Category Archives for Civil Rights & Inequality

Pain & Policy: Why Reparative Justice Is Needed To End The War on Drugs

Kirsten West Savali/THE ROOT   2/28/18

What is the color of pain? Is it the color of red blood spilling onto concrete? Is it green like the dirty money folded into the back pockets of politicians who would rather incarcerate black youths than educate them?

It is no conspiracy that this nation, which holds itself in such high esteem, despite being the prison warden of the world, has conspired against the very communities that were forced to build it on their backs.

The Drug Policy Alliance reports:

  • People of color experience discrimination at every stage of the criminal-justice system and are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, harshly sentenced and saddled with a lifelong criminal record. This is particularly the case for drug-law violations.
  • Nearly 80 percent of people in federal prison and almost 60 percent of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.
  • Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory-minimum sentence for black people than for white people charged with the same offense. Among people who received a mandatory-minimum sentence in 2011, 38 percent were Latino and 31 percent were black.
  • Black people and Native Americans are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than other racial or ethnic groups. They are often stereotyped as being violent or addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Experts believe that stigma and racism may play a major role in police-community interactions.It is no secret that the color of pain is black, and it is neither fatalistic nor nihilistic to come to that conclusion. It is neither a diminishing nor rejection of black joy, black resilience or black futures to make that plain. From draconian drug policies to disenfranchisement, money-bail bond systems to civil-asset forfeiture, food and housing instability to police officers killing black people with impunity—and preying on vulnerable black women simply because they can—this system was designed to enslave black people and ration out freedom.So, what does justice look like within a white supremacist police state that lies to itself about the depth of its own character? What freedom dreams can we conjure within a system created to criminalize, dehumanize and destroy us?

    Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance, the visionary behind DPA’s Black History Month series, and 2016 The Root 100 honoree, has consistently and unapologetically maintained that the history of the drug war in this country is inextricably linked to black history. She’s not wrong.We can’t discuss the history of black America without acknowledging that the Nixon administration camouflaged its war on black people by causing hysteria around drugs, nor without acknowledging the Jim Crow-era drug policies that continue to define Bill de Blasio’s New York City.

    We can’t discuss the history of black America without discussing mass incarceration, the disappearing of black men into the jaws of the criminal-(in)justice system, the vilification of black mothers suffering through addiction and the state-sponsored police slaying of black children.

    We can’t ignore that the drug war has influenced everything from inhumane immigration policies to racist housing policies. We can’t ignore that generational poverty has been equated to moral bankruptcy in this country; nor can we ignore that harm reduction for some working-class or poor black people is less about battling addiction and more about navigating institutionalized, systemic anti-blackness. Grief, trauma, addiction, stigma, punishment: This is the cycle that must be broken.

  • For some black people, it is an act of self-perseverance to point to black people doing well by most metrics and say, “Look, all of us aren’t selling weed or living in the hood or in jail.” And it is this line of classist, condescending thinking that led many black people to support tough-on-crime/tough-on-drugs legislation under both President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton without looking at the oppressive conditions that often lead to both. In this country, more than any other, violent drug policy has been carved out of black flesh.The color of pain is black, but so is the color of freedom.

    “Black people have been the most severely impacted by the war on drugs,” Frederique said. “And in this moment when white faces have caused the nation to have a critical interrogation about what to do about drugs, black people need the whole story so, in the moment, that we can demand the necessary acknowledgment, atonement and action to build our communities.”

‘People Who Are Different Are Not the Problem in America’

By James Lankford & Tim Scott/Politics-THE ATLANTIC
JAN 12, 2018

Two members of the U.S. Senate urge Americans to honor the legacy
of the Martin Luther King Jr. by engaging with others of different backgrounds.
This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day carries additional significance, as it marks the 50th anniversary of his tragic death. In April of 1968, King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, at the hands of a ruthless murderer who was filled with hate and racism.One of the reasons we, as Americans and citizens around the world, remember King’s legacy is his call to freedom and racial unity through love and engagement for all people—a message he still shares with the world a half-century later. Love is the consistent theme throughout many of his writings and remarks: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend,” or “I have decided to stick with love … Hate is too great a burden to bear,” or “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.

Perhaps the words King wrote to fellow ministers while he was in the Birmingham Jail in 1963 are the most impactful: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

King’s words still ring, but his work is not complete. Americans have come a long way since the 1960s, but the dream is not yet fully realized.After the 2016 police shootings in Dallas, Minnesota, and Louisiana, we challenged our constituents and people everywhere we went with a simple question, “Have you or your family ever invited a person or a family of another race to your home for dinner?”  We called it “Solution Sundays.”Sunday is a slower, yet significant day, for most Americans. So, we challenged each family to give one Sunday lunch or dinner for building relationships across race and ethnicity, to literally be part of the solution in America. Any other day of the week would work as well; the goal is for people to engage on a personal level in their own homes, to break down walls, to listen, and to build trust across communities. It is harder to stereotype people that you know.

