Sunday, April 26, 2015

Incomplete Systemic Racism List

I use the word systemic because it’s widespread. Our racist history is still present in laws, practices, attitudes and beliefs. Here are a few examples. The list includes more stories about black people because of recent conversations about Mike Brown, but I'm trying to expand it.

Racism in Laws

  • Stand your ground / Castle Laws used as defense to murder
“In Florida alone, 26 children and teens were killed in Stand Your Ground cases.” “White-on-black homicides are 354 percent more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white.”

  • Stop and Frisk Laws focus on minorities

  • voting laws

  • Immigration laws
SB-1070 racial profiling

  • Segregation in schools

  • healthcare

Racism in Police treatment
  • Murder of black men

  • Murder of black women

  • Murder of Native men

  • murder of white men leads to jail time for officer
The life of a murderous neo-nazi had value.

  • other physical abuse

  • Innocent black people detained for nonsense reasons

  • In consequences for officers

  • Police being suspicious of black people
New Jerseyman afraid to get out of the car

Racism in Courts and Prison
  • Harsher sentences for black defendants

  • Disproportionate numbers of black people in prison

  • White defendants “innocent” after murdering black people

  • Drugs

Racism in News Media regarding legal issues
  • White people are encouraged to fear black people

  • Victim-blaming and excuses for why a black person was murdered
Mike Brown “no angel” New York Times

More conversations about Racism

Another conversation about racism, starting with John Crawford III, then focusing on Trayvon Martin. These conversations were shared publically or with permission. 
Names and personal details omitted. 
J is a white man in his early 30s, I’m a white woman in her late 20s
Content has been greatly shortened from the original for the sake of avoiding repetition, and deleting misunderstandings that were cleared up. I’ve added ellipses for deleted content. Bold added by me. Minor edits for spelling and grammar are unmarked. 

Ginger’s Wall
A black man holding a store air rifle pointed down is considered so threatening that police can shoot and kill him without discussion or repercussions. This is injustice on every level.
[link to the walmart security video of John Crawford III’s death]

If it were a white man shot in the same circumstances, would it be any less of an injustice? Why the need to inject race into it?

Z [a white man]
There really needs to be a law on the book to arrest those who call in lies to 911. Even if this was a real rifle, Ohio has open carry laws which allow him to carry it in public legally. However, the person who called 911 said that he was loading the rifle and pointing it at people. Both of which were lies.

J, this isn't happening to white men. It's happening to black men. Over and over and over. I'm not interjecting race; I'm observing a pattern.

It is happening to white people also. It's just that no one seems to care if a black cop shoots a white person. [link to article about Dillon Taylor] 

If you're basing your observance of a pattern based on incidents that receive any media attention at all, then sure, it looks like it's open season on blacks. If you look at the actual statistics, more white guys are killed by black guys than the reverse, it just doesn't fit the narrative. 
In any case, the fix for this is not hand-wringing about race politics, but mandatory chest-cams for all officers on the beat such that there's no room for "interpretation" of the facts, when the camera will clearly show when an officer shoots an unarmed/nonthreatening suspect. Race is just further muddying up of the waters.

Sorry Z, I don't mean to phrase it like no white people are unjustly killed by police. But I wouldn't argue that no one cares about that- your link shows that people care. And J, yes, it's an injustice no matter what the race is. But there is a narrative against black people.

The problem is that everyone just assumes that Michael Brown was killed unjustly. Despite what the witnesses said right after the shooting. And there were huge riots and tons of media coverage about it. Here is a case [Dillon Taylor] where a black cop shoots an unarmed white man AND the cop was also wearing a body camera, yet the police department is refusing to release the video. Unlike the Michael Brown case, we can literally find out exactly what happened, but the police are trying to cover it up. This is what people should be really mad about.

