Category Archives: policing/justice

What really separates the Tea Party from the Black Panther Party

by Guest Contributor Crystal Hayes, originally published at Race-Talk

Robert Seth Hayes I was three years old when I watched my father, mother, and three-week-old baby brother nearly murdered in a hail of bullets during a police raid on our home in September 1973.

My father, Robert Seth Hayes, was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and ever since that day some 37 years ago, he has been a political prisoner in the state of New York. So when I read Cord Jefferson‘s article, “Is the Tea Party the New Black Panther Party?” on The Root.com, I could not help but remember, and relive, the pain and trauma of that day. I also became frustrated and angry because Jefferson’s article is ahistorical and continues the tradition of attacking the Party and misrepresenting its history and legacy. What’s more, it does so in a forum that prides itself on getting African American history correct.

Jefferson begins his piece predictably, by drawing on caricatures of the Party – images of armed, angry, Black men going to war against the US government. But the images that are used aren’t even of Panther members. His opening lines are accompanied by a photo of Malik Zulu Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), an unaffiliated group founded in 1989 that has no connection to the BPP other than the name that it appropriated.

In fact, original BPP members openly reject the NBPP because its ideology promotes violence, separatism, and nationalism, values my father and other BPP members have long abandoned as part of an effective political ideology and strategy. In fact, the NBPP was successfully sued by Huey P. Newton’s foundation in an effort to keep them from calling themselves the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the BPP’s original name. Continue reading

Aiyana Stanley-Jones, South Philadelphia High, and Solving the News Problem

by Latoya Peterson

Earlier this month, I was mulling over a piece in The Atlantic about the decline of the news, and Google’s attempts to assist the ailing industry. I found this tidbit fascinating:

“If you were starting from scratch, you could never possibly justify this business model,” Hal Varian [Google’s chief economist ] said, in a variation on a familiar tech-world riff about the print-journalism business. “Grow trees—then grind them up, and truck big rolls of paper down from Canada? Then run them through enormously expensive machinery, hand-deliver them overnight to thousands of doorsteps, and leave more on newsstands, where the surplus is out of date immediately and must be thrown away? Who would say that made sense?” The old-tech wastefulness of the process is obvious, but Varian added a less familiar point. Burdened as they are with these “legacy” print costs, newspapers typically spend about 15 percent of their revenue on what, to the Internet world, are their only valuable assets: the people who report, analyze, and edit the news. Varian cited a study by the industry analyst Harold Vogel showing that the figure might reach 35 percent if you included all administrative, promotional, and other “brand”-related expenses. But most of the money a typical newspaper spends is for the old-tech physical work of hauling paper around. Buying raw newsprint and using it costs more than the typical newspaper’s entire editorial staff. (The pattern is different at the two elite national papers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. They each spend more on edit staff than on newsprint, which is part of the reason their brands are among the most likely to survive the current hard times.)

Krishna Bharat (Distinguished Researcher at Google) puts an even finer point on the problems with the existing news model. Bharat runs Google News, the aggregator that sifts through “25,000 sources in some 25 languages” daily. And considering he has watched the type of news trends that receive coverage, his next comments are old news to many of us dissatisfied with how our communities are portrayed in the mainstream media, but hopefully illuminating to those in the industry:

In this role, he sees more of the world’s news coverage daily than practically anyone else on Earth. I asked him what he had learned about the news business.

He hesitated for a minute, as if wanting to be very careful about making a potentially offensive point. Then he said that what astonished him was the predictable and pack-like response of most of the world’s news outlets to most stories. Or, more positively, how much opportunity he saw for anyone who was willing to try a different approach.

