Archive for Race
Over at A Little More Sauce, jdowsett draws an analogy between bicycle riding and white privilege that doesn’t rely on impugning anyone’s character. He very cleverly uses the highway infrastructure’s bias towards cars over bicycles to illuminate how the social infrastructure is skewed in ways many rarely notice.
I can imagine that for people of color life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Experiencing this when I’m on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about.
Your dystopian future has arrived. NPR’s May series, Guilty and Charged, explored the spreading judicial practice of judging people guilty of misdemeanor offenses then imprisoning those unable to pay fines and an expanding menu of fees. (The poor.) But while practice of billing defendants for their punishment may be relatively new, the municipal courts in St. Louis County, MO, where the unarmed Michael Brown was shot by police last month, resemble something out of Dickens. Or else Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Radley Balko (Rise of the Warrior Cop) painted a detailed portrait of the county’s legal culture — if you can call it that — in the Washington Post last week.
It’s a world in which white flight created a string of subdivisions-turned-towns stretching north and west from St. Louis. As black families followed, whites retreated or quickly established dozens of zoned, postage-stamp-sized municipalities.
“The state’s one requirement before giving you the power to zone was that you had to incorporate and draw up a city plan,” [University of Iowa historian Colin] Gordon says. “That plan could be as simple as getting an engineer to slap a ‘single family’ zone over the entire development. Your subdivision is now a town.”
Gordon says this is why the towns in St. Louis can have such unusual names, such as Town & Country or Bellefontaine Neighbors. “Look at a place like Black Jack in North County. It began as a private subdivision in the 1970s. When they saw the looming threat of housing projects, they quickly zoned the neighborhood as single-family and incorporated as a municipality.” Today Black Jack is more than 80 percent black. There’s a similar town of about 1,200 people near Ferguson, just across the street from the Normandy Country Club. It’s 91 percent black, has a 35 percent poverty rate, and has a median household income 40 percent below the state median. Its name? Country Club Hills.
As black families filtered in, the towns too small to sustain local government with property and sales taxes made police departments into profit centers that generate revenues by shaking down residents, most of them poor.
“You see that sort of thing a lot,” [legal aid attorney Michael-John] Voss says. “We’ll get a client who was pulled over and cited for failure to provide proof of insurance, or driving with a suspended license. But there’s no additional citation for a moving violation. So why was she pulled over in the first place?”
But the stop might generate a string of violations, fines and fees that, if not addressed, result in arrest warrants and court costs.
There are many towns in St. Louis County where the number of outstanding arrest warrants can exceed the number of residents, sometimes several times over. No town in Jackson County comes close to that: The highest ratios are in the towns of Grandview (about one warrant for every 3.7 residents), Independence (one warrant for every 3.5 residents), and Kansas City itself (one warrant for every 1.8 residents).
St. Louis County is a dispiriting labyrinth of speed traps and police demands to see permits and papers. Those so targeted are unlikely to afford the fees, much less an attorney to help get them discharged or reduced. Balko explains that with 23,457 pending arrest warrants in 2013 in Pine Lawn (roughly 7.3 per resident), the town brought in about $576 per resident. Antonio Morgan’s story is especially instructive and infuriating. Just trying to support his family by repairing cars makes Morgan a police target, like Brazil‘s “terrorist” heating and air conditioning engineer Archibald “Harry” Tuttle.
It’s a place where the poor are prey, and the prey are black. With “the every day harassment and degradation” of such a system, it’s a wonder Ferguson, MO didn’t explode sooner.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Because it’s Labor Day Weekend. It’s after 5 p.m. And because they don’t have a clue about labor either.
“The race we don’t see is our own,” writes Anat Shenker-Osorio as she reflects on the situation in Ferguson, MO and the reflexive trope, “I don’t see race.”
In a recent series of focus groups on perceptions of race and gender, we showed different groups an all white image and asked them to discuss it. None of the white folks remarked upon the lack of people of color but for the African American, Latino and API groups it was the first thing they said.
Consider, as another example, how we label people of color “minorities” regardless of the proportion they make up in a group. “Majority-minority country”, far from being oxymoronic, is a very clear indicator of just how whites think of ourselves when we’re alone. No matter how many of us there are, we’re the majority.
As the demographics of this country shift away from a white, European default, some unsettling of contents will occur among those who have always assumed the United States is by heritage and by rights a white-run country — the way they insist this is a Christian one.
Hang on tight. This could be a rough ride.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
— Frederick Douglass
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on what Ferguson, MO is really about. Not race, but class.
This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.
The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.
Still. I’ve written about this in various ways lately. Everybody’s got their own agenda, their own political itch to scratch: race, sex, religion, money, freedom, country, class. But in the end, they’re all surrogates for one thing: Power. Who has it. Who doesn’t. The Haves. The Have Nots.
Despite all the camouflaging patriotic rhetoric about freedom and opportunity, for many power is a zero-sum game. More for you means less for them. And those in control won’t stand for that. Deep Throat said follow the money. But if you want to keep from getting screwed, don’t be distracted by the chaff thrown into the air to keep neighbors the elite consider lessers from becoming their equals. Follow the power.
Meanwhile, in Chicago:
This is nuts:
At least 19 people were wounded in shootings Saturday and Sunday.
- Authorities said a juvenile boy was shot in the chest just before 5 p.m. Sunday in the 700 block of East 50th Place. The boy was taken in serious condition to Stroger Hospital. Details surrounding the shooting were not immediately available.
- Just before 4:30 p.m., a 21-year-old man was shot in a park in the 10400 block of South Union, police said. The man was in a park when someone walked up and fired at him, shooting him in the abdomen, according to authorities. The man was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in critical condition.