When is the last time you or your family had dinner in your home with a person or family of another race?

We are convinced that we will never get all the issues about race on the table, until we get our feet under the same table and talk like friends. At its core, racial divisions are a heart issue, not a skin-color issue. Our children need to see their parents developing friendships around the dinner table with people who look different, so that the next generation can be different.

The same goes for civil discourse in America. The love and respect that King spoke about do not require absolute uniformity or watered-down viewpoints. They require respect for cultures and views that are different, and an understanding that people who are different are not the problem in America; they are our brothers and sisters in humanity.

Sadly, our cultural discourse often looks like hate trying to drive out hate, rather than allowing light and love to drive out hate.

Our national leaders should model this truth rather than just reflect the culture. Just take a glance at social media and cable news, and you’ll see disrespectful shouting and shaming that descends on our country and our children like a cold rain. In fact, you can test that theory by posting this op-ed to your social media account, and you will probably see what we’re talking about within minutes. This sort of rhetoric threatens our ability to weave together multiple communities together to form a single nation; it loses sight of the fact that all people are made in the image of God and have worth and human dignity.

After two centuries, we are making progress on race, but we seem to be rapidly losing our “melting pot” of ideas, respect, and acceptance. A trend has emerged that encourages people to listen only to people who are the same or share their values, philosophy, and ideas, then dismiss or belittle anyone who is different or disagrees, even if they only disagree on a few issues. A good burn is the new goal, rather than a good word. We still need the reminder that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

Let this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day be a time where we, as Americans, honor his memory and legacy by engaging neighbors who are different. If the national pendulum is ever going to swing, it will require role models in every community who don’t just call out for respectful engagement, but live it.

Worried about Russian Collusion? Gerrymandering & Voter Suppression are worst threats

From Electoralgeographies.web

 Gerrymandering / Congressional Redistricting

Manipulating congressional districts through gerrymandering  has become a pervasive problem in the United States since its utilization by Elbridge Gerry in 1812. The point of gerrymandering is to cram “all of [your opponents’] supporters into a small number of districts. This method allows the legislature to spread its own supporters over a larger number of districts” (Ingraham, 2014b).

The graph above shows data on 8 states’ gerrymander index scores. It is clear that these data, in general, indicate that states are becoming more gerrymandered over time.

North Carolina and Maryland are regarded as the most gerrymandered states in the United States.  North Carolina’s 12th district is one of the worst in the nation, stretching over 77 miles from Winston-Salem to Charlotte in a snake-like pattern. (below)

NorthCarolinas12thcongressionaldistrict

There are certainly regional and demographic factors at play in the more recent gerrymandering efforts, such as those that we saw in 2010. Republicans gained a majority of House seats and state legislatures that year, and as a result were in charge of districting after the 2010 census. Redistricting’s original intent (after the census every 10 years) was to provide fair representation for people in different states as their populations increased or decreased, but it has largely become a political tool dominated by  whomever controls the state’s legislature.

From the graph below, you can see that the South, and the East Coast in general, is becoming more gerrymandered than the rest of the United States. The darker reds represent states that are more gerrymandered on the index score, and the lighter colored states represent those that are less gerrymandered.Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 7.51.11 PM

Gerrymandering the Electoral College?

Republican victories and the subsequent Congressional districts established by Republicans in 2010  gave the party momentum to propose legislation regarding alterations to the electoral college. Their goal is to set up a congressional district system in their respective states, which would ultimately determine the outcome of the Presidential election through dividing electors amongst state districts.

over-timegerrymander

Nebraska and Maine already have a congressional district system in place, and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia are all considering legislation (Henderson & Haines, 2013). Systems such as this in Ohio and Virginia, key swing states during the 2012 Presidential election, would have indicated a victory for Mitt Romney (Berman, 2012). But such law, if implemented, would also change presidential campaign strategies, and would generate and eliminate different battle-grounds.

Voter Suppression Laws 2014

Similar to gerrymandering, voter suppression laws are a way for political parties to gain an advantage through manipulation.  The 2014 midterms witnessed minority populations in the South, and other parts of the country being targeted by such legislation. A major issue at hand were voter ID laws. Many states introduced newly established ones this cycle. 11 states had new voter ID laws, which excludes states where these laws will be implemented in future elections-such as NC.imrsimrs

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 1.17.56 PM

21 states featured new voting laws more generally which included elimination of same day registration, elimination of out-of-precinct voting, limitation of early voting days, and longer wait times for criminals to regain their voting rights.

Research indicates that affected states “tend to have large black and Hispanic voter populations” (The Economist 2014). As an example, 1/3 of North Carolina’s African American voters utilized same day registration in 2012, a privilege which was eliminated in the state this cycle.  The portion of the Voting Rights Act which was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 2013 decision may be to blame for some of the problems in the South. Southern states are largely dominated by Republicans, and are no longer required to receive federal approval before changing legislation.

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