- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Throughout my sorry-assed life as a journalist and a bureaucrat, I always tried to view the world through the eyes of the other person. To do this properly, I believe you need to walk in their shoes and feel the pain of their psychological bunions.
Let’s do this as we view Ferguson, Mo.
In 2008 Barack Obama hooked me with his famous “Race Speech.”
He told us about his beloved maternal grandmother, “a [white] woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
Obama told us about how it felt to be a young male wearing black skin; how it felt to be treated like a felon every time he walked in a store or strolled down a street. He was joined in that by Attorney General Eric Holder, who told his own tale of being stopped, questioned and prejudged as a dangerous individual just because of his skin color.
Obama knows that similar burdens are borne by so many others. He talked about “all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream,” and how “there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination.” When my Irish ancestors arrived, they found people who wouldn’t hire them because they were obviously dumb drunkards. And my Jewish ancestors? Well, need I elaborate on the plight of the Jews in Europe, and why the Meissners came here to escape it?
Let’s keep this in mind as we walk in the shoes of the those who live in Ferguson, Mo.
Let’s start with Michael Brown.
Michael Brown was a young man who lived in poverty. He grew up in a town where all the cops, all the elected officials, and all the people with power are white. Everywhere he went, he was treated as a dangerous young black male. He felt like he had no avenue for advancement. But he also felt the power that only comes from being large and intimidating – especially as a black adolescent.
I guess he walked into a convenience store and stole a few items. When the store owner confronted him, a store video shows, Michael Brown whirled and intimidated that business owner with his presence as a large African-American adolescent.
By the way. Was this just another white dude trying to get rich at the expense of poor people of color?
So then we come to Officer Darren Wilson. My peeps demonize him while the Fox News Crowd have nominated Officer Wilson for sainthood.
This evidence photo, taken after Michael Brown’s killing, apparently shows a bruise sustained by Officer Wilson. He said it happened when Brown tried to wrestle away his service weapon.
Darren Wilson is a cop. I’m half-Irish, so of course I have cops in my lineage. The woman whose shares my home and my bed is the daughter of a cop. I have dear friends who were cops.
Let’s see the world through a police officer’s windshield.
There’s an old truism about police work: 10 percent of the population commits 80 percent or more of the crime. For nine years I worked in juvenile corrections. I saw this. A majority of the teens we locked up had a close family member who was either doing time in prison, or had been incarcerated at least once. These kids came from that high-crime sliver of the population, and they were overwhelmingly young men of color.
That’s what cops see. They patrol low-income communities and try to keep people safe. When they see bad acts, they are often committed by people of color. Then they go go home to safe communities where everyone looks like them – especially if they’re white.
Do you honestly think that doesn’t impact their psyches? Of course it does.
I had an Uncle Mike. He was a New York cop who worked some really bad neighborhoods in the South Bronx, beneath the shadow of Yankee Stadium. He lived in a bedroom community in Long Island where deed restrictions prohibited the sale of homes to blacks. And yes, I heard Uncle Mike use the “N” word as he bragged about cruelty to people of color.
I also had a cousin Bill. He was assigned to a Harlem police station. One night, while Bill was filling out paperwork, he was attacked for no apparent reason by a man of color. Cousin Bill pulled his service revolver and killed his assailant.
So before you judge, walk in the shoes of these people:
- The black male. He lived a life of hopelessness in a community where white people hold the power.
- The South Asian store owner. He’s trying to operate a store in a community avoided by white business owners because crime is so rampant.
- A white cop. He deals with bad guys who are usually black. He lives in a safe all-white community, and interacts in a law enforcement environment where racism is deeply imbedded because the bad guys are people of color.
Welcome – not only to Ferguson, but to the America in which we all live.
Anglos live in safe communities that are walled off – in the case of Arizona we’re often talking about gated communities that are literally behind walls and fences.
Minorities, far more Latino than Black in my home state, live in high-crime areas.
Law officers, especially those who work for a certain “World’s Toughest Sheriff,” stop Latino males for broken taillights, cracked windshields or even a license plate that is not illuminated. Then they look for guns, drugs, outstanding warrants, or for people who don’t have legal immigration status.
Most cops do it because they’re trying to stop crime before someone else is victimized. Their reasons are pure, but their techniques can only be described as racist.
That’s our America.
So what do we do? Throw up our hands and accept this reality?
We must establish tough rules for the people who are given a gun, a badge, and the authority to incarcerate or shoot other people. If they don’t live up to standards of fairness, equity and lawful behavior they must be held accountable.
