Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Small Town and Suburban Racism Doesn't Cut it On College Teams or in Many Portions of the Workforce

 
One of the things that the Trump loving, Confederate flag waving racial epithet spouting white folks in small town America need to realize is that they are compromising the futures of their most talented young people
This fall at least five white athletes as schools ranging from Cornell to Marquette to Oregon State have been kicked off college teams when Instagram posts filled with white supremacist rhetoric that they made while still in high school were uncovered.
Openly racist language common at family dinners, house parties, and in locker rooms in all white towns and suburbs doesn't cut it when you go to college or enter the workplace, or even if you join the military. It can not only get your ass kicked if your Black teammates hear it, it can get you kicked off a team, deprived of a scholarship, or get you kicked out of school.
The proliferation of racist and white supremacist imagery and activity in the US is not only going to come back to haunt the people engaging it- getting them fired from their jobs if they unleash it in public places, it is going to compromise their children's futures.
This is a multiracial country becoming more so every day and the last gasp of militant whiteness is not going to end well for the people promoting it and spreading it

Why This Historic Moment Is Special: My Reflections on the Movements Sweeping the Nation

 
I am tremendously optimistic about the current historic moment because the Black Lives Matter movement has grown to proportions as large, or larger than any movement I have seen in my lifetime, including the anti-war movement of the 60's which it resembles most. What has been most astonishing has been the number of small towns that Black Lives Matter vigils have been held in, many of them in places where most people would have said protesters would fear for their safety. In Eastern Long Island, there have been BLM vigils not only in relatively liberal towns like Sag Harbor and Bridghampton, but in conservative enclaves like Montauk and Hampton Bays. Almost all of these protests have been led by young women, many of high school age. And this has taken place all over the US and in many parts of the world. At last count, my students and former students have participated in 51 BLM actions, more than half in small towns and suburbs. And these movements have forced long needed changes in police procedures and police funding in many states and
cities, and this in less than two months
. Now, the movements are also turning their attention to colleges and universities where racist practices have long been tolerated or been too difficult to challenge. What is most exciting is that for a significant number of protesters, this has been their first action which has put them in direct conflict with police, public officials and racist and white supremacist hecklers and goon squads and as far as I can tell it has made them firmer in their convictions and enthralled by the culture of resistance they have been part of. This can definitely have spill over consequences for other justice struggles such as defense of immigrants and, movements to freeze mortgage payments and rent
To me this uprising most resembles the protest movements of the Sixties where you had people who participated in civil rights actions soon joining the anti-war movement, and then, helped spawn the Black Power Movement, the women's liberation movement and the gay liberation movement. We are also seeing energy spilling over into campaigns to elect progressive political'candidates. I think this movement has far greater depth and lasting power than anything I have seen since the 1960's. I am not sure I see too many analogues with the 1930's because this is a youth led, m

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

"Imagine" Thoughts on Reinventing Law Enforcement

In the spirit of John Lennon's "Imagine," here are my thoughts about reinventing law enforcement
Imagine:
If every dollar spent on armored vehicles, stun guns, and tear gas for urban police departments were invested in sports programs, music programs, and summer jobs for youth
If CompStat were eliminated and police officers were rewarded for resolving conflicts peacefully rather than chalking up arrests for non violent offenses like loitering, jaywalking, fare beating or selling goods on the street
If honest, justice seeking police officers were rewarded, rather than punished and ostracized, for exposing fellow officers who put everyone at risk by engaging in racial profiling, or using excessive force in vulnerable communities when making arrests.
Police do what they are asked to do by elected officials and the general public. If a cross section of our society wants police officers to conduct themselves like an occupying army in communities of color, that's what we are going to get
If we want a different form of law enforcement, we have to push long and hard to get it.
That is what is at stake in the current protests. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