The Google News front page is a kind of air-traffic-control center for the movement of stories across the world’s media, in real time. “Usually, you see essentially the same approach taken by a thousand publications at the same time,” he told me. “Once something has been observed, nearly everyone says approximately the same thing.” He didn’t mean that the publications were linking to one another or syndicating their stories. Rather, their conventions and instincts made them all emphasize the same things. This could be reassuring, in indicating some consensus on what the “important” stories were. But Bharat said it also indicated a faddishness of coverage—when Michael Jackson dies, other things cease to matter—and a redundancy that journalism could no longer afford. “It makes you wonder, is there a better way?” he asked. “Why is it that a thousand people come up with approximately the same reading of matters? Why couldn’t there be five readings? And meanwhile use that energy to observe something else, equally important, that is currently being neglected.” He said this was not a purely theoretical question. “I believe the news industry is finding that it will not be able to sustain producing highly similar articles.”

I’ve been thinking about this in light of the Stanley-Jones tragedy, and in light of South Philadelphia High School. Continue reading

Arizona Legalizes Racial Profiling, Sparks National Conversation on Immigration Law and Reform

by Latoya Peterson

Last week, before bill SB 1070 was signed into law in Arizona, Mario Solis-Marich wrote:

The bill sitting lightly on her desk and heavily on her mind is SB 1070. The bill would require that police officers ask for proof of citizenship should they suspect a person of being undocumented. In a single stroke of her pen Governor Brewer can set back her party even deeper into a demographic hole, transform her state into a national social pariah, and downgrade her political future to that of a speaker on the circuit forged by Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs. Is Brewer Tom Tancredo or is she Ronald Reagan? This week we shall find out.

Considering the efforts of some in the GOP to distance themselves from the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has found the party building the same reputation among Latino voters that it holds with African American voters, the political impact of Jan Brewer signing the 1070 cannot be overstated. Arizona’s Latino GOPers have openly promised rebellion and primary chaos if the bill is signed. Latino Independents and Republicans have been a critical ingredient for the success of John McCain and other Republicans in Arizona during general election cycles.

The state will suffer from a national and international backlash should Brewer sign the bill. The US census will probably put the US Latino population at 50 million. Add other ethnic minorities into the mix and it will not be hard to stage a successful boycott of the state, by simply explaining to Americans that their family vacation can be quite uncomfortable, in a state that requires anybody that looks like they may be undocumented to carry their birth certificates with them at all times.

After Brewer signed the bill, forcing all citizens to carry immigration papers/state identification cards and authorizing the police force to detain anyone suspected of being here without the proper documentation, the backlash was swift.  Everyone from President Obama to a vigilante group in Arizona expressed disapproval – the latter smeared the windows of the state capitol building with refried beans in the shape of swastikas.  I didn’t initially believe this report, but Towleroad had the video:

Obama, for his part, immediately made a statement against the bill.  The New York Times reports:

Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, he called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws, which Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon, to avoid “irresponsibility by others.”

The Arizona law, he added, threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

Steven Colbert made the bill a part of his “The Word” segment:

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – No Problemo
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

I suppose you have to laugh, to keep from crying.

(Image Credit: New York Times)

Quebec Niqab Ban: No/Non to Bill 94!

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Last week Jean Charest, premier of the province of Quebec in Canada, proposed legislation that would ban Muslim women from wearing the niqab/face-veil.

How does Quebec intend to ban the niqab? By refusing essential services to women wearing one. From the Toronto Star:

[Bill 94] effectively bars Muslim women from receiving or delivering public services while wearing a niqab.  According to the draft law, they would not be able to consult a doctor in a hospital, for example, or even attend classes in a university.  Two words: Uncovered face,” Charest told reporters during a press conference in Quebec City. “The principle is clear.” However, Charest reaffirmed the right to wear other religious symbols, such as crosses, skullcaps or headscarves, which was met by some as evidence of hypocrisy and discrimination…

Charest explained that the legislation, Bill 94, demands a face in plain view, for reasons of identification, security and communication. He further clarified that even public-service employees who do not interact with the public – the majority of the provincial bureaucracy – would also not be permitted to wear the niqab…

The legislation doesn’t stop at driver’s licence or health card offices. It encompasses nearly every public and para-public institution as well, including universities, school boards, hospitals, community health and daycare centres.

