Racism

V.A.-Funded Federal Contractor Rejects 251 Black Applicants, Hires Sloppy White Crooks Instead

application

Undoubtedly the practice is widespread.  This is just one contractor that got busted.

ADDICTING INFO

How the hell does anyone argue racism is a thing of the past when the same criminal prejudice haunting every dark corner of history, even quite often proudly prancing and frolicking forth in the grand light of day throughout our history, is still doing “The Curly Shuffle” all over the unalienable rights of anyone who is not white, male, straight, conservative and corporate-oriented?

Take this federal contractor out in Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee, who rejected with extreme prejudice 251 black applicants for positions with Brookfield’s United Mailing Services (UMS). Instead of hiring any of those black folks, made up presumably of both men and women, UMS decided a bunch of white guys lacking driver’s licenses who didn’t even competently complete their job applications in the first place, sporting criminal records to boot, were the much better hires.

Hell, United Mailing Services doesn’t just show us racism is alive and well – sexism is, too!

And this information comes via the Department of Labor as of Monday.

Isn’t that something right out of the early 60s? The 50s? 40s and on back? Back when folks think of the civil rights movement that has really, truly never been “won” and has neither gone away.

That UMS received over $3.6 million in federal funding for processing Veteran Affairs mail while it was openly discriminating against black U.S. citizens puts some extra stank on it, too, don’t you think, considering the number of African-American citizens who have given their lives for their country, and more to the point, for the American people?

Luckily, in this case, UMS got busted and is paying the price. According to the Labor Department, United Mailing Service now has promised to pay $120,000 (plus interest!) to each and every one of the 251 African-American applicants rejected by the company. The company also said it would hire 23 of the applicants turned away.

Imagine the joy of being one of the 23 black folks mandated to work in a racist company. Sure, you’re glad to have the job and see justice win out, but you’re also surrounded by racist a$$holes. Even legal wins can lack a bit of luster, sometimes. There’s one more example of white privilege for you.

What is perhaps most irritating, however, is that United Mailing Services never had to admit it was racist or had done anything wrong at all. They just throw some money at it and begrudgingly hire 23 of the rejected applicants and it’s like nothing ever happened. How nice.

At least the Office of Federal Contract Compliance states the company “violated federal employment law,” so… there’s that.

Is that progress, or a plateau? Because it sure as hell isn’t history.

Featured image via Pixabay / Flickr composite

7 Racist Moments From Your Favorite Disney Movies That Will Ruin Them Forever

Here’s the thing regarding Disney movies:  Yes, racism was there but it was everywhere during that time. An unfortunate part of the political and social status quo of the era.

Most cinema studios reflected such things then and now, unapologetic  and myopic to problems with race.

However, to the “minority” child observer and his Disney loving parents: “Okay that sucks, but the rest of the movie is so good!”

IDENTITIES.MIC

As children of the ’90s, we were often taught to be “colorblind.” What passed for anti-racism in our youth hinged more on ignoring each other’s racial differences — “Skin color doesn’t matter!” we were told — than embracing, celebrating, acknowledging and critiquing how these differences shape our lives.

This memo seems to have gotten lost on its way to Walt Disney Studios. The animated films that defined our “colorblind” childhoods — torn from their cushioned packaging and shoved into our waiting VHS players — had no qualms about resorting to the most blatant forms of racism that could still earn a “G”-rating.

Ignoring race did nothing for us then. Now we know better, and our darlings must be killed. Racism can be so inconvenient that way.

1. Dumbo (1940)

Source: Dumbo Lover/YouTube

The lead crow character in Dumbo, a gravel-voiced, thickly accented piece of black comedic relief (pun intended), is actually named “Jim Crow.” The name is a glib reference to the systems of state-sanctioned terrorism that defined black life in the American South throughout the early to mid-20th century.

The crows’ role in the film also mirrors the film industry’s rampant racism at the time, during which black performers were relegated to stereotypical comic roles, or supporting musical entertainment. Fun!

2. Peter Pan (1953)

Source: peterpan3401/YouTube

The song, “What Makes the Red Man Red?” sung by a chorus of Native American caricatures that rapidly devolve into outright minstrelsy, contains lyrics such as, “Once the Injun didn’t know all the things that he know now … but the Injun, he sure learn a lot, and it’s all from asking ‘How?'”

It also implies that Native peoples got their complexion because an “Injun prince” kissed a “squaw” a million years back and everyone has been “blushing since.” Such degrading portrayals of Native peoples have undergirded centuries of terrorism, plunder and degradation, and helped justify racist myths of Native inferiority. Cool!

3. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Source: Crowley/YouTube

The stereotype of the sneaky, devious East Asian is on full display with the twin Siamese cat characters — Si and Am — in Lady and the Tramp. Aside from their heavily minstrelized rendering (both have buck teeth, thick accents and narrow eyes), their song, “We Are Siamese, If You Please,” features choreography in which the two wreak sly havoc in a house, and try killing a bird and a fish.