That’s not how it works right now. As we saw in Ferguson, current laws make it virtually impossible to punish police violence.
That has to change.
We need to create a safe environment for that store owner. Find some way to protect him and his inventory from people who want to steal it. Until that happens we will have “food deserts” where nutritious food is hard to find, and where prices are much higher than in other communities.
And most important, we must create a world where a Michael Brown, a Manuel Lopez, and all people of color no longer encounter hostility and lose hope simply because they’re wearing skin of a slightly different color.
Wouldn’t that be a nice America?
A little item slipped by the Mainstream media practically unnoticed on Thursday.
Our next Guv named the members of his Educational Transition Team. The names represent the finest(?) GOPer thinking on education. I guess that’s why the media hounds failed to wake up and smell the napalm that is being dropped on public schools.
I doubt that supporters of public education failed to notice. After all, Ducey’s education policy will be set by folks who are not only voucher lovers. They also are on record in opposition to public schools.
Think I’m kidding? Let’s take a look at them:
1. Lisa Graham Keegan is a former legislator and state schools superintendent who has emerged as a national voice for vouchers. In a Fall 2000 article in City Journal Magazine, she said the following: “‘[I]f local control means school district control, we shouldn’t hesitate to use state policy to undermine it.”
In other words she has not come to praise public school districts. She wants to destroy them
2. Matthew Ladner, Senior Advisor for Policy and Research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education and a former Goldwater Institute attack dog on behalf of school vouchers. Ladner is also a national voice for dismantling public schools.
He wants to replace public schools with a universal voucher system in which parents will pick a privately run school and use a few gummint dollars to underwrite tuition. This would create a stratified, highly segregated system in which rich kids get subsidies for their high-priced education, most of us get mediocre schools that will require parents to pay more, and the poor will get lousy schools.
He sure as heck ain’t no friend of public school districts. In a 2008 online “live chat” on the Goldwater Institute website, Lander dropped this little gem:
“[W]hy do we have school districts at all? New Zealand eliminated them, and had schools governed by an elected board of parents with children attending the school. This freed considerable bureaucratic resources for use in the classroom.”
3. Last, and certainly not least, we have Erik Twist, Vice President of Archway Advancement at Great Hearts Academies, a charter school organization.
In 2012 Twist, then headmaster of Archway Classical Academy Veritas, issued an email blast from his taxpayer-funded computer urging a no vote on a plan to improve school funding by making a one-cent hike in the state sales tax permanent. To his credit, Twist publicly apologized for unknowingly violating state law against using state resources for politics. The fact that he didn’t know it was illegal, he said “was no excuse.”
In case you don’t remember, Ducey was then a relatively obscure state Treasurer who agreed to head an effort to kill that education measure. His success was a prelude to his successful campaign for Governor, so again it’s no surprise that he was picked to guide Ducey’s education policy.
Ah, but what did Twist say in that email? He urged a no vote on money for public schools because it would “throw taxpayer money indiscriminately into a flawed education system.”
So what does this all mean?
Just as folks said during the campaign, Ducey has no intention of putting more money into public schools. He doesn’t want to obey voters – or a court order – by repaying about $1.5 billion that was unlawfully withheld from public education.
And his “solution” to education is to push all Arizona kids into a voucher system.
If that means the death of the public schools system that created the best-educated, most productive workforce the world has ever seen …
Well, that seems to be the point.
It’s a long-standing tradition among GOPers. Turn reality on its head to stymie environmental protections.
Back in the days of (Genuflect as you utter his Name) Ronald Reagan, they put a wilderness hater named James Watt in charge of the Interior Department.
And now that the Republicans are in charge of Congress, Lamar Smith of the Great Republic of Texas is the lead dog on The House Science Committee. Smith is the guy who questions the validity of clean-air rules while holding hearings about space aliens. Now another “what climate change?” dude is running the House Subcommittee on the Environment.
We’re talking about Arizona’s own Rep. David Schweikert.
Schweikert is proud of a bill he co-sponsored that – I couldn’t possibly make this up – prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from relying on actual science when it makes decisions about things like global warming, which Schweikert has dismissed as a “myth.”
In true Khafkaesqe fashion, Schweikert’s bill says the EPA can’t cite a scientific study unless “all the data” is unveiled. Never mind that it might include the names and addresses of participants in a medical study – which would violate federal rules protecting patient privacy – and never mind that it might involve the release of proprietary information. In other words, the EPA would be prevented from using just about any legitimate environmental study based on medical data.
