Our criminal courts are inherently racist

Our legal system has a serious problem with racism, and I say that as an attorney and a Black man. As discussed below, this is not just some idea of mine; the history, statistics, and peer-reviewed studies make this conclusion sadly inescapable.

Starting with my own personal experiences as an attorney who handles criminal defense work in Illinois and Iowa, I see a difference in how my Black or Brown clients are treated by the court system, compared to how my White clients are treated.  Prosecutors often charge Black/Brown defendants with more serious crimes than White defendants, even when the conduct is identical.  Judges will set higher bond amounts for Black/Brown defendants, even on identical charges. Racist crime lab employees are entrusted to analyze DNA and give conclusions that are relied upon by the prosecutor and court. Prosecutors offer less favorable plea deals to Black/Brown defendants than White defendants for similar conduct. Prosecutors strike Black/Brown jurors, leaving only White jurors to decide guilt or innocence. Juries show a bias in favor of White witnesses and defendants, and a bias against Black/Brown witnesses and defendants. Black/Brown juvenile defendants are transferred to adult court while similarly situated White juvenile defendants remain in juvenile court. Judges impose harsher sentences on Black/Brown defendants, even when race is the only difference between defendants.  Probation and parole officers are more likely to try and revoke the probation or parole of Black/Brown people than of White people for similar conduct.  I personally see all of that, and know that racism is alive and well in our criminal justice system.

 

Study after study supports what I have seen:

A study found that Blacks 18 to 29 years-old pay more to get out of jail than Whites. Blacks are held in jail at rate that’s almost five times greater than Whites, and it is harder for jailed defendants to plan an effective defense. Fifty percent of defendants who committed no crimes at all took guilty pleas to avoid convictions and maximum penalties. http://sacobserver.com/2012/09/blacks-pay-more-to-get-out-of-jail-on-bail/

A 2013 study found that after adjusting for numerous other variables, federal prosecutors were almost twice as likely to bring charges carrying mandatory minimums against black defendants as against white defendants accused of similar crimes. https://www.yalelawjournal.org/article/mandatory-sentencing-and-racial-disparity-assessing-the-role-of-prosecutors-and-the-effects-of-booker

A 2017 report by Carlos Berdejo at the University of Loyola Law School found that White defendants were 25 percent more likely than their Black counterparts to have criminal charges dropped or reduced to less serious crimes. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3036726

When Harris County, Tex., saw a flaw in how drug testing was conducted at its crime lab, officials went back and exonerated dozens of people who had been wrongly convicted for possession — most pleaded guilty, despite their innocence. This is because prosecutors often promise harsher sentences or more charges for defendants who take a case to trial. Black people comprise 20 percent of the Harris County population but made up 62 percent of the wrongful drug convictions. https://www.texastribune.org/2017/03/07/report/

Between 2003 and 2012, prosecutors in Caddo Parish, La. — one of the most aggressive death penalty counties in the country — struck 46 percent of prospective black jurors with preemptory challenges, vs. 15 percent of nonblacks. https://blackstrikes.com/resources/Blackstrikes_Caddo_Parish_August_2015.pdf

In a 2010 study, “mock jurors” were given the same evidence from a fictional robbery case but then shown alternate security camera footage depicting either a light-skinned or dark-skinned suspect. Jurors were more likely to evaluate ambiguous, race-neutral evidence against the dark-skinned suspect as incriminating and more likely to find the dark-skinned suspect guilty. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1601615

While black youths make up 14 percent of the youth population, a 2018 study found that they make up 53 percent of minors transferred to adult court for offenses against persons, despite the fact that white and black youths make up nearly an equal percentage of youth charged with such offenses. http://cfyj.org/images/pdf/Social_Justice_Brief_Youth_Transfers.Revised_copy_09-18-2018.pdf

A 2011 summary of the research on race and plea bargaining published by the Bureau of Justice Assistance concluded that “the majority of research on race and sentencing outcomes shows that blacks are less likely than whites to receive reduced pleas,” that “studies that assess the effects of race find that blacks are less likely to receive a reduced charge compared with whites,” and that “studies have generally found a relationship between race and whether or not a defendant receives a reduced charge.” https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/media/document/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf

A 2007 Harvard study found sentencing discrepancies among black people, depending on the darkness of their skin. The study looked at 67,000 first-time felons in Georgia from 1995 to 2002. The average sentence for white men was 2,689 days. The average for black men was 378 days longer. But light-skinned blacks received sentences of about three and a half months longer than whites. Medium-skinned blacks received a sentence of about a year longer. Dark-skinned blacks received sentences of a year and a half longer. https://scholar.harvard.edu/jlhochschild/publications/skin-color-paradox-and-american-racial-order