- Around 10:40 a.m., a 24-year-old man walked into Metro South Hospital with a gunshot wound to the foot. The man was listed in good condition. Police said the man was shot in the 12200 block of South Emerald Avenue but did not have any details on how he was shot.
- Around 4:35 a.m., police said a 23-year-old man was shot in the foot during a possible drive-by in the 2900 block of North Kimball Avenue. The man was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center in good condition but was not cooperating with police.
- Four people were shot around 2 a.m. in the South Chicago neighborhood. Police said the group was standing on the sidewalk in the 7900 block of South Merrill Avenue when three men approached on foot and fired shots at them. A 15-year-old boy with a graze wound to the leg, a 20-year-old man who was shot in the side and a 27-year-old man who was shot in the hand took themselves to South Shore Hospital for treatment. Both the teen and the 20-year-old man were listed in stable condition and the 27-year-old man refused treatment after arriving at the hospital. A 30-year-old man was also shot in the arm and toe and was transported by ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in stable condition.
- A 24-year-old man was shot multiple times just before 2 a.m. in the 8700 block of South Union Avenue. The man suffered multiple wounds to both legs and his buttocks and was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition.
- Just before 1 a.m., police said a 20-year-old man was shot in the leg in the 6300 block of South Albany Avenue. The man told police he was walking when he “heard shots and felt pain.” He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition.
- Around 11:10 p.m. Saturday, a 16-year-old boy was shot in the leg in a possible drive-by shooting in the Washington Park neighborhood. The teen was walking near 51st Street and Wabash Avenue when shots were fired from an occupant in a passing light-colored vehicle, police said. The vehicle fled southbound and the teen was taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in stable condition.
- A few minutes after 11 p.m. two women were shot in the 2400 block of West Adams Street. The women were at an outdoor party when they “heard shots and felt pain.” A 41-year-old woman was shot in the lower back and a 45-year-old woman was shot in the leg. Both women took themselves to Stroger Hospital in stable condition.
- About 15 minutes earlier, a 13-year-old boy was shot in the 1300 block of South Avers Avenue in the Lawndale neighborhood. The teen boy and his brother were involved in an argument with three other people when one of them pulled out a gun and opened fire. The boy was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with a wound to the arm. He was listed in stable condition.
- Around 9 p.m. Saturday an 18-year-old man was shot in the 0-100 block of East 37th street. The teen was shot in the buttocks during a possible drive-by and was transported in stable condition to Stroger Hospital.
- Just after 5 p.m. Saturday, a 17-year-old boy was shot in the side while standing outside in the 500 block of North Hamlin Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital for treatment.
- Just before 11:30 a.m. Saturday, a 33-year-old man was shot in the 9800 block of Avenue L. The man was outside when a dark-colored vehicle drove past and someone inside the vehicle fired shots. The man was shot in the chest and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in stable condition.
- About 15 minutes earlier, a 15-year-old boy was shot in a possible drive-by shooting the 8500 block of South Exchange Avenue. The teen was taken to Trinity Hospital in good condition with gunshot wounds to the arm and back.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Dave Neiwert linked the other day to this Doug Muder piece that traces the origins of some of our current rhetoric. He begins, “Tea Partiers say you don’t understand them because you don’t understand American history. That’s probably true, but not in the way they want you to think.” Muder contends that while the North won the Civil War, the planter aristocrats won Reconstruction, effectively nullifying the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, thereby preserving the social order and power structures God himself intended — to make and keep the planter aristocrats wealthy.
“[I]n the Confederate mind, no democratic process could legitimate such a change in the social order. It simply could not be allowed to stand, and it did not stand,” writes Muder. So, perhaps, it is with obstructionism in Congress today.
When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.
Ben Jealous calls for massive voter registration in the Southin a report for the Center for American Progress:
The first and most important lesson is that massive voter registration can overcome massive voter suppression. Our analysis shows that registering just 30 percent of eligible unregistered black voters or other voters of color could shift the political calculus in a number of Black Belt states, helping blacks elect candidates who share their concerns or alternatively, forcing all candidates to pay attention to the community’s concerns. Registering 60 percent or 90 percent would change the political calculus in an even greater number of states.
Jealous speculates it would take $6-7 million to sign up the 350,000 unregistered black voters in South Carolina, for example, and change the political calculus there, as well as in other southern states. He’s calling for another Freedom Summer to do just that.
The parties can find a billion dollars to spend on presidential races. Jealous thinks we all need to get a clue and spend a tiny fraction of that to change politics in the South. Republican margins of victory in states across the “Black Belt” are substantially less than the number of unregistered people of color there. The extreme right knows this, and knows that demographics are not in their favor for the foreseeable future. Hence the wave of voter suppression efforts across the South and elsewhere.
The report is here.
A very sobering account of race relations from Ta-Nehisi Coates, a brilliant writer and a senior editor at The Atlantic. Highly recommended.
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.
My people didn’t arrive on these shores until after the Civil War. It’s been easy to disclaim any taint from what happened here before their arrival. Ta-Nehisi Coates throws cold water on that notion with a disturbing accounting of what the war did not settle, or make right.
One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte.
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Coates explains, “I am not asking you as a white person to see yourself as an enslaver. I’m asking you as an American to see all of the freedoms that you enjoy and see how they are rooted in things that the country you belong to condoned or actively participated in the past.”
Compassion for America’s poor and the long-term unemployed is audibly absent among many of the well-to-do, their on-air groupies, and politicians who once upon a news cycle tried to rebrand themselves as compassionate conservatives. A caller to a progressive radio show this week asked when heartlessness became fashionable in America.