Tag Archives: police brutality

Does Black Life Matter More When Raised and Nurtured By White Hands?

Man at Amadou Diallo protest. Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Man at Amadou Diallo protest. Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

 

By Guest Contributor Chad Goller-Sojourner

In preparation for my one man show, Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness, I did a significant amount of research, most of it unpleasant — like the weeks I spent combing the Internet for stories about unarmed black men shot down by the police. Talk about depressing. To be young, black and innocent is to live in a world full of folks who will always see you differently than you see yourself ─ a world where folklore, statistics and conjecture deem you dangerous until proven otherwise.

As I combed through story after story, I noted a disturbing trend that, contrary to what you might think, isn’t just happening in big cities, but everywhere–big cities, small cities, north, south, east and west. Wherever there are unarmed black men, there are police (and wannabe police) shooting them. When it comes to unarmed black men, what does it take to be proven innocent–to  have your keys, wallets, cellphones and candy bars  be seen as keys, wallets, cellphones and candy bars, rather than guns?

Twenty-two-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot dead in his Bronx doorway by four plain-clothed police officers who mistook his wallet for a gun and opened fire, unleashing 41 bullets, 19 of which struck his body. He had just returned from a late meal and was resting on his stoop–a rest interrupted by four white men in street clothes, getting out of an unmarked car, bearing guns.  Diallo fled to his apartment, reaching at some point for his wallet, perhaps for a key. We’ll never know, because all those officers saw was a gun [that wasn't there]. It was only later, at a trial in which they were all acquitted, when officers admitted that they had failed to consider the situation from the point of view of an innocent and unarmed black man minding his business on his stoop and suddenly confronted by four white men in street clothes brandishing guns.

Of course, the killers of black men don’t even need to report seeing anything resembling a weapon. They can, for instance, claim to have seen the victim reaching for his waistband.

Portland police were sent to do welfare check on Aaron Campbell, who had been distraught over his brother’s death. Campbell emerged from the Northeast Portland apartments with his back toward officers and his hands behind his head. But the officers wanted more. They wanted his hands in the air. And so they fired six beanbag rounds at him. (Nothing gets your hands in the air quicker than being shot in the back.)

As Campbell ran for the cover of a parked car, he was shot in the back with an AR-15 rifle. Later, officers would claim, they saw him reaching towards his pants for a gun. This despite police brass testimony stating Campbell did not–DID NOT– pose an immediate threat. The officers’ actions were not only inconsistent with their training, but they also failed to consider, that 1) Campbell may have been unarmed and 2) he may have been reaching for a part of the body just struck by beanbag rounds. The Grand Jury returned a finding of no criminal wrongdoing.

One must wonder: When it comes to unarmed black men being shot down by the police, why do so many of them go reaching for non-existent weapons in their waistband? If the number one reason given by the police for shooting unarmed black men is that they are reaching for their waistbands, what black man in his right mind would be reaching anywhere near that area in the presence of law enforcement?

Clearly there is something missing here. How else do you explain a system where, mistaking a Snickers for a gun is par for the course? It occurs to me: Would this reasoning be palatable to the public if the victims’ parents were white? Not if the victims were white–I think we all know that answer–but if the victim’s parents were white. Like mine.

Would an officer, police department, city or even a nation, be okay with telling my parents: “We’re sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Goller, but your son, Chad, was killed by an officer tonight. No ma’am, he wasn’t armed, though it appears the officer saw him reach towards his waistband. Again, we’re so very sorry.”

Would society abide delivering that excuse to white celebrities with black kids? Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw? How about the white gays and lesbians raising black boys?

I suspect not. 

In fact, I suspect in all of these scenarios, nothing would be okay for a really, really long time. This is the ultimate question: Does black life matter more when raised and nurtured by white hands?

Sadly–Yes.

One of the first things I learned about having white parents was that when it came to dealing with people in authority, they got listened to. In sixth grade, after still another racially-charged incident, mom threatened to go to the papers and for the rest of the year things actually got better. In junior high, the Black Parents Association enlisted Mom’s help. Suddenly, it got a whole lot harder for the school administration to write them all off as hysterical, over-reactive black parents.

By high school it was clear that, at least in the eyes of the authorities, having white parents was a powerful thing. With white parents comes white neighbors, friends, classmates, relatives, privileges and experiences.  With white parents comes witnesses– white witnesses [able to use their privilege] to vouch for me, go to bat for me and stand in the gap for me. And should the police have killed me, it would be they who spoke from my grave for me.

Have you any idea what that’s worth?

The above is an excerpt from the author’s Solo Performance, Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness. For info and/or booking inquires please visit www.ridingincarswithblackpeople.com

The Racialicious Links Roundup 5.30.13

Ten members of Congress are urging the Washington Redskins to change their name because it is offensive to many Native Americans.