A 2015 study of first-time felons found that while black men overall received sentences of 270 days longer than white men for similar crimes, the discrepancy between whites and dark-skinned blacks was 400 days. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jels.12077

It wasn’t Black-on-Black crime. Violent video games and rap songs had nothing to do with it; nor did poverty, education, two-parent homes or the international “bootstraps” shortage. When a judge tasked researchers with explaining why Massachusetts’ Black and Latinx incarceration was so high, a four-year study came up with one conclusion. Racism: https://www.theroot.com/a-judge-asked-harvard-to-find-out-why-so-many-black-peo-1845017462

The United States Sentencing Commission is an official part of the federal judicial branch. It produces regular reports about the criminal justice system at the federal level. The most recent report found that Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences than similarly situated White male offenders. Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders during the Post-Report period (fiscal years 2012-2016), as they had for the prior four periods studied. Violence in an offender’s criminal history does not appear to account for any of the demographic differences in sentencing. https://www.ussc.gov/research/research-reports/demographic-differences-sentencing

 

For further reading, the following links give detailed information from investigative journalists, provide citations to peer-reviewed studies, and thoroughly demonstrate that racism is alive and well in our courts:

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pretrial_racial_disparities_sources.html

https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/

https://www.aclu.org/issues/smart-justice/mass-incarceration

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/18-examples-of-racism-in-criminal-legal-system_b_57f26bf0e4b095bd896a1476

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/opinions/systemic-racism-police-evidence-criminal-justice-system/

https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2018/05/17/racism-makes-criminal-justice-system-reform-impossible

 

Finally, please note that this article is intended to address the problems of racism in the court system. For a discussion of the racism in policing, please see this article: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/

Concrete steps to fix the problem of police brutality in America

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Elijah McClain, and so many others at the hands of the police have sparked a civil rights movement in the US and around the world. In particular, watching a police officer crush the life out of George Floyd was just too much for the consciences of many decent people. Hearing George Floyd call out for his mother as his life was being extinguished was something that touched the hearts of so many. In response, tens of millions of people in big cities and rural towns have come together to denounce the brutality and racism that pervades policing in the United States.

The road that brought us to this moment in history is a long one that I won’t try to fully recount in this brief article, as that would take years to write and months to read. However, I will try to provide a brief overview of the racism and brutality that is currently plaguing policing, before moving on to what I believe can be done to fix the situation.

We have a real problem with policing in our country

There is a serious problem with policing in our country. American police officers use force – including deadly force – in many situations where it is entirely unwarranted. Racism is sadly alive and well in policing too.  A comparison of the militarization and violence of American police forces to those in other similar countries is breathtaking and reveals a problem that many other developed nations just don’t have.

As a Black man, I have been racially profiled and wrongfully detained by numerous police departments throughout my life. My first memory of the police involves my parents being falsely accused of shoplifting and being mistreated by a police officer.  I will never forget the way that that officer spoke down to them, forced them to return to the store, and treated them as though they were less than human.  As an attorney, I have represented people who were the victims of police brutality and other police misconduct, with many of those situations clearly driven by racism on the part of the police officers. I have represented clients where the video evidence showed the police officer fabricated charges. Indeed, I have seen judges sternly rebuke police officers for their wrongful actions, only to later see that police officer remain employed and ready to victimize others. Perhaps most frustrating, I can think of multiple clients who were abused by the police yet chose not to sue because they were genuinely afraid of retaliation.

Leaving aside my personal and professional anecdotal experience, the statistics confirm the existence of racial bias in our justice system. The United States Sentencing Commission, which is an independent agency within the judicial branch of our federal government, routinely publishes reports on demographic differences in sentencing. The most recent report found that “Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences than similarly situated White male offenders. Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders during the Post-Report period (fiscal years 2012-2016), as they had for the prior four periods studied. The differences in sentence length remained relatively unchanged.” So, even adjusting for other factors, being Black means more police scrutiny, more violence being applied by the police during arrests, harsher charges from the prosecutors, and longer sentences from the judges for the same conduct as a White person.  These federal court findings mirror what we see in state court, with many states having an even greater racial disparity – even when we account for things like criminal history such that race is all that is left to explain that disparity.

