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An Open Letter on Accountability

A significant element in the foundation of a prosperous and sustainable society is accountability. Our American society unfortunately and historically has failed to apply the principle of accountability to the treatment of the African American community. That is, accepting responsibility for the results created by one’s own behavior and/or actions.

Prior to the establishment of an independent American governmental structure, many Black people were transported from the continent of Africa to this country. We were brought here for the purpose of enslaving us and forcing us to do the hard and difficult work of building a country and its economy. This arrangement endured for centuries. Many of the enslaved people were intolerant of enslavement and attempted to flee these inhuman conditions. Some of these runaway attempts were successful but some were not. There were also rebellions planned and executed, but in these situations the rebellion was put down and the enslaved participants killed. The dominant White culture of that time decided to assign to the law enforcement agencies the responsibility of maintaining the system of enslavement. Law enforcement was responsible for the apprehension of runaways and returning them to the enslavers. They were also assisted by non-law enforcement individuals and groups. These apprehensions were done by any means necessary. Accountability for the treatment of Black people was not a widely accepted and respected value and principle.

Today’s society has seen some changes. Accountability is widely accepted and respected as a necessary value and principle of positive behavior. At least we profess that it is. There is evidence that some law enforcement personnel are held accountable when they violate laws, policies and procedures. However, there continues to be too many law enforcement officers attacking and/or killing Black people without justification and not being held accountable for such illegal behavior. There are even documented instances of law enforcement personnel lying under oath to have people incarcerated, sometimes innocent people, and they are not held accountable for such egregious and perjurious actions. There are laws, policies and procedures that lend themselves to reinforcing the belief by some law enforcement personnel that any and everything they do is acceptable. This belief is dangerous and must cease to exist immediately.

If we are to live in a safe, moral, ethical and prosperous society we must discard the centuries old belief system of no accountability when interacting with Black people. Instead, our society must be held accountable for our interactions with Black people just as we are held accountable for our interactions with everyone else.

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