The representatives said Tuesday that they’ve sent letters to Redskins owner Dan Snyder, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins sponsor FedEx, and the other 31 NFL franchises.

The letter to Snyder says that “Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos.”

In a study published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, researchers Garth Davies and Jeffrey Fagan studied the link between immigration and crime in New York City. After controlling for factors like poverty and educational achievement, they found that immigration did not increase crime rates.

According to geographic data, actually, it appears that in New York, immigration may have even reduced crime, or at least correlated with lower crime rates. As explained by Chrissie Long, a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School, the study found that “immigration actually appears to have a protective effect on crime,” as the presence of immigrants in New York neighborhoods “often  means decreased crime rates.”

As for specifically Latino immigration, a major factor in the national immigration debate and for Southern border states, Long notes that it had almost no “net effect” on total crime, and “Latino immigration is correlated with slightly less violence.” That finding matches other national surveys. A study of several American cities from 1990 to 2000 found the places with largest spike in immigration also had the “largest decreases in homicide and robbery during the same time period.”

Inside Higher Ed reports that only one fourth of community colleges “can be considered racially integrated,” due in large part to the fact that they tend to draw their student bodies from surrounding geographic areas, and America is, you know, still a vastly segregated country. Even if you don’t see segregation itself as a problem, its side effects most surely are:

For example, there are 85 students per staff member at predominantly white colleges, according to the study, and 294 students per staff member at predominantly nonwhite colleges.

Another study of California community colleges found that schools with the highest minority enrollments had the lowest rates of students graduating and transferring to four-year colleges. Why? For one thing, schools with high minority enrollment “typically receive less funding from local governments, according to the study. And state support doesn’t cover that gap.”

Now, current and former partners say, the diversity committee meets less often, and the firm has fewer black lawyers than before. It is a trajectory familiar in many elite realms of American professional life. Even as racial barriers continue to fall, progress for African-Americans over all has remained slow — and in some cases appears to be stalling.

“You don’t want to be a diversity officer who only buys tables at events and seats people,” Ms. Higgins said recently. “It’s about recruiting and inclusion and training and development, with substantive work assignments.”

Nearly a half-century after a Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, helped usher in the era of affirmative action, the Supreme Court is poised to rule as early as this week on whether the University of Texas can continue to consider race as one of many factors in its admissions policy. It is a case that could have a profound impact on race-based affirmative action programs across the nation, and it has reignited a discussion of how much progress minorities, blacks in particular, have made in integrating into some of the most sought-after professions, especially since the recession.

Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillian didn’t threaten police. He didn’t attack them. He wasn’t armed. All the black teenager did was appear threatening by shooting Miami-Dade police officers a few “dehumanizing stares,” and that was apparently enough for the officers to decide to slam him against the ground and put him in a chokehold.

During Memorial Day weekend, McMillian was rough-housing with another teenager on the sand. Police approached the teen on an ATV and told him that wasn’t acceptable behavior. They asked him where his parents were, but MicMillian attempted to walk away. The officer jumped off the ATV, and tried to physically restrain the teen. According to CBS Miami, police say the 14-year-old kid gave them “‘dehumanizing stares,’ clenched his fists and appeared threatening.”

McMillian says he was carrying a six-week old puppy at the time and couldn’t have been clenching his fists because he was feeding the dog with a bottle. He claims that during the confrontation the dog’s front left paw was injured while officer forcibly separated him from the dog.

Super-Predators, ‘Wilding,’ And The Central Park Five

By Guest Contributor MK, cross-posted from Prison Culture

On April 19, 1989, a young woman who was jogging through Central Park in New York City was found badly beaten. She had also been raped.

I have written briefly about the case before in comparing it to Scottsboro. However, I want to return to it today because I just saw the trailer for Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the case and it brings back terrible memories for me.

I was living in New York City at the time of this incident. I was 17 years old, a senior in high school. My school was across the street from Central Park and I was terrified. Just a few months before, I had been sexually assaulted (not in the park) and now I was certain that I would be targeted again.
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The L.A. Riots, 20 Years Later [Voices]

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Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

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‘It Did Not Start With Stonewall’ Resurfaces After Five Years

By Arturo R. García

Over the past month, this video, “It Did Not Start With Stonewall,” has been picking up steam online – we first saw it on Elixher – which is curious, given that it was originally uploaded in 2007. In the clip, a group of black women offers perspectives on life in the LGBT community in New York City in the era surrounding the seminal Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

But it cuts off just after the three-minute mark, leaving people wondering where it came from – and whether there are more interviews like these out there. Racialicious contacted the person who uploaded the video Wednesday night, so we hope to have an update soon. In the meantime, the transcript to the video is under the cut.

