Juneteenth Reads!!!

and yes, it’s Monday!

Today is Juneteenth.  Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in this country.

Every year on June 19, African Americans across the country gather to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States.

It was on June 19, 1865 that Union General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to force the state to free its slaves, over two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s issued his Emancipation Proclamation. The executive order, signed on Jan. 1, 1863, freed all slaves in the southern United States.

According to Juneteenth.com, Texas was one of the last states to follow the order due to a low number of Union troops in the area to enforce it.

Granger read the famed General Order Number 3 which stated, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

As freed slaves began to leave Texas, they took their celebrations of the day to other regions of the south. Cookouts, dancing and prayer services are just some of the celebrations taking place Monday.

Some have even pushed for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday. In 1980, Texas became the first state to officially recognize the day as a holiday, calling it “Emancipation Day.”

Today, we still experience our slavery history in the way our institutions treat Black Americans. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is perhaps the most noticeable movement resulting from this unequal institutional racism that still pervades our country.   ‘Seattle police fatally shoot black mother of four who they say confronted officers with a knife.’

Seattle police officers shot and killed a 30-year-old mother of four at her apartment Sunday morning in front of “several children” when the woman “confronted” them with a knife, according to a statement from authorities. The Seattle Times said she had called police to report a possible burglary.

At a vigil Sunday night, family identified the woman as Charleena Lyles, reported the Times, and said she had a history of mental health struggles. She was three months pregnant with her fifth child, her family said, and too “tiny” for officers to have felt threatened by her — even if she had a knife.

“Why couldn’t they have Tased her?” Lyles’s sister, Monika Williams, told the Seattle Times. “They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down.”

This follows a disheartening verdict in this police shooting case from the Twin cities. ‘Relief and outrage as a St. Anthony police officer is acquitted in Philando Castile’s shooting death’ three days ago.  Read more about Castile on Saturday’s thread by BB.

The highly anticipated trial unfolded over three weeks, with testimony lasting five days.

Yanez, among several who took the stand, testified, sometimes through tears, that he had no choice but to shoot Castile after he said he saw Castile gripping his pistol in his front right shorts pocket despite the officer’s orders for him not to reach for the gun.

“I was scared to death. I thought I was going to die,” Yanez told the jury from the witness stand. “My family was popping up in my head. My wife. My baby girl.”

The state argued Castile was trying to access his wallet to hand over the driver’s license Yanez had requested when the officer “jumped to conclusions” and needlessly shot him.

It made no sense that Castile — who was wearing a seat belt while traveling home with his girlfriend and her small child from the grocery store — would choose to grab his gun and shoot the officer after being stopped for a broken taillight, prosecutors said.

State law allows police officers to use deadly force when faced with a threat to themselves or someone else. The officer’s conduct must be in line with what another reasonable officer would do under the same circumstances.

Had Castile only listened to Yanez’s commands, two experts hired for the defense testified in court, Castile would still be alive. But when he went for his gun, they said Yanez was forced to shoot.

We’re still learning about the ways we’re divided in this country.  This is why voting is so important.  SCOTUS has accepted a case that looks at Gerrymandering in Wisconsin.

About an hour after the Court issued its order agreeing to hear this case, it issued a second order, on a 5-4 vote, granting a stay of the lower court order in this case. The four liberal Justices dissented. As I explained last night, 

Once the Court grants a hearing, the question will be whether the Court stays a lower court order requiring the WI legislature to redistrict by November so that there will be new districts ready for 2018. WI has asked for that lower court order to be put on hold until resolution of the case at the Supreme Court, and given the likely timing of things, granting the stay would almost certainly mean the old districts would have to be used for the 2018 elections no matter what the Supreme Court does, as there would be no chance to create new districts.

The granting or denial of a stay requires the Court to weigh many factors, but one of the biggest factors is likelihood of success on the merits. In other words, granting of a stay is a good (but not necessarily great) indication that the Supreme Court would be likely to reverse. That means the stay is a good indication the partisan gerrymander finding of the lower court would be reversed.