Just to clarify- the "narrative" to which I refer is the story - not the reality - that racism is as systemic and epidemic as would be needed to justify ongoing special legal treatment being handed out to minorities in order to "make up" for the racism. The reality is that racism still exists, but there are far bigger issues with the way that our economic model is set up to create cycles that help keep the rich rich and help keep the poor poor, and economic classis the biggest predictor of violence, particularly law-enforcement-involving violence… Most of thetime, race is just a red herring being thrown out by ideologues to whip their followers into a frenzy for financial and/or political gain by that ideologue, which (in my opinion) is worse (or at least less honest) than just ignoring the problem in the first place.

Y [a woman of color]
Plain and simple, it's sad that a life is gone.

S [a black woman]
J, I agree that our economic model is deeply unjust, but to say that that is abigger issue than racism is flawed. The vast majority of poor people in our country are black and brown people. To say that racial injustice is separate from (and a smaller issue than) economic injustice is to completely ignore the ethnic make up of most of the people you're talking about and the history of injustice (economic and otherwise ) they have suffered because of their race. Unfortunately, economic and racial injustice have been linked for a long time in our country. You can't solve economic issues without solving the racial ones too. I know this can be hard to swallow for white people who haven't experienced what it's like to be in the minority, but it doesn't make it any less true.

I'm pretty sure that the people in whom racism is a distinctly separate issue from economics are a generation or two at most from simply dying out, and the rest of us don't really care. The race issues ultimately feed on the economic issue, which is obviously a bigger issue… Fundamentally, there are only two ways to read the "racism" debate. One way is to assume, at all odds with reality, that it's all the white man keeping minorities down, and therefore we need an ever-increasing body of law to correct the effects of this supposed systemic racism. The other is to recognize that economics is the major problem, and racism contributes somewhat to the over-representation of minorities stuck in the cycle, but doesn't explain the cycle itself.

[I declined to comment more on this post since J likes to have the last word. We continued the conversation in private.]

[link to my note, an incomplete systemic racism list]

I can't take that list seriously when the 2nd item on it (the Trayvon Martin incident) has been so thoroughly debunked… painting it as "white on black aggression" is a gross oversimplification at best, and basically flat-out wrong at worst.

I wouldn't [and didn’t] phrase it that way (white on black aggression). But I don't understand why you want to justify the killing of an unarmed teenager.

When you simplify it down to "killing an unarmed teenager" it sounds great.
The evidence suggests that he was a big muscular dude with a history of violence, who when confronted by Zimmerman (no two ways about it, this was a stupid thing for Zimmerman to do) attacked him. And Zimmerman, after getting knocked around a bit, was able to get to his gun and shot Trayvon. 
Zimmerman should have stayed in his car. But he didn't. When he didn't stay in his car, Trayvon should have minded his own. But he didn't. So there was wrong on both sides here.
Given that Martin attacked Zimmerman, Zimmerman was justified (legally and, in my opinion, ethically) in protecting himself from an… attacker using whatever force was necessary…

If that's what you believe, I'm sure I can't talk you out of it… Zimmerman says it was self defense. Maybe Trayvon would have said the same thing if he'd survived.

…What we do have are a few facts that strongly suggest self defense outside of a need to rely on peoples' words... so it's not as simple as "the survivor wrote the history"
I hope you don't think I am grasping at straws to excuse whites killing unarmed blacks
The incident described by the link you posted [John Crawford III] is inexcusable.The victim's race, however, doesn't somehow make it more inexcusable. Perhaps it explains the police officer's actions (if they were, in fact, motivated by race), but the part that should be offensive is the willful disregard for human life displayed by an officer of the law…

Your last comment on my post sounds to me like you think racism is almost gone, that after the old people die it won't exist. I disagree. If you want to work at justifying or explaining away every incident of racism, I'm sure you could make some arguments. It sounds like a lot of work to cover up a simple truth to me. And it's not something I can listen to. It would involve ignoring too many people's stories, telling them they are imagining things or that they don't matter. I can't tell my friend, "That person wasn't being racist toward you. You're interpreting it wrong. I don't care if it happens all the time. I'm the expert. I know what they were really doing." I'm choosing to listen to voices of people who have been disempowered.

