As Jews approach our High Holy Days, our attention shifts toward the process of teshuva–repentance (or as I try to explain to my congregation in Berkeley, Ca., returning to the highest beings we could possibly be). Doing repentance not just for our private acts, but for the ills of the societies within which we live, is an important dimension of the Jewish path of repentance (teshuva). So it is important to face the reality of US racism. And that’s why I’m sending you the documentation that Rev. Daniel Buford presents us in his important essay below, “Close Encounters of the Dangerous Kind,” with its striking introduction:  “While most of the Black Lives Matter discussions and media attention have focused on the foul law enforcement treatment accorded to African American men and boys, very little attention or scrutiny is being devoted to the alarming numbers of African American women and girls who are often treated even worse than Black men in unarmed encounters with police officers.”

I sometimes encounter otherwise decent human beings who tell me that they think the notion that police have been unusually hostile and violent toward African Americans is an exaggeration. I often try to dampen my outrage and summon up my compassion and empathy for such people locked into their own willed ignorance about the reality facing their fellow citizens. But I’m far more outraged at the constant pain inflicted on African Americans in the U.S. The racist reality faced by African Americans in particular  is only now being more fully given media attention, and simultaneously I encounter a growing escalation of denial and avoidance by many decent people. It is no exaggeration to talk about racism toward African Americans–in fact, it is largely underplayed still in much of the U.S. media with a few rare exceptions (the exceptions may be those that you read or view–but most Americans don’t connect to those media very much).

Violence against Africans by North Americans began with the enslavement of Africans, continued with the dismantling of post-Civil-War “Reconstruction,” and persists to this day. It’s tragic that many African Americans today feel that they have to warn their children about possible police or racist assaults they may face going to and from school, or in some schools, and warn them of how easy it has become for many (not all) police to engage in violence against people of color.

So, yes, Jews are supposed to do repentance for society’s sins, not just personal sins. But repentance can be meaningless, unless it is coupled with actions to change the offending behaviors. So after you read the research presented below by Rev. Daniel Buford  in his article “Close Encounters of the Dangerous Kind,” I invite you to read the Tikkun discussion on how to change this at http://spiritualprogressives.org/BLM .

Rev. Buford brings to your attention just one element of that outrageous reality: the assault on African American women. He presents a very important set of data–attached below after you read his introduction to the data he has assembled. Rev. Buford, has been the social justice minister at Allen Temple Baptist Church,  Oakland’s largest African American church in the heart of  east Oakland, Ca., an area heavily populated by African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups. He will be giving a talk about all this at our High Holiday services which start this Sunday evening  (info on that: www.beyttikkun.org/high holidays). — Rabbi Michael Lerner  rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com


Close Encounters of the Dangerous Kind:

Unarmed Women, Girls of African Descent and Violent Police Encounters- Arbitrary Punishments, Detentions, Killings, Torture, Extra Judicial Punishments, Summary Executions 1982-2015

Complied by Daniel A. Buford, Executive Director

Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute Berkeley, CA

September 3, 2016

The list is a compilation of thirty cases of unarmed African women and female children and the violent encounters they experienced at the hands of law enforcement agencies from every region of the United States. This list is an excerpt of a “Shadow Report” that I am in the process of preparing to be submitted to the United Nations human rights treaty bodies over the next five years of periodic treaty review in New York and Geneva, Switzerland. Cases that are listed here are noteworthy in the current national discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement.

While most of the Black Lives Matter discussions and media attention have focused on the foul law enforcement treatment accorded to African American men and boys, very little attention or scrutiny is being devoted to the alarming numbers of African American women and girls who are often treated even worse than Black men in unarmed encounters with police officers. An example of this is the rough physical treatment that mothers, girls, and pregnant women experience. The publication of this list with brief descriptions of these encounters is my attempt to talk about rogue police behavior in the larger context of racially motivated state sponsored terrorism that has spiked dramtically in the years that Barak Obama has been President of the United States.

