A project of peace in the aftermath of rioting in St Louis brings a message of hope through art on boarded up shops.
I’ve been trying to understand why different groups of honest and sincere people see the same incident of Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Missouri and come to very different conclusions. Yes, primarily, it seems as if “whites” conclude that this is simply a case of a thuggish boy acting wantonly, provoking police, and causing his own demise. And yet, “blacks” seem to see the incident more personally, as an indictment of their own experience, and have reacted as if the justice system denied each of them due process.
One group has no identification with the victim or the situation and views it detached and isolated. One group sees themselves vicariously as the victim. I’d not been able to quite understand the contrasting perspectives, until I read the article below. I think the authors performed a service for us all if we take the time to think about what they are saying, and I think they may have hit the situation spot on.
Ferguson killing: the facts and the reality
People’s own lives can make for different views of Brown slaying.
By Victoria Loe Hicks and Craig Schneider with Atlanta Journal Constitution
When white people talk about the death of Michael Brown, they talk about facts. When black people talk about it, they talk about reality.
They are not the same thing.
Deena Mann Maxson of Hiram looks at the facts of Brown’s shooting: that he reached into Officer Darren Wilson’s car, that he was facing and perhaps advancing on Wilson when he was killed. She does not see what happened in terms of race.
“Brown committed a crime and assaulted and attacked Officer Wilson when questioned. Officer Wilson was doing his job. Stop committing crimes and there won’t be an issue,” Maxson said.
Wade Clark of Duluth looks at the reality of Brown’s shooting: that black people are far more likely to be shot by police than white people, that many African-Americans have felt the indignity of being challenged by police or store security for merely being “out of place.”
“You very rarely see white guys getting shot like this,” said Clark, 32.
That’s not to say that black people have ignored the facts of the Brown case. They question, for example, the unusual nature of the grand jury that heard evidence against Wilson, and also the way the evidence was presented. All of which reinforces, for many, the idea that the Brown shooting was less an isolated event than a point on a long and dismal continuum.
White Americans and black Americans can look at the same thing and see something quite different — not because of what they’re seeing but because of where they’re standing. Those remarkably different perspectives lead to misunderstanding and frustration on both sides.
Bridging that divide will not be easy, but even in the heat of moments like these, some people, police included, are determined to try.
‘Police officer is a very scary job’
Much of the conversation relates to the relationship between the police and the black community. The work of scholars and government analysts is awash in statistics about the intersection of race and justice.
Here is perhaps the most stark: Black teenagers are at 21 times greater risk of being shot dead by police than white teenagers, according to a report last month from the investigative journalism website ProPublica. The analysis examined 1,217 deadly police shootings included in federal law enforcement data from 2010 to 2012.
As an African-American, Wade Clark feels some whites look at him and see every black criminal they’ve seen in the news. “You see one do a bad thing and we’re all judged. We have to constantly prove ourselves. It’s frustrating,” he said.
Bill Florence, 57, lives in Dunwoody, but he used to work in Clayton County as prosecutor. Florence, who is white, said racial perceptions may have influenced Officer Wilson’s behavior.
But he said it’s important to weigh his actions in the context of a police officer’s experience.
“Let’s face it, being a police officer is a very scary job,” he said. “You never know when it might be your last minute or somebody else’s.”
Faced with making split-second decisions, an officer can’t stop and evaluate whether racial stereotypes are clouding his or her judgment, he said.
“You can’t think about the socioeconomic forces at work, because a bullet could be coming at you,” he said.
Driving while black’ in America
Deaths like Michael Brown’s are relatively rare. At the other end of the spectrum are simple traffic stops, the most common interaction between all citizens and police.
In its most recent survey, in 2011, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 12.8 percent of black drivers reported being stopped by police in the past year; for whites, the number was 9.8 percent. Twice as many blacks (32.5 percent) as whites (16.4 percent) believed they were stopped for no legitimate reason. They were equally likely to feel that way whether the officer was white or black.
