Tag Archives: Racial Profiling

Ferguson and the War on Human Rights

15 Aug

FergThe scenes and stories from Ferguson, MO are both tragic and profoundly disturbing.  The death of Michael Brown, Jr., shot in the back by officer Darren Wilson, resonates deeply and clearly sends the message about how black male youth are disproportionately targeted and profiled. That his death sparked brief but significant street violence is understandable, but also sad. That hundreds of people exercising their rights to peacefully demand answers and inform the public have been brutalized by the police takes things to another shocking level. I find myself despondent and distraught, and the whole situation has me reflecting on the intersections of racism, violent culture, and hypocrisy.  It feels to me as though we have learned nothing from history.

I still cannot believe that anyone claims we live in a post-racist society. If anything, the election of President Obama has proved just how deep racism runs and how willing people are to exercise it. From the halls of power to the streets of America, the story is the same. The thread that binds Michael Brown, Jr. to Trayvon Martin to Rodney King is unravelling from the uneasy tapestry of the Civil Rights movement. Sure, we’re all equal now, but if an African American man is someplace that authorities don’t think he should be, that equality evaporates very quickly.

Sadly, the force used to apply that racism is growing exponentially. As the NRA-sponsored culture of guns and violence expands, the reaction to any perceived threat is to shoot first and ask questions later. The officer who shot Michael Brown, Jr. may have felt justified in using his firearm, although that justification is difficult to understand. Even if he did, why did he keep firing until Brown was on the ground dead? How can justice be had for anyone when presumptions of guilt end in the cold facts of death?

The very language we hear from our leaders is steeped in violence. We can’t simply deal with substance abuse, we need a war on drugs. Want to justify endless military action? Start a war on terror. Nothing helps build the prison industrial complex like a war on crime. By waging war on abstractions, we use language to justify needless violence. Those with the least power naturally suffer the most, creating a vicious cycle of loss. When the federal government offloads military supplies to local governments, it is no surprise that those who feel they are fighting these supposed great evils act like combatants rather than civil servants and keepers of the peace.

That irony leads to violent hypocrisy. In the name of protecting the people, suddenly we must gas them. In the name of freedom, journalists must be arrested for being in a fast food restaurant. That hypocrisy is modelled by authorities every day. When George W Bush exercised his executive authority, he was a bold leader; when the President of color does the same thing, he is a malevolent tyrant who must be sued and stopped.When white rancher and known tax criminal Cliven Bundy stands off federal officials, he is left in peace. When people of color peaceably assemble to request answers, they are shot with rubber bullets, gassed, and arrested. And quite sadly, the Mayor seems not to have a clue about racism.  Mayor James Knowles III continues to assert that Ferguson has no racial tension.  Really? The evidence would certainly point to the contrary. Adding to the horrific irony is that Hedy Epstein, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, was arrested yesterday along with 8 other protesters demanding justice for Michael Brown in St. Louis.  If this is not a cry for how we look at justice and the intersections of race and power, I don’t know what is. 

And so the cycle spins, with racism, violence, and hypocrisy grinding the marginalized and rewarding the powerful. In the end, the only thing that’s really surprising about Ferguson is that anyone is truly surprised. Sadly, every time we have another violent crime against a person of color from those in power, it is an excruciatingly painful reminder that we do not all start from a level playing field. People of color and other targeted populations are barraged with messages that this is not a safe place; that equity and equality are concepts reserved for those occupying the space of the dominant culture.

Advertisements

Bill de Blasio: Civil Service Through a Social Justice Lens

18 Sep

Bill de BlasioBill de Blasio’s win of the New York City Democratic mayoral nomination is a victory, not only for New York, but for all of us in the United States working towards social justice and building a vision of equity for all people.

Current New York Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy of the Stop and Frisk policy, also known as legalized racial profiling, is finally losing some teeth.  Thankfully, people like de Blasio are ever mindful of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other targeted populations as we look to a much more inclusive and representative form of leadership.  de Blasio’s inclusivity is laudable:

Something I feel very strongly is you’ve got to treat your family and the other people in your life with a lot of love and respect and you’ve got to treat the society around you the same way. I know people who’ve done one, but not the other. And I really resolved very early on to try and do both.

Unlike many civil servants during my lifetime, de Blasio is very intent on serving all people, as he demonstrates a great respect and even awe of humanity — what a novelty not to discard humans that don’t fit in the box we assign them; how lovely to go outside of the dominant culture.  The television ad his son Dante does is amazing and inspires great hope.

