Tag Archives: racial profiling

jail cell [JJIE]

For a Kid of Color, Unavoidable Contact With the Cops

By Guest Contributor Alton Pitre, cross-posted from Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Photo of the author.

I never chose to be raised by my grandmother in a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood filled with injustice, gang violence and police cruelty. This was my home and the kids on the block were my friends, many of whom eventually joined gangs. Being a native of this environment, I have seen many crazy things and have always felt like I was in the midst of a world war. I have countless friends who are either dead, in jail or doing nothing with their lives. Eventually, I became a victim of this society.

My first encounter with the police happened during my sophomore year in high school. I was leaving a childhood friend’s apartment with another friend when suddenly two Community Reform Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) Officers trespassed and entered. Unfortunately, the friend leaving with me was already on their file as a gang member. Due to my personal photos on Myspace they knew who I was before meeting me face-to-face. I was arrested immediately. As far as I could tell, my crime was being with a friend in the vicinity of where we both grew up.

We were taken to Southwest Police Station and charged with a status offense, in this case trespassing. The police were able to do this because of a gang injunction law placed in my community of L.A. known as the Jungles. Gang injunctions are court-issued restraining orders against a gang that restricts one documented gang member from being with another within a defined geographic area. This allowed the police to summarily arrest any documented gang members who were together in a gang area. We were visiting, not trespassing. After that day gang unit cops harassed me wherever I went.
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The P.I. in the A.P.I.

By Guest Contributor Scot Nakagawa; originally published at Changelab

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month has me pondering the question of Pacific Islanders and where that group fits in the Asian-Pacific American coalition. I’ve wondered about it because I fear that by using that term, we too often tell a story about Pacific Islanders that contributes to their invisibility.

There’s a certain amount of invisiblizing, if you will forgive my grammar, that goes on when we use the term “Asian American.” After all, Asian Americans are a mash-up of 40 or so ethnic groups from nations often at odds with one another within a region of origin that only thinks of itself as “Asian” because of being cast as such by Europeans. But, Asians are regarded as a race by the Western world, and with very real consequences that can’t easily be addressed without acknowledging that reality.

When the term “Asian” is lumped together with “Pacific Islander,” though, we start mixing up politics, regions, and race in a way that is potentially damaging.

For instance, the people of Polynesia first became known to the Western world as “discoveries” and then as colonial subjects. Polynesians were regarded by the West as childlike, “primitive” peoples, and as savages. In order to take possession of independent nations like Tahiti and Hawai’i, the French and the U.S. toppled governments and installed colonial oligarchies justified in part by the racist and self-serving notion that Tahitians and Hawaiians were incapable of self-governance in the complex context of international trade and “development.”

These racist notions continue to prevail. Polynesians in the U.S. are profiled by law enforcement as lazy, prone to criminality, and lacking self-control. It’s no wonder Native Hawaiians are less than a quarter of the population of Hawai’i but more than 40 percent of those in prisons. Polynesians in general are overrepresented in prisons in the U.S. Meanwhile, Asian Americans, and East Asians in particular, are profiled as “model minorities,” and underrepresented in U.S. prisons.

Among the main issues of concern to Pacific Islanders is the high incidence of diabetes in parts of that population. Asian Americans tend to be more concerned with issues of refugee resettlement, immigration policy, language access, and bullying. For many Native Hawaiians, resisting assimilation and gaining political independence from the U.S. is a primary issue, while for many Asian immigrants, assimilation and citizenship are goals. But many of us continue to rely on a single story when talking about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

When we reduce the complex experiences of diverse people to a single, totalizing story, we too often fail to see how our diverse stories intersect.

The single story of my childhood in Hawaii was the story of the rise of Asian Americans. This story begins with the first successful farm worker strike in U.S. history in 1946, and it was shared with me in order to teach me that risk, hard work, sacrifice, and looking beyond differences among people to find common ground were keys to a better life.

My parents and grandparents lived in plantation housing, shopped at company-owned stores, and participated in sports leagues designed and sponsored by plantation bosses in order to foster competition between workers who they segregated into ethnic work camps. The plantations were the foundation of the economic and political system of territorial Hawaii, which was governed by a Republican oligarchy ruled by Hawai’i’s white minority.