Indeed, former US Marshall and DEA Special Agent Dr. Matthew Fogg spoke in 2015 about how drug investigations and arrests specifically target poorer minority communities, and how the DEA agents were expressly told not to do drug enforcement in more affluent and primarily-White communities.  A majority of the no-knock warrants that have led to deaths of innocent people such as Breonna Taylor occur in less affluent areas with more Black residents.  As another data point, the ACLU did an analysis this year and found that despite the fact that Black people and White people use marijuana at roughly the same rates, Black people are nearly 4 times as likely to be arrested for using marijuana.  Studies also show that Black people are about 3 times as likely to be killed by the police as White people.  I could go on and on, but presence of a racial bias in policing should be clear by now.

How to fix our policing problem

Fixing the problems in policing may seem daunting, but significant improvement can be made with a few relatively minor actions.  Doing so will help protect both the community and the police officers, as reducing violence and unnecessary police-citizen interactions is in everyone’s best interests.

Ending Qualified Immunity is perhaps the biggest single improvement that can be made to fix policing in America.  Qualified Immunity is the legal doctrine that makes it impossible for many people who have been abused by the police to obtain justice in court.  In a nutshell, Qualified Immunity is a legal rule that prevents a police officer from being liable unless the person who is suing can show that a clearly established right was being violated by the police officer.  While that may sound reasonable at first, it it is anything but reasonable and makes justice unattainable for many victims.  For example, Qualified Immunity has prevented law enforcement officers from being liable for rape when there is not a “clearly established” right not to be raped while in custody expressed in the caselaw of that court when the lawsuit is filed.  Qualified Immunity also allowed two police officers to steal $225,000 because it was not “clearly established” in caselaw that stealing from someone when executing a search warrant was a violation of that victim’s rights. The list goes on and on, but the point is clear: Qualified Immunity acts as free pass for law enforcement to act with impunity in many cases.  Abolishing this misguided legal doctrine will allow our legal system to hold the police officers who engage in misconduct accountable.

A close second in the list of ways to fix policing is something that we can all do, using our cell phones: record the police.  It was 17 year old who recorded the video of George Floyd being murdered, and in doing so that brave young person exposed a killing that would likely have otherwise been swept under the rug.  If we all take the time to record the police – whether they are stopping us in traffic or arresting a total stranger, we will help fix the problems in policing.  Just having cameras present may prevent many instances of police brutality.  Even when police brutality is not prevented by the presence of a camera (as in the case of George Floyd), having a recording of what happened will at least allow justice to be served.  Speaking again as an attorney, I have had cases where my client’s innocence was proven through bystander videos.  I have also had cases where the police department dishonestly tried to hide squad car video and other evidence, and that sort of police misconduct makes the video recorded by random members of the public all the more important.

Requiring squad car video and body cameras for all police officers will help for the same reason that the video of bystanders will help, and requiring the police to carry the video cameras will go a long way to ensure justice even in cases where there are no bystanders.  It will also serve as a deterrent against police brutality. I can think of multiple cases that I have handled where the squad car or body camera video recorded by the police showed that the police officer had falsely accused my client. There have also been cases of police planting drugs on people that were captured on the police officer’s own body camera, saving innocent people from prison sentences. Requiring that the body cameras be turned on during interactions with the public, and having penalties for police officers who turn off or cover cameras, should be part of the solution.

Expressly imposing a legal duty on police officers to intervene and report when they see a fellow police officer engaged in misconduct is something that is sorely needed.  Using the case of George Floyd as an example, one police officer choked the life out of Mr. Floyd while two others held him down, with the final police officer standing nearby. None of those other officers intervened, and that fact pattern has played out time and time again. Indeed, given that police officers take an oath to uphold the law, it is sad that there is even a need to address this point.

Protecting police officers who report misconduct is also key.  There have been many cases in which police officers blow the whistle on their corrupt fellow officers, only to be fired in retaliation.  Whether it is the story of former New York police officer Frank Serpico from the 1960’s or the dozens of modern examples, it is clear that police officers who speak up often find themselves without a job or pension, and sometimes even find their lives in danger.  One particularly relevant example is that of former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne, who was fired and lost her pension after she physically intervened to stop another police officer from punching and choking a handcuffed suspect in 2006. Protecting these officers, who have the courage to stand up for what is right, should be a priority.

Finally, we should reduce reliance upon the police for mental health, motorist assistance, and other such matters.  It is common practice for the police to handle many odds-and-ends jobs in the community that would be better given to mental health professionals, the highway department, etc.  Unfortunately, the police are poorly equipped to do these many other tasks, and their involvement produces unnecessary police-citizen interactions.  In many states, a person needs more hours of training to braid or cut hair than they need to become a police officer, yet those police officers are sent into many situations they are unqualified to handle.  This contrasts sharply with many other developed countries that require much greater education and on-the-job training for police officers.  Tragedy often ensues when that police officer falls back on their existing training in the use of their firearm or baton. To be sure, the police can be available to provide law enforcement when it is needed, but keeping them on the sidelines whenever possible will reduce situations where force is needlessly applied.

