Keeping it Real: Terror and Hypocrisy

Keeping it Real: Terror and Hypocrisy

S.E. Williams 

Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.

It induced a state of terror and overwhelming fear. Their arms were handcuffed behind them in ways that caused excruciating pain. The electric shocks were unrelenting and painful particularly those to their genitals. They were intentionally deprived of sleep, sodomized with foreign objects, and threatened with death as shotguns were placed against their heads. 

“Get to the good meat,” one torturer told his partners-in-crime as the  three of them prepared and then simultaneously tased one victim until his entire body was paralyzed. 

Victims who suffered this terror claimed they had done nothing wrong to be subjected to such torture— no human being should be subjected to such fear and physical abuse. 

In December 2018, the County of San Bernardino settled civil cases in response to these incidents of  abuse which involved more than a dozen inmates. 

It is difficult to find words to describe such abuse other than “torture and terror.” Reports of these incidents of terror and abuse in a local jail floated through my mind last week when the FBI announced charges against two British terrorists for similar behaviors. 

The crimes committed by the British terrorists were not too dissimilar from those committed by local deputies at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga—a San Bernardino County jail facility. 

The British terrorists subjected their hostages to abuses including waterboarding, mock executions, painful stress positions, food deprivation, beatings with sticks, chokeholds and electric shocks. They also forced their hostages to fight each other—a tactic also used to pit inmates against one another by deputies in San Bernardino County jail facilities.

Admittedly, the British terrorists are also charged with helping to facilitate the brutal murders of the four innocent Americans (including journalists). It is this loss of life that seems to separate their abhorrent behavior from those of the San Bernardino deputies, but does it? Between 2015 and 2017, for example, no less than 30 inmates died in San Bernardino County jails according to sheriff department data. And, although a Southern California News Group report noted at least 60% of those deaths were medically related, there were 12 inmate deaths during this period not associated with health issues and is it doubtful they were all suicides or the result of inmate-on-inmate crime.

Terrorism in any form is a violation of human rights whether you are covering a story in a foreign land, on a humanitarian mission abroad, or arrested for any crime here in the United States. Perpetrating terror against any human being should warrant punishment. So, the question is, why do American officials under the auspices of the FBI and other federal agencies pull out all the stops and track terrorists to the ends of the earth in one instance; and yet fail to bring criminal charges for the same or similar behaviors here in the United States, in another instance.

Beyond the international scope of the British terrorists charged by the FBI, another factor stands out like a sore thumb—probably, because it is such a sore issue for Black and Brown people. The victims harmed by the British terrorists were White, many terrorized by deputies in the San Bernardino case were people of color.

A settlement was reached in the San Bernardino inmate torture case and although the FBI also investigated this sobering situation, to date, although two deputies were fired, charges are yet to be filed against anyone involved. Neither the deputies who were let go when the abuse was discovered, those in their direct chain of command, nor San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, who is at the apex of responsibility for these facilities but who was successfully able to claim he had no personal knowledge of the terror abuse. 

No personal knowledge? How about professional knowledge, Sheriff? How could something be so widespread that those in other facilities were aware of it and yet, you, Sheriff McMahon, had no knowledge? 

What else has occurred in San Bernardino County jails under Sheriff McMahon who has ultimate authority, responsibility and accountability? The lack of adequate health care? Deputies forcing inmates to fight one another for amusement and entertainment? Offering inmates additional food, more telephone time to participate in tasing competitions to see which inmate could tolerate the most pain? Failure to protect inmates from COVID-19?  

What happened to the four Americans brutalized and murdered by British Islamic terrorists was horrifying and despicable and those responsible should be held criminally accountable; but so should those who terrorized and tortured the inmates at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

These individuals, though charged, had not been convicted of a crime. Whatever happened to the timeless criminal justice philosophy stating one is innocent until proven guilty. Did those inmates deserve to be terrorized and tortured because they could not afford their bail? Unequivocally, NO.

Sadly, I’m sure you, like me, are not surprised by this because we know justice for Black and Brown people in America is a double-edged sword that again and again cuts us both ways. There is no fair application of justice for Black and Brown people accused of crimes and there is no fair application of justice for Black and Brown people when crimes are perpetrated against them especially when committed under the color of authority by those sworn to protect and serve them. 

It seems the lack of justice is always the same for Black folks whether jogging, shopping, driving, eating, sleeping, or sitting in jail awaiting trial on a non violent felony because you cannot afford to pay the bail. 

It is strangely dystopian that a nation will hunt terrorists who brutalize White people to the ends of the earth but cannot find evidence to bring charges against terrorists who brutalize Black and Brown people right in our own backyard–in the jails our tax dollars pay for by deputies whose salaries we also pay— even when they know who the perpetrators were and have compelling evidence of what they did. 

I say they have evidence, because I doubt San Bernardino County officials would squander millions of dollars to settle civil cases out of court, particularly regarding this issue, if there was nothing incriminating to hide that could be revealed during a civil trial.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams is editor of the Black Voice News and IE Voice.


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