Once they were stopped, black drivers were more than twice as likely to be searched and also more likely to be ticketed.
Among African-Americans, “everybody has stories” of the perils of “driving while black,” said Carol Anderson, an associate professor of African-American studies and history at Emory.
For her, one such incident occurred while she was driving accompanied by a white friend in the friend’s neighborhood. Anderson made a quick turn and the police lights appeared behind her. Her friend started railing that she had made that quick turn often without any trouble, that Anderson being pulled over was just wrong.
Her outrage didn’t comfort Anderson; it scared her, because she feared it might inflame the cop. “I was like, ‘Shut up,’” the scholar said. “(My friend) is not going to get shot. I can easily be shot. My Ph.D. doesn’t matter.”
‘They should start asking questions’
Researchers have reported for decades that African-Americans make up a disproportionate share of people arrested, convicted and imprisoned in this country.
What’s difficult to know for sure is why.
No one is arrested for the vast majority of reported crimes, so there’s no way to know the races of the ones who evade prosecution. That opens the possibility that racial bias is behind the discrepancies in arrests and convictions. But it doesn’t prove it.
Perhaps, in a country that is majority white, lawmakers, police, prosecutors, judges and juries do share an opinion that black people are inclined toward criminality. Even if that bias is unconscious, the likely result — blacks being more likely to be arrested and prosecuted than whites — would only reinforce the belief.
“It’s certainly something that should get your attention and you should start to ask questions,” said David A. Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh school of law who is an expert on racial profiling, police conduct and accountability. “Does this reflect discrimination? You can’t make that judgment without knowing more. But a pattern of disparity should be enough to make police departments, courts, whoever, they should start asking questions about whether they have a problem.”
‘Biased policing is not legitimate policing’
It’s also possible that the circumstances in which black people commit crimes — for instance, the open-air drug markets that plague some low-income neighborhoods — make criminals who operate in such settings easier to catch. And, once caught, they are less likely than whites to have the money to hire a skilled defense lawyer.
When it comes to the fraught relationship between African-Americans and police, it may be that both sides come to any encounter primed with suspicion, expecting the worst. Sadly, our expectations sometimes affect our behavior in ways that turn those expectations into self-fulfilling prophesies.
Some leaders in law enforcement are sufficiently worried about the reality or perception of bias to have created a working group designed to research and prevent it.
“Biased policing is not legitimate policing and leads to mistrust in the communities that most need effective law enforcement services,” said a report from the group, the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity. “This perception is driven in part by historical realities and in part because the percentage of stops that result in valid arrests tend to be relatively low and the number of innocent racial/ethnic minorities subjected to police stops, frisks, and searches tends to be relatively high.”
‘Staggering disparity’ in arrest rates
The Ferguson shooting spurred a flood of fresh analysis that reinforced the findings of previous research.
Just this month, USA Today identified a “staggering disparity” in arrest rates based on race in communities across the country, based on a nationwide analysis of arrest data.
In Ferguson, blacks are almost three times as likely to be arrested as non-blacks. The newspaper’s analysis found more than 1,500 communities, including some of the largest in metro Atlanta, with even greater disparities between white and black arrest rates.
In Atlanta, the arrest rate is more than five times greater for blacks. In Sandy Springs and Marietta, it’s more than three times higher. In areas patrolled by DeKalb County Police, arrest rates are more than four times higher for blacks. For Clayton County Police, it’s five times higher. Among the jurisdictions included in USA Today’s analysis, Acworth was the only place in the five core metro counties with no racial disparity in arrest rates.
Another recent report, by scholars at Stanford, sheds a startling light on one impact of such statistics. In their study, the data didn’t make whites favor reforms; rather, they increased support for get-tough-on-crime policies.
The toll of the ‘war on drugs’
In the U.S., the “war on drugs” epitomizes those policies. After the war began in the 1980s, drug offenses became the leading source of convictions in the United States.
Drug offenses are also one area where it’s possible to test the justice system for bias. That’s because independent data, gleaned through large, anonymous surveys, show how many people use drugs and which types they use.