As previously mentioned, recording the police is something that requires no action on the part of the government.  We are all able to use our cell phones to record the interactions with the police that we observe as we go about our lives, and I encourage everyone to start doing so right away. Bringing about the other changes discussed above will require political action. Our state and federal legislatures will need to pass laws.  State Governors and the President will need to sign those laws.  In order to make those things happen, citizens will need to write to their elected officials, participate in peaceful protests, and vote.  Spending just a few minutes to do so can be the difference between making a better world for our children and ourselves, or maintaining the status quo of police brutality and racism. The choice is ours.

Protesting is working, so let’s keep at it

Although there is still so much to be done, real progress has been made in the last few weeks. The police officers responsible for George Floyd’s murder have been charged. Other murders committed by the police are receiving new scrutiny from prosecutors at the local, state, and federal levels. Several states (including Iowa) have passed laws that begin to address brutality and other misconduct on the part of police officers. The state of Colorado went the furthest, abolishing Qualified Immunity. Those changes are testaments to the power of protesting, and a reminder that speaking up works.

In closing, I would like to invite everyone to join me for a peaceful protest at the Davenport Police Department on July 11, 2020, at 4:00PM. At this peaceful event, we will oppose racism and police brutality. More information, and a link to the Facebook event page, can be seen at https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/26/protest-against-police-brutality-and-racism-in-davenport-iowa-on-july-11-2020-at-400pm/

The problem with “All Lives Matter”

The “All Lives Matter” response to “Black Lives Matter” is a disingenuous attempt to downplay the fact that the lives of black (and brown) people are undervalued and often ended by the police in the United States. The point of “Black Lives Matter” is not to say that *only* black lives matter, or that black lives matter more, but rather to bring attention to the fact that many police officers and other people routinely act as though the lives of black people don’t matter.

By way of analogy, when a brain cancer walk is organized, no one is saying that all cancers don’t matter.  When a funeral is held for someone’s grandmother, no one is saying that all relatives don’t matter. When someone says “save the rain forest,” they are not claiming that pine forests don’t matter.  It is entirely possible to raise awareness about an issue without discounting other issues.

The following links really help drive this point home:

Why you should stop saying “all lives matter,” explained in 9 different ways: https://www.vox.com/2016/7/11/12136140/black-all-lives-matter

The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dear-fellow-white-people-_b_11109842

Why You Need to Stop Saying “All Lives Matter”: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a27075028/black-lives-matter-explained/

Why you shouldn’t respond to ‘Black lives matter’ with ‘All lives matter’: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/why-you-shouldnt-respond-to-black-lives-matter-with-all-lives-matter-my-2-cents/ar-BB14ZRog

These links explore the very real problems of police brutality and racism:

https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/

https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/05/our-criminal-courts-are-inherently-racist/

White Supremacists and related people falsely Accuse Black Lives Matters protesters and other minorities of violence

People who are opposed to civil rights progress have a long history of trying to smear civil rights groups and their organizers. That was true for Dr. Martin Luther King and it remains true today with Black Lives Matter. The following examples illustrate that point, and show how BLM and minorities are being falsely blamed, and how many attacks on people and police are simply made up stories. So, when you see a news article or facebook post blaming protesters for violence or property damage, please be skeptical and realize there is a very good chance that you’ll later learn that it was an attempt to falsely blame protesters or black people in general.

Fox Lake, Illinois Police Officer Committed Suicide After Years of ‘Extensive Criminal Acts’: The investigation found the lieutenant had been committing “extensive criminal acts,” including stealing and laundering money from the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post over the past seven years, officials said. Thousands of dollars were used for personal purchases, including adult websites, officials said. Authorities determined Gliniewicz intentionally left a staged trail at the crime scene to try to mislead first responders that this was a homicide scene. Gliniewicz had significant experience staging mock crime scenes as a part of his job, officials said. When staging his suicide, he falsely claimed that a black man was among those attacking him. https://abcnews.go.com/US/authorities-reveal-conclusive-results-shooting-death-fox-lake/story?id=34961028

A cop’s wife faked home robbery, blamed Black Lives Matter, police say: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/massachusetts-cops-wife-faked-robbery-indicated-black-lives-matter-police-say/

A Firefighter charged with setting fire to own home — and blaming it on Black Lives Matter: https://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/new-york-firefighter-charged-with-setting-fire-to-own-home-and-blaming-it-on-black-lives-matter/

