Along a secluded gravel road that runs between a riverbank and cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta region, a purple sign marks the area where Emmett Till’s mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in the summer of 1955.
For eight years, the sign has been riddled with bullet holes.
The 14-year-old from Chicago was visiting the South when he was accused of whistling at a white woman and murdered. His death became a rallying cry for the civil rights movement, but several signs meant to memorialize the killing — including the one on the riverbank between the towns of Glendora, Miss., and Webb, Miss. — have been vandalized by spray paint and bullet holes. Others have been stolen.
It took a visiting filmmaker, Kevin Wilson Jr., to rally support for replacing the sign by the Tallahatchie River when he shared a photo of it on his Facebook page this month.
“I’m at the exact site where Emmett Till’s body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River 61 years ago,” Mr. Wilson wrote on Oct. 15. “The site marker is filled with bullet holes. Clear evidence that we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Simon Balto has a rejoinder to Donald Trump’s fearmongering call to institute stop and frisk policing in Chicago. See, Chicago has a long history with this. It’s not a good history.
Legally constructed in the 1960s, stop-and-frisk was forged in a political moment that, much like our own, was governed by racial fears and anxieties, and against a backdrop deeply contoured by a black-led movement that demanded the radical transformation of America. In Chicago, this was an age of black in-migration to the city, white hostility to the new black presence, a vibrant local civil rights movement—including a nearly year-long open-housing campaign partly led by Martin Luther King, Jr.—and, ultimately, a blowback that saw many whites retrench into steely resentment.
Guiding the police force against that tumultuous backdrop was Chicago Police Department Superintendent Orlando Wilson. Already a renowned criminologist when he took over the department in 1960, Wilson was a thoughtful man and, at least overtly, a steady racial moderate. Nevertheless, as a progenitor of what’s called “preventive policing,” Wilson aggressively called for proactive rather than reactive policing. Under this model, police departments shifted from a focus on responding to crimes already committed, and toward eliminating potential crimes by confronting “suspicious persons” on the street. In so doing, Wilson and others enacted policies that usually ended up singling out black communities as problem areas, and that saddled them with unique forms of surveillance and control. Stop-and-frisk was the centerpiece of this.
The fault lines were immediate. Within a black community that was becoming increasingly mobilized in response to racism and inequality, people could not have known that Chicago’s violent crime rates would get significantly worse after implementation of stop-and-frisk, but they suspected that crime rates would not be significantly improved. Moreover, many of them correctly forecasted that it would be black people who would overwhelmingly face the effects of stop-and-frisk. Black Illinois House member and future Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, the ACLU and others cited a litany of reasons for this – not least because black people were uniquely vulnerable to CPD officers harboring anti-black racism. This assertion received the strongest possible stamp of affirmation in 1967 and 1968, when a Ku Klux Klan cell that included the Illinois Klan’s Grand Wizard was found operating within the CPD.
But those arguments against stop-and-frisk drowned in a sea of favorable white opinion. Although it would not become official policy until 1968, the real breakthrough for stop-and-frisk in Chicago came in 1965 when a number of political processes collided to give the issue a particular saliency.
Superintendent Wilson, continuing to see stop-and-frisk as necessary police policy, ramped up lobbying efforts to get it protected by the courts as a legitimate police prerogative. Tellingly, the political leaders who were quickest to offer their support were from Chicago’s white suburban ring, not the city proper. Republican politicians from Melrose Park, River Forest and other suburbs led the initial charge to see a stop-and-frisk bill introduced into the state legislature.
Perhaps the most important booster in the long term, though, was Democratic Mayor Richard Daley, whom Wilson successfully recruited to the stop-and-risk cause that same year. Daley refracted stop-and-frisk through his own racial lens and used it to his own ends. He’d been bleeding white voters and was electorally vulnerable, and so stop-and-frisk appeared at that juncture as a way to win the trust of white voters who thought that he hadn’t been tough enough on race and crime. The holder of famously tremendous political clout in Chicago, he joined with Wilson to work across the partisan aisle for the bill’s passage.
