Racism in the U.S.

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Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of Brooklyn Center, MN
protests over the police killing of Daunte Wright

This was recently posted on Instagram by MSNBC host Joyann Reid, which was a tweet from Anita Ward’s Bell, poet Danez Smith. He wrote: “It is safer to be a white man who just killed multiple people that it is to be a Black person in a traffic stop and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about how abundant, unflinching, and grounded racism is in this awful country, I don’t know what to tell you.”

The immediate reaction from a lot of people, mainly white people — in fact very few non-white people would have this reaction — that immediate reaction would be, “If you think it’s so awful, leave.”

The problem with that awful reaction is that Danez Smith was born in these United States, a few miles east of where Prince hooped. Why should he, or anyone else for that matter, have to leave if they see and experience institutional and personal racism every day, feel the boot — or knee — of racism on his neck, every day, in the country where he (or she) was born? Why can’t the country just once and for all do away with the institutional racism that is grounded in our system of government? From economic to education to law enforcement and (in)justice systems.

For the past 50-plus years I’ve been trying to unlearn, or relearn our history. When I was a kid we were supposed to celebrate Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims. But then in my teens I learned this great continent wasn’t “discovered” by Europeans. It had been invaded, colonized and exploited. If the indigenous people weren’t outright murdered, they died from disease and forced labor, otherwise known as slavery.

We’re not even at the point where Europeans decided to kidnap millions of Africans and sell them as slaves in the Americas.

1619 — the year the U.S., as a group of British colonies, first began receiving kidnapped Africans and enslaving them and their descendants. Africans were officially enslaved until 1863, or 1865, depending on where the slaves were located. The War Between the States — the Civil War — was fought precisely to free slaves.

You know, the people who refer to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression are the same people who will insist the Civil War was over “States Rights.” The only state right they wanted to preserve was the right to continue keeping other human beings as slaves. Most of the seditious states actually wrote slavery as the number one reason they were seceding from the Union.

While slavery was still legal in America cities and states created slave patrols for the propose of rounding up runaway slaves and returning them to their tormentors. I just couldn’t bring myself to refer to those people as “owners.” Many of the policing laws that are still in effect today were designed during the years of the slave patrols and the vestiges of that mentality (obviously) persist today.

So how does this police officer mistake her gun for a taser? Seriously? If I’m holding my sidearm as officer Kimberly Potter was holding hers as she was about to fatally shoot Daunte Wright, I couldn’t help but notice it was not a big, yellow taser, but a black Glock 9, semi-automatic gun.

Kimberly A. Potter was a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department and had been the president of the police officers’ union there. This was someone who should have known a thing or two about policing in a heavily black community.

Which made this bit of information from the New York Times, reported by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Julia Boseman, interesting, to say the least. Maybe “shocking” is a better term: “Officer Kimberly A. Potter was in the midst of a routine training day on Sunday, demonstrating her decades of policing know-how to less experienced officers in the Brooklyn Center Police Department.”

If it wasn’t for the fact that she murdered Daunte Wright, there would be a joke in there. What the hell did those other officers learn on that Sunday?

Then a 13-year-old boy in Chicago, Illinois, Adam Toledo, was shot and killed by the police. According to prosecutors the police officer who killed Toledo told the boy to drop the gun several times before shooing. The video we saw shows the boy with his hands up without a gun.

Prosecutors in Chicago are charging another man for the gun violations, for being the one who initially fired the weapon, thereby alerting the police. The prosecutors released body cam video that shows Toledo holding the weapon. In this article by the Chicago Sun-Times, we get some information plus videos of the police officer’s body cam, plus other video that shows Toledo with a gun and throwing it before getting shot.

The mayor of Chicago, former President of the Chicago Police Board, Lori Lightfoot, said in a press conference that “we” had failed Adam Toledo, meaning the city and community.

Yeah, governments, from the Feds to the local jurisdictions, have failed poor children, especially those with brown and black skin, for centuries.

Systemic racism isn’t a theory, it isn’t a made up term. Systemic racism is verifiable, it can be measured. Business Insider (of all publications) posted an article last July (2020) with 26 simple charts that show racism is still a huge problem in America. Click on it and read it, look at the graphs, study them. If you don’t read another word of my post I’m okay with that. Start educating yourself about racism. If you’re black or brown you probably know all of this already.

Here’s something that almost blew my mind. Somebody actually had the temerity to post on Facebook, “If you follow the police orders you won’t get shot!”

Adam Toledo was following orders when the police officer shot him. George Floyd was following police orders — he had no choice — while Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over nine minutes. Breonna Taylor was asleep in her bed when the police busted into her apartment, killing her. Daunte Wright had been following orders that were being yelled at him. Army Lt. Caron Nazario was asking the police why he had been stopped and detained — and obeying their orders — when the police officer sprayed him with pepper spray. Nazario was in his cammies when the police assaulted him.

One of the people I follow on Twitter — one of the people I admire that I follow — is Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich. He’s an economist and author and some describe him as one of the most leftist progressives of our time. Maybe he is, but Reich’s solutions to the issues facing America and the world are just common sense, things the vast majority of Americans agree with, regardless of their party affiliation. Most are policies used in some of the European democracies that we call allies.

In a recent tweet (April 16) Reich quoted former Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. –Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953” I guess the GOP was never the party of Ike.

How many people of color, squeezed and suffocated by the boot of racism, are also the victims of economic inequality? It’s a rhetorical question actually. So many of them we can safely say all of them and just be a little off the mark.