I think you're getting caught up in the trees, and missing the forest. Individual acts of evil of any type are easy to find, but when you're talking about changing society the relevant scale to look at is the macro. I'm not unsympathetic to individual accounts, when and where they're actually valid, but using the Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown cases to prove that racism is real is a farce. If those are the anecdotes you're building a case upon... Then it's likely to be an unsupported case.
Anyway, that's my opinion. While I do enjoy a hearty debate every now and then, I didn't mean to start a fight, and I'm sorry if I did.

[several days later]
So,I've been mulling over what you said about Zimmerman, and I can't get anywhere with it. It keeps coming back to Stand Your Ground. Z initiated a confrontation. Maybe Trayvon could have run away, but he stood his ground. Maybe it didn't need to get physical, but according to Stand Your Ground, you can initiate violence when you feel in danger. You say Trayvon was winning the fight, but … it seems like Z could have run away at this point. But he decided to stand his ground. He felt threatened, so he increased the violence and ended a life. Both men stood their ground. Trayvon got the "death penalty" for it, Z was not punished. I see no justice.

…I feel like you're missing my point about that whole situation... yes, Zimmerman "initiated conflict" (in the sense of starting an argument, not necessarily an actual fight), but the evidence suggests that Trayvon… actually threw the first punch.
And, per Florida Law, one can be the "aggressor" in one stage of anincident, and become the "defender" in another… Trayvon didn't "stand his ground." He "counterattacked" and escalated the situation from an uncomfortable discussion into physical violence
If he had simply stood there and said "I have a right to be in this neighborhood, the same as you," then, if Zimmerman had shot him, Zimmerman would have unambiguously been guilty of murder.

…Maybe Trayvon said exactly those words; we'll never know because he's dead.

morally and ethically, Zimmerman shares a great deal of the blame for the whole thing.
…So no, it's not "right" that Trayvon is dead and Zimmerman didn't even serve jail time.
…The only reason the case even got national attention was because of media coverage of race-baiting ideologues who could misrepresent the facts enough to fit the narrative of white-on-black racism.
…It is, however, a story with a very high media profile (none of which it deserves), so it doesn't surprise me that it would find a place in a list purporting to "prove" a narrative of recent violent racism against blacks from whites. But its inclusion on such a list doesn't speak well for the other incidents on the list...
I just don't think there's any ambiguity in this case, despite the desperate attempts of race ideologues to present the situation as such. And while I understand and applaud your compassion forTrayvon, I think it's important not to be blinded by compassion to the actual facts of the case…

…from my perspective, you are making every effort to give Z the benefit of the doubt, and every effort to give no doubt of guilt to T.
You suggest that a calm, deferential attitude on Trayvon's part would have defused this situation, and that is was his responsibility to do so. After being chased by a strange man...

… To summarize, I think there's every reason to declare Zimmerman guilty of poor judgment on a number of levels, from getting out of his car in the first place to putting himself in arm's reach of Trayvon at all, much less without having his weapon at the ready.
And nothing in the entire story has anything to do with racism, systemic or otherwise, between a dominant white culture and an oppressed minority black culture…

I appreciate that you are self-aware that you are using too many words in a discussion. … [shared a humorous memory of J]
Since you are already aware, can I encourage you to take action on it? One practical way to do this would be by taking more time to reflect rather than immediately responding to a comment or question. (And personally, it would help me feel respected and my words valued.)
Hope you are well.

[immediately after]
I wouldn't really say that I use too many words... just that the volume of words has been lopsided in this conversation, and that while I realize it I want to be clear that I wasn't trying to "talk you into submission", as my wife might say.
But regardless, I hope that you're well also.

[several days later]
Your wife sounds like a wise woman. Maybe she has other suggestions about this? I do think it's too many words for a conversation... Also, I still feel like you aren't truly listening to me, since I asked for a reflection time, and you still immediately responded... Does that make sense?