The bill failed to pass through in 1965 and was vetoed by Democratic Governor Otto Kerner in 1967, but the coalition and the dynamics that would see it succeed were set in place. By 1968, the same year that the United States Supreme Court enshrined it into law in Terry v. Ohio, stop-and-frisk’s supporters saw it become Illinois law. It has persisted as a profoundly controversial policy measure ever since.
Of course everything Trump said about race in his debate was calculated to scare white people. It’s as if his entire view of the inner city comes from repeated viewings of Colors and New Jack City. Which it might. And given the number of white people who are scared of black people, he might ride that vision straight into the Oval Office.
The message on the receipt rattled Sadie Karina Elledge, but it made her grandfather see red.
Instead of leaving a gratuity on Monday, a couple eating at the Harrisonburg, Va., restaurant where Sadie works scrawled: “We only tip citizens.”
The dig was aimed at Sadie, 18, who was born in the United States but is of Honduran and Mexican descent. So, John Elledge took a photo of the grease-stained receipt left for his granddaughter and posted it on Facebook.
Beneath the photo he typed: “You are a complete and total piece of dung.”
Earlier on Facebook, the lawyer had written some other harsh words:
I’d happily do the jail time if I could get just one solid punch in to the face of the son of a bitch who paid for his meal at the luncheonette where my granddaughter works and left the receipt for her with a note saying, “Sorry, we only tip citizens.”
Elledge, who is white, told The Washington Post he’s particularly sensitive to slights directed at his multicultural family.
FWIW, this is also another reason why we need to pay restaurant workers a decent wage and eliminate tipping.
The National Rifle Association, the nation’s most morally abhorrent organization and producer of vile children’s propaganda, does not actually support unlimited gun rights. It supports unlimited gun rights for white people. It’s worth remembering that the NRA was originally just a hunting rights organization and that in the 70s it was on the verge of closing its Washington offices and moving its headquarters to Colorado to focus on its core mission. But then new leadership took over that connected gun rights to white backlash to the civil rights movement. Ever since then it has been a front line organization in the culture wars, which of course have always been more than tinged with racism. So it’s hardly surprising that it has nothing to say when the police kill black gunowners.
What’s the context of the Baton Rouge police murder and protests? LSU professor Christopher Tyson, an African-American and city native, as well as the 2015 Democratic nominee for Louisiana Secretary of State, explains the deep divides in the city:
It’s only by crossing that line that one can reconcile the more affluent neighborhoods of south Baton Rouge with the city’s grim statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 Baton Rouge ranked first in the nation for estimated H.I.V. and AIDS case rates per 100,000 people. For many years we’ve been one of the nation’s top murder capitals. Black men in East Baton Rouge Parish had a 46 percent high school graduation rate in 2011-2012. One-third of black residents live below the poverty line. And a vast majority of them are concentrated in north Baton Rouge
Recently, there was an organized effort to form something called the City of St. George. The goal was for south Baton Rouge to break off and form a new city, a move that would have exacerbated our community’s growing stratification. The effort ultimately failed, but we now all live in a city in which we know that a significant percentage of our neighbors want out.
Too many view the lives of people in north Baton Rouge as the cumulative result of poor choices, weak values and dependency. This is more than just lazy thinking. It’s an intolerable lie predicated on the erasure of all of our city’s and nation’s history. Like many urban communities, north Baton Rouge is the result of specific policy choices, social patterns and the toll that all of it eventually takes on neighborhoods, families and individuals. It’s a very American story of how black people have systematically been denied the opportunity to live in safe and stable neighborhoods. No amount of “individual responsibility” or “bootstrapping” will ever change that.
In the past few years, many of us have worked to bring attention to the challenges facing north Baton Rouge. A lack of access to reliable public transportation, quality health care, youth mentors and nutritious food are among the many crises that define day-to-day life in this half of this city. One example of what activists are working on: the lack of an emergency room in north Baton Rouge after the area’s public hospital closed its doors.