But regardless of violence and manipulation of inter-ethnic resentment on the part of elites, sugar workers were able to create a class union that brought the oligarchy to its knees. By 1954, a coordinated campaign of general strikes, civil disobedience, and non-violent protests caused a minor revolution in Hawai’i politics. In the territorial elections of that year, the Democratic Party, a multi-ethnic, people of color and working class majority organization, finally overthrew the Republicans. Democrats have controlled the Hawai’i legislature ever since and led the way to statehood in 1959.

It’s a great story. Remembering it still gives me goose bumps. But we should always be suspicious of history told to us as a single story.

The story of Asian uplift in Hawai’i excludes Native Hawaiians. It doesn’t address the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian government, nor the landless and impoverished state of the Native Hawaiian people. As a result, it fails to acknowledge the fact that the strikes and statehood didn’t really break the power of white American elites in Hawai’i. They lost absolute power, but continue to be the deciders on the major questions of politics and the economy in Hawai’i in no small part because they own so much of the land.

Today, sugar has left Hawaii. But because the old elites still control trade and land, diversified agriculture hasn’t replaced sugar, leaving Hawaii too reliant on expensive imported food. Instead, tourism dominates the economy, producing mostly insecure and low wage service sector jobs.

The demographics of Hawai’i are changing. People of color, especially Native Hawaiians, are being forced to leave Hawai’i to seek employment on the U.S. mainland. As they leave, they are being replaced by wealthy whites and white retirees, causing Hawai’i politics to drift in a more conservative direction. Government employment, one of the vehicles people of color have ridden to middle-class status in Hawai’i, is shrinking. Tourism and development have created an ecological crisis in Hawai’i, with more species going extinct there everyday than in any other place on earth.

This is what we blind ourselves to when we understand history as a single story.

 

Being Brown After The Boston Bomb Blast

By Guest Contributor Deepak Sarma, cross-posted from The Huffington Post

deepakill

The bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon are a terrible tragedy and a chilling example of the worst kinds of misanthropic human behavior. I weep for the families and friends for those immediately affected and for those whose lives and memories have forever changed.

I hope that they catch the perpetrator(s) of this crime.

But I worry, especially after inciteful and potentially dangerous rumors, momentarily validated by the NY Post, that automatically point the finger at (an) international terrorist(s), who, is/are in the imaginations of those easily deluded, brown-skinned. The subsequent and unavoidable racial profiling is a slippery slope toward a lynching mentality where color/ethnicity/race (all imagined categories largely invented for economic exploitation and advantage) is proof of guilt, and where all who are imagined to be part of that imagined category are inescapably complicit.

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Cab Drivers, Uber, And The Costs Of Racism

Uber’s Home Page.

Can disruptive technology provide a fix for social issues?

Silicon Valley darling Uber may be on to something. The service–which provides town car, SUV, or luxury vehicle service with a few taps of a smartphone–is considered the killer app for inefficient taxi service. Sitting pretty on close to $50 million dollars in venture funding, Uber is rapidly expanding its operations.

Uber is not without controversy. It’s a premium service with a premium price tag. The New York Times, in reporting on Uber’s new lower-priced hybrid option shows the high cost of convenience:

In San Francisco, for example, the hybrid cars will cost $5 for the base fee, and then $3.25 a mile after that. By contrast, the town cars cost $8 for the base fee and then $4.95 a mile. Taxis in San Francisco cost $3.16 a mile including a tip of 15 percent.

In addition to the steep cost, Uber is currently embroiled in lawsuits around skirting consumer protections, ran afoul of taxi laws in a few states, and is having problems fitting their tech into areas with safety rules about handheld devices on the road. Combine that with shady “surge pricing” practices that increase the price of a car in real time with demand, and there is a huge problem. (Also, see Paul Carr’s discussion of the ethics of hypercapitalism and Uber here and here.)