There are many things about this bill that are horrendous.  For example, that whole universal healthcare thing – of which many Canadians are so proud – will become pretty UNuniversal; since if you’re wearing a niqab you can’t see a doctor.  Bill 94 returns us to suffragette era politics, where some women (i.e. white ones) got the vote while others didn’t; since if you’re wearing a niqab you can’t vote.

To me one of the most appalling things about Bill 94 is that it is actually being sold as a gender equity thing. More from the Star:

Critics of the niqab say they subjugate women and their right to equality. After a woman was removed this month from a French-language class for refusing to remove her niqab, Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s minister responsible for the status of women, called niqabs “ambulatory prisons.” On Wednesday, St-Pierre said Quebec was a “world leader” when it comes to gender equality, and with Bill 94, “we prove it once again.”

How many times does it have to be said that gender equity is about giving women the right to make their own choices?  If a woman’s choice is to wear a niqab, BARRING her from wearing one by removing access to work, childcare, healthcare and education is the absolute opposite of gender equality.

I cannot say enough how disgusting and dishonest this is.  If this bill was motivated by a real concern for women made to wear the niqab against their will, wouldn’t it make more sense to partner with organisations for Muslim women and/or organisations for women fleeing abuse and violence?

Instead, this legislation is being championed primarily by white men and women who are not Muslim.

Since I am getting too apoplectic to be articulate, let’s see what other people are saying about Bill 94.

The Non/No to Bill 94 Coalition writes in their statement:

Bill 94, if approved, will perpetuate gender inequality by legislating control over women’s bodies and sanctioning discrimination against Muslim women who wear the niqab. Instead of singling out a minuscule percentage of the population, government resources would be better spent implementing poverty reduction and education programs to address real gender inequality in meaningful ways. Barring any woman from social services, employment, health, and education, as well as creating a climate of shame and fear around her is not an effective means to her empowerment….“Rescuing” women is paternalistic and insulting. Further marginalizing Muslim women who wear niqab and denying them access to social services, economic opportunities and civic participation is unacceptable.

Forcing a woman to reveal part of her body is no different from forcing her to be covered. Continue reading

Want to know what’s wrong with the War on Drugs?

By Guest Contributors Madhuri Mohindar and Ishita Srivastava, originally published at Restore Fairness

It’s the first time that 1 in every 100 adult Americans is in prison, proof of an exploding prison system that our country can ill afford and a movement away from rehabilitation programs. Even more disturbing are the racial disparities within the prison system. More than 60% of people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities which means that 1 in every 36 Hispanic adults and 1 in every 15 black adults are in prison. How did this all happen? A change in laws and policies over the past decade have convicted more offenders, including non violent offenders, and put them away for increasingly lengthy sentences. For many, it is a system that is not providing the same returns in public safety in relation to this growth, and a rapid movement to change unfair laws has seen growing progress.

The 1980’s saw the “War on Drugs” launched in a big way. It was also the time for many federal policies that disadvantaged communities of color. One example: sentences for crack cocaine offenses (the kind found in poor Black communities) that were treated a 100 times more severely than powder cocaine offenses (the kind that dominates White communities). According to the Drug Policy Alliance Network,

Reform advocates say no other single federal policy is more responsible for gross racial disparities in the federal criminal justice system than the crack/powder sentencing disparity. Even though two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white, more than 80 percent of those convicted in federal court for crack cocaine offenses are African American.

The differences in sentencing were based on a myth that crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine and that it was instantly addictive and caused violent behavior, all of which has been disproved. What it’s actually led to is a costly system that focuses on low-level offenders and users instead of dealers and suppliers, imprisoning addicts that could benefit from rehabilitation programs. One analysis by Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, estimates that an increased focus on community programs and an end to the sentencing disparity could lead to a savings of half-a-billion dollars in prison costs.

With mounting pressure on Congress to do away with legislation that has devastated communities, we are at an opportune moment to instill justice back into the system. While The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a bill that ends the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely vote on a bill soon. Some Senators want to reduce the sentencing disparity instead of eliminating it but this watered-down compromise will do little to restore fairness. Let the Senators hear your voice.

