quoting today's daily news, al sharpton said -- in an article recalling the howard beach lynchings of 20 years ago -- that "I think there has been some progress. I don't think racism is over, but we've learned to deal with it more maturely."

yes, al, i think WE have but i'm not sure YOU have. i'm talking here about your characterization of sean bell's murder as being based in racism. you've been pretty outspoken about that lately, and you are completely full of shit.

was sean bell murdered? absolutely.

does somebody (or several somebodies) deserve to go to jail? absolutely.

were the shootings based on race? absolutely NOT.

the shootings were based on fear. not necessarily justifiable fear, particularly in the case of the detective who stopped to reload and then continued firing despite the fact that no one was firing on him or his partners. but at least three of those partners weren't white. to say that sean bell was killed and his friends were wounded because they were black is flat out untrue.

there are other questions, of course. is it LESS likely that he and his friends would have been shot at if they were not black? absolutely. but is that based on racism, or is that based on fear?

here's my take on it. late night, outside a strip club, known drug spot, plainclothes on point needing an arrest. here come sean and his crew. they'd had some arrests between them, so maybe one or two were doing the "pimp roll" -- and if you know what i mean by that you know what i mean and if you don't i can't explain it. go to harlem or east new york and watch some of the young men on the streets and then you will know.

somebody says that somebody's got a gun. i don't necessarily believe in the mysterious "fourth man", but i don't completely disbelieve in him, either. i do believe that something was said that made the cops think that sean and his crew were armed. and what happens then? adrenaline. pure adrenaline. adrenaline and common sense and training are mutually incompatible.

but why would the police so easily believe that they may have been armed? there's a simple answer to that. first, the boys weren't white and it's less likely to find a gun among a group of white boys. this isn't racism, it's statistic. yet, it's terrifically easy to get a gun in NYC, and a lot of borderline criminals (or borderline upright citizens, depending on how you look at it), have them. so what's the real, underlying, problem here? THE LACK OF GUN CONTROL.

while i can fault the detective who fired dozens of shots, i can't fault the undercover squad as a whole for being afraid. you can read the news and see how many cops -- whether undercover or not -- have been shot with illegal guns in recent years.

like the young man shot the other night in NYC. i believe his last name was "Person" but i can't find the newspaper and he doesn't turn up on internet searches. too insignificant? i don't agree. here's the short story: he was doing tag graffiti with a couple of friends. here come the cops. the friends run one way, he runs another, gets snagged in the vestibule of an apartment building. cop tries to arrest him, he resists, there's a scuffle, the cop feels a gun in his waistband and hollers to his partners. the boy is shot, killed. he has a loaded .357 magnum stuffed in his pants. so what's the sentence on graffiti? time served? 30 days? he only scuffled because he knew he had the gun. maybe he only ran the other way to protect his friends. a street hero, of sorts.

did he deserve to die? i think that even the police who shot him would agree that he didn't. was there a reason for him to die? yes. the cops here, being targets themselves, have no choice. i would bet you anything that if they'd known in advance that this juvenile graffiti artist had a gun on him, they would not have pursued the chase -- in order to avoid exactly what occurred.

is any of this racist? NO. NO. NO.

this is all about guns and fear. GUNS & FEAR. inseparable. guns are made only to shoot human beings. deer hunters don't use guns, they use rifles.

i cannot comprehend that there is still a pro-gun element anywhere in politics, much less in NYC. although rudy giuliani pissed me off quite a bit, he was dead accurate on this one. there are too many guns, far too many guns, in the street. the presence of those guns creates a universe in which no one can operate with sanity.

and what is the result? murder. sometimes sanctioned. sometimes not.