This national moment can make us all seem small and inconsequential. It’s frustrating. It’s depressing. 2020 has literally been one miserable moment after another. I mean, remember how Australia was on fire and we almost had WW3 with Iran? That was just two days into the year.
But this current moment, however, is not an almost. It happened. George Floyd was murdered. By the knee of a police officer. While other police officers watched.
It also happened to Dion Johnson in Arizona, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and countless other Black brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers.
This. Cannot. Continue.
Which is why the nation has rightfully erupted into protest.
News media across the world – no matter their quality – runs on alarmism and reaction. It’s what draws ratings and clicks. It’s not shocking. Due to this, it’s no surprise why each night we are shown the most outrageous acts on the news. It’s catchy.
However, almost all of these protests are civil, peaceful, heartwarming, inspirational, and kind. It’s actually incredible to see how reserved and stoic many Black leaders and members of the community are. Personally, if I was told that EVERY SINGLE peaceful attempt to shine a light on police brutality was deemed “unAmerican” or “anti-cop,” and nothing changed and my brothers and sisters were still being gunned down for simply being a different skin color, I’d light the entire Phoenix metro area on fire. (It’s also worth noting that it appears many stoking tensions and creating havoc are not there for police reform or protesting. They are opportunistic and have little ethical or moral fibers in them.)
Thinking about this from a macro view, I contemplate regarding what I’m able to do as a white male vs if I wasn’t. Could I run at night over and over, through my upper-middle-class Scottsdale neighborhood, and be fine? Would the single white women on the trail be just as friendly or at ease even if I wasn’t white? Would I be stopped if I walked into a store, quickly see what I want isn’t there, and leave? Would my few interactions with police have led to my death if I wasn’t white? Looking ahead, what I need to do better at is amplifying BIPOC voices and seeing their side of the story. I also need to learn more about how America failed post Civil War; Learn more about the Jim Crow Era; Learn more about what policies were enacted surrounding ‘Separate But Equal’ to ensure 1) we don’t redo this but 2) I’m able to educate others on just how these policies kept Blacks from accumulating wealth, power, and having a voice in our community.
As you, hopefully, join protests (especially for White people), please listen to community leaders and organizers. They aren’t asking you to destroy their city. They simply want you to peacefully protest, create a dialogue where progress can happen. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE listen to them. Follow their actions and heed their words.
Over the last couple of days, so many people, wonderfully, have touched on groups to donate to or ways to get involved (thanks to President Barack Obama). I wanted to highlight the policy positions that can (hopefully…potentially) lead us from our current darkness and into the light. There are better days ahead, but to reach them, we as a nation must take a long hard look in the mirror, and understand that things must change or else this vicious cycle will only get worse.
First, though, it’s important to understand where we’ve come from. The laws in this country were not meant to treat minorities equally. This has had drastic economic and social impacts to this day.
Here are a few examples.
Take redlining for instance:
Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote back in March, “For decades, the federal government discriminated against Black families by denying them access to the same kind of federal housing subsidies that white families received to purchase a home — a practice known as “redlining.” The federal government officially ended that form of discrimination in the 1960s and passed the Fair Housing Act. Yet the gap between white homeownership rates and Black homeownership rates today is about 30% — bigger than it was in 1960 when housing discrimination was legal.”
Discrimination is also seen in drug penalties with crack vs powder cocaine (coke). In 2010, even with a new law enacted, the same penalty would be given for someone with 1 gram of crack and 18 grams of cocaine.
Crack and cocaine may be nearly identical on a molecular level, but people who are charged with possession of just 1 gram of crack are given the same sentence as those found in possession of 18 grams of cocaine.
This 18:1 sentencing disparity is actually an improvement from the previous sentencing gulf of 100:1, thanks to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, but as new research shows, any disparity unfairly targets crack users, who are more likely to be black, low-income and less educated.
The nation’s coke problem is much larger than its crack problem, with 12 percent of U.S. adults reporting coke use and 4 percent reporting crack use. Yet crack users are still at higher risk for an arrest, or multiple arrests, in their lifetime.
Every single Jim Crow, Separate but Equal, law. Poll taxes. Reading tests. Racist grandfather clauses. These stymied Black participation in society and set them back an incalculable amount of years.
It also didn’t help in 1967, Qualified Immunity was created in the Pierson v. Ray Supreme Court case. A quick summary basically severely limits how you can sue government officials – in this case, cops. Hard to hold people accountable for actions when there’s little judicial recourse for it.
The Supreme Court invented qualified immunity in 1967, describing it as a modest exception for public officials who had acted in “good faith” and believed that their conduct was authorized by law. Fifteen years later, in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, the Court drastically expanded the defense. The protection afforded to public officials would no longer turn on whether the official acted in “good faith.” Instead, even officials who violate peoples’ rights maliciously will be immune unless the victim can show that his or her right was “clearly established.”
Then, we move into the more present day. There are less “blatant racist” policies and positions but you have to look under the hood and between the lines.