Of course Schweikert knows this is the case – just like he knows that EPA limits on coal-fired plants have a “negligible environmental benefit.”
And of course the GOPer-dominated House passed Schweikert’s bill on Wednesday.
Now apparently this doofus denier thinks he can take out John McCain in 2016. According to The Hill, the local newspaper for Capitol Hill, Schweikert will “consider future runs — including a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain — after the (Thanksgiving andChristmas) holidays.” Translation: He’ll announce that he’s taking on McCain in early 2015.
The scary thing is that it just might work. After all, we’re not talking about rational humans. He’ll take on McCain in an Arizona Republican primary. Remember Arizona’s red elephants have already censured McCain. They think he plays too much kissy-kissy with Democrats.
Can Schweikert win? Will Arizona deep-six Common Core education standards?
Consider this: A Citizens United poll showed Schweikert leading McCain 40 percent to 34 percent among likely Republican voters in a hypothetical match-up, according to The Hill.
Hmmm. Citizens United. Sounds familiar? Who else in Arizona has ties to them? Gee; I wonder if Schweikert will be able to raise any money for a Senate race?
Yup. That damn Kenyan is at it again.
It wasn’t enough that he provided healthcare to millions of uninsured ‘Merikans…
And it wasn’t enough that his dictatorial EPA is trying to make us take filthy schmutz out of the atmosphere..
Now “Emperor” Hussein Obama wants to allow up to 5 million people who just want to work and raise their families …
… to do just that!
He wants to let them stay here, work here, remain united with family members who were born in the US, where they have been arrogantly minding their own business for decades.
Why, that’s … that’s illegal!
What’s that? Other Prezedents, including such “good guys” as da Bushes, did the same thing?
So did (Genuflect as you Mention his Holy Name) Ronald Reagan?
Nonsense! What they did was different! How? Well, yuh see …
Never mind that! Why it’s Congress that’s supposed to pass laws, not some imperial black dude desecrating our WHITE House!
Huh? Congress haven’t passed anything despite years of bluster?
Well, that’s ’cause them Dimmocrats kept trying to pass laws that actually reformed immigration without vacuum-sealing the border!
So this-here Obama guy has GOT to obey the law!
Uh, now what? Oh. You say that our own AZ Lege ain’t so good at obeying the law? Edumacation is a case in point?
Just because voters approved a 1990 Referendum requiring us to raise school funding to cover the ravages of Inflation? And just cause a court told us we had to obey the law, but we keep refusing?
Oh, well that’s different!
Never mind how! Just tell that Kenyan to let us do our job!
One of these days!
Tah-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic has become one of my favorite journalists in recent years by writing thoughtfully, proactively and compellingly on race and on other topics.
This essay is part confessional, part explanation, but most of all it is truth-telling.
And I always support truth-telling.
As a card-carrying Libruhl, I had no choice last night. I watched a PBS program about Comrade Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union in the 1950s and early 1960s. President Eisenhower had invited the ultimate Cold Warrior to tour the United States – though Khrushchev was not allowed to visit Disneyland. Presumably it would’ve revealed too much about Congress.
It was an important but unappreciated moment in world history. Krushchev got to see us, and we got to see a goofy-looking gap-toothed cherub who loved meeting people and pressing the flesh, just like any other politico. It caused a lot of cognitive dissonance. Khrushchev simply didn’t fit the Boogeyman Commie image.
In fact he was a very smart, self-made man. Khrushchev was the ultimate survivor, a politician who dodged, weaved and stayed alive long enough to reach the top after the death of Josef Stalin.
And that brings up my favorite moment:
During one appearance someone anonymously submitted a written question about Stalin, whose cruelty was being acknowledged for the first time. Khrushchev was asked what he did while Stalin was being so bad.
Khrushchev glared. “Would the person who asked that question identify yourself?” he demanded.
No one did.
Stalin posed for dramatic effect, then smiled.
“Now you know what I was doing while Stalin was committing those crimes against humanity,” he said.
In 2013 The GOPers threatened to shut down the gummint to deny healthcare to millions of poor people.
They said it wouldn’t work – only it does.
This year they’re threatening to shut down the gummint again ’cause they don’t want to allow people stay in the U.S. We’re talking about 11 million or so people who are already here paying taxes, raising kids and contributing to society.
Oh yeah; we’re also talking about Millenials who grew up here, speak only English, and just want a chance to go to college, serve in the military – and pay taxes.
Yeah. Sure. That makes sense.