DNA trumps witnesses. This is the general rule when we’re dealing with crimes such as murder. The reason? Witnesses’ accounts can be faulty. DNA not so much.
So while those demanding justice for Jamar Clark think the decisions not to prosecute the officers who killed him are unjust, we should remember that many innocent prisoners (many of them African-American males) have been set free by DNA evidence in recent times.
There was also a 15-year-old African-American male who was on trial in 2000 for killing a tourist in Florida mainly because the tourist’s husband insisted he witnessed the crime and the police coerced a confession out of the teenager. Brenton Butler was exonerated, in part by DNA evidence.
I’m troubled by the recent rise of a neo-McCarthyism — the practice of accusing someone with no basis. I do not like it when Donald Trump stereotypes and attacks people, and I didn’t like it when former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann did it. But I also do not like it when Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger are called racists or supremacists because they have to base their actions on the best evidence available.
That said, I also do not like it when Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police union, labels as terrorists dissenters such as the Black Lives Matter group.
Ever since the police shooting and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., the divide in this country has become huge. The strife has led to discussions on race, social and racial inequalities, racial segregation, police ethics, and more — all subjects that should be discussed. However, I fear that black nationalism and Caucasian apathy has only grown.
So it’s important to make sure elected officials are attuned to these issues and acting to develop coherent policies to deal with them. Yet I would never vote for the likes of Ben Carson, Alan Keyes, Mia Love or Herman Cain simply because they are African-American. And I would never vote for someone connected to Black Lives Matter, because I do not want someone looking only to use a position as a soapbox to spew political ideology and get paid for it (see Trump).
But I recently met an African-American woman running again for City Council in Brooklyn Park. The north-metro suburb is now a minority-majority city, but only white men make up the council. This is scary, because the demographics and the political makeup are beginning to look like Ferguson.
After meeting this candidate and talking to her, I realized that she wants to create politically diverse policies and not just use her title as a soapbox. So I bought a T-shirt from her.
And there may room for the makeup of the city’s leadership to evolve. Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeffrey Lunde is running as a Republican for state Senate and City Council Member Peter Crema is running as a Republican for the state House.
If change needs to happen, it won’t come through name-calling, soap-boxing or trying to make the justice system bend to an agenda. Instead, it begins with thoughtful policies, and with candidates like Reva Chamblis.
William Cory Labovitch is a political activist who lives in South St. Paul.