Citizens must act on their own behalf

As a general rule, I don’t mind incurring displeasure. In fact, as an opinion’s columnist, it unavoidably is part of the job description. And I’d go so far as to say it’s an important part and, to further that writing is effective. As a general rule, I don’t mind incurring displeasure. In fact, as an opinion’s columnist, it unavoidably is part of the job description. And I’d go so far as to say it’s an important part and, to further that writing is effective. The writing is a downright enjoyable part — the mischievous delight of setting a hotfoot that riles readers means nothing unless it gets at least some of them to think about an issue a bit differently than they did before.

There is a specific displeasure, however, which it profoundly troubles me to incur and I hope this installment of “Something I Said” will be of as much benefit to disgruntled Insight News readers as getting these things off my chest is to me. Frequently individuals call the Insight News office and leave a message for me or write to me care of the paper with the objective in mind that I will solve (or help solve) a problem they are having. It’s usually a matter of the person having been jacked over by the system — more often than not, the so-called criminal justice system by which he or she has been brutalized by police or wrongfully thrown behind bars. These readers have responded, I presume, to my incessant raking cops in general, and Minneapolis cops in particular, over the coals for their inhumanity to citizens of color.

To my continued protest of how blithely police lock up such citizens and routinely convict them.

Either meting harsher sentences than White defendants get or worse, blatantly incarcerating those who have done no wrong simply because of the color of their skin, the sound of their last name, their gender or a combination thereof. Sometimes it’s solely a matter of the person (of color or not) having received a royal shafting for no other principle reason than that the authorities could get away with it. When I do not call these individuals or write to them, I have on several occasions been left disgruntled messages or received letters that include, shall we say, emphatic expressions of discontent.

Regrettably, I have no more power over the system than does anyone else. Accordingly, this is something of an open letter to say that there is nothing I can do about a given individual’s situation other than the useless act of wishing them well. For instance, a woman wrote to me from prison where she was locked up on arson charge, which, from all the information she gave, amounted to her case having been flat-out railroaded. She wanted me to undertake an investigation to exonerate her. This I could not do: I have neither the financial resources nor the legal acumen (or the professional license) by which to conduct private investigation. A man in prison wrote that he had not sent me information on his case “for you to just sit on.” There’s more, but I believe you get the idea.

I state, for the public’s information, that I empathize with the plight of those unjustly treated (mainly because I have been in the position of being, let’s say, fouled over by authorities due to institutionalized prejudice). Now, I realize this statement and bus-fare will get you across town. My point is that readers would do well to consult an appropriate agency or official in order to hopefully rectify the wrongs done them. It certainly isn’t that I can’t be bothered; but instead it is a matter of my not being able to help beyond, perhaps, turning around and hopefully drawing attention to a given situation in “Something I Said”. This I am willing to do (and have done) as, frankly, a moral obligation.

I also don’t have any problem trying to find out who it is the person should be contacting to begin with. On one occasion, I did some legwork to steer in the right direction a woman who, productively clean and sober, had her past, drug addiction held against her in the workplace. I do not, however, beyond raising hell in print or offering suggestions (from myself, not

January 6, 2003
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