So this stay order raises a big question mark for those who think Court will use the case to rein in partisan gerrymandering.

Why did this order not come with the Court’s regular orders agreeing to hear the case? Perhaps not all the Justices had voted on the stay by the time the Court had finalized today’s order list.]

As expected, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Gill v. Whitford next term, with a decision expected by a year from June. (Technically the Court “postponed jurisdiction” pending a hearing on the merits, but this has to do with the nature of this coming up on appeal, rather than a cert. petition, and the open question about whether partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable.]

We’re still trying to figure out what divides us and why the elections of 2016 went so terribly wrong.  Here’s Jonathan Chait writing for New York Magazine. 

The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group has a new survey of the electorate that explodes many of the myths that we believe about American politics. Lee Drutman has a fascinating report delving into the data. I want to highlight a few of the most interesting conclusions in the survey.

1. The Democratic Party is not really divided on economics.You think the Bernie Sanders movement was about socialism? Not really. Sanders voters have the same beliefs about economic equality and government intervention as Hillary Clinton supporters. On the importance of Social Security and Medicare, Sanders voters actually have more conservative views:

Here’s an interesting Guardian article on why Rural America hates its cities.  The 2016 vote was certainly an indication of deep divisions in the way cities vs the outback sees the world.

People living in rural communities across the US face difficult odds. American economic growth and recovery is concentrated in a small number of highly populated urban counties, such as LA County in California and Miami-Dade in Florida. The rural population is declining, from more than half of the US population in 1910 to just 20% in 2010. The abandoned main streets show the wear and tear of an economy that has shifted away from rural people, and of public policy that has forgotten to pay attention.

You could say that low-income neighbourhoods in our cities show similar scars. But there is no sense of common cause here. It is the cities that are home to the decision-makers who have brought on this mess, according to rural Wisconsin. This includes corporate CEOs, but more importantly, in their view, it includes government, and Democrats who say more government is the answer.

The same conditions that might lead you to believe people in such places would turn towards government are instead seemingly causing a desire to overhaul it – to “drain the swamp”.

Even in one left-leaning group, the “Brunch Bunch”, who meet in an artsy tourist enclave in the north-west corner of the state, I have heard women talk with resentment about the advantages that city people have, directly attributed to public policy.

The Brunch Bunch is made up of older white women who gather once a week (originally in a private room in an American-style restaurant, but now in a protestant church because the restaurant went out of business), and again represent a mix of political leanings. Some called themselves “Obama Girls”. Others openly support Republican governor Scott Walker.

But Democrat or Republican, they regularly wonder aloud about the unfairness of their location. Sally believes cities get too much public money. “The cost of the water and sewer here is outrageous compared to what they pay in Madison,” she said. “So here is big rich Madison, with all the good high-paying jobs, getting the cheapest water, and we have people up here who have three months of employment [because of the short tourist season], what are they paying? There should be more sharing – less taxes going to Madison.”

WAPO also has some analysis up on the Rural/City divide.  This focuses on cultural differences.

The political divide between rural and urban America is more cultural than it is economic, rooted in rural residents’ deep misgivings about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, their sense that Christianity is under siege and their perception that the federal government caters most to the needs of people in big cities, according to a wide-ranging poll that examines cultural attitudes across the United States.

The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey of nearly 1,700 Americans — including more than 1,000 adults living in rural areas and small towns — finds deep-seated kinship in rural America, coupled with a stark sense of estrangement from people who live in urban areas. Nearly 7 in 10 rural residents say their values differ from people who live in big cities, including about 4 in 10 who say their values are “very different.”

That divide is felt more extensively in rural America than in cities: About half of urban residents say their values differ from rural people, with about 20 percent of urbanites saying rural values are “very different.”

Here’s an amazing article from MIT Economist Peter Temin writing for The Atlantic. ‘Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong’

A lot of factors have contributed to American inequality: slavery, economic policy, technological change, the power of lobbying, globalization, and so on. In their wake, what’s left?