Two White people get gaught tagging “BLM” on a store: https://thinkamericana.com/two-white-protesters-get-caught-tagging-blm-on-store-get-call/

White supremacists pose as Antifa online, call for violence: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/02/tech/antifa-fake-twitter-account/index.html

A piece of racist propaganda was circulated in an attempt to smear the Black Lives Matter movement: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/blm-flyer-enemy-of-people/

Fake ‘Kill A White’ flyers in Edinburgh have nothing to do with Black Lives Matter, say activists. The inflammatory flyers call for white people, police and white MPs to be killed, Black Lives Matter campaigners in the capital believe they were created by “right-wing groups” to smear the anti-racism campaign: https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/fake-kill-white-flyers-edinburgh-18423128.amp

A man welcomed dozens of protesters into his home as police ‘pinned’ them on street. This had been falsely reported and spread online as a home invasion, but rather it was the home owner actively inviting the protesters (who he supported) into his own home to help save the protesters from the violence police officers: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/06/02/dc-protesters-welcomed-into-rahul-dubey-home-police/5317028002/

Fact Check: Vietnam Memorial NOT Defaced By Rioters During Protests Following George Floyd’s Death: https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2020/06/fact-check-vietnam-memorial-not-defaced-during-protests-and-rioting-following-george-floyds-death.html

When 27-year-old Samantha Shader was first arrested for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at police, she told detectives that the supplies—including glass bottles—were given to her by a group of Black men and women, according to federal court records. But weeks later, on Friday, police arrested a white man who admitted to providing the materials. Prosecutors said that Shader, who was allegedly caught on camera hurling the bottle toward the police vehicle, has been previously arrested 11 times in 11 states: https://www.thedailybeast.com/protester-samantha-schader-tried-to-blame-black-man-for-molotov-cocktail-supplied-then-nypd-found-a-note?ref=home

Two drunk white college students, who witnesses alleged were using racial slurs according to news reports, tore down the statue of Frederick Douglass. 20-year-old John Boedicker of Endicott and 21-year-old Charles Milks of Kenmore were arrested and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Many initial reports and articles falsely blamed Black Lives Matters protesters for this crime, insinuating that the BLM protesters were so stupid as to not understand that Frederick Douglass was actually a former slave who had escaped slavery to become a powerful voice against slavery. https://13wham.com/news/local/police-two-males-damage-frederick-douglass-statue

Following a review of hundreds of photos and over 50 videos from the scene, Oaklandside reports that tear gas canisters shot by police during the demonstration against the slaying of George Floyd — not protesters with (per police) “Molotov cocktails” — that caused a fire that damaged Buffet Fortuna, one of Oakland Chinatown’s largest restaurants. https://sf.eater.com/2020/7/7/21315944/oakland-police-protest-boby-guys-nyum-bai-belcampo-daily-driver-hella-bagels

Citizens of Virginia and the rest of the country were shocked as headlines across the internet reported that a Fauquier County Sheriff’s Deputy was found unconscious on the roadside after being attacked by people driving a black SUV. The blue line supporters came out in full force driving home the narrative that there is a war on cops. However, after police began investigating the incident, they quickly found out that no attack ever happened and the cop who made up the false claim that he had been attacked was arrested: https://thefreethoughtproject.com/cop-arrested-after-manhunt-launched-for-an-attack-he-faked-on-himself/

Riots in downtown Richmond over the weekend were instigated by white supremacists under the guise of Black Lives Matter, according to law enforcement officials. https://www.wsls.com/news/virginia/2020/07/27/police-richmond-riots-instigated-by-white-supremacists-disguised-as-black-lives-matter/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=snd&utm_content=wsls10

Police say ‘Umbrella Man’ was a white supremacist trying to incite George Floyd rioting: https://www.startribune.com/police-umbrella-man-was-a-white-supremacist-trying-to-incite-george-floyd-rioting/571932272/

New York State Cop Allowed to Retire After Making Phony 911 Alleging He Was Shot By Black Youths, Mayor Claimed Retirement Is ‘Least Expensive Way’ To Get Rid of Him: https://atlantablackstar.com/2020/08/17/new-york-state-cop-allowed-to-retire-after-making-phony-911-alleging-he-was-shot-by-black-youths-mayor-claimed-retirement-is-least-expensive-way-to-get-rid-of-him/