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Punching People and the Perils of Increased Police Presence [Updated]

by Latoya Peterson


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Two days ago in Seattle, a police officer trying to arrest a woman for jay walking found himself in a sticky situation:

Seattle police say the punch came after the young woman became verbally and physically abusive after a jaywalking stop. Seattle police say it all started after an officer observed four women jaywalking across Martin Luther King Junior Way South. When the officer attempted to stop them, voices and tensions escalated. The officer was attempting to handcuff a 19-year-old woman when her 17-year-old friend tried to intervene.

In the video, you can see the 17-year-old push the officer. That’s when the officer pulls back his arm and punches the teenager in the face.

Seattle police say the officer believed the girl “was attempting to physically affect the first girl’s escape” and when she came at the officer, he “punched her.” As a crowd of people gathered around the officer and suspects, one of the witnesses videotaped the incident.

Eventually the officer managed to handcuff the first suspect as well as the girl he punched. The 19-year-old woman was booked into King County Jail for obstructing an officer. The 17-year-old girl, who was punched, was taken to the Youth Service Center for investigation of assault on an officer. Both females were cited for jaywalking.

The video has touched off a firestorm of controversy surrounding the officer’s conduct and if the officer was justified. Monica Potts, over at Tapped, argues yes. But I’m not convinced. Continue reading

The Lady Is A Tramp: Aiyana Stanley-Jones at the Altar of the Media

by Special Correspondent Andrea Plaid, originally published at Bitch Magazine

I’m taking a moment from my usual sexing-it-up posts because of the little girl pictured above.

For those who don’t know, her name is Aiyana Stanley Jones. And she’s dead. Her family just buried her this week.

She didn’t die from leukemia or in a drunk-driving accident or at the hands of an abusive or negligent parent or guardian.

She died for the sake of entertainment. Continue reading

Understanding the Backlash to the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

On Tuesday Samhita Mukhopadhyay posted the article Understanding the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon on Feministing, discussing the case and response to Lovelle Mixon. A 26 year-old black man and parolee in Oakland, last weekend Mixon died after shooting and killing four Oakland police officers.

Some excerpts from Mukhopadhyay’s article:

I do not deny that Mixon was armed, dangerous, a career criminal and potentially linked to the rape of a young woman. Lovelle Mixon’s actions are deplorable. But if we look at them within the context of police brutality, they sadly start make sense.

The power that resides in the laps of armed police officers is terrifying. Imagine living in these conditions, in the kind of world where you can be gunned down just for being young, black, male and walking down the street. This story is almost impossible to understand given dominant narratives around race, class, gender and black masculinity. It is considered OK to kill young black men, often violently. We may be outraged, but not nearly as outraged as when cops are killed.

Mukhopadhyay also drew from David Muhammad’s article at New American Media, which starts by saying (and I share this sentiment):

Four Oakland Police Department (OPD) officers killed, another shot, and a young assailant dead. This is tragic and unfortunate. Period.

While Mukhodpadhyay was as clear as Muhammad that Mixon’s actions are inexcusable and should not be seen as justice for Oscar Grant, within half an hour of her article going up, some Feministing commenters flipped. Choice reactions:

Turning a multiple cop killer and rapist into the poster child for a conversation about police brutality is apologism at its worst…If you were saying the same basic things to explain awat why he might have been led to rape the woman he’s excused of raping than no one on these boards would accept it. But I feel that since this happened in Oakland, after Oscar Grant, and since he’s black and these were white cops and because of the racial history it’s somewhat okay for you to seemingly excuse his actions.

This next very short comment misses the panoply of stats that Mukhopadhyay provided to illustrate that ex-convicts and poor folks in general sometimes cannot secure their basic needs by following the law:

Actually, that’s not true. Not committing further crimes is the surest way not to end up back in jail.

And this:

His actions were never fueled by police brutality, they appear to be fueled by possibility that he did not want to pay for additional crimes he knew he committed.

You’re conflating the brutal murder of Oscar Grant with a career criminal who knew he was caught and reacted like a wild animal cornered, doing anything and everything to escape being brought to justice.

I also take issue with the point that you make about cops killing young black men, statistically a much larger percentage of young black men are killed by other young black men.

And of course a few commenters who called Mukhopadhyay an apologist for Mixon were also quick to say “But you can’t say I’m racist! I was incensed by what happened to Rodney King!”

Listen: the difference between Rodney King (and Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Jeffrey Reodica and so many other young men of colour slain by the police) and Mixon is that the others were unarmed and innocent. The similarity is that they all lived under a policing system that devalued their lives and assumed them guilty solely because they were darker-skinned.

Now, Mixon actually was guilty. But Mixon’s guilt doesn’t neutralise the rottenness of the system. In other words, just because Mixon was actually a dangerous felon doesn’t mean that we are absolved from the duty to question how justice and innocence is defined and meted out in our culture. Continue reading