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“The Brains Of Many White Racists”: No, There’s No Comparison Between The Freddie Gray And Duke Lacrosse Cases

Shortly after the indictments dropped against the police officers allegedly responsible for killing Freddie Gray, a number of conservative blowhards from Sean Hannity to Alan Dershowitz have shared their outrage of the supposed injustice of it all. But the most hilarious case involves Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke who compared it to the Duke Lacrosse case.

Obviously, most of this backlash is purely racially motivated by racist agitators. The prospect of black female state’s attorney indicting six police officers for murdering a black male without threat or probable cause causes short circuits of outrage in the brains of many white racists. They view poor blacks as dangerous inferiors to be kept in line by authorities by any means necessary, including but not limited to murder.

But the comparison to the Duke Lacrosse case is particularly stupid. There was plenty of reason to be skeptical in that incident. I myself took my lumps within the progressive blogosphere for urging caution on it from the start, and I ended up being right. From the beginning there was no physical evidence of rape, and the accuser’s story was filled with inconsistencies. That admittedly happens frequently in cases where rape has actually occurred, of course, so it’s not surprising or objectionable that charges were brought in the case. But justice eventually followed its due course in the case as the evidence presented itself, with the greatest damage being that inflicted by the media on the defendants, as well as the damage inflicted on real victims of rape by the public example of a false accuser–since only a small fraction of rape accusations turn out to be false.

The Freddie Gray case, on the other hand, is pretty open and shut as far as the evidence is concerned. The knife carried by Mr. Gray was legal in Maryland, so the police had no reason or probable cause to stop him. They failed, against regulations, to put a seat belt on Mr. Gray. They have a longstanding tradition of punishing suspects by roughriding them in unsecured vans, and have been sued for millions of dollars for doing just that. The evidence strongly suggests that Mr. Gray (if he was not beaten beforehand) was likely shackled hands and feet, tossed into the back of the vehicle and roughrided until a particularly forceful impact severed his spine.

That is murder, and the evidence is very clear on the matter. The only question will hinge on whether the police can be reasonably expected to have thought that the roughriding would do severe physical damage to Mr. Gray–and not even that point is seriously in question. A bevy of lawsuits for physical injury against the Baltimore PD demonstrates that they knew very well the kind of harm that Mr. Gray’s treatment could do to him.

To compare that incident to the Duke Lacrosse case is to exercise a kneejerk racist prejudice against any white person accused of doing harm to a less powerful black person. Justice was done in the Duke case by finding the defendants innocent, and it will very likely be done in Baltimore by finding the defendants guilty.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 2, 2015

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore Police Dept, Duke Lacrosse Case, Freddie Gray | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“In Many Ways, Our Policy Legs Are Like Toothpicks”: Protests Are Fine, But Policy Is Where Change Needs To Happen

On the Thursday before Baltimore burned, Mr. Lee went to Washington.

He didn’t have far to go. Rev. Tony Lee is the 46-year-old pastor of Community of Hope, an AME church housed in a shopping mall in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland, just minutes from the D.C. line. Under the auspices of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, a Washington-based advocacy group, he led a delegation of 200 African-American men to Capitol Hill. They went to their capital to talk to their legislators about issues that impact their lives: racially stratified policing, education reform, voting rights and more.

It was not about protest. It was about policy.

“Protests,” Lee told me in a telephone interview, “are one way that pushes people’s feet to the fire. Whatever the issue is, it’s brought to the forefront. But … there’s still a need for people to do legislative advocacy, dealing with policy, whether it’s from the national to the local, showing people how to be engaged and (affecting) the policies that have such direct impact.”

Too often, said Lee, African-Americans have focused solely on protest — an important element of social change, but not the only one. He used the analogy of weightlifters that focus solely on building upper-body mass while “their legs are toothpicks. … In many ways, our policy legs are like toothpicks. Most people don’t know how to engage that. What you find in the policy area is more the politicos, more the people who have been doing this stuff a while. But we want just everyday brothers — and sisters — to see how they can get engaged in policy and to make sure that their legislators, whether it’s federal, or … local, city, state, know who they are, hear their voices…”

Full disclosure: I’ve known Rev. Tony Lee for about eight years. He christened my granddaughter. And I couldn’t think of a better person to respond to Tracy. As I said in my last column, she is a reader from Austin, Texas, a 55-year-old white woman, who wrote me that she is heartsick about police violence against unarmed African-American men. I decided to focus a series of columns — open-ended and running irregularly — on finding answers to the question she asked me:

What can I do?

“I have a framework for people like her and for others,” said Lee. “It’s educate, advocate, and participate. Educate means to get educated on the issue. A lot of times, what will happen is … you can end up having a lot of blind spots because you haven’t educated yourself on the issues. … Some of those local and national organizations have a great wealth of information that you can be able to educate yourself on what’s happening around some of the issues.”