Texas hunters who blamed immigrants actually shot each other, cops say: The hunters told police they suspected the shooters were undocumented immigrants they had seen on the ranch earlier in their trip. Their story soon jumped into online right-wing circles, thanks in part to Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and Donald Trump ally Sid Miller. But it was a lie, according to police and, now, a grand jury. Investigators determined that guides Walker Daughetry and Michael Bryant in fact shot at one another by accident, striking Daughetry and hunter Edwin Roberts in the process. Daughetry and Bryant were indicted for third-degree felonies last Wednesday. https://thinkprogress.org/texas-hunters-who-blamed-immigrants-actually-shot-each-other-cops-say-5607b0145119/

The Associated Press checks out some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. This one is bogus, even though it was shared widely on social media. Here are the facts:
CLAIM: Photos show four police officers who were injured by Democrats and Black Lives Matter rioters over the weekend in Portland, Seattle and nearby cities.
THE FACTS: The officers in the photos weren’t injured at U.S. protests — in fact, they were on the other side of the world. . . Research into the origin of the photos reveals they were all taken in Australia — and not over the weekend. https://www.oregonlive.com/trending/2020/08/did-you-see-photos-of-officers-supposedly-injured-last-weekend-in-nw-cities-the-facts-dont-check-out.html

Fact check: Trump shares White nationalist’s video in retweet falsely blaming Black Lives Matter for 2019 subway assault. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/31/politics/fact-check-trump-subway-assault-black-lives-matter-antifa/index.html

Officials confirm that the social media rumors of Black Lives Matters and Antifa setting the devastating wildfires are untrue and ask people to stop sharing those untrue rumors. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/10/us/antifa-wildfires.html

Officer Goulart’s “ambush” story began to fall apart. Investigators realized there was no ambush and officer Goulart shot himself in the leg. Just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Goulart was arrested for faking his own ambush. He was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center on one count of criminal mischief and one count of malfeasance in office: https://thefreethoughtproject.com/cop-shot-during-ambush-arrested-because-he-actually-shot-himself-and-made-it-all-up/

For the people who are tired of protests and activism surrounding police brutality and racism

I am entirely unconcerned about people who are inconvenienced by seeing a protest, or seeing activism on Facebook. If you think that seeing a protest or having Black Lives Matters show up in your facebook newsfeed is tiring, let me assure you that actually experiencing racism and abuse from the police is a lot more upsetting and exhausting. If you want to see Black Lives Matters protests go away, then take action to solve the problem that causes the protests. Expect the protests and activism to continue until the problem is resolved.

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All opinions are not of equal value

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In recent weeks I’ve seen a significant uptick in debates where people seem to take the view that their uninformed opinion on racism, civil rights, and police brutality are of equal weight to an informed opinion. That just isn’t the case. This is a somewhat long post, but I’ll try to be as brief as I can without skipping anything important.

A couple of years ago I hurt my shoulder in a martial arts accident. I could tell something was quite wrong right away. I was unable to pickup my children, or even lift my hand above my head without pain. So, I went to my doctor. He said that he thought there was something torn, but that I would need to see an orthopedic specialist. I was given a referral to an orthopedic doctor who was an expert when it came to shoulders. After a few minutes of talking to me, that orthopedic doctor said he was pretty sure I had torn the labrum in my shoulder. An MRI proved the doctor correct, and I had surgery. My shoulder is essentially good as new and I’m back to martial arts with no restrictions.

The reason I mention that story is because it really illustrates a point that some people are missing these days. One person’s ignorance is not as good as another person’s knowledge. When it comes to shoulders, I don’t know much. I’m not a doctor. I didn’t even know what a labrum was until the doctor told me that I had torn mine. It would be nonsensical to think that my thoughts or opinions on my shoulder injury were worth anything in comparison to the orthopedic doctor’s thoughts and opinions. Even my regular doctor’s opinions on my shoulder were greatly surpassed by the specialist doctor’s opinion. That makes sense, as a doctor who spends all day working on shoulders should be the most knowledgeable about that part of the body.

Getting back to the issue at hand, during these last few week issues of racism, police brutality, and civil rights have been discussed more widely than at anytime in the last 50 years. There have been massive protests, some riots, curfews, and real changes to the law enacted in response. That has also caused a lot of people to develop and share opinions on the subject.

I’ve had several people I know express opinions on racism, policing, civil rights, protests, etc. In many of those cases, the opinion expressed is the sort of superficial opinion that could be expected from someone who lacks education and experience on subject. Just as I had friends with no medical experience who expressed disagreement with the orthopedic doctor’s diagnosis and treatment of my shoulder, I now have friends who lack any knowledge or education on this issue loudly proclaiming ridiculous things when it comes to the civil rights issues gripping the country.

