Archive for Race

Dec
13

A 21st-century lynching?

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Neely Ferry1Neely Ferry2Neely Ferry3Questions surrounding the August hanging death of Lennon Lacy, 17, of Bladenboro, NC have been percolating since the summer. With fall election campaigns and higher-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, the black teenager’s hanging death, quickly ruled a suicide, went largely unnoticed outside North Carolina. But Lacy’s family did not accept the official conclusion that the youth killed himself. Lacy was found hanging by a dog leash wearing someone else’s shoes. Two sizes too small:

Days after he was buried, Lennon’s grave was defiled – an act of vandalism that Lennon’s family believes supports their claim that he was killed in a racially-motivated homicide.

After calls from the North Carolina NAACP and Lacy’s family, the FBI has stepped in:

The FBI will investigate the case of Lennon Lacy, the black teenager found hanging in August from a swing set in North Carolina, whose parents have disputed the official ruling that he killed himself and asked whether his death amounted to a modern-day lynching.

It was confirmed on Friday that a federal agent has been assigned to investigate what happened to Lacy, 17, a budding high-school football prospect found hanging in the middle of a predominantly white trailer park in Bladenboro, North Carolina, on 29 August. The move follows a formal request from the Lacy family and from the North Carolina branch of the NAACP to the US attorney asking for the federal authorities to throw their weight behind the investigation.

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Categories : News, North Carolina, Race
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So, by now you know that the New York grand jury we wrote about on Tuesday returned its decision yesterday not to indict NYPD’s Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner. The 43 year-old black man died gasping “I can’t breathe” while in the custody of white officers outside a Staten Island convenience store after being accused of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. The death was ruled a homicide by a New York medical examiner in August.

Oh, but the grand jury did indict the man who videoed the whole thing on his cellphone, so there’s that.

Protests broke out over the grand jury’s non-indictment, as expected, disrupting the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza. Police made about 30 arrests.

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Categories : News, Race
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Dec
02

“Little techie brats”

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LRAD device on top of the New York City police Hummer. Image via Wikimedia Commons by Peter Bergin.

Up Next: Staten Island.

Protests continued across the country (and on the floor of the House) over a St. Louis County, MO grand jury’s decision not to indict former officer Darren Wilson for the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. But in Staten Island, police are bracing this week for a local grand jury’s decision in another case involving a police officer and the death of an unarmed black man:

With a grand jury expected to come to a decision in the in-custody death of Eric Garner this week, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton met with Staten Island leaders Monday to discuss community concerns and new NYPD initiatives.

The grand jury is to decide whether Officer Daniel Pantaleo will face criminal charges in Garner’s July 17 death outside a Staten Island convenience store. Garner died after being placed in an apparent chokehold during an arrest attempt. Police suspected Garner of selling illegal cigarettes.

Cigarettes? Cigarillos? Perhaps the Surgeon General should add a health warning on tobacco products about the risk of death by summary execution. You don’t even have to smoke them.

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Categories : National, News, Race
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Nov
30

Let’s talk

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Nicholas Kristof this morning calls for an American Truth and Reconciliation Commission in “When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5.” He cites most of the articles I had collected to write about race anyway, so as he says, let’s talk.

We had an experience recently that showed us just how much we don’t get it. Commenting on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ stunning “The Case for Reparations,” I wrote:

On a long drive in the last year or so, we were trading notes with a friend about where we were born, how long we had lived in North Carolina, and something about our family history. It was all pretty light conversation until our friend remarked that her knowledge of family history went back only as far as her great-grandparents in the Caribbean. She didn’t have to explain why. Because before that was Africa.

In white America many take pride or at least an interest in family history. We mostly take it for granted. I certainly did. What jerked us up short was realizing that our friend didn’t have one and why.

Three-quarters of whites have only white friends, Kristof begins, one big reason “we are often clueless.” Then there is the everyday racial profiling we never see. Like being followed around by security in a department store, as our friend experiences, or the professor falsely accused of shoplifting in a chain store here last year. Kristof writes:

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Nov
28

The #Ferguson #fail

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Eugene Robinson this morning does more criticism of the #Ferguson #fail. Robinson calls out the police, for treating the citizens of Ferguson more like “subjects,” and Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch for not acting like one:

The way McCulloch conducted the grand jury probe was anything but ordinary. Evidence is usually presented in the light most favorable to the prosecution; the idea is to seek an indictment and then figure out guilt or innocence later at trial. McCulloch presented both sides of the case in great detail, essentially asking grand jurors — not trial jurors — to be adjudicators of the facts. He put Brown on trial, not Wilson.

In his rambling, self-justifying news conference announcing the no-indictment decision, McCulloch made clear that he believed the eyewitnesses who supported Wilson’s version of events and disbelieved those who did not. Moreover, he questioned the motives of those who disputed Wilson’s story, as if they could not be relied on to participate in an honest search for the truth.

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Categories : Local, National, News, Race
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Nov
28

A Painful 15 Minutes

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Asheville resident Russell Johnson gets his 15 minutes and a dislocated shoulder in Missouri:

Russell Johnson, 45, a Navy veteran who was arrested Wednesday during a protest at City Hall in St. Louis and suffered a dislocated shoulder, told the Los Angeles Times that many of the demonstrators believed they needed to unite around a meal, not a cause, on Thanksgiving.

“You know how at halftime during a football game you get to rest,” he said. “You get that motivational speech. Then you come out stronger for the second half.”

Categories : National, News, Race
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Nov
26

Asheville responds

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At the Vance Monument, downtown Asheville. A response to Ferguson.

