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Even black PhD’s lives don’t matter

Melvin B. Miller
Even black PhD’s lives don’t matter
“We gotta keep these people in line.” (Photo: Dan Drew)

When reports of police violence are publicized, the first concern of many citizens is what induced such aggressiveness by the police. Many people believe that the victim must have been provocative. As the organization committed to “protect and serve” the public the police enjoy a superior status in society that affords them the benefit of the doubt. But with violent police attacks on upright citizens such as the false arrest of James Blake in New York, the reputation and stature of the police are declining.

A security video recorded Blake’s arrest. There can be no doubt that he was violently taken to the ground as he simply stood at the entrance of New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. A Harvard alumnus, Blake was once a leading professional tennis player. Now he has joined the number of black Harvard men who have been accosted by the police, including professors S. Allen Counter and Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr.

The ardent supporters of police, despite their excesses, undoubtedly will dismiss the Blake incident as an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. They even have a common rebuttal to “Black Lives Matter” protests of police killings of blacks. They point to the high rate of murders by young urban blacks. But the defense of police violence fails.

While there has always been some violence among boys in the city, the level did not become flagrantly lethal until the emergence of the drug trade. Selling drugs became a common source of employment. Gang violence became a strategy to preserve control over defined market sectors. Anyone with knowledge of law enforcement knows that the police are frequently involved as associates of drug dealers.

Of course gang bangers who become armed and then fire at their perceived enemies must assume responsibility for their abhorrent conduct. And it is unfortunate that the minority community lacks the power to hold their adolescents in check. However, it is unreasonable for the majority community to place total responsibility on African Americans to correct a problem that others have created.

The police assault on Blake should inform everyone about the hazards faced by black males regardless of their educational achievements or personal accomplishments. A citizen without the stature of Counter, Blake or Gates would have to suffer in silence.