There are a great many things in the world that I don’t know much about. But I do know a good deal about racism, policing, and the law. I’m black, and my earliest memory of the police involves a cop falsely accusing my parents of shoplifting a baby carrier from a toy store. That toy store didn’t even have the baby carrier that my parents were using to hold my sister. I’ve dealt with racist cops throughout my personal life, and have had those cops make up false traffic charges. I’ve dealt with racism in school, and at work. The last time someone called me a racial slur to my face was this year. Professionally, I’m a lawyer and have seen the racial bias in our criminal justice system. I have represented clients in civil rights cases against the police. I have studied this area of law extensively, both in law school and in the decade since then. This is an area where I am an expert. While my opinions on medical matters, plumbing, roofing, boating, and a whole host of other areas are worth nothing, when it comes to criminal law, police misconduct, and racism, I know what I’m talking about.

We would all do well to recognize the limits of our knowledge and ability. Just because a person is entitled to hold and express their opinion, it doesn’t follow that their opinion has much (or any) intrinsic value.

Confederate statues and “destroying history”

Confederate statues are not “history” but rather efforts to give a giant middle finger to civil rights progress. The article below makes that point clear, explaining the timing, location, and motivations of the people who put up those statues. In a nutshell, those statues were put up by white supremacists in response to civil rights progress that they didn’t like.

Beyond that, the confederates are losers who took up arms against their country, and slaughtered good American soldiers to try and perpetuate slavery. People like that are unworthy of glorification by statues.

As a further example, consider the case of Iowa. Iowa was in the Union during the civil war. Many soldiers from Iowa gave their lives to put a stop to the the confederacy. Confederate terrorists entered at the border with Missouri and raided Iowa, killing Iowa farmers. Yet in the year 2007, a confederate monument was erected in Iowa. That is entirely about promoting white supremacy. It isn’t “history” to glorify those murderous traitors.

Taking down statues that glorify evil people is not “erasing history.” You don’t see statues honoring Hitler, yet we certainly haven’t erased the terrible atrocities committed by the Nazis from history. Instead, we teach about evils of the Nazi party, and have museums dedicated to ensuring no one forgets. The same approach should be applied to the confederates.

A good article that explains the situation in much more detail: https://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544266880/confederate-statues-were-built-to-further-a-white-supremacist-future

Systematic racism is real

Although the existence and effects of systematic racism are well studied, there are still some people who try to deny its existence.  The following links should help clear up any confusion.

Definition of Systemic Racism in Sociology: https://www.thoughtco.com/systemic-racism-3026565

Finally, an explanation of systemic racism that won’t put you to sleep: https://www.vox.com/2015/4/23/8482799/systemic-racism-explained-examples

Fourteen examples of systemic racism in the US criminal justice system: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2010/07/26/fourteen-examples-systemic-racism-us-criminal-justice-system

A DEA agent speaks out about how he was directed to enforce drug laws in poor minority communities, but to leave affluent white drug users alone: https://thefreethoughtproject.com/dea-agent-drug-laws-intentionally-rich-communities/

Eight videos that explain systemic racism: https://www.raceforward.org/videos/systemic-racism

Systemic racism is real, by Ben and Jerry’s: https://www.benjerry.com/home/whats-new/2016/systemic-racism-is-real

VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer clearly explains systemic racism, mostly for a white audience seeking to understand: https://theweek.com/speedreads/920727/veggietales-creator-phil-vischer-clearly-explains-systemic-racism-mostly-white-audience-seeking-understand

Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/opinions/systemic-racism-police-evidence-criminal-justice-system/

A Public Service Announcement

PSA: Just because you can dig up a Youtube video of a black guy saying racism doesn’t exist, or a Jewish person who says Hitler was right, or a woman who opposes the ability of other women to vote, it is not evidence that any of those things are true.

But, it may be compelling evidence that you are a bigot who is grasping at straws to justify your bigotry. To be sure that doesn’t apply to everyone sharing videos/posts like that, but it certainly does apply to many of them.

Trump, Race, and Police Brutality

I’ve spent a fair amount of time debating President Trump and his actions as to race and police brutality.   I’ve put together this page to have my links and information I would provide in those debates conveniently available.