This past weekend teenagers from the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, a college-prep mentoring organization I co-founded, planned and led a peaceful march attended by more than 1,000 people. There is a dedicated, multiracial coalition of civic and justice-minded folks working hard toward a more equitable and humane future. But the suffering grows every day, and there simply aren’t enough of us doing this work.
This is the context within which a man is led to sell CDs at midnight to feed his family. This is the context for the anger, frustration and exhaustion erupting not just from the corner of North Foster and Fairfields, but from all over the city. When I first visited Mr. Sterling’s memorial two days after his death, I spoke with other people there about our responsibility to his family and this city. We affirmed our linked fate with each familiar greeting and new introduction. We dapped up and exchanged hugs. We contemplated our next steps. We questioned the adequacy of our efforts. We all felt a need to be there, for Mr. Sterling, for each other and for our city.
In other words, structural and intentional white supremacy combine to keep African-Americans poor, the police ready to crack heads, and racial tensions high. It’s surprising there aren’t more violent upheavals given these conditions.
It’s incredibly expensive to be poor in the United States. Many have made this observation, noting not only the relatively high price to live in many places but also the prices charged to the poor for “services” like payday loans. Another is charging defendants fees to access their basic rights. Of course this is also another manifestation of racism given who the poor are and who the police target for arrest.
A brush with the police for pot possession might quickly spiral into a stiff penalty for a missed court date, deepening legal debt, missed work, re-arrest, a longer rap sheet. In daily life, the accompanying stigma layered over indebtedness “perpetuates inequality among African American and Latino men and among high school dropouts in the employment market.” The long-term opportunity cost could include mental-health crisis, forgone voting rights, and chronic recidivism, because people with nothing left to give also have nothing left to lose.
The question of poor individuals’ “debt to society” in the criminal justice infrastructure has exploded amid high-profile police-violence scandals, particularly in Ferguson, Missouri, where the bullet that killed Michael Brown sparked riots and exposed patterns of criminalization that afflict mutually reinforcing social and economic damage. A recent Department of Justice investigation uncovered a system in which officials see black citizens “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”
What do the numbers look like?
Even due process carries a price tag in states like Washington, where fees for jury trials have risen lately. A 2005 bill set a cost of “$150 and $250 for a six-or twelve-person jury, respectively.” Yes, the right to a jury of your peers costs $25 a head—add another $100 or so for a defense attorney.
Punishing the supposed deviance of the poor with still more poverty reflects “rhetoric in contemporary American society about personal responsibility and accountability,” Harris explains via e-mail:
What is interesting about monetary sanctions and the criminal justice system, similar to that of education and even health care, is that we have shifted what should be a guaranteed right or governmental responsibility to the people who are processed through the system.
Harris’s subjects started with an average debt of about $9,200 each, generally as the combined cost of several convictions. After five years, even with regular monthly payments of about $31, the debtor “would owe $10,667 as a result of the accumulated interest and surcharges—an increase of $1,463 over the initial debt.”
Of course all of this adds up to an inability to pay the rent, clothe the children, eat properly, mental health, etc.
Legal debtors struggle to live with dignity. Nick, a 38-year-old black man who was attending community college through the help of a reentry program, was trailed by a chain of debt leftover from three convictions in the mid-1990s—violations related to “drug addiction and mental health problems” in adolescence that poverty only exacerbated later on. When Harris interviewed him, he had been sentenced to 56 months in state prison, been jailed several times, and “accumulated a total of $3,178.06 in legal debt,” an impossible sum for him pay down.