One hopes that if people such as de Blasio get elected, we stand a good chance of changing the face of oppression, systemic racism, and the “othering” of people.  It is most encouraging to see New York looking at progressive candidates who are focusing energy on jobs, affordable housing, healthcare for all, better transit system, gender equity, and LGBT rights, just to name a few of the issues de Blasio has a strategic plan to address.  Would that our country had more of this type of visionary leadership. How refreshing it is to see a political candidate not scapegoating people who are different.  How lovely to see a political candidate embracing all of the citizens .  This seems like true civil service to me.

To learn more about Bill de Blasio and support his mission, check out his website here.

Bigot of the Week Award: January 18, National Rifle Association. Again. Really.

18 Jan
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

In the month since the Sandy Hook shootings, the NRA (Nasty Repulsive Arrogant) has exceeded all its previous behavior and shown its true colors at every turn. Somehow, they managed to top themselves AGAIN this week. In a clear preemptive strike against President Obama’s upcoming press conference — at which he discussed VP Biden’s gun task force recommendations — the shoot everybody ‘casue some of ’em are bound to be guilty organization released their most odious and racist advertisement yet.

The spot, titled “Elitist Hypocrite” targets the President, presumably to undermine his credibility before he even presented his plan. The sick, tragic core of the ad is an attack on his parenting skills based on gross misinformation about his daughters and their school. (The ad is here if you can stomach it.) An ominous voice asks “Are the President’s kids more important than yours?” The rest of the ad talks about the security given to the President’s children and mentions the security staff at the school they attend. It then calls the President a hypocrite for protecting his kids and opposing armed guards at every school in the country.

This is so vile on so many levels that I don’t know where to start. What happened to the simple decency of leaving presidential kids alone as innocent members of an important family? Oops! Did I just expect decency from the NRA? Silly me.

They also neatly overlook the fact that these two children are at massively higher risk than most other kids and that providing security for the families of dozens of high-profile political families is common sense and long-established practice. Whatever the NRA would like us to believe, they also lie about the Obama girls’ school. It has NO ARMED PRESENCE. The security officers carry no weapons, making the hypocrisy charge an ugly falsehood.

Can we also talk about racism here? Need I really remind the NRA that people of color are profiled unjustly in such horrifically disproportionate ways?

Can anyone take this bloated lobbying whore seriously? Well over 90% of Americans (including 90% of gun owners) support common sense gun reforms including background checks. Of course those who only profit from more gun sales don’t care who is safe or what anyone thinks. They just lie their way to the bank.

Thanks go to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s dishonorable mention. Mike O’Neal (R), Speaker of the House in Kansas, sent an email to his colleagues calling for the death of President Obama. Lifting a passage from the bible (Psalm 109, calling for the death of a leader), he gleefully wished of the President

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

O’Neal refuses to apologize and insists the comment was taken out of context. How exactly a direct bible quote with the observation “At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president!” is out of context he didn’t bother to explain.  What kind of monster is O’Neal? It will take a lot more than prayers to help this man.

Number 1 Bigot of the Year 2012: National Rifle Association

31 Dec
Number 1 Bigot of 2012

Number 1 Bigot of 2012

This year’s nominations for Bigot of the Year were pretty remarkable, as you have no doubt noticed over the past few days. Thanks again go to all the TSM readers who took the time to recommend their choices for awful behavior and social injustice. It was a bit of a surprise with all those great nominations to have someone come out of nowhere and grab the top spot. With the insane rantings of its VP Wayne LaPierre and its manic worship at the altar of firearms in the wake of Sandy Hook, however, the NRA managed to do just that.

The shooting tragedy in Newtown was among the worst in U.S. history. Children of 6 and 7 were being buried as LaPierre broke the NRA silence and made his now infamous speech.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

How about not letting the “bad guy” have a gun whose only purpose is to destroy human flesh? How about really enforcing the lamentably weak gun laws we already have? How about not using racism and class warfare to scare people into thinking they need to carry a gun wherever they go?

The NRA’s general behavior as one of the largest and most feared lobbying organizations was bad enough. Over the past year or so, however, they’ve upped the ante significantly. Apparently fearing action in the courts that might result in support for reasonable gun laws, the NRA has begun meddling in judicial appointments. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor are the first two ever “rated” by the organization, clearly targeting votes in their favor as being anti-gun, something many Senators fear. NRA operatives are also working hard to scuttle an arms trade treaty in the U.N.

They’ve also launched a sister organization, the American Silencer Association, to push sales of the one legal firearm enhancement that might have made Adam Lanza’s attack more devastating. The sales pitch? Silencers make guns safer for children’s hearing. Really.

