The Other Inconvenient Truth – by Charles Blow – NYT

“It is possible to trace this devil’s dance back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the emergence of Richard Nixon. After the passage of the act, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln to which black people felt considerable fealty, turned on those people and stabbed them in the back.

In 1994 John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The era Ehrlichman referred to was the beginning of the War on Drugs. Nixon started his offensive in 1971, declaring in a speech from the White House Briefing Room: “America’s public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”The object of disrupting communities worked all too well — more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses since 1971, with African-Americans being incarcerated in state prisons for these offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that for whites, according to Human Rights Watch.”

The above passages are of great interest to me. I suspected this, but never had an articulate confirmation before now. It is horrifying.

Here is a comment which I found helpful, and another quite amusing, if tragic.

ChristineMcM

is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 2 hours ago

“”This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.””

Charles, with this quote from King, you’ve opened my eyes to a shattering logic I could never reach on my own.

Your words are a blistering indictment of a party that pays lip service to equality but pursues bigotry via a return to harsh drug and voter “fraud” laws –the very policies Jeff Sessions is dragging back from the grave into our criminal justice system.

The other thing that astounds me in this piece is the how pernicious racism is even among the well-intentioned. The ultimate arrogance if you will–I feel your pain. Of course I can’t–I’m not in your shoes.

But by my vote I signal my beliefs. Never has this been truer than in the age of Trump, a man who managed to openly slander both Jews and African Americans in his justification of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis.

If you roll the videotape and watch the body language of Cohn, Menuchin, and Kelly, you need no other information on the size of the dagger Trump inserted into his presidency.

Is this the end of Trump, or only the first blow? Who knows–but your articulation of how racism works is irrefutable.

Larry Eisenberg

is a trusted commenter Medford, MA. 4 hours ago

Once known as dumbest in his class
Once for five deferments harassed
A standby first pager
In print all the rager
For each disaster he’s amassed.

Non reader, non thinker of yore
At gath’rings a terrible bore,
A garrulous greeter
Insatiable tweeter
What greater horrors are in store?

Advertisements

Racial Violence on the Screen – by – Michael Eric Dyson – NYT

“In the thick of “Detroit,” a new film by Kathryn Bigelow about the uprising in that city — my native city — 50 years ago, a white cop kills a black man. His partner then asks a witness, a black man, what he saw. The witness says he saw nothing. The partner puts the same question to another witness, a black teen, who refuses to play along.

“You killed him,” the teen responds.

“I don’t see anything,” the cop says.

“It’s a dead guy right there,” the black teen angrily insists. Moments later the cop shoots and kills the defiant witness.

The stakes are clear: There is a penalty for telling the truth about what we see of police brutality.There is a depressing similarity between the racial trauma that this film faithfully revisits and the painful events of today caught on cellphones and police dashcams. The cost is staggering for black people, who are told that what we see with our own eyes is not true — the vicious toll of being repeatedly disbelieved.”

On Death Row- but Is He Innocent? – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“One June day in 1983, a California professor drove over to a neighbor’s house to pick up his 11-year-old son from a sleepover. Nobody answered the door, so the professor peered through a window — and saw a ghastly panorama of blood.

The professor found his son stabbed to death, along with the bodies of Peggy and Doug Ryen, the homeowners. The Ryens’ 10-year-old daughter was also dead, with 46 wounds, but their 8-year-old son was still breathing.This quadruple murder began a travesty that is still unfolding and underscores just how broken the American justice system is. A man named Kevin Cooper is on San Quentin’s death row awaiting execution for the murders, even though a federal judge says he probably is innocent.

“He is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him,” the judge, William A. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared in a searing 2013 critique delivered in a distinguished lecture series.”

Black People More Likely to Be Wrongfully Convicted of Murder Study Shows – The New York Times

“Black people convicted of murder or sexual assault are significantly more likely than their white counterparts to be later found innocent of the crimes, according to a review of nearly 2,000 exonerations nationwide over almost three decades.

Innocent blacks also had to wait disproportionately longer for their names to be cleared than innocent whites, the review, released on Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, found. Blacks wrongfully convicted of murder, for example, spent an average of three more years in prison before being released than whites who were cleared.

“It’s no surprise that in this area, as in almost any other that has to do with criminal justice in the United States, race is the big factor,” said Samuel R. Gross, a University of Michigan law professor and a senior editor of the registry, a project of the law school that aims to provide data on false convictions to prevent them in the future.”

Harry and Sidney: Soul Brothers – by Charles Blow – NYT

“Please allow me to divert my gaze for one day away from our national political darkness and toward two national rays of light.

Monday is Sidney Poitier’s 90th birthday. His best friend of 70 years, Harry Belafonte, turns 90 on March 1.This is an ode to and appreciation of the friendship — one of the most remarkable and resilient of our time — between two Hollywood royals.Poitier and Belafonte didn’t meet until they were 20 years old, and yet Belafonte still considered Poitier his first real friend in life. As Belafonte put it, he lived a “nomadic” life as a child, shuttling back and forth between New York and islands of the Caribbean with his mother as she searched for work. “I did not get rooted long enough to develop what many people have the joy of experiencing, and that is childhood friends.” ”

Lillies of the Field is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Here are some of the  top comments:

Socrates

is a trusted commenter Verona NJ 1 day ago

“I have always been a learner because I knew nothing.”
– Sidney Poitier

“I never had an occasion to question color, therefore, I only saw myself as what I was… a human being.”
– Sidney Poitier

“I’ve learned that I must find positive outlets for anger or it will destroy me. There is a certain anger: it reaches such intensity that to express it fully would require homicidal rage–self destructive, destroy the world rage–and its flame burns because the world is so unjust. I have to try to find a way to channel that anger to the positive, and the highest positive is forgiveness.”
― Sidney Poitier

“Bring it on. Dissent is central to any democracy.”
– Harry Belafonte

” You can cage the singer but not the song.”
– Harry Belafonte

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s anchor. We are the compass for humanity’s conscience.”
– Harry Belafonte

“I just want to say how much we are indebted to my dear and abiding friend, Harry Belafonte, and to all the distinguished and famous artists and entertainers who have taken the time out from their prestigious schedules to be with us here in Montgomery, Alabama, as we march on the state capital tomorrow morning. I know that our thanks will go out to them and will abide them for years to come.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965

America is a much richer place with our soul brothers than without them.

And we shall always overcome the milky white darkness that continues to stain our great country.

soxared, 04-07-13

Crete, Illinois 1 day ago

I could scarcely get through your column, Mr. Blow, with my emotions intact.

I am a generation younger than both nonagenarians yet it seems that I have known them all my life. When listening to his great “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 1959, I thought that Harry Belafonte had achieved the impossible: he had broken through white America’s doubt and resistance and reluctance to accept the talent of people of color. He left his audience(s) mesmerized, entertained, enthralled. And never in his life did the great singer play the “shame” card; that was something that people carried with them and it wasn’t his problem. The outrage was always there (“Darlin’ Cora,” “Cotton Fields,” “John Henry”) but he never leveraged it as a guilt trip, a pettiness that would have undercut the innate nobility that described him.

Sidney Poitier achieved what Jackie Robinson did on the baseball field but with a far wider audience. Not everyone listened to baseball games in the 1940’s and 1950’s but everybody went to the movies. From his seminal role as Noah Cullen, shackled to Tony Curtis in “The Defiant Ones,” to his professional pinnacle as the itinerant Homer Smith in “Lilies of the Field,” Mr. Poitier was the cultural model for African-Americans my age (19 in 1963), cool; watchful. The shock of his Oscar remains, for neither I nor countless others expected an entrenched Hollywood to step out of its racist character and acknowledge his talent.

Gentlemen, well done, both! And God’s blessings upon you.

Why Don’t You Just Call the Cops? – The New York Times

“SINCE the year began, police officers have killed 804 people, roughly three a day. In recent weeks, police officers fatally shot Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Alfred Olango in a San Diego suburb. Both men were black and unarmed.When the police beat or kill an unarmed black man, what impact does it have on a city and on its black community in particular? Until recently, we have been unable to answer this question with solid data, even as the national debate about this issue has grown more contentious.”

x……

“In the six months after Mr. Jude’s story was published, homicides in Milwaukee jumped 32 percent. Our research suggests that this happened not because the police “got fetal” but because many members of the black community stopped calling 911, their trust in the justice system in tatters. Research shows that urban neighborhoods with higher levels of legal cynicism also have higher rates of violent crime: When citizens lose faith in the police, they are more apt to take the law into their own hands.

Our findings confirm what the people of Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and other cities have been saying all along: that police violence rips apart the social contract between the criminal justice system and the citizenry, suppressing one of the most basic forms of civic engagement, calling 911 for help. The promotion of public safety requires both effective policing and an engaged community. We cannot have one without the other.

No act of police violence is an isolated incident and it should not be treated as such. Each new tragedy contributes to and reawakens the collective trauma of black communities, which have been subjected to state-sanctioned assaults — from slave whippings and lynching campaigns to Jim Crow enforcement and mass incarceration — for generations. If acts of excessive police force result in community-level consequences, then cities should implement community-level interventions in the aftermath of such acts.”

Source: Why Don’t You Just Call the Cops? – The New York Times

Many good comments, such as:

dugggggg

nyc 6 hours ago

“I’m white, come from what’s called an economically upper-middle class background, educated at good schools, and have a law degree. A few years ago while sitting outside of my apartment, a neighbor I was feuding with called the NYPD and told them I was a peeping tom: When the police showed up I went to greet them, not knowing what she’d told them. About 6 or 7 NYPD thugs slammed me to the ground and cuffed me – inside of my own apartment building. No questions, didn’t ask for ID, didn’t tell me what was going on. When they found out I lived there, they called the rubber room ambulance and intended to cover their mistake by having me carted away to crazy land. I was saved only by EMTs who closely and carefully questioned me, and let me tell you, when they found out what the cops had pulled with regards to the EMTs, they were very, very agitated. (Turns out, EMTs don’t like being pulled away from real emergencies to cover for the errors of a rampaging NYPD).

In those moments I realized (finally, many would say) that the NYPD are thugs and bullies and are not on my side. As a white person I would call them only as a last resort. The photos I have of the abuse I received while getting slammed to the floor and forcibly cuffed are yet some of thousands of examples — cops are out of control.”

Rudy Giuliani’s Racial Myths – The New York Times

“For a nation heartsick over the killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the ambush murders of officers by a gunman in Dallas, here comes Rudolph Giuliani, bringing his trademark brew of poisonous disinformation to the discussion.In his view, the problem is black gangs, murderous black children, the refusal of black protesters to look in the mirror at their “racist” selves, and black parents’ failure to teach their children to respect the police.”

Source: Rudy Giuliani’s Racial Myths – The New York Times

Most of the comments I read echoed the editorial. Here is one contrary, which has a valid point of contention, which I also recommended.

Michael S

is a trusted commenter Wappingers Falls, NY 10 hours ago

“University of Toledo criminologist Dr. Richard R. Johnson examined the latest data from the FBI and Centers for Disease Control.

From 2003 through 2012, law-enforcement officers killed an average of 429 people per year in “legal interventions.” These include a relatively small number of innocent people killed by cops and many more who died due to reasonable use of force.

But the biggest problem black men face is that their black lives don’t matter to other black men.

On average, 4,472 black men were killed by other black men annually between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2012, according to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports. Using FBI and CDC statistics, Professor Johnson calculates that 112 black men, on average, suffered both justified and unjustified police-involved deaths annually during this period.

This equals 2.5 percent of these 4,472 yearly deaths. For every black man — criminal or innocent — killed by a cop, 40 black men were murdered by other black men.

According to the Times it’s racist to mention 97.5% of the murdered black men – as if their lives didn’t matter. In the days of Jim Crow the cops never intervened or investigated Saturday night murders in black bars because “that’s they way they are”. It’s about time that black lives mattered.”

To me, Giuliani is being a racist boob, but the big elephant in the room, is that too many Americans are killing too many other Americans, because guns are too easy to buy and possess. The NRA keeps saying it is our right to bear arms. Hogwash. What about our right to conduct life without getting shot to death.

Divided by Race, United by Pain, by Frank Bruni – NYT, and responses to Bruni

“THERE aren’t any ready answers for how to end this cycle of bloodshed, these heart-rending images from Louisiana and Minnesota and Texas of a country in desperate trouble, with so much pain to soothe, rage to exorcise and injustice to confront.But we have choices about how we absorb what’s happened, about the rashness with which we point fingers. Making the right ones is crucial, and leaves us with real hope for figuring this out. Making the wrong ones puts that possibility ever further from reach.

So does a public debate that assigns us different tribes and warring interests, when almost all of us want the same thing: for the killing to cease and for every American to feel respected and safe.We have disagreements about how to get there, but they don’t warrant the inflammatory headlines that appeared on the front of The New York Post (“Civil War”) or at the top of The Drudge Report (“Black Lives Kill”). They needn’t become hardened battle lines.”

Source: Divided by Race, United by Pain – The New York Times

Here is a comment I support:

John F. McBride

is a trusted commenter Seattle 1 day ago

“Eloquently written Frank. An articulate accounting of our state that’s heartbreaking.

But I suggest sadly that we do have ready answers.

We simply lack the desire, or will, or capacity to employ them.

When I was in seminary in the 1960s I learned Epicurus’ argument against God, which I’ll paraphrase here to describe the condition of Americans. Epicurus argued:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?”

Australia had a problem with gun violence and in 1996 dealt with it:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/05/world/australia/australia-gun-ban-shoo…

In the case of Americans in the context of Epicurus argument, we’re either able, and willing, and able and willing to deal with violence in our society, and racism, inequality, and gun violence, or we’re incapable, or unwilling, or incapable and unwilling.

Any combination of these calls into question our claim to be a world leader, a peer in the community of civilized societies, and a land that affords liberty, and justice, for all.

Unfortunately, while Conservatives in Australia in 1996 led the process of controlling gun violence, in the U.S. it’s furiously the opposite in our Republican Party, including, as Trump’s campaign indicates, in regard to racism, inequality, sexism, and other forms of repression.”

A Radical Alliance of Black and Green Could Save the World, By James Gustave Speth and J. Phillip Thompson III | The Nation

…. “Civil-rights activists were fond of saying that all human destiny is intertwined. What many indigenous philosophies teach is that the destiny of all life is intertwined. In 1977, the elders of the Iroquois Confederacy issued a remarkable statement, “Basic Call to Consciousness: Address to the Western World”: “The Hau de no sau nee, or the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, has existed on this land since the beginning of human memory…. Our essential message to the world is a basic call to consciousness. The destruction of the Native cultures and people is the same process which has destroyed and is destroying life on this planet. The technologies and social systems which have destroyed the animal and plant life are also destroying the Native people…. It is the people of the West, ultimately, who are the most oppressed and exploited. They are burdened by the weight of centuries of racism, sexism, and ignorance which has rendered their people insensitive to the true nature of their lives…. The people who are living on this planet need to break with the narrow concept of human liberation, and begin to see liberation as something which needs to be extended to the whole of the Natural World.” ”

Source: A Radical Alliance of Black and Green Could Save the World | The Nation

Michigan’s Failure to Protect Flint – The New York Times

“This was a catastrophe caused by failures at every level. A task force appointed in October by the governor put the primary blame on the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, whose director resigned in late December. According to the task force, the state health department apparently had early knowledge about elevated lead levels in the blood of children, but kept silent and did not warn the public. And one or more of the successive emergency managers appointed by Mr. Snyder to control spending in Flint signed off on bad decisions.Continue reading the main storySign Up for the Opinion Today NewsletterEvery weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.Flint’s problems can be traced to a disastrous decision in 2014 to use water from the Flint River as the city’s primary source of water for a year or two. Flint’s water had for a long time been supplied by the Detroit system with water from Lake Huron. But in an effort to save money, the City Council, in 2013, approved joining a cheaper regional water system that was then still under construction. In the meantime, the city decided to draw its water from the Flint River. The critical decision not to add chemicals to prevent corrosion of the pipes that deliver water to homes and businesses was made at the direction of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.”

Source: Michigan’s Failure to Protect Flint – The New York Times