This is a complete injustice. But it’s just par for the course for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Like many of you, I watched the video of the Baton Rouge police killing Alton Sterling. There’s no two ways around this–it was a flat out execution. I would say I am shocked, but of course I am not shocked. The police have been executing black people in the United States and the British colonies before that for almost 400 years. Literally, the only major change that has taken place is that today we all have little cameras that allow us to record the executions. That vision allows us to have the evidence we need to be properly outraged. But the chances that the Baton Rouge officers who committed this horrible crime will be brought to justice are almost zero. Maybe, just maybe, they will be brought to some sort of trial, but I would put the chance of conviction at just about 0%. I just don’t even know what to say anymore except that taking to the streets is probably the best thing anyone can do.
I also love the cops saying that their body cameras “fell off” during the confrontation with Sterling. Yeah, cool story.
Would you be surprised to know it’s racist white people? No, I don’t think so. From April:
Racial prejudice could play a significant role in white Americans’ opposition to gun control, according to new research from political scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In their paper, published in the journal Political Behavior in November, Alexandra Filindra and Noah J. Kaplan found that whites were significantly less likely to support gun control measures when they had recently looked at pictures of black people, than when they had looked at pictures of white people. The study, which surveyed 1,000 white respondents, also found that the higher they scored on a common measure of racial prejudice, the stronger negative effect the photos of black people had on the respondents’ support for gun control.
Taken together, those two findings “demonstrate that racial prejudice influences white opinion regarding gun regulation in the contemporary United States,” Filindra and Kaplan conclude. But why would that be the case?
Particularly with respect to the modern gun-rights movement that really took off in the ’80s and ’90s, the language “creates this distinction between ‘law-abiding citizens’ and ‘criminals,'” Filindra says. She points to the type of language that’s frequently used by gun rights groups who warn of ever-present threats by “predatory criminals” and a murkily-defined “they” who want to “take your guns away.”
“Juxtapositions of ‘law abiding citizens’ and ‘criminals’ [are] evocative of racialized themes as crime has long been associated with blacks in the white mind,” Filindra and Kaplan write.
Filindra and Kaplan say their research does not imply that all white gun owners are racist, nor that all support for gun control carries racial baggage.
But for a certain subset of white gun-rights supporters, particularly those who are inclined to hold certain prejudicial beliefs, messages about individualism and liberty and rights are understood in a very specific way.
In the mind of this type of gun owner, “I am showing my white nationalist pride in a sort of generic way through gun ownership,” Filindra posits. “This is my way of expressing my ‘more-equal-than-others’ status in a society where egalitarianism is the norm. I can’t say that some people are better and some are worse in terms of racial groups. But I can show it symbolically. I can show I’m a better citizen.”
I’m sure glad I was near my fainting couch when I read this.
Racists. Racists support Trump.
Moving from the least to the most resentful view of African Americans increases support for Trump by 44 points, those who think Obama is a Muslim (54 percent of all Republicans) are 24 points more favorable to Trump, and those who think the word “violent” describes Muslims extremely well are about 13 points more pro-Trump than those who think it doesn’t describe them well at all.
Like Klinkner, my colleagues Max Ehrenfreund and Scott Clement found that Trump received a plurality of support — 43 percent — from respondents who expressed racial resentment. But they also found that economic anxiety played a significant role: 40 percent of respondents who said they were struggling gave their support to Trump, far more than any other candidate.
“Those who voiced concerns about white status appeared to be even more likely to support Trump than those who said they were struggling economically,” Clement and Ehrenfreund wrote, “but the results did not clearly show which concern was more important among Trump’s coalition.
The biggest predictor of Trump support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters was a belief that “the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens U.S. values.” Republicans holding this belief felt 18 points more positively toward Trump, on a 100-point scale, than Republicans who didn’t feel this way.
Belief that Islam encourages violence, and that it’s “bad” for the country that blacks, Latinos and Asians will someday make up the majority of the population, accounted for eight-point jumps in positive feelings toward Trump.
Your daily reminder that the problem Republican elites have with Donald Trump is not that he’s racist, but that he doesn’t use dogwhistles to hide it. They are fine with racist policies so long as they can claim they personally are not racist.