Congratulations, NRA leaders. You’ve demonstrated such lack of compassion and judgment that LaPierre was billed on the New York Daily News as the “Craziest Man On Earth.” Sadly, far too many in power listen to the kind of crazy his money buys.

Dishonorable mention goes to the NRA’s partners in tastelessness. Mike Huckabee already came in at #5 for the year, partly on the strength of his screed about putting “God back in schools” to avoid another Sandy Hook. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer gets a nod for similar words, delivered in his own inimitable crazed style. Last but by no means least, the National Review for its misogynistic editorial that just having more men in schools would butch them up enough to stop potential killers. Let’s try to learn from the real lessons of Sandy Hook, and not from these ranters and opportunists.  Now is the time to look at gun control, racial profiling, and angry white men.

A Country in Mourning…

21 Jul

Today our nation awakes in confusion and sadness as we mourn the loss of 12 of our brothers and sisters in Colorado, with dozens more injured and in pain. Our hearts are  heavy with grief and we all wear a veil of bewilderment.  At moments like this, I wonder when we — as a nation — will finally have a candid conversation around gun control, masculinity, sexism, and racism.

This latest shooting by a white man also stirred up anger, frustration, and disappointment in the unbalanced conversation about violence in our country. Media blowhards and misguided authorities regularly vilify Muslims and disproportionately police African-American men when we seem to ignore the pattern of white male terrorists. I think about Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Scott Roeder of Operation Rescue, just to name a few. I also look at the case building against George ZImmerman and have to say that I’m much more fearful of young white heterosexual men than any other population.

Our obsession with guns is more than just a little disturbing, as many hide behind the false cloak of the 2nd Amendment. The number of online references to the potential to save life by walking armed in the wake of Aurora truly baffles and saddnes me. I have to wonder how many lives we could save if we made a real effort to manage what kinds of weapons really belong in the hands of the average citizen. We control drugs, alcohol, medicine, and access to health care but not devices of destruction that can, in minutes, change hundreds of lives?

My heart goes out to all of the families impacted by the tragedy in Aurora and I can only hope we evolve as a nation and work together to stop this pattern.

Remembering Rodney King: Racism in America

17 Jun

April 29, 1992 marked a very sad day in American History; it was the day that a jury acquitted four police officers of the brutal beating of Rodney King.  The beating was caught on tape and all of America got to see first hand how the LAPD, as most police departments around the country, target black men.  The acquittal sparked race riots from the West Coast to the East Coast.  I was working on Carol  Moseley Braun’s campaign in Chicago at the time and my hopes of eradicating racism plummeted.

I know there will be those that read this article and respond with: “but he was a criminal,” rather than asking what type of environment did King live in and how black men are disproportionately policed and incarcerated.  Asking those questions would mean having to really look at the issue of Racism-an issue we don’t want to address as a nation.

Now 20 years after the acquittal King has died at the very young age of 47. I fear we have so far to go in addressing issues of race, gender, power, privilege, and all of the intersections of oppression.  When do we as a country become united and stand up against racism, homophobia, and misogyny?

Latest in Racial Profiling: More on Racism in America

19 Jul

We All Must Stop Racism

If you have been following TSM for any length of time, you have witnessed my frustration and even rage at what I have called the New American Racism.  The overwhelming number of racists incidents in the past four years, not a coincidence that the rise to this new ugly racism is after we have elected our first African-American President, is evidence that we still have a long way to go towards civil rights in this country.

One of the ugliest incidents of course, was the Tea Bagger/Birther Movement, demanding a birth certificate from President Obama. Have these people no shame? The latest incident of DeShon Marman being arrested and taken off a US Airways flight is just more evidence that black men in America are being profiled. Marman was confronted and then later escorted off the plane and arrested for having sagging pants.  While I personally have no appreciation for men wearing there pants below their waistline, it is not a crime, but it certainly does fit a profile: “Scary black man and he has sagging pants–he must be dangerous,” in my best Tea Party voice.

I also put this article in the LGBT and Feminism category because I truly believe that those of us that are marginalized are obligated to stand in solidarity to our oppressors.  We have seen how racism, misogyny, and homophobia are all related. Marman’s story is a reflection of the long history of institutionalized racism.  I would strongly encourage all TSM readers to pick up a copy of Dr. Beverly Tatum’s book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?  Tatum does a marvelous job addressing issues around race, power, gender, and homophobia. Click here to see the video and read the full story.

%d bloggers like this: