Facebook Decisions Were ‘Setbacks for Civil Rights,’ Audit Finds – By Mike Isaac – The New York Times

“SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook has not done enough to fight discrimination on its platform and has made some decisions that were “significant setbacks for civil rights,” according to a new independent audit of the company’s policies and practices.

In a 100-page prepublication report, which was obtained by The New York Times, the social network was repeatedly faulted for not having the infrastructure for handling civil rights and for prioritizing free expression on its platform over nondiscrimination. In some decisions, Facebook did not seek civil rights expertise, the auditors said, potentially setting a “terrible” precedent that could affect the November general election and other speech issues.

“Many in the civil rights community have become disheartened, frustrated and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while also safeguarding free expression,” wrote the auditors, Laura W. Murphy and Megan Cacace, who are civil rights experts and lawyers. They said they had “vigorously advocated for more and would have liked to see the company go further to address civil rights concerns in a host of areas.”

The report, which was the culmination of two years of examination of the social network, was another blow for the Silicon Valley company. Facebook has been under pressure for allowing hate speech, misinformation and other content that can go against people’s civil rights to fester on its site. While rivals like Twitter, Snap and Reddit have all taken action in recent weeks to label, downplay or ban such content, Facebook has said it will not do so because it believes in free speech.

 

That has spurred civil rights groups to organize a “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign aimed against the social media company. More than 300 advertisers like Coca-Cola and North Face recently agreed to pause their spending on Facebook because it had failed to curtail the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platform.

On Tuesday, civil rights leaders met with Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, with 10 demands, including appointing a civil rights executive. But those who attended said the Facebook executives did not agree to many of their requests and instead spouted “spin.”

DL: Social Media does not have to follow the same rules as newspapers, and that has to change.

Opinion | Bring On the 28th Amendment – By Richard L. Hasen – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Hasen is the author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy.”

Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

“What if we made voting an agent of equality, not inequality? And how can we get there?

If you are a college student or a working recent high school graduatepoorLatino, or someone who moves more frequently, you are less likely to vote. Seniors are much more likely to vote than young people, in some elections at twice their rate. Those with college degrees vote in higher numbers than the less educated. Minority voters are more likely to wait longer in line to vote in person, sometimes for hours, and they, young people, and first-time voters are more likely to have an absentee ballot rejected for nonconformity with technical rules. Poor voters are less likely to have the time off work to vote at all, much less wait in a long line to vote. Voters in big cities, who tend to be younger, poorer and browner, have coped with more serious election problems than others in voting in person and by mail during our coronavirus-laden primary season, like the voters in Milwaukee voters who saw 175 out of 180 polling places closed during the April 7 Wisconsin primaries.

In a democratic system, we expect our elected officials to be responsive to the views and interests of the voters. If the universe of voters — and, of course, campaign donors — is skewed toward older, wealthier, better educated whiter voters, political decisions will be as well. We need equality in voting rights and turnout to assure responsive representation and social policy that reflects everyone’s needs, not just those most likely to turn out with their votes and dollars.

Let’s start with the causes of the problem. The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare three pathologies with how we protect voting rights in the United States, and why the skew in voter turnout remains persistent.”

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

By 

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.”

Opinion | Georgia Set Up a Polling Place in a Nursing Home – By Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown – The New York Times

By Cliff Albright and 

Mr. Albright and Ms. Brown run a civic engagement organization based in Georgia.

“ATLANTA — On what should have been a signal day for democracy last week, when voters cast ballots in the statewide primary elections, the signs of a debacle were visible early: malfunctioning voting equipment, a bungled response to the pandemic, too few polling stations and the looming specter of police violence.

The lines in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward stretched three long blocks. At one site, voters couldn’t even cast ballots until four hours after the polling station opened. Some workers weren’t properly trained to use the new machines. Voters showed up at polling places that had quietly closed. It was a “hot mess,” said Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.

How could Georgia be so unprepared, especially after state officials twice delayed the primary vote?

Wait times of four to six hours were the last things we needed in a pandemic that has disproportionately killed black people and older people, and in a state that reopened prematurely. It’s part of a pattern of course, given Georgia’s long history of voter suppression and the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Opinion | The Supreme Court Finally Provides Good News for Trans People – by Jennifer Finney Boylan – The New York Times

“. . . .  Last week, the author J.K. Rowling felt it necessary to unveil a screed against trans folks that ran to nearly 4,000 words, and read like a greatest-hits list of false statements and groundless fears.

She stated that trans men transition because being a woman is hard; they do not. She stated that trans women pose a threat to others in the ladies’ room; we do not. In fact, more Republican congressmen have been busted for causing trouble in public lavatories than trans women. But no one wants to throw them out of the Coast Guard.

The effect of Ms. Rowling’s manifesto was immediate and passionate — I heard from many young L.G.B.T.Q. people who’d grown up reading her books who responded to her words with sadness and fury. Surely Ms. Rowling was familiar with a series of books about a group of outcasts who were treated differently simply because of who they were?”

David Lindsay:

This op-ed by By Jennifer Finney Boylan  confused and upset me. It it threw around terms like TERF, which I’ve never heard of, and attacked J K Rowling, whom I admire greatly and even revere. I have read Rowling’s Harry Potter series and listened to them read by Jim Dale multiple times, for more times than I have ever read the Bible or any other religious texts.

The top comments calmed me down, as one reader after another defended Rowling’s carefully written 4000 word essay which is on her own blog from last week. I felt the need to read the Rowling piece for myself, and I found it to be everything that the Boylan piece wasn’t. Grounded, clear, fair, and ferociously brave and intelligent. Rowling wrote,

“… activists … accuse me of hatred, call me misogynistic slurs and, above all – as every woman involved in this debate will know – TERF.

If you didn’t already know  ….  ‘TERF’ is an acronym coined by trans activists, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. In practice, a huge and diverse cross-section of women are currently being called TERFs and the vast majority have never been radical feminists. Examples of so-called TERFs range from the mother of a gay child who was afraid their child wanted to transition to escape homophobic bullying, to a hitherto totally unfeminist older lady who’s vowed never to visit Marks & Spencer again because they’re allowing any man who says they identify as a woman into the women’s changing rooms. ”

J K Rowling would be a better choice for an occassional op-ed writer.

 

Opinion | The Scandal of the Predatory City – By Bernadette Atuahene – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Atuahene is a law professor at IIT, Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Credit…Claire Merchlinsky

“I coined the term “predatory cities” to describe urban areas where public officials systematically take property from residents and transfer it to public coffers, intentionally or unintentionally violating domestic laws or basic human rights.

Ferguson, Mo., is one well-known predatory city. As a 2015 Department of Justice report showed, the police in Ferguson systematically targeted African-Americans and subjected them to excessive fines and fees. The U.S. Constitution does not allow judges to incarcerate defendants for unpaid debts without first determining their ability to pay. Nevertheless, local courts issued arrest warrants for unpaid fines and fees without these determinations. Minor offenses, like parking infractions, resulted in jail time, although lawmakers did not contemplate or approve such severe punishment. The Ferguson Police Department and courts prioritized revenue raising over public safety, transforming Ferguson into a predatory city.

New Orleans is another. In 2018, a Federal District Court ruled that the revival of debtors’ prisons in New Orleans violated the 14th Amendment. At the time, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court’s primary source of funding was the fines and fees it collected. This created a structural incentive for judges to aggressively and erroneously pursue payment from those with no ability to pay, turning New Orleans into a predatory city.

Washington, D.C., is yet another predatory city. While civil asset forfeiture laws allow the police to seize property that they suspect was involved in a crime, in Washington, D.C., property owners had to post bonds of up to $2,500 in order to challenge the seizure. If the owner could not raise money in time, the D.C. Police Department sold the property, and the money went into its annual budget. In a two-year period, the Police Department made $4.8 million in profit by seizing money from over 8,500 people as well as seizing 339 vehicles. According to a federal court, this abuse of civil forfeiture laws was illegal.

Opinion | An Open Letter to My Fellow White Christians – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Since long before it was a country, our country has been in flames. When we arrived on our big ships and decimated this land’s original peoples with our viruses and our guns, when we used our Christian faith as a justification for killing both “heretic” and “heathen,” we founded this country in flames. And every month, every week, every day, for the last 400 years, we have been setting new fires.

White Christians who came before us captured human beings and beat them and raped them and stole their babies from them and stole their parents from them and stole their husbands and their wives from them and locked them in chains and made them work in inhuman conditions. Our spiritual ancestors went to church and listened to their pastors argue that these human beings weren’t human at all.

Our pastors don’t tell us that anymore, but we are still setting fires.

Christians set a fire every time we allow our leaders to weaponize our fears against us. We set a fire every time our faith in good police officers prevents us from seeing the bad ones. Christian voters preserve a system that permits police violence, unjust prosecutions and hellhole prisons filled with people who should have received the same addiction treatment we give our own troubled kids.

We set a fire every time we fail to scrutinize a police culture that allows an officer’s own fear and hatred to justify the most casual brutality against another human being. It would be almost unbelievable to match an adjective like “casual” with a noun like “brutality,” but we have seen the videos. Watch the faces of justice shove an old man aside and leave him bleeding on the ground. Watch them drive their vehicles into protesters protected by the United States Constitution. Watch them fire rubber bullets directly at journalists doing work that is also protected by the United States Constitution. In video after video, note their unconcern with people who are bleeding or screaming in pain.

Make yourself look. Study the air of perfect nonchalance on Derek Chauvin’s face as he kneels on the neck of George Floyd. Register the blithe indifference in his posture, the way he puts his hand in his pocket as though he were just walking along the street on a sunny summer day. Nothing in his whole body suggests concern. He is not the least bit troubled by taking another human life.

We created Derek Chauvin.    . . . . “

David Lindsay:

Bravo Margaret Renkl.  I support this essay with all my heart.  Here is one of many good comments that I recommended:

Lydia
Florida

@JRC I, too, am white and was born into a Christian family. I, too, never oppressed or abused anyone. And, yes, I have always tried to treat everyone with love and kindness, as I was taught to do. The problem is not that either one of us ever did anything TO any minority. The question here is did any of us ever do anything FOR them so that they could be lifted out of the quagmire that the white American created four hundred years ago and promotes each and every day by not demanding more from our leaders? You are correct. We were not complicit in what transpired four hundred years ago. But to allow it to continue TODAY is most unfair and not Christian at all. This is a wakeup call to all self-righteous, comfortable, white Americans, Christian or non, that many fellow Americans are hurting egregiously. As the Bible says, “To those who have been given more, more is expected.” It is no longer good enough to “tsk tsk” about the unfairness and injustice that is perpetrated from America’s so-called leader down to his minions as we sit in the comforts of our living rooms watching the evening news. It is time to demand positive action. I think this pivotal moment in history will define America for many years to come.

In Reply to EricIrwinWang604 Recommended

 

Opinion | How to Do Reparations Right – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Monica Almeida/The New York Times

“This moment is about police brutality, but it’s not only about police brutality. The word I keep hearing is “exhausted.”

People are exhausted by and fed up with the enduring wealth disparities between white and black, with the health disparities that leave black people more vulnerable to Covid-19, with the centuries-long disparities in violence and the threat of violence, with daily indignities of African-Americans and stains that linger on our nation decade after decade.

The killing of George Floyd happened in a context — and that context is racial disparity.

Racial disparity doesn’t make for gripping YouTube videos. It doesn’t spark mass protests because it’s not an event; it’s just the daily condition of our lives.

It’s just a condition that people in affluent Manhattan live in one universe and people a few miles away in the Bronx live in a different universe. It’s just a condition that many black families send their kids to struggling inner-city schools while white families move to the suburbs and put on black T-shirts every few years to protest racial injustice.

The response to this moment will be inadequate if it’s just police reforms. There has to be a greater effort to tackle the wider disparities.

Reparations and integration are the way to do that. Reparations would involve an official apology for centuries of slavery and discrimination, and spending money to reduce their effects.

There’s a wrong way to spend that money: trying to find the descendants of slaves and sending them a check. That would launch a politically ruinous argument over who qualifies for the money, and at the end of the day people might be left with a $1,000 check that would produce no lasting change.

Giving reparations money to neighborhoods is the way to go.

A lot of the segregation in this country is geographic. In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, early-20th-century whites-only housing covenants pushed blacks into smaller and smaller patches of the city. Highways were built through black neighborhoods, ripping their fabric and crippling their economic vitality.

Today, Minneapolis is as progressive as the day is long, but the city gradually gave up on aggressive desegregation. And so you have these long-suffering black neighborhoods. The homeownership rate for blacks in Minneapolis is one-third the white rate. The typical black family earns less than half as much as the typical white family.

To really change things, you have to lift up and integrate whole communities. That’s because it takes a whole community to raise a child, to support an adult, to have a bustling local economy and a vibrant civic life. The neighborhood is the unit of change.

Who has the expertise to lift up whole neighborhoods? It’s the people who live in the neighborhoods themselves. No outsider with a foundation grant or a government contract really knows what’s going on in any neighborhood or would be trusted to make change. The people who live in the neighborhoods know what to do. They just need the resources to do it.

A few weeks before the lockdown I was in and around South Los Angeles. In Watts I interviewed Keisha Daniels from Sisters of Watts, which helps kids and homeless people in a variety of ways. I interviewed Barak and Sara Bomani of Unearth and Empower Communities, which helps educate and nurture young people in nearby Compton.

Daniels and the Bomanis are experts in how to lift up their neighborhoods. If we got them money and support they would figure out what to do.

How can government focus money on formerly redlined neighborhoods and other communities?

National service programs would pay young people to work for these organizations. A National Endowment for Civic Architecture, modeled on, say, the National Endowment for the Arts, could support neighborhood groups around the country. A Social Innovation Fund would be a private/public partnership to fund such organizations. Moving to Opportunity grants and K-12 education savings accounts would help minorities to move to integrated schools. Collective impact structures could coordinate local action and use data to find what works.

In the progressive era, governments built libraries across the country, which remain vital centers of neighborhood life. We’re about to have a lot of empty retail space. Why can’t we build Opportunity Centers where all the groups moving children from cradle to career could work and collaborate?