Similar stereotypes were used to reinforce fear of the so-called yellow peril in the late 19th century. Specifically, the notion that sneaky East Asians posed a mortal danger to the rest of the world led to strict fierce anti-immigration policies to keep them out of the United States. Wow!

4. The Jungle Book (1963)

Source: tahlee/YouTube

To feature a group of monkeys and apes singing like Louis Armstrong wannabes is one thing. But The Jungle Book‘s larger racial significance stems from its source: author Rudyard Kipling, who penned perhaps the defining manifesto of white imperialism in his 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden.”

In it, he lauds the nobility of white colonizers who leave their idyllic white lives behind to bring so-called “civilization” to their “new-caught, sullen,” “half devil and half child” “captives” — the people of the Philippines, in this particular case, and the rest of the non-white world. Amazing!

5. Aladdin (1992)

Source: Welcome/YouTube

Aladdin‘s first song, “Arabian Nights,” contains the lyrics: “I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam … where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home!” It goes on to detail how the people living on said land will “cut off your ear if they don’t like your face.”

The stereotype of Arab savagery and barbarism has existed in Western iconography for years. But over the past two decades, it’s also fueled the cultural wing of the so-called “War on Terror” — an absurd rhetorical battle that pits an inherently violent culture, the Islamic Middle East, against an inherently benign one, the Christian West — fueling renewed expression of racism in the United States and beyond. Win!

6. The Lion King (1994)

Source: DisneyMusicVEVO/YouTube

“How can The Lion King be racist?” you ask. “There aren’t any people in it!” Indeed. How curious that the first Disney animated film set in Africa does the same work the worst portrayals of Africa do: presenting it as “one big wild animal preserve” without a human in sight. Disney’s second film set in Africa, 1999’s Tarzan, does not feature a single African person.

Not to mention that Shenzi, Banzai and Ed — Scar’s three buffoonish hyena goons — also happen to the most sonically ethnicized, once again mirroring age-old Hollywood conventions wherein black and Hispanic performers are relegated to stereotypical comic relief. Go team!

7. Pocahontas (1995)

Source: Disney Movies Anywhere/YouTube

Nobody expects Disney films to be pillars of historical accuracy. But if they obscure histories of kidnapping and abusive sexual coercion, they may be better left to storytellers more equipped to relay that.

From the Powhatan Renape Nation (Pocahontas’ real-life tribe) website:

“The true Pocahontas story has a sad ending. In 1612, at the age of 17, Pocahontas was treacherously taken prisoner by the English while she was on a social visit, and was held hostage at Jamestown for over a year.
“During her captivity, a 28-year-old widower named John Rolfe took a ‘special interest’ in the attractive young prisoner. As a condition of her release, she agreed to marry Rolfe … Thus, in April, Matoaka, also know as ‘Pocahontas,’ daughter of Chief Powhatan, became ‘Rebecca Rolfe.'”

Turns out Pocahontas was not a modelesque woman who talked to raccoons, trees and hummingbirds, but a teenaged colonial prisoner whose release was predicated on her entering a non-consensual, lifetime sexual relationship with a thirsty English stranger.

Thanks, Disney!

Zak Cheney-Rice

Shooters of color are called ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs.’ Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?

Media pundits have already started to use the “mental illness” narrative to characterize suspected shooter Dylann Roof. Why not call him a suspected terrorist? (Facebook account of Dylann Roof)

Some people are speaking about about this frequent problem…

THE WASHINGTON POST

This racist media narrative around mass violence falls apart with the Charleston church shooting.

Police are investigating the shooting of nine African Americans at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston as a hate crime committed by a white man. Unfortunately, it’s not a unique event in American history. Black churches have long been a target of white supremacists who burned and bombed them in an effort to terrorize the black communities that those churches anchored. One of the most egregious terrorist acts in U.S. history was committed against a black church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. Four girls were killed when members of the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, a tragedy that ignited the Civil Rights Movement.

But listen to major media outlets and you won’t hear the word “terrorism” used in coverage of Tuesday’s shooting. You won’t hear the white male shooter, identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, described as “a possible terrorist.” And if coverage of recent shootings by white suspects is any indication, he never will be. Instead, the go-to explanation for his actions will be mental illness. He will be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources. Activist Deray McKesson noted this morning that, while discussing Roof’s motivations, an MSNBC anchor said “we don’t know his mental condition.” That is the power of whiteness in America.

Continue reading here…

H/t: DB

America’s war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn’t about “one bad apple”

America's war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn't about "one bad apple"

(Credit: MSNBC)

SALON

Many have been quick to dismiss or make excuses for the shocking video out of Texas. Here’s the truth of the matter

In just over two months, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that ravaged communities along the Gulf Coast. This tragedy was made infinitely worse not only by decades of governmental neglect and far-ranging poverty, but also by the fact that so many Black people could not swim.

That nearly 60 percent of Black people cannot swim is directly attributable to decades of segregated pool facilities in this country. While that problem ostensibly went away with the desegregation efforts of the mid-20th century, de facto segregation of pool facilities persists to this day, because community pools are now largely private amenities in suburban neighborhoods that many Black youth don’t have access to.

This is the backdrop of the troubling and traumatizing incident that occurred in McKinney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, over the weekend, when 19-year-old Tatiana Rose threw a pool party and invited several friends to use the community pool in her neighborhood. Many of those friends were Black, and many of those Black friends also live in the neighborhood. At some point, as Tatiana says in a video interview, two white adult women began yelling at her and her friends to “go back where they came from,” “back to section 8 housing,” and calling them “black fuckers.” When a 14-year-old girl responded, the women further ridiculed her, prompting Tatiana to tell the adults that the girl was 14 and their comments were inappropriate. According to Tatiana’s account, the white women then approached her; one “hit her in the face” and the other began participating in the attack.

According to reports, multiple calls came into police. At least one call came from either Tatiana, her mother (who was present) or her friends, reporting that these white women had attacked the partygoers. Other calls came in from residents who reported that many Black children who were unauthorized to be there were there and fighting. Apparently, the party got larger and some children jumped over the fence to get to the party.

Continue reading here

Texas Cop Suspended After He’s Caught On Video Grabbing Black Girl By Her Hair And Sitting On Her

cop pool partyjpg

CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE

THINK PROGRESS

A video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday shows predominantly white cops detaining, handcuffing and, at one point, physically holding down black teenagers at a neighborhood pool. At one point, an unidentified white officer grabs a black teenage girl in a bikini by the hair and wrestles her to the ground. When other black teenagers try to intervene, that cop draws his weapon and briefly chases after two black young men. After these two African American young men flee, the cop returns to the girl in the bikini, forcing her face into the ground and then sitting on her in an apparent effort to prevent her from standing up.

This cop may face disciplinary charges. A statement issued by the McKinney, Texas Police Department says that “McKinney Police later learned of a video that was taken at the scene by an unknown party. This video has raised concerns that are being investigated by the McKinney Police Department. At this time, one of the responding officers has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation.”

The statement also claims that police responded to a “disturbance at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool” regarding “multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave,” and that “Police received several additional calls related to this incident advising that juveniles were now actively fighting.”

It’s unclear whether some or all of the teens were actually at the pool without permission, but it appears likely that they believed that they were attending a pool party that was open to the public. Zahid Arab, a reporter for a local Fox affiliate, reported that a party at the local pool was advertised on social media:

The police department’s claim that “juveniles were now actively fighting” may also be literally true, but subsequent reporting suggests that white adults who lived in the neighborhood bear the lion’s share of the blame for this fighting. According to teens interviewed by BuzzFeed News, “the police were called after a fight broke out between adults and youths at the pool after the adults made racist comments telling the black children to leave the area and return to ‘Section 8 [public] housing.’” One white teen added that “when she and her friends objected to the racist comments about public housing an adult woman then became violent.”

IAN MILLHISER

I’m a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing

A protest in Cleveland, Ohio, after police officer Michael Brelo was acquitted for the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. | Ricky Rhodes, Getty Image

  VOX

On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

That’s a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 election that included the statement, “I can’t believe I live in a country full of ni**er lovers!!!!!!!!” He patrolled the streets in St. Louis in a number of black communities with the authority to act under the color of law.

That remaining 70 percent of officers are highly susceptible to the culture in a given department. In the absence of any real effort to challenge department cultures, they become part of the problem. If their command ranks are racist or allow institutional racism to persist, or if a number of officers in their department are racist, they may end up doing terrible things.

About that 15 percent of officers who regularly abuse their power: they exert an outsize influence

It is not only white officers who abuse their authority. The effect of institutional racism is such that no matter what color the officer abusing the citizen is, in the vast majority of those cases of abuse that citizen will be black or brown. That is what is allowed.

And no matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism, risk, and sacrifice that is available to a uniformed police officer by virtue of simply reporting for duty. Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was recently acquitted of all charges against him in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both black and unarmed. Thirteen Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots at them. Brelo, having reloaded at some point during the shooting, fired 49 of the 137 shots. He took his final 15 shots at them after all the other officers stopped firing (122 shots at that point) and, “fearing for his life,” he jumped onto the hood of the car and shot 15 times through the windshield.

Not only was this excessive, it was tactically asinine if Brelo believed they were armed and firing. But they weren’t armed, and they weren’t firing. Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Brelo under the rationale that because he couldn’t determine which shots actually killed Russell and Williams, no one is guilty. Let’s be clear: this is part of what the Department of Justice means when it describes a “pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive force.”