Contrary to popular perception, by far the most common drug crime prosecuted in the past few years has been possession of marijuana. Although surveys show that whites and blacks use pot at nearly the same rate, blacks are 3.7 times as likely to be arrested for possession, according to an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union.
In Georgia, 65 percent of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana possession. Sixty-four percent of those arrested were black.
In the 1980s and ’90s, cocaine was the target of legislators, prosecutors and police. As crack began to flood into poor neighborhoods, Congress passed laws designed to stem its rise. One set the minimum sentence for possession of 5 grams of crack at five years but left the maximum sentence for possession of any amount of powdered cocaine at one year.
Subsequent federal studies found that more than 80 percent of inmates serving time for crack were black, although studies showed the majority of users were not. Data also showed that blacks served roughly as much time for nonviolent drug offenses as whites did for violent crimes.
‘They’re going to get pulled over’
So, back to this facts-vs.-reality thing.
In many instances, whites and blacks do seem to be talking past each other from different planets. But that doesn’t mean they can’t reach beyond the boundaries of their own experiences and grasp the nuances of a complex and intractable problem.
Ronnie Burden is 46 and black. The Decatur resident thinks police sometimes shoot black suspects “at the drop of a hat,” but he acknowledged some young blacks bring trouble upon themselves.
“Our youth, some are very much out of control,” he said.
Myna Helfont is 86 and white. The Sandy Springs resident thinks the way many young black men present themselves is a provocation.
“If these kids want to look like gangsters, they’re going to get pulled over,” she said.
But, she, too, sees another side to the story.
“(Blacks) don’t trust the police and there are incidents in which innocent young boys are pulled over. It leads to a lot of distrust,” Helfont said.
A conversation I read online between two humans trying to understand each other and what has happened. A little more talking, and trying, and understanding will make a better world.
I have a number of white acquaintances. I even have a few white friends. The latter are people who simply accept me and all of my eccentricities. They judge me, they yell at me, they tell me I don’t understand. For the most part, my white friends know I never really think of them as my ‘white’ friends.
Why start this off with the above? Well. It’s actually rather simple. We live in a race society and a racially divided country and race, for the most part, has a bearing on almost every single solitary action in our existence. I choose to start this off with a reality. It doesn’t matter if I am walking around in a high end store or wanting to buy a house. The differences scream at us whether we want them to or not. Try as we might to NOT see the differences and as politically correct as it may be to not even mention the differences, if you can’t discuss those differences then are you truly friends?
What’s going on in Ferguson, MO is tragic and backing down behind the argument “we don’t really know what happened around that police car. Wait for the facts to come out” does not quite grasp the anguish and horror as well as the complete and total frustration so many blacks in that town and blacks all over America experience, not feel but actually experience directly each and every day of our lives.
Getting pulled over for “Driving while Black” is not some cute little saying nor does this cute little saying fully grasp the horror of what it is to pass by a police car, look at him while he looks at you going by and KNOW you need to prepare to pull over. Not once or twice or in some small southern town but the absolute reality of this in big and medium American cities. Black children may be taught to respect the police but we come to understand that we must FEAR the police. They will shoot us. They will beat us. They will harass us. Usually with little or no provocation. This is a reality for us. For us the police force is a military force with all of the enjoined powers thereof, and it’s not a black cop nor a white cop because all cops are blue.
My white friends and I have this conversation and some of them get that they cannot understand no matter how many facts they may have about our existence. They try. They really do but they cannot. They are sympathetic and get it intellectually but the reality of having a police officer order one to show ID simply because you are walking down the street or to have someone follow you around a store… or even to ask a police officer for directions. It’s terrifying for those of us who are law abiding citizens. What about those who straddle it or flat out break the law.
This is a terrifying time in Ferguson but this is only the reality that we live with each and every single day and it does not make it to the media and when it does it’s downplayed because the victim is black. Let’s face it he already has two strikes against him. He’s black and he’s male. Anything that happens… well the cops are probably justified.
