Opinion | We Are the ‘Exonerated 5.’ What Happened to Us Isn’t Past, It’s Present. – The New York Times

Yusef SalaamKevin Richardson and 

Mr. Salaam, Mr. Richardson and Mr. Santana were exonerated after spending 13 years in prison. They are now criminal justice activists.

Credit…Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

“On Dec. 19, 2002, a judge vacated our convictions for the brutal attack of Trisha Meili, who many know as the “Central Park jogger.” On that day, our 13-year fight for justice came to an end. The lies that we were told by detectives to wrongly convict us were finally exposed and ceased to hold power over us. Now, we are fighting to prevent others from facing the same fate.

At the time of our arrests in 1989, we were just boys — Kevin and Raymond, the youngest among us, were only 14 — and we came to be known as the “Central Park Five.” Now we are known as the “Exonerated Five,” and, largely because of Ava DuVernay’s series “When They See Us,” the world knows our stories.

But what people may not realize is that what happened to us isn’t just the past — it’s the present. The methods that the police used to coerce us, five terrified young boys, into falsely confessing are still commonly used today. But in its coming session, New York State legislators have the power to change that.”

NYT Editorial | To Hold Police Accountable, Ax the Arbitrators – The New York Times

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

“Since the death of George Floyd sparked a wave of national protests, at least 42 of the 50 largest cities in the country have adopted new rules aimed at curbing abuses by the police, according to a tally by Samuel Walker, an expert on police accountability who is affiliated with the University of Nebraska Omaha. From May through August, 15 cities banned chokeholds. A dozen passed “duty-to-intervene” statutes, requiring police officers to act if they see a fellow officer endanger a civilian. Still others banned so-called “no knock” warrants or changed policies related to the use of force.

Those reforms are important in and of themselves, and they also serve as a reminder of the power of collective action to influence new policies. Yet this list’s potential to create real change will be seriously limited unless city leaders and state lawmakers take on an entrenched barrier to reform: labor arbitrators. These are the men and women who routinely reinstate abusive officers who have been fired for misconduct.

Labor arbitrators have ordered police chiefs to rehire officers fired for deeds as outrageous as sexually assaulting a teenager in a patrol car, driving the getaway car in a murder and fatally shooting an unarmed driver, according to a 2017 investigation by The Washington Post.

Cases like these have a corrosive effect on society, serving as proof to many Americans that the current system cannot be reformed. These cases also demoralize mayors and police chiefs who have worked hard to remove problem officers, only to face orders from unelected arbitrators to give those abusive officers their badges and guns back. It doesn’t matter how much a police department overhauls its use of force policy, or how strictly a police chief enforces those new rules if unelected arbitrators reverse the punishments of officers who violate the rules.”

“. . . .  Much more needs to be done to rein in the power of labor arbitrators, but at least it is a start. Cities that are interested in taking this on could look at municipalities in California, like Burbank and Cathedral City, that have hybrid systems where arbitration decisions are nonbinding. Officers still have the right to argue their cases before a neutral body, but the ultimate decision to terminate an officer is left in the hands of the city manager, who is accountable to the community. That’s where it belongs.”

Opinion | To Get Police Reform, ‘Defund the Politicians’ – By Miriam Pawel – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“LOS ANGELES — In late August, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies shot a Black man, Dijon Kizzee, whom they had stopped for a suspected traffic violation as he rode his bicycle. He became the seventh man killed by deputies in Los Angeles since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day weekend.

On the same afternoon, state legislators in Sacramento raced to the end of their 2020 session. The most significant police reform measure, heralded in the days of the Black Lives Matter marches that filled the streets, did not even come up for a vote.

A centerpiece of the agenda would have set up a process for yanking the badge of any officer found to have committed serious misconduct. California is one of only five states that has no process for certifying police officers, which among other things enables bad cops to move from department to department with impunity.

Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses. Major newspapers in California editorialized in favor of a slew of police reform bills. Polls showed support. In one of the bluest states in the country, all indications pointed toward action on reform.

But in the end, even here, it was essentially business as usual in a State Capitol where police unions have long wielded enormous power. The measures that passed this year were either noncontroversial or so diluted as to have little if any immediate impact.”

Efforts to Channel Protests Into More Votes Face Challenges in Kenosha – By John Eligon – The New York Times

“KENOSHA, Wis. — Gerald Holmes, a forklift operator from Kenosha, Wis., was so passionate about the importance of the election four years ago that he drove people without rides to the polls. But this year, Mr. Holmes says he is not even planning to vote himself.

The outcome in 2016, when Wisconsin helped seal President Trump’s victory despite his losing the popular vote and amid reports of Russian interference, left Mr. Holmes, 54, deeply discouraged.

“What good is it to go out there and do it?” he said. “It isn’t going to make any difference.”

As protests have unfolded across the country this summer over the death of George Floyd and the police treatment of Black people, activists and Democratic leaders have pleaded with demonstrators to turn their energy toward elections in November.

A block party on Tuesday honoring Jacob Blake, a Black resident of Kenosha who was left paralyzed after being shot in the back by a white police officer, included voter registration booths near where the shooting occurred. And Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for president, was scheduled to visit Kenosha on Thursday, two days after Mr. Trump appeared in the city in the wake of unrest over the shooting.

But people like Mr. Holmes reflect the challenges that Democrats face as they try to channel their anger over police violence into voting. In interviews with more than a dozen Black residents in the Kenosha area, many said they were outraged over the shooting of Mr. Blake, but some said they had grown dispirited and cynical about the political system. The shooting was further evidence, some residents said, that decades of promises from politicians have done little to alleviate wide racial inequalities or stem police abuses, leaving them seeing little value in one more election.

“Let’s say I did go out and vote and I voted for Biden,” said Michael Lindsey, a friend of Mr. Blake’s who protested for several nights after the shooting. “That’s not going to change police brutality. It’s not going to change the way the police treat African-Americans compared to Caucasians.”

Mr. Lindsey, 29, who lives just outside of Kenosha, said he had never voted in a presidential election and did not plan to start this year, as much as he despises Mr. Trump and is fed up with feeling like he has to live in fear of the police because he is Black.

Many factors have slowed voting. The state’s high rate of incarceration of Black people — among the highest in the nation — strips many African-Americans of their voting rights. Wisconsin’s voter identification law and other strict regulations, such as a shortened early voting period and longer residency requirements compared with 2016, also present major hurdles.”

Opinion | Trump’s Racist, Statist Suburban Dream – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Joseph Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

“Conservatives do love their phony wars. Remember the war on Christmas? Remember the “war on coal”? (Donald Trump promised to end that war, but in the third year of his presidency coal production fell to its lowest level since 1978, and the Department of Energy expects it to keep falling.)

Now, as the Trump campaign desperately searches for political avenues of attack, we’re hearing a lot about the “war on the suburbs.”

It’s probably not a line that will play well outside the G.O.P.’s hard-core base; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t exactly come across as rabble-rousers who will lead raging antifa hordes as they pillage America’s subdivisions.

Yet it is true that a Biden-Harris administration would resume and probably expand on Obama-era efforts to finally make the Fair Housing Act of 1968 effective, seeking in particular to redress some of the injustices created by America’s ugly history of using political power to create and reinforce racial inequality.”

Opinion | How Has the Electoral College Survived for This Long? – By Alexander Keyssar – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Keyssar is a professor of history and social policy at Harvard and the author of “Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?”

“As our revived national conversation on race has made clear, the legacies of slavery and white supremacy run wide and deep in American society and political life. One such legacy — which is particularly noteworthy in a presidential election season — has been the survival and preservation of the Electoral College, an institution that has been under fire for more than 200 years. Our complicated method of electing presidents has been the target of recurrent reform attempts since the early 19th century, and the politics of race and region have figured prominently in their defeat.

It is, of course, no secret that slavery played a role in the original design of our presidential election system — although historians disagree about the centrality of that role. The notorious formula that gave states representation in Congress for three-fifths of their slaves was carried over into the allocation of electoral votes; the number of electoral votes granted to each state was (and remains) equivalent to that state’s representation in both branches of Congress. This constitutional design gave white Southerners disproportionate influence in the choice of presidents, an edge that could and did affect the outcome of elections.

Not surprisingly, the slave states strenuously opposed any changes to the system that would diminish their advantage. In 1816, when a resolution calling for a national popular vote was introduced in Congress for the first time, it was derailed by the protestations of Southern senators. The slaveholding states “would lose the privilege the Constitution now allows them, of votes upon three-fifths of their population other than freemen,” objected William Wyatt Bibb of Georgia on the floor of the Senate. “It would be deeply injurious to them.”

What is far less known, or recognized, is that long after the abolition of slavery, Southern political leaders continued to resist any attempts to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote. (They sometimes supported other reforms, like the proportional division of each state’s electoral votes, but those are different strands of a multifaceted tale.) The reasoning behind this opposition was straightforward, if disturbing. After Reconstruction, the white “Redeemer” governments that came to power in Southern states became the political beneficiaries of what amounted to a “five-fifths” clause: African-Americans counted fully toward representation (and thus electoral votes), but they were again disenfranchised — despite the formal protections outlined in the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, which stated that the right to vote could not be denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” White Southerners consequently derived an even greater benefit from the Electoral College than they had before the Civil War.”

Opinion | Take the Next Step Toward Racial Justice – by Susan Rice – The New York Times

“. . . .  But where it matters most, Congress has yet again missed the moment. The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would institute carefully calibrated reforms, but it was blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate. After perfunctory lip service and failure to pass a pale substitute for the House bill, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, seems eager to move on. Meanwhile, he refuses to allow Senate consideration of a new Voting Rights Act or of funding to ensure safe voting during a raging pandemic, knowing that communities of color are suffering disproportionately from the coronavirus.

And predictably, President Trump has doubled down on his platform of divisiveness and blatant bigotry. Almost daily, Mr. Trump throws racist red meat to his base, hoping it will boost his sagging poll numbers. He has called peaceful protesters “thugs” and threatened Bull Connor-style tactics — the use of “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”

Mr. Trump retweets videos of supporters screaming “white power” and white citizens who brandish guns at peaceful marchers. He parrots misleadingly that more white people than Black people are killed by the police. Mr. Trump sends federal forces to guard monuments and terrorize protesters, pledges to block the renaming of U.S. military bases that commemorate Confederate generals and dismisses flying the Confederate flag as an act of “free speech.”

Against this backdrop of half-measures and outright hostility, it’s easy to envision that the momentum for progress on racial justice will soon be squandered. But it needn’t be.

To redress systemic racism, America needs to create the conditions for systemic reform.

Transformational change would entail a new opportunity agenda that confronts the root causes of structural racism. The federal government, working with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, should invest sustained attention, creativity and sufficient resources in broad-based initiatives to address the stark, stubborn inequalities that permeate not only the criminal justice system but also education, economic opportunity, health care, housing and environmental quality.

In each sector, the remedies must be comprehensive. In education, for instance, we should invest in the full spectrum of learning — starting with universal prekindergarten, competitive teacher salaries and reliable broadband in both rural and urban digital deserts.

To expand access to postsecondary education, it’s time to provide no-debt access to community colleges, scale up apprenticeships and Pell Grants, and make tuition free at public universities for all families earning under $125,000 annually.”

 Opinion | Yeah,  – Let’s Not Talk About Race – by Damon Young – The New York Times

“The people doing the least can be found in every viral video clip of a white person hysterically refusing to wear a mask at Trader Joe’s. These people are unhinged, dangerous and just plain goofy, willing to die (and kill) over Jicama Wraps and Kale Gnocchi. And the people doing the most? Well, the most happens anytime a white person encounters a Black person who writes about race — or just a Black person who just happens to be Black — and the Serious Conversation About Racism (SCAR) must ensue. This isn’t a new phenomenon. I’ve been SCARed before in the grocery store express aisle, between pickup hoop games at the gym, while getting a colonoscopy, and at least 82 percent of the unsolicited emails I get are drive-by SCARings. But now America feels like a deleted scene from “Get Out.” Or better yet, “The Sixth Sense.” But instead of seeing dead people, white people see us as walking, talking, antiracist book lists.

There’s no better example of the absolute most than the recent ABC News feature on Ernest Skelton. Mr. Skelton, an appliance technician, was just doing his job when the white woman whose house he was working on grilled him about the plight of blacks in America. He shared that racism is, um, bad. The woman, Caroline Brock, wrote a post about their conversation on Facebook, and it went viral. Local news stations called, and they eventually appeared on “Nightline” as an example of what happens when America allows itself to “heal from the heart.” But all I can think about is this man trying to fix a sink while taking a random pop quiz about redlining.

I guess I understand the compulsion to find somewhere to engage this national conversation, even if that space is shoehorned. It feels sometimes like double dutch, as if white people are waiting on the sidewalk for a cue to jump in. And today’s best seller lists are stocked with guidebooks for navigating this terrain. Two of the most popular picks — “How to Be an Antiracist” and “So You Want to Talk About Race”— are by my friends. But I doubt either author wishes to be SCAR-bombed at Jiffy Lube.”

David Lindsay: This young man, Damon Young, has some important things to say, but I find his tone so rude, that I am repulsed by his bad manners, and his ugly self-absorbed self-centeredness. Maybe he reminds me of myself as a younger person when I was at my worst, so I am very critical. After the tragic death of George Floyd, and his the miraculous movement the video of his death inspired, I learned for the first time of the Tulsa Massacer in 1921. Such readings changed my heart, and I began to seriously support reparations, which I had been reticent to consider seriously.  I have some sympathy for the white neighbors who ask this new author of a book on race, to discuss the topic further with him if he is interested.

In his defence, Kathleen S. finds very little rudeness from the author of the piece. She points out that the man simply feels rudely objectified by whites, who do not approach him as an individual, who might not want discussion while out and about, but an official black spokesperson who is always on duty, which he clearly isn’t. I asked Kathleen to define objectify, and she said, in this instance, it means to treat someone not as an individual, but as a role or position.

Opinion | These kids are done waiting for change – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Kristine Potter for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — In real life, Nya Collins, Jade Fuller, Kennedy Green, Emma Rose Smith, Mikayla Smith and Zee Thomas had never met as a group when they came together on Twitter to organize a youth march against police violence. It was unseasonably hot, even for Middle Tennessee, with rain predicted, and earlier protests here had ended in violence, with the Metro Nashville Courthouse and City Hall in flames. Collectively, these are not the most promising conditions for gathering a big crowd, much less a calm one. But the teenagers were determined to press on, even if hardly anyone showed up.

On June 4, five days later, the founding members of Teens for Equality — as the young women, ages 14 to 16, call their organization — were leading a march of protesters some 10,000 strong, according to police estimates. “I was astonished,” Kennedy Green, 14, told me in a phone interview last week. “I did not know there were that many people in Nashville who actually see a problem with the system. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, there are so many people here who actually care.’”

The protesters, most in their teens and 20s, chanted “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” and “Not one more” as they marched for more than five hours. There was not one hint of disarray in their ranks, no angry confrontations with National Guardsmen or police officers clad in riot gear.”