Nevertheless, many Americans believe that police officers are generally good, noble heroes. A Gallup poll from last year asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in various fields: police officers ranked in the top five, just above members of the clergy. The profession — the endeavor — is noble. But this myth about the general goodness of cops obscures the truth of what needs to be done to fix the system. It makes it look like all we need to do is hire good people, rather than fix the entire system. Institutional racism runs throughout our criminal justice system. Its presence in police culture, though often flatly denied by the many police apologists that appear in the media now, has been central to the breakdown in police-community relationships for decades in spite of good people doing police work.

Here’s what I wish Americans understood about the men and women who serve in their police departments — and what needs to be done to make the system better for everyone.

1) There are officers who willfully violate the human rights of the people in the communities they serve

As a new officer with the St. Louis in the mid-1990s, I responded to a call for an “officer in need of aid.” I was partnered that day with a white female officer. When we got to the scene, it turned out that the officer was fine, and the aid call was canceled. He’d been in a foot pursuit chasing a suspect in an armed robbery and lost him.

The officer I was with asked him if he’d seen where the suspect went. The officer picked a house on the block we were on, and we went to it and knocked on the door. A young man about 18 years old answered the door, partially opening it and peering out at my partner and me. He was standing on crutches. My partner accused him of harboring a suspect. He denied it. He said that this was his family’s home and he was home alone.

My partner then forced the door the rest of the way open, grabbed him by his throat, and snatched him out of the house onto the front porch. She took him to the ledge of the porch and, still holding him by the throat, punched him hard in the face and then in the groin. My partner that day snatched an 18-year-old kid off crutches and assaulted him, simply for stating the fact that he was home alone.

I got the officer off of him. But because an aid call had gone out, several other officers had arrived on the scene. One of those officers, who was black, ascended the stairs and asked what was going on. My partner pointed to the young man, still lying on the porch, and said, “That son of a bitch just assaulted me.” The black officer then went up to the young man and told him to “get the fuck up, I’m taking you in for assaulting an officer.” The young man looked up at the officer and said, “Man … you see I can’t go.” His crutches lay not far from him.

The officer picked him up, cuffed him, and slammed him into the house, where he was able to prop himself up by leaning against it. The officer then told him again to get moving to the police car on the street because he was under arrest. The young man told him one last time, in a pleading tone that was somehow angry at the same time, “You see I can’t go!” The officer reached down and grabbed both the young man’s ankles and yanked up. This caused the young man to strike his head on the porch. The officer then dragged him to the police car. We then searched the house. No one was in it.

These kinds of scenes play themselves out everyday all over our country in black and brown communities. Beyond the many unarmed blacks killed by police, including recently Freddie Gray in Baltimore, other police abuses that don’t result in death foment resentment, distrust, and malice toward police in black and brown communities all over the country. Long before Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown last August, there was a poisonous relationship between the Ferguson, Missouri, department and the community it claimed to serve. For example, in 2009 Henry Davis was stopped unlawfully in Ferguson, taken to the police station, and brutally beaten while in handcuffs. He was then charged for bleeding on the officers’ uniforms after they beat him.

2) The bad officers corrupt the departments they work for

About that 15 percent of officers who regularly abuse their power: a major problem is they exert an outsize influence on department culture and find support for their actions from ranking officers and police unions. Chicago is a prime example of this: the city has created a reparations fund for the hundreds of victims who were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command from the 1970s to the early ‘90s.

The victims were electrically shocked, suffocated, and beaten into false confessions that resulted in many of them being convicted and serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.  One man, Darrell Cannon, spent 24 years in prison for a crime he confessed to but didn’t commit. He confessed when officers repeatedly appeared to load a shotgun and after doing so each time put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Other men received electric shocks until they confessed.

The torture was systematic, and the culture that allowed for it is systemic. I call your attention to the words “and officers under his command.” Police departments are generally a functioning closed community where people know who is doing what. How many officers  “under the command” of Commander Burge do you think didn’t know what was being done to these men? How many do you think were uncomfortable with the knowledge? Ultimately, though, they were okay with it. And Burge got four years in prison, and now receives his full taxpayer-funded pension.

3) The mainstream media helps sustain the narrative of heroism that even corrupt officers take refuge in

This is critical to understanding why police-community relations in black and brown communities across the country are as bad as they are. In this interview with Fox News, former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir never acknowledges the lived experience of thousands and thousands of blacks in New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, or anywhere in the country. In fact, he seems to be completely unaware of it. This allows him to leave viewers with the impression that the recent protests against police brutality are baseless, and that allegations of racism are “totally wrong — just not true.” The reality of police abuse is not limited to a number of “very small incidents” that have impacted black people nationwide, but generations of experienced and witnessed abuse.

The media is complicit in this myth-making: notice that the interviewer does not challenge Safir. She doesn’t point out, for example, the over $1 billion in settlementsthe NYPD has paid out over the last decade and a half for the misconduct of its officers. She doesn’t reference the numerous accounts of actual black or Hispanic NYPD officers who have been profiled and even assaulted without cause when they were out of uniform by white NYPD officers.

No matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism

Instead she leads him with her questions to reference the heroism, selflessness, risk, and sacrifice that are a part of the endeavor that is law enforcement, but very clearly not always characteristic of police work in black and brown communities. The staging for this interview — US flag waving, somber-faced officers — is wash, rinse, and repeat with our national media.

When you take a job as a police officer, you do so voluntarily. You understand the risks associated with the work. But because you signed on to do a dangerous job does not mean you are then allowed to violate the human rights, civil rights, and civil liberties of the people you serve. It’s the opposite. You should protect those rights, and when you don’t you should be held accountable. That simple statement will be received by police apologists as “anti-cop.”  It is not.

4) Cameras provide the most objective record of police-citizen encounters available

When Walter Scott was killed by officer Michael Slager in South Carolina earlier this year, the initial police report put Scott in the wrong. It stated that Scott had gone for Slager’s Taser, and Slager was in fear for his life. If not for the video recording that later surfaced, the report would have likely been taken by many at face value. Instead we see that Slager shot Scott repeatedly and planted the Taser next to his body after the fact.

Every officer in the country should be wearing a body camera that remains activated throughout any interaction they have with the public while on duty. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy for officers when they are on duty and in service to the public. Citizens must also have the right to record police officers as they carry out their public service, provided that they are at a safe distance, based on the circumstances, and not interfering. Witnessing an interaction does not by itself constitute interference.

5) There are officers around the country who want to address institutional racism

The National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability is a new coalition of current and former law enforcement officers from around the nation. Its mission is to fight institutional racism in our criminal justice system and police culture, and to push for accountability for police officers that abuse their power.

Many of its members are already well-established advocates for criminal justice reform in their communities. It’s people like former Sergeant De Lacy Davis of New Jersey, who has worked to change police culture for years. It’s people like former LAPD Captain John Mutz, who is white, and who is committed to working to build a system where everyone is equally valued. His colleagues from the LAPD —former Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, now a frequent CNN contributor (providing some much-needed perspective), and former officer Alex Salazar, who worked LAPD’s Rampart unit — are a part of this effort. Several  NYPD  officers, many of whom are founding members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, the gold standard for black municipal police organizations, are a part of this group. Vernon Wells, Noel Leader, Julian Harper, and Cliff Hollingsworth, to name a few, are serious men with a serious record of standing up for their communities against police abuse. There’s also Rochelle Bilal, a former sergeant out of Philadelphia, Sam Costales out of New Mexico, former Federal Marshal Matthew Fogg, and many others.

These men and women are ready to reach out to the thousands of officers around the country who have been looking for a national law enforcement organization that works to remake police culture. The first priority is accountability — punishment — for officers who willfully abuse the rights and bodies of those they are sworn to serve. Training means absolutely nothing if officers don’t adhere to it and are not held accountable when they don’t. It is key to any meaningful reform.

Police abuse in black and brown communities is generations old. It is nothing new.

Racism is woven into the fabric of our nation.  At no time in our history has there been a national consensus that everyone should be equally valued in all areas of life. We are rooted in racism in spite of the better efforts of Americans of all races to change that.

Because of this legacy of racism, police abuse in black and brown communities is generations old. It is nothing new. It has become more visible to mainstream America largely because of the proliferation of personal recording devices, cellphone cameras, video recorders — they’re everywhere. We need police officers.  We also need them to be held accountable to the communities they serve.

Segregationists never went away: We just call them “small-government conservatives” now

Segregationists never went away: We just call them "small-government conservatives" now

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly (Credit: Reuters/Micah Walter/AP/Douglas C. Pizac)

SALON

Black freedom & opportunity in America has always required the very federal intervention the right wants to destroy

The continuing decline of public sector jobs at local, state, and federal levels is having an abysmal economic impact on African Americans, for whom steady, stable government employment opportunities have provided a sure path into the middle class. The New York Times reported yesterday that “roughly one in five black adults works for the government, teaching school, delivering mail, driving buses, processing criminal justice and managing large staffs.” Because Black people hold a disproportionate number of government jobs, cutbacks that affect everyone hit Black communities even harder.

In many ways that goes without saying. When America sneezes, Black America gets the flu. But I want to suggest that something even more sinister animates this swift pivot in the country away from an investment in public goods and services. It is not simply that Black people are victims of a numbers game. Rather, there has been a wholesale P.R. campaign on the part of those on the right to associate all public goods and services, from public schools to public assistance, with the bodies of undeserving people of color, particularly Blacks and Latinos.

Any discussion of welfare or public assistance in this country is rife with dog whistles from the right toward the lower elements of their base, who in Pavlovian fashion, respond to code words about welfare and public assistance by conjuring images of the undeserving Black and Brown poor. In his new book “How Propaganda Works,” Yale philosopher Jason Stanley argues that while a “liberal democratic culture… does not tolerate explicit degradation of its citizens,” there are “apparently innocent words that have the feature of slurs, namely that whenever the words occur in a sentence, they convey the problematic content. The word welfare …conveys a problematic social meaning.” I am suggesting that the word “public” in our political discourse is becoming just such a tool of political propaganda as well.

While we don’t explicitly degrade public institutions, those institutions are, in practice, seen as less valuable, worthy, rigorous, and prestigious. In places as disparate as New York City and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the problem of severe segregation in public schools has been well-documented. When economic means permit, white families tend not to educate their children in racially diverse schools. Public schools are viewed as cauldrons of poor learning and social dysfunction; and white people, whenever possible, exercise the prerogative to keep their children out of these environments. That seems reasonable, but it is unreasonable to except that other people’s children should have to learn in these kinds of environments either. The current circus that is the education reform debate in this country demonstrates a point that Stanley makes: “The usurpation of liberal democratic language to disguise an antidemocratic managerial society is at the basis of the American public school system as it was restructured between 1910 and 1920.” In other words, we have a publicly stated belief in the importance of good public education to our democracy, but this masks a variety of ways in which public schools become tools of social control; and, in this moment in particular, that perpetuates the creation of a Black and Brown underclass.

The tough reality about integration is white bodies are tethered to economic resources. Schools that have large populations of white children are not failing schools. When white gentrifiers move into urban areas, they seemingly bring nice restaurants, better policing, and better schools with them. The narrative attached to Black bodies is the opposite. The presence of Black bodies are seen as a drain on resources, particularly since the presence of Black people in neighborhoods tends to make those neighborhoods less desirable, driving down property values. One recent expose about racist housing practices in Brooklyn demonstrated that white people routinely ask not to live in places with too many Black people.

To the extent that our Civil Rights-era narrations of the racial divide persist, it seems that neither Black people nor white people ever invested fully in the idea of integration. Black communities in some respects fared better under segregation, because there were Black-owned business, students taught by Black teachers who believed in their inherent capability to learn, and more class integration within Black neighborhoods. Still, this was an inherently limited universe for many Black people. Thus, they aspired to white institutions and to racial integration in some ways as a means of access to a fairer redistribution of resources. Separate, Civil Rights era activists concluded, was inherently unequal.

Meanwhile, white people both then and now never fully bought into the idea of racial integration either. Beyond sentiment and rhetoric, we have only to look at the idea of racial integration in practice.  If schooling, housing, and worship practices in the 21st century are any indicator, we are as segregated as ever, and that has everything to do with a continuing practice among white Americans to segregate where they live, raise families and send their children to school. While many young white gentrifiers tell themselves they are chasing culture and diversity, in many ways, they are simply re-segregating neighborhoods, by shifting the color of who lives there from Brown to white. What gentrifiers seem not to have figured out is that they are being eaten alive by their own system, because their white bodies drive up property values and then price them out of the very neighborhoods they want to live in.

Moreover, white people continue to suggest that it is Black people who are self-segregating. They ask, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” Or as one severely misguided senior professor at Duke University recently suggested, Black people’s choice of ethnic names is evidence of a lack of desire to fully integrate or assimilate into the mainstream of American society.

I am pointing to these practices in this larger argument about the way the notion of “public” has become a tool of propaganda in order to suggest a couple of things: One, racialized practices and racism still occur even when there is no identifiable racial discourse being deployed. And, two, these examples suggests that racialized bodies are tethered to material resources. So when the right argues that we privatize each and every facet of American life, this is at base about an attempt to segregate resources. But it is not accounted for by a purely Marxist analysis, which would suggest that this was about class and not race. In this country, our class structure is tethered to a racialized hierarchy, in which Black people in particular exist as a perpetual underclass.

A hallmark of American democracy has been an investment in a robust form of public life, good public schools, sufficient public services, active participation in our democracy. But we are a country where a significant segment of our citizenry has always been perfectly willing to erode long-held democratic principles in service of maintaining a racial hierarchy. The Civil War is only the most extreme example.

As those on the right bellyache about the cultures of poverty that cause Black folks to rely too heavily on government, no one ever seems to admit that there has never been any possibility of Black freedom or equal opportunity in this country without strong federal government intervention. Black people have a long history of working in government because the federal government was the first place to call for mass desegregation of employment opportunities.  In fact, the first March on Washington Movement, begun in 1941 by Pullman Porter A. Philip Randolph, was designed to force Franklin D. Roosevelt to desegregate federal employment in all federal agencies and among those who had federal contracts. In 1942, FDR obliged Randolph rather than risk a march on Washington, by creating the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC).

Combatting racial segregation, and the racialized segregation of resources, has only happened in this country with strong federal intervention. So when the right continues to weaken federal government on all matters related to the social safety net, they deliberately rollback the pathways by which African Americans have procured access to middle class.

In 2013, the median net wealth for a white family was $142,000. The median net wealth for a Black family was $11,000. Black families have lost more than half their collective net wealth since 2008. As we are continually confronted with the stark and continuing reality of a rapidly disappearing Black middle class, while politicians continue to speak in “efficient” terms about the need to shrink government, it’s hard not to conclude that this was the goal all along.

Activist Perfectly Exposes CNN’s Racist Double Standard (VIDEO)

 ADDICTING INFO

It’s not a terribly difficult concept to grasp: White crime is treated verrrrrry differently than black crime by the “liberal” media. But, for some strange reason, (white) people seem shocked and dismayed when activists mention this glaring discrepancy. It’s almost like they don’t want to know about it.

Well, tough noogies because it’s not going away. #BlackLivesMatter has a very long set of legs and shows no signs of slowing down. More importantly, a large part of that movement is changing how the media presents white and black crime. This particular instance of challenging the “liberal” media’s narrative came during an interview with Brian Stelter on CNN as activist Deray McKesson (no stranger to kicking ass on CNN) dissected the news network for the unbalanced depiction of black protests being mostly about violence:

“I wonder, are you saying the press should automatically assume the worst about the officers, about the authorities?, Stelter asked, to which McKesson responded, “I’m saying there should be balance in the way that the critique is spread, and there isn’t.”

McKibbon goes on:

“So when I see broadcasts, news articles that present the police narrative as true,”McKesson added before being interrupted.

“But it is oftentimes true,” Stelter insisted.

“Is it true?” McKesson asked. “I don’t know if it was true with Mike Brown. Maybe we differ on what true means.”

“You’re talking about anecdotes as opposed to statistics,” Stelter replied. “Are you saying the majority of statement by police officers in the U.S. are not true, public statements, press releases.”

If you look carefully, you’ll notice a rather ugly strawman inserted into that exchange. At no point does McKesson say the police are lying all or even most of the time. He simply says that they should be treated with the same critical eye that minorities get. In other words, the media’s narrative is that minorities are always guilty and cops are always right. Or did you think it was a coincidence that the “liberal” media puts so much effort into finding pictures of the dead black person drinking a beer or flashing a “gang sign” to prove that he “had it coming”? It’s pretty obvious what McKesson was saying but Stelter dutifully tried to stick to his narrative anyway.

Aside from that, it’s pretty funny that Stelter has the nerve to talk about statistics. If we’re talking about statistics, we could take a look at all of the cases in which the police kill someone and see how many of those were ruled as “justified”. Oh wait, we can’t because the police deliberately do not keep comprehensive records of that. Imagine that for a second. The police, who happily keep your criminal record on file for decades in case they need to send you to jail again, don’t seem to be able to keep track of how many people they shoot every year. A cynical person would suggest that maybe the police don’t want to leave a record of the trail of dead bodies they’ve left behind. An even more cynical person would suggest that they don’t want to have a record of how many cops were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing. Considering how few cops ever wind up in court, much less convicted, I feel pretty confidant in stating that the percentage of cops whose shootings are labeled justified (or only worthy of administrative punishment instead of jail time) approaches 99%.

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be about as likely the KKK allowing the entire lineup of the New York Knicks to become members. Still, Mr. Stetler seems amazed at the idea of suggesting that cops might lie.

Another fun bit of statistics is the fact that the “liberal” media in markets like New York somehow still manage to over-report black crime. And this is precisely the kind of media narrative that McKesson is pushing back against. A perfect example of this double-standard is how both the police and the “liberal” media reacted to the biker shoot-out in Texas:

“What we didn’t see [in Waco, Texas] were any dead bodies,” McKesson said. “Nine people were dead, there were 18 people injured and the media didn’t show any of that spectacle of blood. Right? And not that I want to see bloody bodies, but there was a stark difference.”

“And you also saw the bikers chilling [after the shootout],” he remarked. “They are in gangs. This is organized crime. And they are just like hanging out at the police line after nine people are killed, and they’re now saying they might have recovered 1,000 weapons. That context would not happen if those bodies were dark skinned.”

“What’s interesting about Waco is that there was also this nuance suddenly. Because whiteness gets nuance and blackness doesn’t. So you saw with Waco, ‘These are bikers, this is just like a biker group. It’s a biker shootout.’”

I’ve said this many times before: When a white man commits a crime, he’s an individual. When a black man commits a crime, he magically represents ALL black people, everywhere. That’s why the not-at-all-racist talking heads on Fox demand to know where the leaders of the black community are when blacks riot over police brutality, but don’t say a goddamn thing when white kids riot at a freaking pumpkin festival.

‘Murika.

Here’s the video from CNN:

~

Why we can’t educate racism away

Want real change? Support a policy shift.

Want real change? Support a policy shift. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Week

At its root, racism is a structural problem

How prejudiced are Americans? The internet knows. Whether it’s racism, sexism, cissexism, transphobia, classism, sizeism, or ableism, online residents are watching out for it and pointing it out at tremendous volume. Whole tumblrs are dedicated to meticulously cataloging the prejudiced histories of famous people.