Some of us whites have an inkling. If we are dressed in really casual clothes, torn blue jeans, 3 day beard etc, the cops are more likely to harass us when out walking, store clerks watch us and so on. Many whites and other races have experienced this unfortunate class-based discrimination.
However, there is a big difference – all my fellow whites and I have to do is put on a suit and tie and the police usually turn much more courteous. From talking to blacks and reading accounts in the news the discrimination happens no matter what. It must be a terrible feeling to live in a society where you are constantly under suspicion wherever you go or what you do.
When prejudicial thoughts enter my mind I try really hard to not let them turn into action. I believe we all can reduce each form of discrimination in society if we have the self-discipline and courage.
I understand the Canadian confusion. Our electorate does defy reason — and a whole lot of other things that suggest thoughtfulness.
Click image to make larger if needed
Off With His Head — A Nation Profoundly Better Off Under Obama Rejected His Leadership At The Election Polls
In America last night, the election outcomes were not much of a surprise. Republicans did not so much as win, and Democrats did not so much as lose — though certainly it feels that way. No, instead, the election was a referendum on failed presidential leadership.
Though in almost every measurable way the American people are profoundly better off today than they were before President Obama took office, the American people soundly repudiated him yesterday in the election. Why?
Failure To Lead
The President never actually led the nation to feel hope during economic recovery, never made the people feel secure in a threatening world, never guided them confidently through the most major change in health care coverage, and finally never offered reassurance from a menacing and deadly virus seeping its way into the country. In other words, the voters lashed out against failed executive leadership.
As was so correctly said by a member of the Republican National Committee in an op-ed to businesspersons, “At the national level, disgusted and angry voters vented in a very direct way on President Barack Obama, taking their concerns to the ballot box… Contrary to a Republican self-proclaimed resurgence at the national level, the 2014 midterm elections were not as much validations of a Republican national agenda as repudiation” of President Obama’s leadership, or lack thereof.
On a night when Republicans were expected to do well, they did. Or, to be more accurate, on a night when Democrats were expected to do poorly, they did – losing in places they never expected to lose (like Iowa and Colorado) and slipping further and further behind in state capitols and legislatures around the country (including governorships in traditionally dark blue states like Maryland and Massachusetts).
Yet, across the nation progressive ballot initiatives passed easily, such as minimum wage increases, transportation tax initiatives, prison reform and decriminalization, marijuana legalization, and conservation programs, to name only a few.
Make no mistake, this election was transformed into a referendum on President Obama, and was not a movement against progressive causes or policies.
Notwithstanding the results, the Republican brand at the national level remains tarnished, and sustaining a governing majority for longer than a single election cycle will be a challenge unless changes continue to happen within the Republican Party itself, a moderation and appeal to reasonableness.
Significant Progress Obscured By Failed Leadership
Failed leadership does not mean “failed administration.” The sad aspect of the election reality and the disillusionment of the electorate is that so much has been accomplished by the Obama Administration and, yet, went unappreciated.
People have many perceptions of how the US economy or the country as a whole is doing in recent years. Depending on your political views, you may think the country is doing exceptionally well or on the verge of collapse. Even those knowing the nation has done very well in the last six years remained untethered and insecure due to the cold void created by a lack of reassuring communication and guiding leadership from the President.
Listed below are 14 objective facts, without interjecting any opinion, about the state of America under the leadership of President Obama. Each statement is followed up with a link to a source where you can verify these facts for yourself.
1. We’ve now had 63 straight months of economic expansion.
That’s right, for 63 consecutive months the US economy has gotten progressively better. That includes 54 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Forbes magazine, no fan of President Obama, crunched the numbers and demonstrated how the economic recovery under President Obama has been better in just about every measurable way than the recovery under President Reagan.
2. We are currently enjoying the longest period of private sector job creation in American history.
Again, this statistic comes from the Forbes Magazine article listed above. In fact, we have now had 54 straight months of private sector job creation. That is the longest period of job creation since the Department of Labor has been keeping statistics. See the link below.
3. Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% in October of 2009 to 5.9% and projected to reach 5.4% by summer of 2015.
Not only has the unemployment rate dropped significantly, but since the recession ended, our economy as added over ten million new jobs. You can refer to the Forbes article above or check this article on PoliticsUSA.
4. The stock market continues to set new records since President Obama has been in office.
Since early 2009 there has been a steady trend in stock market growth. The Dow Jones Industrial averages reached an all-time high of 17,098 in August, 2014. Since most Americans have 401K retirement investments in the stock market, this stock market growth benefits millions of middle class Americans.
5. The Federal budget deficit is shrinking. It’s been reduced by two-thirds since 2009.
The $1.4 trillion federal budget deficit that Obama inherited in 2009 was in a large part due to the high rate of unemployment. When millions of people were put out of work in 2008 and 2009, it resulted in far less income taxes and less economic activity to generate federal revenue. As ten million people have been put back to work, there have been billions more tax dollars generated. As a result, the deficit has been shrinking each year. The 2014 deficit is projected to be around $500 billion, the smallest deficit since 2007 and roughly 1/3 of what it was in 2009.
6. Under President Obama, spending has increased only 1.4% annually, the lowest rate since Eisenhower was president.
You may have heard critics say that President Obama is spending money wildly and running up our debt. According to this article from Forbes, Obama has increased spending by 1.4% annually, far less than President Reagan (8.7%) or George W. Bush (8.1%). In fact, Obama has increased spending less than any president since Eisenhower.
7. For 95% of American taxpayers, income taxes are lower now than just about any time in the previous 50 years.
After President Obama took office, thousands of Tea Party members all over the country held rallies protesting Obama’s tax increases. At that time, President Obama had actually passed several tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Most of the Tea Partiers who were protesting had only seen their taxes decrease under Obama. Yet polls indicated that most Tea Party members wrongly believed their taxes had gone up.
In fact, the only people whose income taxes have gone up during Obama’s presidency are those making $400,000 per year or more. That’s less than 2% of the population. Today, for the vast majority of people, tax rates are exactly where they were when Obama first took office or lower. The article below from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains this in greater detail.
8. Our dependence on foreign oil has shrunk due to record domestic oil production and improved fuel efficiency standards.
While some people claim that oil production has declined under President Obama, the truth is just the opposite. Oil production has reached record highs. The United States now produces so much oil that we export more oil and gasoline than we import.
9. Up to 10 million more Americans now have health insurance than before.
Depending on whose numbers you use, between 7 and 10 million Americans acquired health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Now that those 7 to 10 million Americans have insurance, the rest of us are no longer on the hook to pay for their health care when they get sick. This saves the American people billions of dollars in the long run.
10. The Affordable Care Act has added years to the life of Medicare.
The Medicare trust fund had been on course to run out of money by the end of 2016. But due to cost savings from the Affordable Care Act and lower healthcare expenses, Medicare’s trust fund is now stable until the year 2030 without cutting benefits.
11. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing the slowest rate of increase in healthcare costs since 1960.
Contrary to the predictions from Republicans, health care costs have increased at a much slower pace since the passage of the ACA.
12. We currently have fewer soldiers, sailors and airmen in war zones than any time in over 10 years.
With the end of the Iraq war and the steady withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, we have fewer people in war zones now than any time since 2002.
13. There have been zero successful attacks by al Qaeda on US soil since Obama became president.
Despite Dick Cheney’s claim that if voters elect a Democrat as president, we’ll be “hit again and hit hard” by al Qaeda, we have actually been far safer from terrorist attacks on US soil in recent years than we were under the previous president. There have been several unsuccessful attacks against the US under both presidents, but under Obama, al Qaeda has been largely unsuccessful in striking the US on our home soil.
14. We now successfully catch and deport more illegal immigrants than ever before.
Despite the publicity from busloads of children who illegally entered the country, the numbers prove that President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.
