Rice before a grand jury. Reports have emerged that suggest that another police department where he had worked earlier felt that he lacked the emotional maturity for police work in a way that was irremediable with training and he was let go before being later hired by Cleveland. Let’s see whether he too gets an exoneration, making three-for three.

Both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report looked at the deteriorating state of race relations in this country as a result of the relentless attacks on the urban poor, which has become code for black. Jon Stewart hits on a theme that I highlighted last week about out how the Obama presidency has been used to whip up white resentment to the point that the racist dog whistles that used to be used in public discourse have been discarded and have now given way to more open and incendiary race-loaded language, especially by Fox News.

(These clips aired on December 1, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)


  1. moarscienceplz says

    The grand jury system provides some protection for an ordinary person from an overzealous prosecutor, but it’s pretty obvious that it is worthless when it is an officer of the law who is being accused of misconduct. We either need an “anti-grand jury” for these situations, one where a non-government lawyer argues for an indictment, or we need to just have a full-on trial for EVERY case of suspected gross misconduct by a peace officer.

  2. smrnda says

    “or we need to just have a full-on trial for EVERY case of suspected gross misconduct by a peace officer.”

    Yes, the current system gives cops more protections from accountability than average people have. I think that the right system would give them less. Privilege entails responsibility people.

  3. Mobius says

    The past few days Stewart has been raking Fox News over the coals for vile things they have said concerning the Michael Brown case. And Fox News deserves every bit of it.

  4. Ichthyic says

    . Let’s see whether he too gets an exoneration, making three-for three.

    what on EARTH makes you think this is only a 3/3 situation? this abuse of the grand jury system goes back DECADES.

    it’s only now that the media are drawing attention to it that people are noticing, that’s all.

    it’s more like thousands/thousands.

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