That’s the question at the heart of a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin, an economist from MIT. Temin argues that, following decades of growing inequality, America is now left with what is more or less a two-class system: One small, predominantly white upper class that wields a disproportionate share of money, power, and political influence and a much larger, minority-heavy (but still mostly white) lower class that is all too frequently subject to the first group’s whims.

Temin identifies two types of workers in what he calls “the dual economy.” The first are skilled, tech-savvy workers and managers with college degrees and high salaries who are concentrated heavily in fields such as finance, technology, and electronics—hence his labeling it the “FTE sector.” They make up about 20 percent of the roughly 320 million people who live in America. The other group is the low-skilled workers, which he simply calls the “low-wage sector.”

Another mass resignation has come from an advisory panel of experts on HIV/AIDS to protest the Trump Administration.  How many people have refused to deal with this administration now?

Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned in protest of the Trump administration, which they allege “has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, explained in a Newsweek op-ed Friday that he and five colleagues decided to leave their posts on the council for a number of reasons.

But their largest expressed gripe was that the Trump administration has not sought input from the council when formulating HIV policy.

Schoettes, who is HIV positive, added that the White House is also pushing legislation that would harm people with HIV and “reverse gains made in the fight against the disease.”

I never have had a good understanding of why people feel so threatened by differences. We all came here differently but we’re all in it together now.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Black Lives Matter News and NonBlack Allies

BlackLivesMatter-1It’s Monday!  The heat wave continues!  We’ve also had another police involved shooting during peaceful protests at Ferguson. There is additional news on the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) protesters that have staged events at Bernie Saunders rallies.  I’m going to focus today on the movement and its actions to bring further attention and action to the criminal justice system’s unequal treatment of Black Americans.

Both BB and I have felt highly compelled to write about the incredible challenges black communities face with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We’ve both lived in communities with noticeable systemic racial injustice. The militarization of the police along with “broken windows” policing has taken a toll on police-community relations.  Additionally, the FBI has warned that white supremacists and radical right influences have infiltrated police departments across the country which has likely had an impact on many of these killings and brutal behaviors. 

Because of intensifying civil strife over the recent killings of unarmed black men and boys, many Americans are wondering, “What’s wrong with our police?” Remarkably, one of the most compelling but unexplored explanations may rest with a FBI warning of October 2006, which reported that “White supremacist infiltration of law enforcement” represented a significant national threat.

Several key events preceded the report. A federal court found that members of a Los Angeles sheriffs department formed a Neo Nazi gang and habitually terrorized the black community. Later, the Chicago police department fired Jon Burge, a detective with reputed ties to the Ku Klux Klan, after discovering he tortured over 100 black male suspects. Thereafter, the Mayor of Cleveland discovered that many of the city police locker rooms were infested with “White Power” graffiti. Years later, a Texas sheriff department discovered that two of its deputies were recruiters for the Klan.

In near prophetic fashion, after the FBI’s warning, white supremacy extremism in the U.S. increased, exponentially. From 2008 to 2014, the number of white supremacist groups, reportedly, grew from 149 to nearly a thousand, with no apparent abatement in their infiltration of law enforcement.

This year, alone, at least seven San Francisco law enforcement officers were suspended after an investigation revealed they exchanged numerous “White Power” communications laden with remarks about “lynching African-Americans and burning crosses.” Three reputed Klan members that served as correction officers were arrested for conspiring to murder a black inmate. At least four Fort Lauderdale police officers were fired after an investigation found that the officers fantasized about killing black suspects.

The United States doesn’t publicly track white supremacists, so the full range of their objectives remains murky. Although black and Jewish-Americans are believed to be the foremost targets of white supremacists, recent attacks in Nevada, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina, demonstrate that other non-whites, and religious and social minorities, are also vulnerable. Perhaps more alarmingly, in the last several years alone, white supremacists have reportedly murdered law enforcement officers in Arkansas, Nevada and Wisconsin.

As I mentioned, there was a police involved shooting last night after a day of peaceful protests and remembrances ofblack-lives-matter-1 the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.  Brown’s death was the start of the Black Lives Matter Campaign.