While I can understand how you might get the mistaken impression that I haven't been listening to you, I don't see where you actually 'asked' for time to reflect. I'm not saying that to place blame, but to explain that I truly didn't mean to overwhelm you through volume of words or rapidity of response, so I'm sorry for not picking up on that.

Conversation about Mike Brown

Names and identifying details have been changed.
My friend is a white man in his 60s. (I am also white.)
Conversation shared with permission. Bold added.

I think the post you shared about the Mike Brown situation is terrible. [a video rant of a black man yelling at black people for making things worse for themselves and blaming all their problems on white people.] I guess you found a black person to say something you agreed with so it doesn't seem racist? Obviously, rioting is an unhealthy response. But with the repeated murders of black men and woman, I can understand how they feel there is no legitimate response. I hope you can empathize, both because you are a human being and because you have a [child] who is also part of a mistreated minority. If someone told you that [disabled] people need to change themselves rather than [able bodied] people learning to be more helpful, you'd be angry. [My sister] shared a post recently about people with mental disabilities being shot by police because they didn't respond correctly. I hope this has never happened to [someone like your child], but it seems like it would be an easy excuse for police. Please stand up for victims rather than defending the people in power.

You are not understanding his message at all, listen again
This is the stupid the man was referring to, no call for this behavior, the incident of the shooting is bad, needs a full investigation, this does no good. [links to news article about violence and rioting in Ferguson]

I understand it's a bad response. I don't think the police response is good either.
[link to article about militarized police forces]

One begets the other, every time, senseless

That is not untrue, but it is too passive. Both sides are not equally to blame. White people have power in this country. We should use it for good.

Black people need to voice themselves without burning looting, they need to be heard not committing crimes, attitude during an arrest helps

Many are [voicing themselves without looting]. And again, without disagreeing with you, I think you are policing the wrong people. It's like saying, we'll stop killing black people once they show us proper respect.

I do not disagree with your opinion, just more to it, you need to do some police drive arounds, love you

[link to ultra-conservative website about God & Guns! Article claims the Mike Brown shooting was justified because he beat up the cop. This was before the officer’s name was released.]

Attacking a policeman who is sitting in his cruiser sounds like a strange story to me. The eyewitness says Mike had his hands in the air. So it depends what story you want to believe. I don't know how many shootings one can continue to believe that officers were justified in killing unarmed black men. There are too many. Thank you for talking with me today. I love you too.

Ginger, I wish the world was kind and gentle, of course it is not… So it goes. It is beginning to seem that the Ferguson Police Chief has an Attitude, wonder how he has kept or got that job. Leadership can make or break any establishment so easy. I was a semi cop while in the Navy, served as a Master at Arms on Ships and did 3 1/2 years in Corrections in [a prison]. You cannot believe the characters I came across during those times. Some people are just creeps and dangerous. Simply having a badge on spurs some people on to unbelievable attitudes and actions. Police have to build a strong exterior to put up what the public dishes out to them, sometimes it fails.

People do not have any right to disrespect police, raid stores, burn stores, attack others property. They have no right to spit, punch, name call police. They have the right to follow lawful orders by police, act civil. You cannot believe how uncivil some people are to the police for the simplest things, lies abound. Again I urge you to find a police entity to ride around with especially in a poorer neighborhood. Then get back to me.

I believe you that being a police officer is a tough job, and there are terrible criminals to be dealt with. But there is a problem with the police. They are not treating black people the same way they treat white people. They are not using their guns appropriately by their own rules. Mike Brown didn't deserve to die. The protestors in Ferguson are mostly peaceful. The police are threatening them with guns and playing like they're in the military. A police drive by in a poor neighborhood won't convince me that black and poor people need to be treated with extreme violence.

Which came first the chicken or the egg

I don't think that's the right question. Maybe I need yes/no answers from you:
1. Was shooting Mike Brown justified?
2. Are the police responding appropriately to protestors?