NYPD At The Crossroads- Some Backround History

 
All over the nation, protesters are demanding that police budgets be cut and that the funds saved be invested in community development projects in working class neighborhoods, particularly those which have high concentrations of Black people.
As this movement spreads to NYC, it might be useful to review the history of police expansion and militarization in NYC, its surprising origins and unintended consequences.
Although most people don't know this, the first big expansion of the NYPD after its budget was cut during the Fiscal Crisis of the 70's took place under the Mayoralty of David Dinkins! The demand for this expansion came largely from the city's poorest neighborhoods, which were under siege as a result of crack related violence In neighborhoods where gun battles were taking place all hours of the day and night, making people afraid to go to work, go shopping, or send their children to school. In response to this, community organizations in the Bronx, East New York and other hard pressed areas began calling for more police and more arrests so that people they represented could go about their daily lives safely.( If you don't believe me, read Noel Wolfe's 2015 dissertation "A Community At War: The Bronx and Crack Cocaine") The Dinkins Administration responded to these pressures by expanding the NYPD, and deploying these officers near schools, churches, public transportation stops and business districts in the neighborhoods hardest hit by crack. Dinkins Police Commissioner, Lee Brown, won support for this approach by constant consultation with community groups in the city's Black and LatinX neighborhoods.
However, with the election of Rudy Guiliani, the city's approach to policing took a very different turn. Whereas Dinkins major focus was making the city's poorest neighborhoods safer, Guilani's focus was to reduce violence and disorder in the entire city and make Manhattan a safe place for tourism and investment. To this end, he and his Police Commissioner, William Bratton introduced and approach called "Broken Windows Policing" which deployed the NYPD to arrest people en masse for non violent "quality of life crimes" such as panhandling on the subway, washing windows at busy intersections, turnstile jumping and fare beating, and drinking in public. The city's business leaders hailed this new approach because it dramatically changed the atmosphere in Manhattan's wealthiest business districts, sparking the gradual revival of NYC as a major focus of domestic and foreign investment
In Guiliani's second term, this approach was modified, in disastrous fashiong, by a new Commissioner with a military background, Howard Safir. Dispensing with the last vestiges of Community Policing, Safir deployed centrally controlled units to descend on the city's poorest neighborhoods to take guns and drugs off the street.The aggressive tactics they used led to one of the most shocking murders of an unarmed Black person in US History- the 41 shot execution of a Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo in a Bronx hallway.
Safir was ultimately forced to resign, and Guiliani left after two terms in office, but the new Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, expanded on the approach to policing Guiliani had pioneered. Not only did he keep expanding the NYPD, he introduced a computerized program CompStat, to make sure that every officer was making large numbers of quality of life arrests, and empowered officers to "stop and frisk" any person they thought might be suspicious. The result of this was that every Black man in the city found himself 'under suspicion" In Bloomberg's final year in office, there were more police stops and searches of Black men than there were Black men in New York City.
The Police Strategies of Guiliani and Bloomberg coincided to an economic boom in Manhattan marked by the constructions of tens of thousands of units of luxury housing, a huge increased in tourism, and the creation of a whole new array of upscale business districts in once decaying neighborhoods like SOHO. It
also fostered gentrification, first in Manhattan neighborhoods like the East Village and the Upper West Side, then in outer borough neighborhoods like Park Slope, Fort Greene, Williamsburgh and Astoria and finally in historically Black communities like Harlem and Bedford Stuyvestant
It also led to a simmering rage in the city's Black and LatinX neighborhoods, where daily police harassment became a reality for people going to work, going to school or going out of the house for recreational activity. Communities who had asked for more police during the height of the crack epidemic now saw police as a force to keep them intimidated and confined while New York attracted wealthy residents and investors from all over the world. The message they received from this kind of policing was loud and clear- "you are a danger to the city and we want you to leave."
Even after a term and a half of the DeBlasio Mayoralty, in which stop and frisk was allegedly ended, there is still a high level of resentment of the NYPD. The current crisis has brought those resentments to the surface.
As wealthy residents depart the city because of COVID-19, we may need to revisit now police are deployed, whose interests they serve, and what kind of atmosphere we want in the city's most popular commercial districts and tourist destinations.
A city where wealthy people from all over feel comfortable and poor people feel confined to their communities or pushed out of the city entirely may not longer be a tenable state of affairs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

My Top Three Policy Proposals for Getting Us Out of This Crisis

 
What this crisis tells us is that people have been pushed to the wall economically as well as victimized on the basis of their race. We have to deal with both issues to heal our wounded country. In response, I propose the following three initiatives
1. A New Deal Style jobs and public works program, modeled on the WPA and the CCC, that creates millions of jobs for unemployed people, particularly unemployed youth, rebuilding our infrastructure, repairing business districts damaged in the uprisings sweeping the nation and creating millions of units of affordable housing.
2. A demilitarization of urban police forces and an end to "broken windows policing" which targets people for non violent offenses and makes our cities safe for gentrification while making poor and working class people feel insecure in their own communities
3. A continuation of the national conversation on race, coupled with an effort to identify and remove open racists and white supremacists from our police forces, our military, and our schools. We need to restore confidence in the fairness of our most important government institutions.
There are obviously other reforms that could be envisioned but these are my top three.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Rage of the Young at a Compromised Future Adds Fuel to the Flames

 
Let me be blunt, I am frightened by the level of violence that protests have attained in my own city, and in cities throughout the country.
But I am also acutely aware that I have little or no influence on the people out in the streets doing the worst damage. What we have going on here looks more and more like a generational uprising as well as a protest against police violence
It is why so many protesters are not listening to people like me who tell them that looting stores and firebombing cars undermines the moral force of their protests. Here is the argument I am hearing more and more.
"You are in no moral position to talk about looting. Your generation looted the country so much that all we have left is student debt, low paying, dangerous jobs, and a militarized police force to keep us under control in cities which have been handed over to the rich. You tossed our generation on the garbage heap and now it's time for payback."
If you look at the collective distribution of income wealth and opportunity in our society, can you really say this argument is wrong, especially since the Pandemic has given a fatal blow to the hopes of many already living precarious lives. There are millions of unemployed, out of school young people in this country who have nothing to lose and huge amount of anger at their position,
No one is organizing these protests. And their very spontaneity shows how deep rooted the grievances are.
Several months ago, I feared that we could be facing food riots and rent riots on a Depression scale when the government stimulus money ran out and there were mass evictions and disruptions to the food chain
I never thought they would come this early, or with this particular
spark
We are in deep deep trouble as a country. Years of impoverishing and marginalizing the poor, and handing our cities to the rich have brought us to this point.
If we view racist, militarized policing as an instrument used to enforce rising levels of inequality and gentrification in our major cities, then much of what we are seeing in these protests makes more sense