Or take voting today. Perhaps GOP leaders are sincere when they say their ongoing attack on (nonexistent) voter fraud with new voter-ID laws are not designed to suppress the votes of people of color. But they will not acknowledge evidence that the law’s impact is nonetheless voter suppression. Or take the question of equal opportunity for children. A bill adopted by the House Education and Workforce Committee this year, which Ryan has endorsed, forces 11,000 high-poverty schools out of eligibility for free-lunch programs, lowers nutritional standards, and makes it much tougher for schools to enroll kids who need help. The children who are adversely affected will be far disproportionately of color. But they aren’t named as targets, so we cannot pin down racist intention; Ryan and many others denouncing Trump this week would strongly object if someone called the bill “textbook” racism. As long as lawmakers and politicians don’t say “black” or “Mexican” or “Arab,” they are cleared of racist intention, as though the impacts of their actions don’t matter.
The Tulsa Race Riot is one of the most shameful events in all of American history and as we know, that’s a high bar to meet. That event took place 95 years ago today. Amazingly, an account of this event written by the father of the legendary African-American historian John Hope Franklin, who was a leading black lawyer in Tulsa at the time, was recently discovered.
“I could see planes circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from their top,” wrote Buck Colbert Franklin (1879-1960).
The Oklahoma lawyer, father of famed African-American historian John Hope Franklin (1915-2009), was describing the attack by hundreds of whites on the thriving black neighborhood known as Greenwood in the booming oil town. “Lurid flames roared and belched and licked their forked tongues into the air. Smoke ascended the sky in thick, black volumes and amid it all, the planes—now a dozen or more in number—still hummed and darted here and there with the agility of natural birds of the air.”
Franklin writes that he left his law office, locked the door, and descended to the foot of the steps.
“The side-walks were literally covered with burning turpentine balls. I knew all too well where they came from, and I knew all too well why every burning building first caught from the top,” he continues. “I paused and waited for an opportune time to escape. ‘Where oh where is our splendid fire department with its half dozen stations?’ I asked myself. ‘Is the city in conspiracy with the mob?’”
The Tulsa Race Riot needs to be a much more central event to our national history. A national park site would be a good place to start, but given that the city of Tulsa is pretty much unwilling to deal with this event, that’s unlikely to happen soon. The discovery of this manuscript may help.
If You Want a Racist Campaign Team, the Staff of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is a Good Place to Look
Donald Trump senior policy advisor is a guy named Stephen Miller, who he plucked from Jeff Sessions’ staff. Miller went to Duke (which should disqualify anyone from political life anyway) and wrote for the college newspaper there. What sort of things did he write about?
His columns for The Chronicle range in subject from multiculturalism (which he calls “segregation”); to paid family leave (which results in men “getting laid off because [their] boss was losing too much money by paying absent employees”); to the Duke lacrosse scandal (“a large number of people – instead of rejoicing at our peers’ innocence – will insist it is a conspiracy of white privilege”).
The columns offer a revealing glimpse into the opinions and ideology of Trump’s top policy adviser, and the sort of advice the presidential hopeful might be getting.
In addition to standard college newspaper fare – an essay about town-gown relations in which Miller details the “condescension” inherent in giving a janitor a birthday card – Miller’s 25 columns, written between September 2005 and April 2007, frequently touch on hot-button issues.
On torture, for example, Miller writes that criticism of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by American soldiers made then-senator Ted Kennedy “a traitor”, and that comparing the actions of the US military with those of its enemies means “you have betrayed your nation and are morally guilty of treason”.
Most of Miller’s writings, however, are concerned with the culture wars, particularly matters of race. In an article titled “Paranoia”, Miller writes that “racial paranoia” – belief in systematic racism – does a “tremendous disservice” not only to those accused of harboring racist beliefs, but to racial minorities as well.
“It saps their motivation and has devastating results on their potential for success,” he writes.
A great hire!