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

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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.”

 

Here’s What You Need to Know About Elijah McClain’s Death – By Lucy Tompkins – The New York Times

By 

“As outrage over police brutality has erupted across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, a wave of fresh attention and scrutiny has been applied to older cases in which people died after encounters with the police.

One such case is that of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last summer after the police in Aurora, Colo., restrained him with a chokehold that has since been banned.

Mr. McClain was walking home from a convenience store on Aug. 24 when someone called 911, saying he “looked sketchy” and was wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.

The police arrived, and after struggling to handcuff Mr. McClain, officers brought him to the ground and used a carotid hold, which restricts blood to the brain to render someone unconscious. When medical responders arrived, after about 15 minutes, paramedics injected him with ketamine, a powerful sedative.

Mr. McClain went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital. He died a few days later.

Mr. McClain was a massage therapist who is said to have loved animals and who taught himself to play the guitar and the violin, according to The Cut. A photograph of Mr. McClain playing the violin for stray cats, which he believed helped soothe them, has gone viral.”

Gretchen Whitmer: A Governor on Her Own, With Everything at Stake – By Jonathan Mahler – The New York Times

“Gretchen Whitmer first heard the word “coronavirus” over the 2019 Christmas holidays from her younger sister, who a decade earlier contracted H1N1. Whitmer, just a year into office and preoccupied with her agenda for 2020, barely registered it. She was in a hurry to push forward on some of her campaign promises, like introducing an array of new education programs and repairing Michigan’s badly potholed roads. The state’s Republican lawmakers had blocked her at nearly every turn, but now, with the economy in Michigan and America booming, Whitmer had a plan to make an end-run around the Legislature by issuing $3.5 billion in bonds to help fund her projects. January was going to be about building political momentum for that effort and gearing up for a presidential election in which Michigan, where Donald Trump won by just 10,704 votes in 2016, was again going to be an important battleground state. Whitmer was tapped to deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s annual State of the Union address on Feb. 4.

As the governor began moving ahead with her agenda, though, the state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, was watching the gathering storm with growing concern. Potentially infected travelers were arriving daily in Michigan, but the Centers for Disease Control was not providing her with the support she needed to adequately detect and contain the virus. On Feb. 27, Khaldun briefed the governor and her staff on the epidemic in a conference room adjacent to her office. She said that she was convinced the coronavirus had already come to Michigan; she just couldn’t prove it. Khaldun reminded Whitmer and her staff that there was no vaccine for this virus, that it was highly contagious and that it was much more deadly than the flu. In order to prevent a widespread outbreak, she said, it would almost certainly be necessary to take some pretty extreme measures, like banning large group gatherings and maybe even ordering certain businesses to close temporarily.

A brief silence fell over the room. One of Whitmer’s aides spoke.

“This could be disastrous to the economy,” he said.

Opinion | The Tulsa Race Massacre, Revisited – By Brent Staples – The New York Times

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Mr. Staples is a member of the editorial board.

Credit…Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

“The lynch mobs that hanged, shot or burned African-Americans alive during the early 20th century sometimes varied the means of slaughter by roping victims to cars and dragging them to death. The killers who re-enacted this barbaric ritual in Tulsa, Okla., on June 1, 1921, committed one of the defining atrocities of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the bloody conflagration during which white vigilantes murdered at will while looting and burning one of the most affluent black communities in the United States.

The helpless old black man who was shredded alive behind a fast-moving car would have been well known in Tulsa’s white downtown, where he supported himself by selling pencils and singing for coins. He was blind, had suffered amputations of both legs and wore baseball catcher’s mitts to protect his hands from the pavement as he scooted along on a wheeled wooden platform.  . . . . “

“Greenwood, whose business district was known as the Negro Wall Street, was the seat of African-American affluence in the Southwest, with two newspapers, two movie theaters and a commercial strip featuring some of the finest black-owned businesses in the country. White Tulsa’s business elite resented the competition all the more because the face of that competition was black. Beyond that, the white city saw the bustling black community as an obstacle to Tulsa’s expansion.

The white press set the stage for Greenwood’s destruction by deriding the community as “Niggertown” and portraying its jazz clubs as founts of vice, immorality and, by implication, race mixing. As was often the case in the early 20th century, a false accusation of attempted rape opened the door for white Tulsans to act out their antipathies.

A black man accused of accosting a white woman in a downtown elevator in broad daylight was predictably arrested, and, just as predictably, a mob convened at the courthouse spoiling for an evening’s lynching entertainment. Black Tulsans who appeared on the scene to prevent the lynching exchanged gunfire with the mob. Outmanned and outgunned, they retreated to Greenwood to defend against the coming onslaught.

The city guaranteed mayhem by deputizing members of the lynch mob — a catastrophic decision, given that Oklahoma was a center of Ku Klux Klan activity — and instructing them to “get a gun, and get busy and try to get a nigger.” The white men who surged into Greenwood may well have been told to burn the district. Greenwood’s defenders fought valiantly but were quickly overwhelmed.”