Woody Deant

Woody Deant

Another racism-related issue involving the police force in the Deep South of the United States of America: Members of the North Miami Beach Police have been caught using photos of actual black teenagers for target-shooting practice.

The so-called ‘Deep South’ states in the US, which  include South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and the state of Arkansas are known to be notorious for racist attitudes which direct a lot of hate against the black race.

The target-shooting practice using photos of actual black teenagers was discovered during an incident last month [December 2014] when Sgt. Valerie Deant, a clarinet player in the Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band, showed up at the Medley Firearms Training Center after members of the department had been target-shoot-practicing, and recognized one of their targets: a mugshot of her brother from when he was just 18-years-old.

The other targets were also black men, and some just teenagers. But now the police department is defending the practice.

“I was like why is my brother being used for target practice?’ Sgt. Valerie Deant told NBC 6. “There were like gunshots there. And I cried a couple of times.”

Her brother Woody, who was arrested for drag racing in 2000 and is now married with children, was just as shocked and angry, noting:  “The picture actually has like bullet holes. One in my forehead and one in my eye. …I was speechless.”

North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis says there is nothing wrong with this practice at all however, and even defends its use. ‘Our policies were not violated,’ Dennis said.  “There is no discipline forthcoming from the individuals who were involved with this.”

Above: North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis. Bottom: Black men at Florida target shooting range

Above: North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis. Bottom: Black men at Florida target shooting range

Dennis said it is common practice to use actual mugshots, and members of the same ethnic group help with facial recognition exercises.

NBC 6 Investigators spoke with both federal and state law enforcement agencies, as well as five local police departments, and they all said they use commercially produced targets for shooting practice, and never mugshots of actual people. Dennis does say however that he regrets the usage of a mugshot of an actual Miami resident. Woody Deant seems to feel the same.

“Now I’m being used as a target?” he said. “I’m not even living that life according to how they portrayed me as. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a career man. I work 9-to-5.”  He then added that this makes the streets feel anything but safe for him in his community:  “Automatically in his [cop’s] mind he’s going to think target, target, target.”

The  South Florida family is outraged at North Miami Beach Police after the mug shots of African American men were used at a shooting range for police training.

It was an ordinary Saturday morning last [December] when Sgt. Valerie Deant arrived at the shooting range in Medley, or so she thought. Sgt. Deant, who plays clarinet with the Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band, and her fellow soldiers were at the shooting range for their annual weapons qualifications training.

What the soldiers discovered when they entered the range made them angry: mug shots of African American men apparently used as targets by North Miami Beach Police snipers, who had used the range before the guardsmen.

Even more startling for Deant, one of the images was her brother. It was Woody Deant’s mug shot that taken 15 years ago, after he was arrested in connection to a drag race in 2000 that left two people dead. His mug shot was among the pictures of five minorities used as targets by North Miami Beach police, all of them riddled by bullets.

“I was like ‘why is my brother being used for target practice?'” Deant asked.

Historically, the South relied heavily on agriculture which depended on slave labour. The Deep South is also called the Bible Belt–an area with high church attendance (especially Evangelical churches such as the Southern Baptist Convention) with predominantly conservative, religion-influenced politics.

Studies have shown that Southerners are more conservative than non-Southerners in several areas, including religion, morality, international relations and race relations.  The term “conservative race relations” is a nice way of saying this Bible Belt is the most racist part of the United states.

An African who spent years in this areas describes an instance when an all-white ceremony was once held. At the end of the party, one of the white ladies attending the ceremony remembered there was a black man left behind somewhere who needed to be a part of that ceremony.

She organized the collection of as many left-over crumbs as she could, stashed them in a plastic bag and brought them back as  food  from the party for that African to eat. In Texas, where the African got an opportunity to visit a target shooting range, the mugshots  used there were black human figures and sand bags. The figures were not actual human faces. The exercise was called ‘niggar shooting.”

Nevertheless, the living experience in the South  has increasingly began to resemble the rest of the United States with the passing of time, according to some reports. The arrival of millions of Northerners (especially in major metropolitan areas and coastal areas) and millions of Hispanics  has meant the introduction of cultural values and social norms not rooted in Southern traditions. Observers  have concluded that the collective identity and the Southern distinctiveness is thus declining, particularly when defined against “an earlier South that was somehow more authentic, real, more unified and distinct”.

But this change process has worked both ways, with aspects of Southern culture spreading throughout a greater portion of the rest of the United States in a process called “Southernization”.  It should therefore not come as a surprise to find racism in other parts of the United States.

The Racist American Deep South

Pink-Brown Shaded States: The Racist American Deep South

The website Mail Online has also reported  that In recent months, racial tensions in America have made headlines across the world. In November [2014], a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, chose not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The following month, a separate grand jury decided not to indict white officer Daniel Pantaleo over the ‘chokehold’ killing of 43-year-old father Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. The rulings sparked violent protests in more than 170 US cities.

News Story Information Source: Mail Online  Additional  analysis by TZ Business News