Sunday, May 31, 2020

"White Privilege; Black Anger" A Powerful Essay by Pamela Knight author of "Teaching While Black"

Let me be clear on something. I would not loot my city, HOWEVER, when people are just as upset over people looting in response to another unarmed black man being killed for no reason, as they are that a LIFE, not a store front, not a police station, not a Target, but a living, breathing human being was TAKEN, you are devaluing black life. You might THINK you are for equality, but subconsciously, you do not think we are your equals. 
 
White privilege is finding sympathy for white murderers who shoot up churches and schools because they were bullied. If you did not post about how disgusted you were at Dylan Roof or the countless white men who decided to take innocent lives, some even CHILDREN, because he was troubled, but you are disgusted and outraged at people vandalizing their OWN—not your—City, you do not value black life as much as white life. 
 
Let me also break something else down: this rioting is so much deeper than simply destroying one’s community. It speaks to a myriad of things and deserves more analysis and reflection than a simple tweet or post of disdain. And unfortunately, many will refuse to do that much because that would require you to care about black life as much as white life, and so this will probably fall on many deaf ears: 
 
  1. Black people are angry. Rightfully angry. Just like the white male mass shooters are allowed to be angry, and the Amy Coopers of the world are allowed to be angry, for things that are INSIGNIFICANT: because they were told to put their dog on a leash, or because someone’s music was too loud, or because someone was publicly displaying joy in the face of their own misery, black people have and deserve to have a HEIGHTENED level of anger in this country, a country who has NEVER treated us fairly, who has had knees on our necks since our ancestors were kidnapped and brought here. We have CENTURIES of oppression that we are dealing with, in a nation considered the most powerful nation in the world. 
 
And YET and still, black people have not gone on a rampage killing white folk. Do you know what an Amy Cooper would do if she had a knee on her neck, or on the neck of her loved one? If she is angry enough to call 911 on a man for asking her to do what she is SUPPOSED to do, what kind of anger manifestation do you think would happen if her life was ACTUALLY in danger? 
 
 
White people have so many privileges, including the right to be angry and the right to express their anger, even when the levels are inappropriate. 
Black people are not appropriately expressing their anger, because none of you are dead. Black people have not gone on killing sprees killing white folk just because. White people have, killing black people praying and white children learning, this when they have no idea what oppression even feels like.
And when black people usually kill, it’s one of our own. Not random either. But the level of anger it takes to kill another human being manifests in our own personal interactions. We’ve expressed all of our anger, all of our hate bottled up inside us on another one of us. 
 
And instead of anyone even seeing the gravity of what that means, it’s used to display how violent we are. It’s used to look down on us. It’s used to justify the level of fear that you have of us. 
 
 
But we are not the violent ones. 
 
 
Our actual expression of anger doesn’t hold a candle to what is appropriate. We are inappropriately expressing our anger, because what would happen if we appropriately expressed our anger? 
 
Black people looting their own cities is no different than a person who has been abused, depressed or going through some form of mental breakdown choosing to cut themselves. Why does one do that? Of course, there’s self hate.  But guess what else there is? Beneath all the pain, there is compassion. Cutting yourself is releasing on your own body the rage and pain you feel without hurting another. And no matter what white people have done to us in this country, we always hurt ourselves before we ever THINK to hurt one of you. 
 
 
  1. Now some might believe that looting, for many, is just an excuse to take things that don’t belong to them.
 
Again, this quick writing off without deeper analysis is simply unacceptable. 
Somehow Black people are still expected to have some sort of allegiance to this country. Poor black people, who are marginalized both for race and socio-economic status, feel more than any other group in this nation, that they’ve been cheated. Please do not rant to me about pulling one’s self up from one’s bootstraps if you do not know the history of oppression that goes deeper than slavery and Jim Crow. If you do not know about systems that have been put in place to keep us down AND to build you up. If you don’t know what redlining is, please have several seats. If you do not understand drug laws and incarceration laws that have continued to deliberately keep poor brown and black people down, please stay silent. Please do not tell me about your poor grandmothers who came here from another country and made a lane for themselves. No one will ever know the pain and suffering of the black man, woman, child, or family. No one. So you have not earned the right to critique us in any way. 
 
 
No one knows the fire that burns steadily within us. And pray you never will.