It’s true this has sort of been tried before. The Great Society had a “Community Action” project that professed to redistribute power to neighborhoods. But it did it in the worst possible ways. A lot of what it did involved sending disruptive agitators to stir up conflict between local activists and local elected officials. The result was rancor and gridlock.

This tumultuous moment offers a chance to launch a new chapter in our history, and reparations are part of that launch. They offer a chance to build vibrant neighborhoods where diverse people want to live together, where the atmosphere is kids playing on the sidewalks and not a knee in the back of the neck.”     -30-

 

David Lindsay: -30- is an old journalist code, meaning, the end of the article.  David Brooks is my kind of conservative Republican, or former Republican. He has been on a journey over the last five years, involving an awakening, a transformation. And he is so smart and well read, he actually know how to get stuff identified that some future government might agree to, and which might actually work.

It is fun and rewarding to read the comments to this piece at the NYT, since most of the readers have long hated David Brooks, and are slowly admitting or recognizing that he has changed. Brooks still disappoints the Bernie Bros, but they never had a list of solutions that would be acceptable today to a majority of Americans, even it they are good ideas.

Opinion | Destructive Power of Despair – by Charles Blow – The New York Times

by Charles Blow:

“. . .  Indeed, America is not only the progenitor of this type of violence, but it sadly responds most to violence. That’s when people pay attention, that’s when the ears perk up, that’s when the news crews come.

During the Civil Rights Movement, the protesters practiced nonviolence, but they were regularly met with violence, and it was that violence that spurred action.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed after the violence against protesters was broadcast on TV, four little girls were killed in the bombing of Birmingham, Ala.’s 16th Street Baptist Church and the killing of Medgar Evers in 1963. The Civil Rights Act of 1968, popularly known as the Fair Housing Act, was passed after Martin Luther King was assassinated and rioting swept the country.

If America wants peace it must be responsive in peacetime. You can’t demonize an athlete who peacefully takes a knee to protest against police brutality, labeling him a “son of a bitch,” as President Trump did, and then pine for peaceful protests now.

It seems that no form of protest has been effective in this fight for justice. It seems that what the public and the power structure want is a continuation of the status quo. They want stillness and passivity. They want obedience. They want your suffering to be silent, your trauma to be tranquil.

That won’t happen.

Some of the people now breaking things and burning things and looting things are ironically participating in a storied American tradition. There has long been a penchant for destruction in this country, an insatiable bloodlust, that the country conveniently likes to forget.”

David Lindsay: I am devastated by the murder of George Floyd, and the culture which produces such police behavior. I also have no patience for looters. I want them stopped. Charles Blow has at least made me think harder about my hardened heart, as he exlains why one might sympathize with them. Here is a comment I liked

J. Grant

Pacifica, CA
Times Pick

Here in the Bay Area of California, what’s particularly distressing is that the rage felt by Africans Americans over George Floyd’s death is causing (in places like Oakland) the looting and burning of many businesses owned by African Americans. It’s one thing to convey anger against our nation’s racially-biased policIng by demonstrating, but why hurt some of the very same people who are being victimized through random acts of violence?

20 Replies702 Recommended

By The Editorial Board | George Floyd, Police Accountability and the Supreme Court – 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.

Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

“A Minneapolis police officer, who was filmed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until the life left his body, has been fired, arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. That is a step toward justice. Those who take a life should face a jury of their peers. But the rarity of the arrest, the fact that police officers who brutalize or even kill other people while wearing a badge so seldom end up facing any consequences is an ugly reminder of how unjust America’s legal system can be.

There is a common refrain from street protesters in the wake of death after death after death after death of men of color at the hands of the police: “No justice, no peace.” In the absence of justice, there has been no peace.

Demonstrations in nearly a dozen cities, some of which turned violent, erupted in response to the killing of Mr. Floyd. At least seven people were shot in Louisville. Windows were broken in the state capitol of Ohio. And a police station was set ablaze in Minneapolis, where National Guard troops will again patrol the streets on Friday. The president tweeted early Friday that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which frames the problem backward. It is not a defense of torching a Target to note that police abuse of civilians often leads to protests that can spiral out of control, particularly when met with force.

Police officers don’t face justice more often for a variety of reasons — from powerful police unions to the blue wall of silence to cowardly prosecutors to reluctant juries. But it is the Supreme Court that has enabled a culture of violence and abuse by eviscerating a vital civil rights law to provide police officers what, in practice, is nearly limitless immunity from prosecution for actions taken while on the job. The badge has become a get-out-of-jail-free card in far too many instances.

In 1967, the same year the police chief of Miami coined the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” to threaten civil rights demonstrators, the Supreme Court first articulated a notion of “qualified immunity.” In the case of police violence against a group of civil rights demonstrators in Mississippi, the court decided that police officers should not face legal liability for enforcing the law “in good faith and with probable cause.” “