 

Trump undid Department of Justice reforms that were putting a stop to police brutality and holding the police accountable: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/trumps-george-floyd-obama-protest-police-violence-kneeling.html

Trump pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, preventing Arpaio from facing the criminal consequences of his repeated violations of civil rights: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/a-flagrant-assault-on-latino-civil-rights/538119/

Trump tells police to rough up people when making an arrest: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-police-nice-suspects/story?id=48914504

Trump defended the white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville on Tuesday, saying they included “some very fine people,” while expressing sympathy for their demonstration against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/

Trump opposes NFL players peacefully and silently kneeling to protest police brutality, saying ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field’ : https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/22/donald-trump-nfl-national-anthem-protests

Trump took out a newspaper ad, calling for the execution of the Central Park 5, who were in fact innocent and later exonerated. Trump never apologized, and in fact even after the exoneration of those innocent black men he said he believed they were actually guilty: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/17/central-park-five-donald-trump-jogger-rape-case-new-york

John O’Donnell, who had been president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump saying,“ Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes… Those are the only kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else…Besides that, I tell you something else. I think that’s guy’s lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks.” O’Donnell’s report was shocking, but Trump did not contest it at the time. In 1997 he was interviewed for Playboy by author Mark Bowden and he confirmed that the O’Donnell book was “probably true.” https://fortune.com/2016/06/07/donald-trump-racism-quotes/

Trump engaged in racial discrimination as to housing. The Justice Department’s 1973 lawsuit against Trump Management Company focused on 39 properties in New York City, where Trump’s employees were directed to tell African American lease applicants that there were no open apartments. Company policy, according to an employee quoted in court documents, was to rent only to “Jews and executives.” During a coffee break in a deposition about that discrimination case, Trump stated “You know, you don’t want to live with them either” as he referred to black people. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/trump-racism-comments/588067/

US President Donald Trump has retweeted a video showing one of his supporters loudly shouting “white power”: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53212685

Fact check: Trump shares White nationalist’s video in retweet falsely blaming Black Lives Matter for 2019 subway assault. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/31/politics/fact-check-trump-subway-assault-black-lives-matter-antifa/index.html

A lengthy article on Trump’s racism, stretching back as far as the 1970s: https://www.vox.com/2016/7/25/12270880/donald-trump-racist-racism-history

Another laundry list of Trump’s racist words and actions: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/15/opinion/leonhardt-trump-racist.html

To my friends and “family” who turn a blind eye to racism and police violence

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There is something that I don’t understand, and which I’m hoping someone can help me understand.

I know people (on facebook and in real life) who don’t seem to care about the police violence that has led to civil unrest. I have people that I call friends and even family who have not said a single word when it comes to the ongoing, well documented, and pervasive problem of police brutality. Even more confusing to me are the ones who not only remain silent about violence perpetrated by the police, but go as far as to post “back the blue” type messages this week.

So, in all seriousness I ask how you can consider me a friend if you don’t care about the fact that a police officer could almost certainly murder me and get away with it?

How can you claim to love my children if you choose not to take even 1 minute out of your day to oppose police violence that could one day claim their lives?

If you’re not only silent on police violence but are actively promoting the police now, what value do you place on my life and the lives of my children?

Grouping people together by Race versus Grouping people together by Occupation

I think it is worth exploring the difference between having distrust or even hatred of “all cops” versus having distrust or hatred of “all black people.” The two just aren’t equivalent.

Forming an opinion about someone based upon an immutable characteristic (such as race or sex) is wrong. The color of my skin is not something that I can control, and so it tell you nothing about my thoughts, beliefs, dreams, hopes, etc. Just knowing that I’m black doesn’t tell you anything about my character, my job, my education, or my morals. It only really tells you how resistant to sunburn I might be.

On the other hand, forming an opinion about me based upon the career I’ve chosen is quite reasonable. If you learn that I’m a trial lawyer you can probably conclude that I’m fine with public speaking. You can infer that I don’t mind arguments and will vocally voice my opinions. You can probably conclude that I have enough willingness to see things though to spend 4 years in college and then 3 more years in law school. You may also determine that I probably have a pretty high opinion of myself since the personality type needed to a be a lawyer would fit with that. You may also assume that I’m more arrogant and convinced of my own correctness than average (and honestly, you wouldn’t be wrong).

Applying that to occupations, it is completely fine to form an opinion of a person based upon their decision to become a cop, just as it is fine to form an opinion based upon my decision to become a lawyer.

The same is true for every profession really, and I think we already all do that. When it comes to firefighters, I love them so much that it might not even be rational. Same is true for doctors and nurses. On the flip side of that, if you learned that your new acquaintance spent the last 2 years working as a torturer for a cartel, I think you would reasonably draw some adverse opinions about them.

So, holding opinions about someone based upon an immutable characteristic such as their race or sex makes you a bigoted piece of human garbage. Forming opinions about someone based upon choices they make (such as what they do for a living) is entirely different.