A White Al Sharpton?

My first thought is a question, “Would he be invited to the White House multiple times?”

Back in 2013, a man was killed by a police officer.  It was a mistake.  The officer did not want to kill the man, but the man died.  National story?  Only if certain criteria are met, the principal ones being agitation and headline grabbing.  But what could be more boring than a black police officer unintentionally killing a white man?  The reverse is the national story, the front pager, not this case.

In today’s Sunday Chicago Tribune, columnist John Kass reminds us of the inequity of national attention and journalistic concern when a white man dies, when he can’t breath.

“No Hash tags for Vet shot with beanbags” is the title of Mr. Kass’ article.  He notes the victim, Mr. John Wrana, a white WWII vet wasn’t selling cigarettes nor was he wrestling for the policeman’s weapon.  No NFL players held up their hands in gesture, nor did the Attorney General make a comment.  Traffic wasn’t stopped and news shows weren’t dedicated to the event.

Kass’ article continues,

“And he was in his room alone at an assisted living center in suburban Chicago on a night in July, 2013. That is when five suburban cops rushed him…one officer had a Taser…one was armed with a 12 gauge Mossberg pump shotgun.  The police said later they were afraid for their lives, though Mr. Wrana used a walker to get around.” 

A black officer, Craig Taylor, “..pumped the shotgun and pulled the trigger again and again, firing bean bag rounds at close range into the old man’s guts, according to state investigators.”

Mr. Wrana died from internal bleeding.

You see, it was all a mistake. “The police were called to the nursing home. According to authorities, they initially thought Wrana brandished a 2-foot-long machete, which turned out to be a shoehorn.”  A mistake not much different than a couple of other mistakes that caused national uproars.

Mr. Kass asks the question we all would ask, “…the Wrana case hasn’t generated all that much national attention, even though it is perhaps the perfect illustration of excessive force by law enforcement.”  Why not? Mr. Kass quips, “But I’d be lying if I didn’t wonder how this story would have been covered if the races were aligned for optimum racial political leverage.”

Maybe if there were a white Al Sharpton.  A man who was angry and could rile up the crowds, was dear friends with the President and the Attorney General.  A man with expensive suits, a big megaphone that was the national media, slick backed hair and a public speaking iambic pentameter designed to stir emotions.  Nope. Won’t happen.

It seems that there are times when people can realize that something was a terrible mistake, and can be angry, but a contained anger with a dash of understanding. That bad judgment, in a tough job, is not always driven by some hidden and assumed racial hatred.

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