A peaceful day of protest and remembrance dissolved into chaos late Sunday when a man fired multiple shots at four St. Louis County plainclothes detectives in an SUV. The detectives fired back and the shooter was struck, said county Police Chief Jon Belmar. He was in critical condition.

Tyrone Harris identified the victim as his son, Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, of St. Louis. Harris said shortly after 3 a.m. that his son had just gotten out of surgery.

He said his son graduated from Normandy High School and that he and Michael Brown Jr. “were real close.”

“We think there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said,” Harris Sr. said.

In a 2:30 a.m. press conference, Belmar said there is a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails.

“We can’t sustain this as a community,” he said.

Belmar said two groups of people exchanged gunfire on the west side of West Florissant Avenue at the same time the shooting took place, shortly after 11 p.m. Shots were heard for 40-50 seconds, Belmar said. “It was a remarkable amount of gunfire,” he said.

The people doing the shooting “were criminals,” Belmar said. “They were not protesters.”

Investigators recovered a 9 mm Sig Sauer that had been stolen in Cape Girardeau, Belmar said.

Protesters had blocked West Florissant Avenue north of Ferguson Avenue, and the detectives were tracking a man they believed was armed, along with several of his acquaintances, whom they also thought were armed.

In a chaotic scene, police officers, reporters and protesters ran for cover. People sprinted across the street and dived behind parked cars.

Black-Lives-MatterSenator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders continues to experience #BLM protests–most recently 2 days ago in Seattle–at rallies and campaign events.   Sanders held a campaign event in LA today.  Clinton continues to have overwhelming support in black and Hispanic communities as Sanders struggles to communicate his civil rights messages and agendas.  Clinton discussed college affordability in New Hampshire today.  Sanders LA event included black community leaders who specifically addressed #BLM concerns.  This is a first for Sanders whose events tend to focus on middle class populist economic issues.

Sanders and the lawmakers who introduced him mentioned racial inequalities throughout the event, a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Vermont senator’s earlier speech in Seattle that was shut down by protesters.

“Brothers and sisters, what a turnout,” Sanders said at the start of his speech. “It doesn’t seem true but we began this campaign about three and a half months ago, and the momentum has been unbelievable.”

The latest turnout, which was verified by arena staff, supersedes the more than 11,000 people who attended a Sanders rally in Phoenix in July. Doors were closed at the venue, according to arena staff, before the rally started. Sanders’ campaign said the candidate also spoke to around 3,000 people outside the venue who were not able to get inside.

The energized audience, many of whom lined up hours before the event, cheered at nearly everything he said. Sanders, his shirt soaked with sweat, said the turnout proved that “people are tired of establishment politics, establishment economics and they want real change.”

The atmosphere was markedly different than Sanders’ first event of the day, where Black Lives Matter protesters confronted the senator and shut down his event.

Though he did not directly address the earlier disturbance, Sanders cast himself as a lifelong fighter for civil rights.

“No President,” he said, “will fight harder to end the stain of racism in this country and reform our criminal justice system. Period.”

Later in the speech, Sanders touched on an issue Black Lives Matter protesters want to hear more on.

“It makes more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our kids than in jails and incarceration,” he said.

Sanders was introduced by a series of speakers, nearly all of whom mentioned Black Lives Matters.

“Sen. Sanders knows, as do I, that Black Lives Matter,” state Rep. Luis Moscoso said. “Racial inequality is as serious as economic inequality. No one should be dehumanized by their race.”

State Sen. Pramila Jayapal said Sanders knows “it is not enough just to say we care, it is not enough. What we have to do is call out personal, individual and institutionalized racism at every opportunity.”

Sanders’ campaign also announced Saturday that Symone D. Sanders, an African-American woman, has been hired as its national press secretary.

Jayapal wrote this Guest Editorial over the weekend.