This list is not meant to be definitive or exhaustive.  So far over 214 African Americans have been killed by police in the United States as I write these words in September, 2016. There are no official records kept by law enforcement agencies and even there were the findings would be as suspect as to the scope and analysis of the problem.

This partial list of “Close Encounters of the Dangerous Kind” however, is representative of the unique challenges that African Americans have as second class citizens in the 21st century. We are a people who are apparently only due 3/5ths of the rights and protections accorded to white citizens in confrontations with the police and the legal structures that validate their genocidal practices.  Police are often judge, jury, and executioners in these encounters that are paid for with public tax dollars.  As Black people we are in the position of paying cops to kill us with impunity while paying their legal fees and pensions with money collected for taxes, and settlement funds from municipal budgets that bankrupt cities that can’t provide adequate social services and employment opportunities.

This is exacerbated by a prior state of mind of exhibited by many law enforcement officers of all races and genders; it seems to be that Black people have no rights that police officers need to respect. In California they are immunized by It is this disrespect for our humanity that has given rise to an epidemic of summary executions, arbitrary punishments, torture, killings and extra judicial practices. These acts are carried out with impunity because the police involved know that their individual lives and rights matter more than an African American community’s right to be free from police brutality and terrorism under color of law.

In California and other states police are immunized from background checks that would reveal prior associations with racial hate groups like the KKK or Nazis, publication of prior misconduct is prohibited, immediate urine testing for drugs and alcohol is delayed. delayed arrest and prosecution of rogue cops from videotaped crimes  are sanctioned by the “Police officer’s Bill of rights”. Nationwide police can shoot an unarmed 7 year- old girl or 92 year old woman and escape prosecution because they “feared for their lives”.  This is defense is a mandate for racist cowards to carry out the work of the KKK and Nazis while wearing a police uniform.

The cases listed below were identified by looking at the period between !970 and 2015 and unarmed African American men and women’s encounters with police. I looked for cases that were examples of:

  1. African American arrests, search and seizures, deaths in custody, including shootings, Taser /electro shock, chest compression asphyxia, beating, choking, starvation, genital torture, scalding, multiple gunshots, execution style shootings, deaths in jail cells, use of chemical agents, rough rides, deaths and beatings while handcuffed, denial of medical treatment, etc.
  1. Examples of unconstitutional unreasonable search and seizures, violations of civil rights, human rights violations, cruel, unusual, inhuman, and degrading treatment that resulted in jury or death.
  1. Grand Jury and court rulings processes that favored the conflict of interest relationships between district attorneys and the police that they work with every day; Use of legal frameworks to provide safe harbor for terrorists in police uniform.
  1. Militarization of U. S. domestic police forces, military tactics use by police SWAT teams, ATF, DEA, state, municipal and Federal agencies; deployment and military occupation.
  1. Failures of the United States government to promote and protect human rights of African Americans according to the treaty obligations that the United states has with in the United Nations through treaties that have been signed and ratified. Namely the UDHR- Universal Declaration of Human Rights/ ICCPR- International Convention for Civil and Political Rights/ ICAT-International Convention Against Torture/ ICERD- International Convention to End all forms of Racial Discrimination

I have chosen to use the descriptive words founds in these international treaty documents because the words that are used by the United States news media organizations, politicians and citizens tend to be euphemisms for much uglier realities. Police brutality can also be called “torture”, “arbitrary punishment”, and “extra-judicial punishment”. An “officer involved shooting” can also be called a “summary execution”, “arbitrary killing”, and “extra- judicial killing”.  A list of references, relevant laws and policies is also included as part of this list of Close Encounters of the Dangerous Kind.

Editor’s note:   You can read the full version of Rev. Buford’s report at: http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/police-assaults-on-african-american-women-close-encounters-of-a-dangerous-kind-by-rev-daniel-buford


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