Nor, he said, should she keep what she learns to herself. “As she’s becoming more informed, start talking to the people in her life. She should never minimize what it means to talk to people who are around her, people that she daily deals with. It sounds like that would be white people. She can talk to her friends and her neighbors and … educate them on what she’s learning.”

Having educated herself, he said, she should advocate, i.e., start “to deal with and talk about these issues and how she feels about them to people who are in decision-making authority in her region, whether it’s her local lawmakers or even her national representatives.”

Tracy, said Lee, should understand the advantage her skin color affords her. “It’s one thing for some of her lawmakers to hear from some of the usual suspects. It’s another thing for them to hear from constituents that aren’t black, but are white … to hear from some of their constituents who say, ‘Hey, this is wrong.’” Even the civil rights movement, he points out, included white Americans of conscience, who realized it was not just a struggle for “black” rights, but for human rights.

Which brings us to the third leg of Lee’s model for civic engagement: participate.

“Just get connected,” he said. “All organizations can use volunteers, (even if) it’s just to come in and say, ‘I’d love to work the phones for you all for a couple of hours a week.’ But find a space to participate. The other piece of participation is to be able to give. Many of the organizations in her region and nationally, need resources to be able to do the work. … Never think that any gift is too small.”

Nor, he said, does giving stop there. “You may be in a position of fund-raising. It may be that you are able, not just to give, but to shape sessions among personal networks to be able to raise funds for some of these organizations.

Educate, advocate, participate. It is, admittedly, not an agenda as immediately and viscerally gratifying as street protest, but it highlights a salient truth about American social transformation.

On the street is where the change is demanded. At the table is where it is made.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 4, 2015

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Policy, Protests | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Killing Of America”: This Country Was Born In The Fires Of Violence, And Will Die In The Flames Of Viciousness

Our country is dying on the streets of Baltimore.

I have argued before that we will never have racial reconciliation in this country, so long as some whites embrace the “They had it coming!” argument to justify police violence against people of color. Now, I’m convinced that America will end in race war. I no longer believe Americans can live together in harmony. We are coming apart.

Two decades ago, in the fall of 1995, I also wondered if America was on its way to race war. In the two weeks between O. J. Simpson’s acquittal and the Million Man March, I feared that it would only be a matter of time before white men and black men took up arms against each other, determined to slaughter as many members of “the other side” as possible.

Those fears subsided, but two decades later, those concerns are stronger than ever. Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, North Charleston and Baltimore are the battles in the race war of our time.

I have always considered myself an integrationist. I always had faith that our society would atone for its original sin of slavery, would move from hatred to healing, would grow from the past and walk together towards a beautiful future. I believed that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream would one day be reality.

Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, North Charleston and Baltimore prove that dreams only happen when you’re asleep.

I understand now why Richard Wright and Josephine Baker decided to leave the United States. I understand now why so many despair about the future of American race relations. I understand now why there’s no hope.

Our race problems cannot be fixed. Barack Obama cannot fix them. Bernie Sanders cannot fix them. Hillary Clinton cannot fix them. Our society is doomed, poisoned by a virus injected into our veins when the slave ships first hit American shores.

Remember Michael Moore’s great cartoon from the film Bowling for Columbine about America’s history of racist violence?

If your children are old enough to understand, require them to watch this video. Compel them to comprehend why our cities are filled with anger. Teach them to recognize that the sins of the Founding Fathers have been visited upon successive generations.

America is dying. America is over. It cannot survive. It is dying from within. This country was born in the fires of violence, and it will die in the flames of viciousness. There is no hope, no change–only hatred and pain.

UPDATE: From 2013, Michael Moore and Michael Eric Dyson on the Molotov cocktail of racism, fear and violence in America.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 3, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | American History, Baltimore, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Official’s Under Pressure To Confront The Issues”: Did Violence In Baltimore Lead To Cops Being Prosecuted For Freddie Gray’s Death?

This is just extraordinary news out of Baltimore:

The six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray – who died last month after being injured in police custody – have been charged criminally, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday.

Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45, who was the driver of a police van that carried Gray through the streets of Baltimore, was charged with second-degree murder, assault, manslaughter, misconduct and other charges.

Officer William Porter, 25, and Lt. Brian Rice, 41, were charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Sgt. Alicia White, 30, was charged with manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Officer Edward Nero, 29, and Officer Garrett Miller, 26, were charged with assault and misconduct.

We’re going to learn more in the coming days about what the prosecutors say happened, what the officers say happened, and what evidence there is for each story. But police officers getting charged with murder and manslaughter is an extremely rare occurrence, and it forces us to ask a difficult question:

Would this have happened if the protests in Baltimore hadn’t turned violent? Is that what it takes to get accountability when someone dies at the hands of police?