1) This is one small result of centuries of racism. As a country, we still have not recognized or acknowledged what we have wrought and continue to inflict on black people. The bigger results are how black kids as young as two are being disciplined differently in their daycares and pre-k classes. That black people are routinely denied jobs that white people get with the same set of experiences and skills. That black people—women and men—continue to die at the hands of police, in domestic violence, on the streets. That black mothers must tell their children as young as seven or eight that they have to be careful about what pants or hoodies they wear or to not assert their rights if stopped. That this country supports an institutionalized form of racism called the criminal justice system that makes profit—hard, cold cash—on jailing black and brown people. I could go on and on. But the continued lack of calling out that indelible stain of racism everywhere we go, of refusing to see that racism exists and implicit bias exists in all of us, of refusing to give reparations for slavery, of refusing to have our version of a truth and reconciliation process—that is what pushes everything underneath and makes it seem like the fault is of black people not of the country, institutions, and people that wrought the violence. That is the anger and rage that we saw erupt yesterday on stage. But it’s not the problem, it’s a symptom of the disease of unacknowledged and un-acted upon racism.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve found some Sanders supporters to adopt over the top misogynistic and racist tones that are unbecoming and unrelated to the candidate himself. I certainly hope that we can continue to see a Democratic Presidential Campaign season that shows the benefit of focusing on issues and not personalities.  I have no idea why some supporters for some candidates feel the need to bully voices raising issues and narratives.  This isn’t some Aldous Huxley reality where we all mouth phrases to ensure our choices comply with some internal need for ego stroking.

Sunday’s Washington Post featured a compelling narrative of “Black and Unarmed” and how simple policing activities have lead to the deaths of many unarmed black people around the country.

So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.

Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.

However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

The latest such shooting occurred Friday, claiming Christian Taylor, 19, a promising defensive back on the Angelo State University football team. Police said Taylor crashed an SUV through the front window of a car dealership in Arlington, Tex., and was shot in an altercation with responding officers. The case is under investigation.

The disproportionate number of unarmed black men in the body count helps explain why outrage continues to simmer a year after Ferguson — and why shootings that might have been ignored in the past are now coming under fresh public and legal scrutiny.

“Ferguson was a watershed moment in policing. Police understand they are now under the microscope,” said Mark Lomax, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, which represents police rank-and-file.

Video shot by bystanders or captured on police camera, meanwhile, has served in some cases to undermine trust in police. So far this year, three officers have been charged with crimes after fatally shooting unarmed black men. All three were caught on video. One — the April shooting of Eric Harris in Tulsa — appears to have been an accident. But in the other two, the footage contradicted the officer’s initial account of what happened.

“Prior to Ferguson, police were politically untouchable. Ferguson changed that calculus,” said Georgetown University professor Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor whose book, “The Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” is scheduled to be published next year.

Jamie Utt writes about “Interrupting Bernie” and the tone-deafness and insensitivity of many white liberals and democrats to black concerns.

Notably, Black Lives Matter activists haven’t been successful (though I am sure not for lack of trying) in interrupting Hillary Clinton in the same way (that secret service protection and massive campaign budget for private security sure is handy), but even she has had little choice but to pay attention to Black Lives Matter as a mlk-cfwmovement.

And there is a great deal of disagreement within Black communities (we as White folks would do well to remember that people and Black organizations aren’t monoliths) about whether the action was strategic and whether targeting Bernie was the right move. And that dialogue should continue to take place within Black liberation spaces, but White folks – that’s not our business.

Because here’s the thing – what’s powerful about these interruptions from Black women is less how it has changed the tone of the Democratic campaigns and more about what they have exposed in the White left.

I see these protests as less about the individual candidates themselves and more about how their White base refuses to center Black lives and Black issues. It’s notable that White Bernie supporters, who consider themselves the most progressive of us all, shouted down and booed Black women who dared to force Blackness into the center of White space.

Because let’s be honest, every Bernie rally is White space.

In watching the over-the-top angry response from White liberals about Bernie being interrupted in Seattle, I can’t help but think of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on White moderates:

The MLK quote is shown on the image reproduced here. I hope as the Democratic primaries continue we can focus on the issues that involve our many communities.   I also hope that the we can get whatever group of people who feel the need to censor other people’s concerns because they feel the need to be right about everything.

What’s on your reading and blogging list?