Does your race and income matter if you face the death penalty?

By Guest Contributor ishita, originally published at Restore Fairness

This post elaborates on the excerpt we ran last week about David Dow.

It is no secret that our country’s criminal justice system has consistently proven to be biased against minority communities of color. Statistics published by the NAACP show that even amongst those found guilty of crimes, African-Americans continue to be disproportionately sentenced to life in prison, face higher drug sentences, and are executed at higher rates when compared to people of other races. Michelle Alexander speaks of a “color-coded caste system” in The New Jim Crow that marginalized communities who encounter the criminal justice system.

Seasoned Texas attorney David R. Dow’s new book The Autobiography of an Execution provides an exploration of the death penalty, written through the eyes of a man who has spent 20 years defending over a hundred death-row inmates, most of whom died, and most of whom were guilty. As the head litigator for the Texas Defender Service, a non profit legal aid organization in the state that boasts the highest number of executions since 1976, Dow presents a powerful argument against the death penalty system. Candidly exploring how he balances such a trying job with being a good father and husband, Dow’s extremely personal book only works to strengthen the argument that the broken criminal justice system operates on a vicious cycle based on racial and economic disparity.

In his book, Dow opposes the unequal basis on which some criminals are sentenced to be executed while others aren’t, and deems the criminal justice system “racist, classist (and) unprincipled.” He opposes the death penalty as a flawed and unjust facet of the criminal justice system. Based on his experience, he notes that while he believes that a majority of the clients he represented were, in fact, guilty, there was very little separating those criminals from others who were guilty of the same crime, other than “the operation of what I consider to be insidious types of prejudice.” Most unsettling is his severe mistrust of members of the justice system – police officers, prosecutors and judges – whom he believes would “violate their oaths of office” and put men and women on death row who they think “deserve to be there”.

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Quoted: David Dow On Race, Class, and The Death Penalty


On a regular basis, I’m sitting face to face with murderers. When I imagine sitting face to face with somebody who might have injured somebody I love or care about, I can imagine wanting to injure that person myself. I used to support the death penalty. [But] once I started doing the work, I became aware of the inequalities. I tell people that if you’re going to commit murder, you want to be white, and you want to be wealthy — so that you can hire a first-class lawyer — and you want to kill a black person. And if [you are], the odds of your being sentenced to death are basically zero. It’s one thing to say that rich people should be able to drive Ferraris and poor people should have to take the bus. It’s very different to say that rich people should get treated one way by the state’s criminal-justice system and poor people should get treated another way. But that is the system that we have.

— Appellate lawyer David Dow, interviewed for “The Death Penalty: Racist, Classist and Unfair”, Time

How Do We Talk About Police Brutality When The Cops Aren’t White?

By Guest Contributor Julianne Hing, originally published at Racewire

mineo_022210.jpgYesterday, the verdict in the trial involving three New York police officers accused of abusing a young man of color was announced.

Without even knowing the particulars of the case—say, for instance, that one of the police officers in question allegedly abused a man named Michael Mineo with a baton, which led the other two cops to orchestrate a cover-up—you probably know exactly what the jury decided yesterday.

That’s right, all three cops were acquitted of all charges, on the claim that there was not enough evidence to prove that Mineo had actually had a baton shoved inside of him. The news came just days after it was announced that the cops involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell will not receive federal charges.

People of color, especially young Black and Latino men, get shot at and killed by the police at disproportionately high rates. That much seems to be common enough knowledge these days. And the white cops who’ve shot them? They’re all typically acquitted, but that is less common knowledge and more irrefutable fact.

But much of the way we talk about police brutality as a manifestation of racism rests on a classic narrative of individual white aggressors who brutalize Black and Latino men. So what happens when not all of the officers involved are white? In Michael Mineo’s case, the three accused officers were white (Officer Richard Kern) and Latino (Officers Andrew Morales and Alex Cruz).

Continue reading