Besides keeping black people “in their place,” the ultra-rich that control this nation’s economy and political system want to make sure they continue getting 90% of the income generated by our labor. And that means stoking the fires of racism to make sure poor white folks are angry about the poor black and brown folks who, the poor white folk are told, are taking from their slice of the pie.

The middle class is shrinking, not because of more black and brown people entering the economic system, but because the ultra-rich keep taking more and more of the wealth generated by this, the most prosperous nation in the history of the world.

There’s no real reason a boy like Adam Toledo has to grow up in a low income neighborhood with few — if any — options for a bright future.  This nation produces enough wealth to make sure everyone is well fed, housed, clothed, educated and employed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex in his farewell address, January 17, 1961.

In the 60 years since that speech, we have seen African Americans gain the unfettered right to vote, or at least not quite as interfered with … Until the Supreme Court of John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 2013 ruling. Since then 43 states have made it harder for communities of color to vote, mainly because they tend to vote for Democrats.

People that would vote for representatives that would like to change the tax laws so they don’t disproportionally favor the ultra-rich. Representatives that would make it easier for all people to vote, poor people of every ethnicity, along with the millions of middle class and poor white folks that have been duped into voting against their best interests by a party and its controllers who push wedge issues to divide us.

Take on racism in the system, but at the same time take on voting rights and income inequality. To, in fact, take some of the control of the system from the white male power structure that has been in place since this continent was first invaded by we Europeans. My grandparents didn’t arrive until the first decade of the 20th century, but their arrival was prepared for by the millions of Europeans that preceded them. So, “we” Europeans are part of that invasion.

Here’s something to ponder, especially in its connection to the systemic racism and who profits by the division and horror of our system of (in)justice. Unfortunately I don’t remember who posted this, might have been Robert Reich.

“During the pandemic, the superrich have remained safely ensconced on their side of an economic chasm that just keeps widening as investment profits flow to the top and America’s less fortunate struggle to stay above water.⁠
⁠“In the pandemic’s first full year, the combined net worth of 657 American billionaires increased by nearly 45%—about $1.3 trillion. ⁠
⁠“The rest didn’t fare as well. 82 million people filed for unemployment benefits, and more than 100,000 businesses shut down permanently. In March 2021, more than 1 in 7 renters said they were behind on rent, as did roughly 1 in 5 renters of color.⁠”

One thing this pandemic has brought to the fore in stark and cruel detail is our crippling income inequality and the people who not only profit from it, but pay politicians to keep these other divisions in front of the American public. Systemic racism is real, as are the solutions to it. But the ultra-rich profiting from it is also very real.

Cheers to all the corporations that have come out for voting rights and against the bigotry of the voter suppression laws that have been passed in Georgia and are now being considered around the nation. Maybe they know all the talk about boycotts — “cancel culture” at its finest — from the right is nothing but hot air. If the former president can’t be bothered to give up his Diet Coke when he’s calling for his cult to boycott the Coca-Cola company, what is the likelihood that cult will boycott anything, especially if it’s something they use all the time? Who is going to give up the ease and comfort of shopping on Amazon and getting the items delivered the next day? And how many devotees of Chevy Trucks will switch over to Ford or MOPAR? And does anyone want to trade in their Apple iPhone for an Android thingamajimmy? And let’s face it, watching movies on Netflix — or their very addicting series — is far more convenient and comfortable than going to a movie theater and to be honest, the other streaming services are against the voter suppression laws.

And if you’re going to boycott Microsoft too, well then, what operating system can you use on your computer? If you’re boycotting Apple too, then you can’t go out and buy a Macintosh computer to escape Microsoft Windows. Besides, most Windows aficionados would rather die than switch to Mac. And we Mac users laugh at you Windows users, the real sheep in our society if you ask me.

Then of course the Trump Cult is not going to give up their Facebook accounts. How else can they spread their favorite conspiracy theories and demonize the unarmed Black men and women murdered by law enforcement?

Nah, the boycotts promoted by the echo machine of Fox News, Newsmax and OAN aren’t going anywhere. By the way, One America News is located in San Diego, CA. Their offices on Moreno Blvd have been picketed.

For those concerned about me possibly doxing the network, you can find their address easily enough using Google. Unless of course you are boycotting Google, in which case you can find their address on whichever search engine isn’t speaking out against the voter suppression laws.

Makes us wonder if the Trump Cult is going to boycott the Rev. Pat Robertson for his criticism of police brutality and the institutional racism in law enforcement. The Trump Cult isn’t the boycotting type, especially if it means giving up their cultural leaders like Pat Robertson.

California Democrat Representative Maxine Waters has Republicans in a tizzy. She was in Brooklyn Center, MN with the people demonstrating after the killing Daunte Wright. Her comments telling the crowd to stay in the streets and get more confrontational if there isn’t a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial has the GOP apoplectic. Who doesn’t love Maxine, besides the GOP? Well actually, they probably love her because she’s good for fundraising. Thank you Rep. Waters.

This week the jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial will go into deliberations, in the isolation of being sequestered. It looks like a slam dunk for at least the manslaughter charge, but convicting cops is a rarity in our culture. We will have to wait and see. This could be a first step to meaningful change in policing. We saw the “Blue Wall” break when the prosecutors put on their case as Chauvin’s superior officers denounced his actions that resulted in the death of George Floyd. So maybe law enforcement in America is changing. We can only hope.