1. Looks like not, more info needed
2. The cops went overboard, little knowledge of such I guess, people have gone way over

Read about Kajieme Powell yet?


4 miles away from Brown's shooting, another black man was shot. Looks like he had some mental health problems, and had a small knife. Police didn't talk with him or use a taser- almost immediately shot him dead. [link to newssite with video from bystander]

I spoke with the Chief of Police of [in hometown] about 3 months back on this issue.  We did not agree, I see little reason knife holders get shot, his answers were not to my liking,  I have seen too much of this type killing, the cops are basically scared.  Yes it is wrong


It makes me relieved when you sound like you agree with me, but then you post another thing on your wall, and I'm like, whaaaaaat?

On his wall:
Today I listen to a CNN report on how police officers need to be real nice to young back men so as to not upset them to acting rudely. I am astonished, with a straight face from the CNN reporter to these youths.
I do agree police need to act professional, but I do believe that was not what the black youths were referring to, they sorta want the officer to be real polite. Out work youths with nothing to do but hang out and tell the rest of us we are showing them enough respect.
What a different world some live in.

Start with I believe in fairness, those kids want cops to bow and curtsy

I think they want to be treated like human beings

You really need to do some ride arounds, you do not know what you do not know
ride around will broaden your vision, I did say professional, not bossy, rude, you need to actually face some of these hard heads

It's confusing to me that you can correctly interpret what black people really want. That despite story after story of police abuse and murder of black people, you see the clear truth that it's white people who believe in fairness. A few minutes in a police car would open my eyes to the simple truth that black people are racist unemployed thugs? Even though you agree with me that this one situation has been mishandled, it's not worth fighting about because it doesn't relate to national systemic injustice?

I will try again.  First, I do not believe there is a national crisis of police targeting black people.  Police in the process of doing their jobs meet all kinds of people, nice, bad and pure rotten.  Sometimes there is little notice of who they will encounter.

It is never okay for an officer to be judge, jury and executioner.  Some officers should have never been allowed to put on a badge. Some people are just mean to the core and hide it well, and unleash their true selves in violence.  They are not the norm.  Some build up tension that can and does erupt in harming others.

This shooting has a big black man who has just committed a petty crime, we do not know his normal character. He somehow comes in contact with a police officer, did he panic?  Did he attack the officer?  Whatever occurred turned it bad for him.  Did the officer act properly, we do not know for sure either way, at first glance, the man was unarmed and was shot to death. Does not look good for the officer, appears that he came up on this man and just shot him to death.  That is called knee jerk reaction.  It may be true, it may not be.

Is it okay for people to riot, burn and loot?  Destroy a store because they think that establishment did something wrong?  Is there a case to be made that the Ferguson police have overreacted.

Do you believe there is a national crisis in the USA with whites hating blacks?

Many people when encountering the police quickly reacted in the negative, many over the top. Yelling, screaming, kicking, biting etc.  Until you see it hard to comprehend.

You need to face the fact there are people that are pure mean, they can and will harm for little no reason.  Some wear uniforms, the hope is they are weeded out in time.  There is a case to made that the Ferguson Police department needs a complete make over.

Just because a person is poor does not grant them some free ride to be a criminal or engage in such. We [his family] grew up very poor; we managed to be good citizens.

Okay, if our major point of disagreement is "a national crisis of police targeting black people" or " a national crisis in the USA with whites hating blacks," I want to focus on that. I would phrase it differently, maybe saying the black people are treated unfairly in all levels of the justice system, and that racism all many sorts (some blatant, some subtle) deeply influences America today. If you are willing to consider that these things could be true, I’d like to collect some worthwhile evidence and have a better conversation when I see you in person in [a few months]. I know that I’m young, and it can be weird to have this conversation with someone who lived through the Civil Rights Movement in the South. But I feel like I’ve been taught all my life that racism is over- it’s been cured! White people want to believe America promotes equality and fair opportunity, and these are good things to want- but pretending the fight is over requires closing our eyes to injustice.