Before I go any farther, let me make it clear that I’m not arguing in favor of rioting. The destruction that occurred Monday night in Baltimore had real victims, including not only the store owners whose businesses were damaged but also the residents of the affected neighborhoods. But it’s hard to argue that it didn’t have an impact.

We have no way of knowing whether Mosby would have pursued these charges had no one outside of Freddie Gray’s friends and family ever heard of him. But it would be foolish to deny that she was under enormous pressure to make a case against the officers involved.

You may have seen the video from Tuesday of a woman named Danielle Williams, who said to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts:

“When we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us. So now that we’ve burned down buildings and set businesses on fire and looted buildings, now all of the sudden everybody wants to hear us.”

She was absolutely right. The violence led to a huge increase in media attention, and even if much of that coverage was sensationalistic, there was also a lot of attention paid to the substantive issues involved. Those included the Baltimore police’s record in dealing with the public generally, and in particular the use of “rough rides” as a method of abusing suspects, which is a likely explanation for how Freddie Gray came to have his spine broken in the back of a police ban.

All that national attention put every public official under pressure to not only bring calm but also to confront the issues that have the people of Baltimore so angry: The police commissioner, the mayor, the governor, and yes, the state’s attorney. While every official would like to believe that he or she would make all the same decisions regardless of whether there are people chanting in the streets and news cameras parked outside their office, they can’t possibly be immune.

There are some interesting details that emerged from Mosby’s press conference, including her statement that Gray’s arrest was unlawful in the first place; while it had been reported that Gray was arrested for possessing a switchblade, Mosby said that the knife Gray had in his pocket was not a switchblade and was perfectly legal. We’ll no doubt be learning more. But what matters is that in this case, unlike so many others (Gray wasn’t the first suspect in Baltimore who went into a police van and came out with a fatal spinal injury), there’s going to be a prosecution.

Perhaps this prosecution — and whatever reforms might happen in the near future — would have occurred if the protests had stayed peaceful. There’s no way to know for sure. But you don’t have to approve of rioting to acknowledge that in this case it may well have led to results.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 1, 2015

May 3, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore Police Dept, Baltimore Riots, National Media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Immoral Worldview Common Among Republicans”: Police Violence Is Putting The Lie To The Tea Party Conservatism

As with so much else in modern America, the experience of Ferguson and Baltimore has turned police brutality into a partisan issue. With a few rare exceptions, Democrats and progressives tend to fall on the side of the victims of discriminatory and violent behavior by police, while conservatives tend to go to bat for the authorities.

The primary reason for this is racism: conservative whites tend to see urban minorities as either subhuman or guilty of cultural sins that are supposed to explain their endemic poverty. In that context, any police violence is excused as the necessary quelling by any means of an aggressively violent population unable to fit into civil society and unworthy of the civil rights afforded to non-minorities. It’s an immoral worldview, but extremely common among base Republicans.

The other reason is discrimination against the poor in general. Conservatives wrongly assume that the wealthy are society’s job creators, and the poor are simply moochers who eat off the generous fruits of the holders of capital. The military defends the righteous and free producers in America against the socialist and Communist freeloaders outside the U.S., while the police vigilantly defend property rights and social order against the ever-dangerous fifth column of parasites from within. That Objectivist viewpoint is just as factually wrong and immoral as the racist one, but it’s also far more acceptable within polite society largely because it’s so convenient to the wealthy elite and their enablers.

The problem, of course, is that these views run directly counter to supposed conservative stances on liberty and the 2nd Amendment. Republicans claim to be the defenders of freedom against big government tyranny. More disturbingly, they insist that deadly arsenals be permitted in every American home and even on the streets–primarily as a defense against the potential for infringement on civil rights by a totalitarian state.

But where we see the government most actively and destructively impinging on the rights of its citizens, not only are conservatives mostly silent on the abuses but they stridently stand on the side of the unaccountable state enforcers.

The reason is obvious, of course: the only government tyranny conservatives truly fear is one in which the poor–and particularly the non-white poor–have the ability to constrain their property rights. Cliven Bundy becomes a hero for threatening to shoot law enforcement that holds him accountable for stealing water and land, even as killer cops are lauded for killing unarmed black men for no legitimate reason. Welfare via taxation is seen as a greater evil than corporate malfeasance.

Conservatives can’t be upfront and honest about their immoral beliefs because only about 30% of the American population shares them, and it’s not OK to say most of these things in polite society. That’s why they’re so angry, why they feel oppressed, and why they “want their country back.”

But honesty here is necessary. We can’t move forward as a society without honest conversation, and if conservatives refuse to be openly honest about what they believe, it falls on us to provide that honesty for them.

But most of all, it’s time to stop pretending that Republicans care about liberty or government abuse of power. They really care about keeping poor people and minorities from having access to the same quality of life they purport to enjoy, and they’ll use every lever of tyranny to keep it way–whether through the ballot box or the ammo box.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 2, 2015

May 3, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Partisan Politics, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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