However, most analysis of Uber’s costs and benefits leave out one huge piece of the appeal: the premium car service removes the racism factor when you need a ride. Continue reading

Around the Web: Farai Chideya’s “Hu-manifesto”; Denim Day; Face It; HB 56

The Asian Task Force on Domestic Violence has been instrumental in bringing Denim Day–part of an international protest against victim–blaming to the Boston Area. But as April 25th approaches, the youth focused group has a major problem:

This year, the youth program has no funding. In order to do Denim Day, we need donations of fabric paint as well as safety pins. So to help us stop violence in our communities, we ask you for some much needed help. Usually Tulip brand fabric paint is easiest because it’s a squeeze bottle. You can generally get them at Michael’s (Medford or Braintree), at A.C. Moore (Somerville), and at most art stores. If you are in the Boston area, just contact Danny (info below) and we can definitely try to meet up and pick them up. If you’d like to mail them, please also contact Danny & he can give you our mailing address. You can also get them from Amazon.com At checkout, you can set it to send it to ATASK, and the items will be sent directly to our office and to the youth.

For more information, visit their site.

Farai Chideya is on the Root, penning “A ‘Hu-Manifesto’ for a Post-Trayvon World” on approaching volatile situations in the media and cutting through the noise to get to the substance. A sample:

3. Follow the Money

One of the basic tenets of journalism is to follow the cash and expose the manipulation of laws and justice. Although 21 states have “Stand your ground”-style laws, that didn’t happen by chance or come from a grassroots movement. The National Rifle Association has lobbied ceaselessly (to the tune of $35 million annually) for concealed handgun and “Stand your ground” laws. In a perverse sense, they benefited from the election of President Barack Obama. Fear of a Black President sent gun sales through the roof.

On March 20, just weeks after Trayvon’s death, a U.S. senator from South Dakota introduced Senate Bill 2213. Called the “Respecting States’ Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” it would permit people who have concealed weapons in their states to carry their concealed weapons anywhere in America. So much for states’ rights, huh? The NRA also happens to have a concealed-weapons hoodie in its merchandising line. Keep it classy.

One of the best things we can do to honor Trayvon Martin’s memory is to call out the laws, lobbyists and lawmakers that have increased the number of deaths of unarmed men, women and children. A lot of people have changed their social media avatar to Trayvon, a bag of Skittles or an image of themselves in a hoodie. Our country needs these people who can react instantly on social media to also plan ahead and vote in elections. And don’t stop there. Engage with your lawmakers between and during elections, and track campaign contributions. That will help create a fairer and safer America.

The “Face It Campaign” and HB 56 after the jump. Continue reading

The Racial Legacy of 9/11 [Voices]

Superman and the Heroes of 9/11

September 11th is often remembered as one of those moments where we all came together as Americans in response to a horrific attack on our nation’s soil. However, the truth is more complicated. The enduring legacy of racism prevents many people from being considered as full Americans, and the years after the attack were marred with prejudice and hatred toward American citizens who were suddenly marked as different. We spend this day in remembrance, not only for those who performed everyday acts of heroism, and not only for those who lost their lives, but also remembering the way in which Americans have failed each other – for allowing an attack from terrorists to call into question our ideals as a nation. We may have lost the Twin Towers, but we did not lose who we are.

So, in true American fashion, we will continue to fight to be heard, ensuring that everyone’s American story is told.

Let’s begin with a great video series on the Unheard Voices of 9/11 produced by the Sikh Coalition.

Since many people were caught in the wave of backlash and discrimination post-9/11, the Sikh Coalition asked people to send in their videos about how discrimination has impacted their lives.

Shawn Singh talks about how suddenly, post 9/11, it impacted his understanding of his Sikh Identity:

Kevin Harrington talked about discriminatory treatment at the New York City Transit Authority – despite the fact that he helped to evacuate people on 9/11, Harrington was approached in 2004 and told he could not continue working in passenger service because of his turban:

Rabia Said remembers being 8 years old and being told by a pastor and by the police that her clothing was why she was targeted racial profiling:

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The Flip Side of Racial Profiling

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, originally published at Contexts.org

Heather J. sent along a nice illustration of white privilege, courtesy of PostSecret.  PostSecret features anonymous confessions on postcards and, in this confession, a person confesses that being white and female facilitates her shoplifting:

The card is a great example of the flip side of racial profiling: those who do not carry the stigmatized features aren’t simply treated fairly, they’re given a benefit of the doubt that allows them to get away with the very thing that others are suspected of doing.

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

(Image Credit: New York Times)