Categories : Events, Local, National, News, Race
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Nov
09

Underground railroading

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On Friday, we were in Greensboro, NC when the International Civil Rights Center & Museum was open. We’d been meaning to stop in for years. We even managed to get through the tour of the old F. W. Woolworth lunch counter without crying. (OK, barely.) The word unequal kept coming up in the tour. That and the funeral earlier of a black friend had me mulling over how many white people still resent sharing the country with Others they consider unequal. Demographic shifts are bringing them kicking and screaming to the realization that they must.

Losing power is very personal for people on the right. Both left and right talk about taking “their country” back, but it seems much more personal for conservatives. In their America, it seems, there is no we, just i and me.

One place you hear it is in their rhetoric about voter fraud. It is a very personal affront to them that the power of their votes might be diminished by the Other. Every time someone ineligible casts a fraudulent ballot, they insist, it “steals your vote.” Your vote. They have convinced themselves that there are thousands and thousands of invisible felons stealing their votes every election. Passing more restrictive voting laws is a matter of justice and voting integrity, of course. What other motivation could there be for railroading eligible poor, minority, and college-age voters?

The Others they suspect of this heinous activity are people who do not believe as they do nor vote as they do. Voter fraud itself is a code word, the way Lee Atwater used “forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.” It’s “much more abstract,” as Atwater said. The issue is not really whether the invisible “those people” are voting illegally or not. It is that they are voting at all. Sharing in governance, sharing power, is a privilege for deserving, Real Americans, not for the unwashed Irresponsibles. That Others do so legally is just as much an affront. Right now they’re targeting the invisible Others. Restricting voting to Real Americans comes later, I guess.

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Oct
15

For thee, but not for she

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How are those Stand Your Ground laws working for ya? Well, if you’re a man like George Zimmerman and not a black man, just fine. And if you’re a woman?

“(The Legislature’s) intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers,” prosecutor Culver Kidd told the [Charleston, SC] Post and Courier. “We believe that applying the statute so that its reach into our homes and personal relationships is inconsistent with (its) wording and intent.”

In South Carolina, prosecutors are appealing a circuit judge’s ruling that under the state’s Protection of Persons and Property Act Whitlee Jones should not face trial in the stabbing death of her boyfriend two years ago. During a fight in which he dragged a screaming Jones down the street by her hair, reports Think Progress, neighbors called police.

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Categories : National, News, Race
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Sep
30

First they came for the air traffic controllers …

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“Nothing makes people more stupid and foolish than money and fear,” the creator of The Wire told the Guardian. David Simon spoke about what drives him, and about his new mini-series, Show Me a Hero.

Set in the 1980s, the show examines a community split over a plan to build public housing in the upscale — predominantly white — east side of Yonkers, NY. It was a breakdown driven not only by race, but by fear and money.

Simon sees the dispute as allegorical of the political dysfunction in an America that no longer knows how to solve its problems. The period coincides, he believes, with the breakdown of the social contract in America, the triumph of capital over labor and the unpairing of tides and boats that had risen together in a postwar America we had come to believe was normal.

This is a point forcefully made by ex-Clinton labour secretary Robert Reich in his recent film, Inequality for All. He dates the busting of the labour unions and the rupture of the social compact to Ronald Reagan’s firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers in 1981. From then on, the idea that a market-driven society would mutually benefit those who held the capital and those who provided the labour was no longer in place, he says. For Simon, this is the point at which the shared community of interests that walked side by side as the American economy surged after the second world war came apart. The collective will that bound together communities, cities and, ultimately, America started to erode.

“What was required in Yonkers was to ask: ‘Are we all in this together or are we not all in this together?’ Is there a society or is there no society, because if there is no society, well, that’s the approach that says ‘Fuck ’em, I got mine’. And Yonkers coincides with the rise of ‘Fuck ’em I got mine’ in America.

“That’s the notion that the markets will solve everything. Leave me alone. I want maximum liberty, I want maximum freedom. Those words have such power in America. On the other hand ‘responsibility’ or ‘society’ or ‘community’ are words that are increasingly held in disfavour in the United States. And that’s a recipe for cooking up a second-rate society, one that does not engage with the notion of collective responsibility. We’re only as good a society as how we treat those who are most vulnerable and nobody’s more vulnerable than our poor. To be poor is not a crime, except in America.”

A guy I knew in the T-party once insisted that there is no society, just as Simon describes. And if there is none, by that logic how could he bear any responsibility for it? T-party members may clasp copies of the U.S. Constitution to their breasts, but they’ve lost its spirit after rejecting the document’s first three words. There is no we in their America, just I and me. And community? Sounds too much like communism. And an excuse for low-caste Irresponsibles to collect a government check for not working.

The view portends a grim, decidedly unexceptional American future in which doomsday preppers barricade and arm themselves against their neighbors while the rich retreat to lush, gated sanctuaries protected from both by armed security.

The thing is, as more Americans slip out of the middle class and find themselves struggling to get by, they are catching on to the barrenness of that future. The Moral Monday movement caught on by bringing together a diverse community to call out the depravity of the ‘Fuck ’em I got mine’ culture of Wall Street’s Jordan Belforts, and among ALEC corporations out to strip America for parts.

But David Simon doesn’t believe We the People are quite there yet.

“I think in some ways the cancer is going to have to go a little higher. It’s going to start crawling up above the knee and people are going to have to start looking around and thinking ‘I thought I was exempt. I didn’t know they were coming for me’.

“It’s happened to the manufacturing class, it’s happened to the poor. Now it’s happening to reporters and schoolteachers and firefighters and cops and social workers and state employees and even certain levels of academics. And that’s new. That’s not the American dream.”

First they came for the air traffic controllers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an air traffic controller.

Then they came for the factory workers, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a factory worker.

Then they came for the schoolteachers, the firefighters, the cops, the academics … .

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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