Reality Doesn’t Matter When The People Feel No Reassuring Hand Of Leadership
All of the facts stated above can be confirmed through multiple sources, yet most Americans are not consciously aware of all of this positive news; they don’t feel it, either. That’s what happens when the reassuring hand and voice of leadership are absent. Cold and stark reality offer no warmth and comfort to a concerned and disquieted nation.
The numerous achievements of the administration, cited above, resulting from the last six year’s work were an outstanding achievement. But, the people were never helped to feel secure and hopeful along the way. What they know is that they read or hear about this great economic and stock market performance, yet they don’t have much more, if any more, income than they used to have and don’t feel secure or hopeful about future improvement.
There’s an underlying truth or reason for that feeling… because the top 10% has received 98% of the income growth over the recovery (and 95% of 2009-2012 Income Gains Went to Wealthiest 1% — check the Wall Street Journal). That reality didn’t start with Obama. Even when times were good before the crash, “the people” were falling further behind the elites: according to the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan policy analysis arm of Congress, “The poorest tax filers (the bottom fifth) saw average after-tax income fall by 6 percent between 1996 and 2006,” the report said. While “the richest 1 percent of tax filers experienced a 74 percent increase in after-tax income.”
All the people know and feel is that they are not as better off compared to the great achievement numbers talked about. And they blamed the man in charge who never got close to them, never led them.
The GOP basically destroyed the country under W. Bush, continue(d) to foster a system that skews wealth and income away from the middle-class (favoring capital gains and interest income over earned income), and then blamed it on the President who sat by almost silently.
The truth is, most other presidents would envy President Obama’s performance record despite the fact that he inherited the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. If only Obama had the reassuring and warm-yet-strong leadership skills of Reagan or Clinton, last night’s election results would have been dramatically different.
But, no other modern President received as cold an introduction to his office as Obama, either. He had to develop thick skin immediately. Perhaps that isolated him from the feelings and concerns of the people as much as it did protect him from the vitriol of those who opposed him, in either case not serving him well in the end.
Profoundly Better Off Under Obama — An Ungrateful Nation?
Consider, as well, these additional facts forgotten or overlooked by the electorate… An Ungrateful Nation?
- Since Obama became president, our economy has gone from losing 800,000 jobs per month to adding 200,000 jobs per month. That’s a net improvement under Obama of about 1 million jobs per month!
- Before Obama became president, our financial system was in ruins and millions of people were at risk of losing their life savings. Now, the financial loopholes have been fixed and we are no longer at risk of another financial collapse.
- In 5 years under Obama the economy has created twice as many jobs as were created in 8 years under George W. Bush.
- President Obama passed credit card reforms that protects consumers from excessive fees, rate hikes, deceptive marketing and unreasonable due dates.
- Thanks to “Obamacare”, senior citizens have saved billions of dollars on prescription drugs.
- The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of your premiums on health care. As a result millions of Americans have received refunds from their health insurance companies.
- Despite the unprecedented obstructionism and record number of filibusters used by Republicans to kill even the most routine legislation, the fact remains, in almost every measurable way, the American people are profoundly better off today than they were before President Obama took office.
Still, said the Nation… Off with his head!
For more than 165 million Americans — more than half the US population — Same-Sex Marriage Equality is now very real.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday to decline hearing a series of appeals cases on same-sex marriage will have the effect of immediately legalizing gay marriage in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. When combined with the 19 states (and the District of Columbia) that had previously legalized same-sex marriage, these states have a collective population of roughly 165 million, according to 2013 census figures.
For the first time, same-sex marriage is legal for the majority of the U.S. population. The 26 states where the practice is not legal have a total population of about 151 million.
The Supreme Court’s decision will also lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those states have an additional 25 million people combined. When these states follow suit because they fall under federal circuit courts that have ruled same-sex marriage restrictions unconstitutional, 30 states and the District of Columbia — totaling about 60 percent of the U.S. population — will allow same-sex marriage.
Two years ago at this time, same-sex marriage was legal only in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District, which together have about 11 percent of the U.S. population.
Progress marches onward.