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Merlene Davis: All I want for Christmas is fairness

I'm told there is a banner hanging in front of a local business that says something like, "All I want for Christmas is No. 9."

It's a reference to a ninth NCAA men's basketball championship for the University of Kentucky.

I wish I lived in that world.

Instead, if I were to hang a banner, it would read, "All I want for Christmas is to be treated like a 63-year-old, overweight, white woman."

I just want, for once in my life, to be deemed innocent until proven guilty despite not looking like the Norman Rockwell version of a grandmother.

And I would also like for white people to give some consideration to my frustrations with the systemic racism that exists in America and not just discount them immediately.

Instead, I have to write about the disturbing actions and reactions in Ferguson, Mo., where a grand jury refused to indict a white police officer who shot 12 times in broad daylight at an unarmed black teenager whom he had tussled with moments earlier.

I had planned to write a piece after the U. S. Department of Justice released its findings. For decades, black people have received better treatment legally from federal officials than the folks we shop with or live near.

But then, a grand jury in Staten Island, N.Y., refused to indict a white police officer who used an illegal chokehold on an unarmed black asthmatic man while accusing him of selling "loosies," or individual cigarettes. That's illegal because taxes can't be collected on cigarettes sold that way.

The coroner there said the chokehold was a leading cause for the man's death, and ruled it a homicide.

How can two grand juries in different states hear evidence of two such senseless deaths and not indict the men who were charged to protect and serve?

But the failure to indict isn't the fault of the jurors.

The district attorneys didn't seem to try real hard to get an indictment because, as the old saying goes, a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

I can only infer from their lack of effort in prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law that a black life isn't all that important. Not worth the effort.

Still, two weeks before the killing in Ferguson, a black St. Louis County police officer was indicted for hitting a white man on the hand with his collapsible baton. That was deemed excessive force by the same prosecutor. The officer is facing second-degree assault charges and has been suspended without pay.

Still, I couldn't come up with a different angle that would persuade non-believers that racism exists.

Then, Thursday morning, I got a phone call, telling me to visit Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson's website.

What I found was a posting titled "Racism, the All Purpose Excuse."

The post was the opinion of Bill Otis, author of the CrimeandConsequences.com blog.

"I won't go into the obvious difficulties with riots," the posting began. "I want to make only one point — that the Ferguson riot had next to nothing to do with the expression of dissent, about racial issues or any other."

Here we go again, I thought. The disconnect.

At the Crime and Consequences site, I saw that the posting began with a criticism of a Time Magazine piece titled "Ferguson: In Defense of Rioting."

The Time piece said, in part, "Instead of tearing down other human beings who are acting upon decades of pent-up anger at a system decidedly against them, a system that has told them they are less than human for years, we ought to be reaching out to help them regain the humanity they lost, not when a few set fire to the buildings in Ferguson, but when they were born the wrong color in the post-racial America."

Otis took issue with those words and concluded that the rioting in Ferguson was more about stealing.

"You do it because it's neat, it's exhilarating, and most of all because you can — because a weak, self-flagellating culture has handed you an excuse; because the cops are too intimidated by 'militarization' talk to do anything; and because just to be clear, stealing stuff is easier than buying it."

The piece was one of three Larson posted that discounted racism and deadly force by the police as reasons for the riots. The blame instead was placed on media and black-on-black crime.

I saw nothing on our commonwealth's attorney's website that reassured me he would seek justice for petty criminals who are dealt a death sentence, without trial, by police.

What was Larson saying? I had to find out.

"I've had two anonymous calls that were pretty agitated," Larson said Thursday, when I called him. "They didn't use foul language, but I've never been called ignorant so many times."

Larson said he often goes to the Crime and Consequences site as well as the site for Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, where Kent Scheidegger is the director, and posts some of their articles.

"I go to their websites regularly because they talk about criminal justice issues and crime issues," he said.

Of the "Racism, the All Purpose Excuse" posting, Larson said he puts "different perspectives on our web page and that is a different perspective."

He said what his office strives to do is treat everyone the same.

But, I said, discounting that racism exists could turn off a lot of people who live it every day. Maybe the trust of law enforcement officials could be torn irreparably, keeping people from working with him to solve crimes.

"If that is what they think, they probably wouldn't" talk with folks in his office or the police, he said. But, "the one thing we do here is we do everything to treat everybody the same with the same facts."

It is not distrust in the black community that blocks the exchange of information with authorities, Larson said. It is the "snitch culture."

"I have far more experience with this 'don't snitch' thing than you do," he said. "My experience has led me to the clear conclusion that people are afraid of retaliation, not by the police but other people they associate with."

And, he said, it is not true that prosecutors can get the grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Cases go through a couple of steps prior to presentation to the grand jury, and that is a reason indictments are handed up more frequently than not.

His office, he said, is consistently rated 3.7 out of 4 on questionnaires completed by grand jurors after their term is completed. "That is Phi Beta Kappa," he said.

Still, considering the negative response he had about those postings, Larson said he had them taken down.

"It is a perspective of pro-law enforcement and a pro-prosecution perspective that this guy does, but I'm not trying to upset people," he said. "I can see how they might be upset. Sorry about that.

"Bottom line is, I'm going to be putting pro-prosecution, pro-crime victim (postings) on the website," he said. "I suspect it is not the first time people have been pissed off with me ... ."

I wasn't so much pissed as I was dismayed that our district attorney believes, as evidenced by the posts, that racism is an excuse and not a reality lived daily by some of the people he is supposed to serve.

He is the man who would be presenting evidence to a grand jury if a case like the ones in Ferguson and Staten Island were to occur in Lexington.

Knowing that, I think my chances of receiving justice would be better in the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Despite how much I like UK basketball, all I want for Christmas is for those in authority to believe that black lives matter.

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