- The most blatant is how thousands of BIPOC are in jail for small drug possession, yet white liberals are using it across every major metro area in America.
- Only 5% of the $1.5T in tax cuts went to Blacks.
The tax cuts that President Trump signed into law last year are disproportionately helping white Americans over African-Americans and Latinos, a disparity that reflects longstanding racial economic inequality in the United States and the choices that Republicans made in crafting the law.
- Calling neo-Nazis “very fine people.” They aren’t.
A Trump Administration’s Proposed Rule Would Perpetuate Racist and Discriminatory Housing Practices
The proposed changes would overwhelmingly tip the scales in favor of landlords and other defendants, letting them keep policies and practices that prevent people of color, women, families with children, people with disabilities, and others from having the fair access to housing that the FHA was intended to protect. This is in direct conflict with HUD’s statutory obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.
- 1 in 3 Black men born in 2001 will go to prison
African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, and they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences. African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely.4) As of 2001, one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys.5)
- The state of Virginia, as of December 2019, has over 100 racist laws on the books according to the Washington Post. RIGHT NOW. I would presume the other 49 are similar.
- BIPOC tend to live in more toxic environments, making our current climate crisis hit even closer home to this segment of the population.
- Only 20% of minorities visit our National Parks. President Obama attempted to correct this with more outreach. President Trump rolled this back. He also rolled back federal oversight of police forces. That oversight may have been nice right around now.
- Cash Bail. According to the Brennan Center:
The United States is one of the only countries in the world that requires cash bail for anyone who has been arrested and wants to stay out of jail while awaiting trial. The bail system discriminates against people of color and the poor, and it is in dire need of reform. … Pretrial detainees make up more than 70 percent of the U.S. jail population — approximately 536,000 people. Many of them are only there because they can’t afford bail.
This could go on and on but we need to keep rolling.
5. The more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 1, 2020
Now, I know that I’m just a white, cis-gendered, privileged male, and I’m hardly the first person anyone should come to for advice on racial issues. I am, though, someone who understands politics, has a degree in it, and has worked on campaigns. That’s why I wanted to pass along Campaign Zero’s suggestions moving forward. We need a path. They’ve begun to draw it.
10 WAYS TO ENACT CHANGE
1) Register to Vote. This is crucial. Change doesn’t happen without your voice being heard. And Vote in ALL elections. https://www.rockthevote.org/
2) Listen. It’s okay to not know something. It’s okay to learn. It’s okay to change your views. New views based on new facts and lessons is a good thing.
Here is the video. Her life matters. Black lives matter. pic.twitter.com/HYIFS2T4lS
— Zach Heltzel (@zachheltzel) June 1, 2020
3) Talk. Talk to your friends. Have high-minded conversations. Discuss different viewpoints…what you might do to make your community better. Be nice but also make it known to your white friends that some of their views may simply be wrong. If your friendship isn’t strong enough for you to be honest, it may not be a good friendship after all.
4) Educate yourself. Listen to podcasts. Get a digital subscription and learn what is happening both nationally and in your community. Read about our country’s history. I plan to read about this. There’s a 99% chance you didn’t learn much about reconstruction or the civil rights movement.
5) Run for office. Don’t like what’s happening? Literally be the change. Run For Something
6) Call your elected representatives and talk about the following issues from Campaign Zero. These are just bullet points to keep it easy to read but I’d recommend visiting their website for the detailed proposals:
- A- End policing of minor “broken windows” crimes
- B- Establish effective civilian oversight structures
- C- Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force
- D- Independently investigate and prosecute
- E- Community Representation by Increasing the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve
- F- Body Cams/Film the Police
- G- Invest in Rigorous and Sustained Training
- H- End for-profit policing
- I- Demilitarize of police by ending the government’s ability to send military weapons to local police
- J- Fair police union contracts
- K- End police immunity (Justin Amash just wrote a bill for this) [this was my addition]
This week, I am introducing the Ending Qualified Immunity Act to eliminate qualified immunity and restore Americans’ ability to obtain relief when police officers violate their constitutionally secured rights. pic.twitter.com/PiNYP8cX8i
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 1, 2020
7) Use not just your words or platform, but your wallet. Support organizations working to better the situation, and stop buying from companies who prop up anti-change officials. I don’t want this to be a “me” article, but I donate monthly to the ACLU and donated to Campaign Zero. I hope to donate to more organizations in the future. ACLU NCAAP Reclaim the Block
8) Follow people online who don’t look like you. See and learn their pain. (Here’s a twitter list you can follow.)
9) Acknowledge you have white privilege. Understand what it means – and that it doesn’t make you a bad person. You can’t change your skin color. Yet, realize what benefits it’s given you and work to not abuse it. (I still grapple with this.)
There’s likely so much more I could add but I’ll leave that to someone who is better versed in racial justice and the law to do that. However, I do hope that you understand that you can make a difference. We ALL can make a difference here.
What’s next is up to us.