While often useful and necessary, this strategy comes up short. The idea is that by “calling out” individual acts of oppression, we can raise awareness about the myriad subtle ways that prejudice manifests itself. The citizenry, better educated, will adjust its behaviors.

The problem is that white people, our dominant and most privileged socioeconomic group, tend to resist these critiques. In the case of racism, they are the ones who benefit from prejudice, and they squirm out of this stigma in increasingly interesting ways. How? These days, by loudly agreeing with those critiques, thereby signaling that they are meant for other, bad white people.

Think of the guy in critical theory class who embraces radical feminist authors extra-fervently in a bid to escape his own implication in the patriarchy. This bit of political jujitsu is rather “like buying an indulgence,” as Reihan Salam put it at Slate.

One might respond that the answer is improved self-knowledge, greater humility, and more self-flagellation on the part of the privileged (see: #CrimingWhileWhite). Sure. But the problem is that there is no possible demonstration of prejudice and privilege that cannot also be appropriated by white people in the service of demonstrating the purity of their own views, resulting in an endless vortex of uncomfortable, obnoxious earnestness. Being a Not-Racist these days is getting very subtle indeed.

But there’s another approach that is both simpler and far more difficult. Instead of focusing on individual guilt and innocence, the socioeconomic structure that undergirds racism can get equal or greater billing. If educating the privileged has reached a point of diminishing returns, then attacking racist outcomes with structural policy can make that education unnecessary.

Now, it should be noted that any individual instance of calling out prejudice is surely harmless and heartfelt. It should further be noted that many if not most anti-prejudice activists share these structural goals. The problem is a question of emphasis. Prejudiced words tend to get 10 times more attention than racist acts and structures. For example, Donald Sterling was hounded mercilessly for his racist comments, but largely ignored for his concretely racist actions as a landlord.

And the problems America faces go far beyond one rotten rich person. There’s the prison-industrial complex. The stupendous wealth and income gap between black and white. The fact that the police randomly gun down unarmed black men and boys on a regular basis. That’s just for starters — and it’s getting worse, not better.

Working on those problems is going to take a massive nationwide policy effort. Prison and sentencing reform, ending the drug war, overhauling American policing, and implementing quota-based affirmative action would be a good start. In particular, there is a good case for class to take center stage in any anti-prejudice effort. Nearly all racist oppression is heavily mediated through economic structures and worsened by endemic poverty.

More importantly, income differences and poverty are easy problems to fix policy-wise. (Fixing American police is a hellish problem and I have no idea where to start.) But a lack of money can be bridged with simple income transfers, from the rich to the poor.

All of this is very hard lift politically, of course. But substantive politics is the best way to get past people’s nearly infinite capacity for self-exculpation. If the root of racism is in our structures, then structural policy should be the solution.

South Carolina exit polls ask voters whether blacks are getting too uppity about equality

Upset black female (Shutterstock)

In the late 50’s I was a little girl born and raised in the North (NYC) where the racism there was subtle.  For the most part it was not as newsworthy as the southern version of racism.  Although the following was a common occurrence even with United States Supreme Court guidelines against discrimination in place:

Once, I  inquired  about a part-time job when I was 16 years old (this was around 1963).   I spoke to the manager of a realty corp over the phone regarding the available part-time position.    He told me to come in for an interview and when I got there…he said with an apparent look of disappointment, “Oh, you didn’t sound Black over the phone”.  I promptly left.

The Raw Story

An exit poll in South Carolina being criticized after voters in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Spartanburg were asked a series of questions about race and slavery, WSPA reports.

Voters were asked whether “blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights”:

The poll was conducted by a political scientist from Clemson University, David Woodard, who insisted that it was not meant to be provocative.

“It was designed to take advantage of a political moment of Senator Tim Scott’s election as the first African-American from a southern state since reconstruction,” he told WSPA.

But many voters were, in fact, provoked by questions that asked them to “agree” or “disagree” with statements like, “it’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder, they could be as well as whites.”

The political scientist who asked them to do so said the questions have been used by pollsters for decades — and they are taken, word-for-word, from the Modern Racism Scale, an analytic tool used to gauge an individual’s non-conscious biases.

This exit poll is not, however, the first time Woodard has stirred up a racially based controversy.

In August, he responded to the student-run “See the Stripes” campaign by calling it a form of “fascism.” The campaign attempted to call attention to the ways in which Clemson University celebrates its slave-owning legacy in building names and statues, by “making a connection between the fields the slaves worked for Master Calhoun and the field on which student-athletes give their time, talent, blood, sweat and tears for The Program.”

“It’s fascism,” Woodard said of it. “It’s looking at things only through racial lenses and not seeing anything else when in fact there is no racism associated with this.”

Woodard plans to release the results from the now-controversial exit polls in January.

Watch a report on the exit polls via WSPA here…