Important readings in #BlackLivesMatter | May 15, 2015 | Blog#42

This is a selection of the articles I thought were most important this week on the topic of race and race relations. 

Dozens of Ferguson-related reforms were proposed in Missouri. Just one passed – The Washington Post

By Niraj Chokshi May 16

The Missouri legislature ended its session Friday night having passed virtually none of the reforms activists sought in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown.

Activists had been tracking more than 100 bills related to criminal justice and policing, but just one of substance had made its way out of the legislature, they say.

“To now, at this point, see every piece of legislation that they put forward get stifled, get choked out, it’s disheartening,” said Montague Simmons, chairman and executive director of the Organization for Black Struggle, a black political empowerment organization.

The scores of bills — introduced mostly by the legislature’s few Democrats — offered a menu of reforms. They would have developed standards for eyewitness identification, required body cameras, restricted police from racial profiling, required diversity and sensitivity training, and modified state rules governing the use of lethal force, something Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon threw his support behind in his State of the State address.

The legislature did pass one bill advocates had been calling for, which was aimed at limiting municipal reliance on fines for revenue, a practice highlighted in a scathing Justice Department report on Ferguson released earlier this year. The bill lowers the cap on how much revenue a municipality can generate from traffic tickets from 30 percent to 20 percent statewide and to 12.5 percent in St. Louis County, which is plagued by excessive traffic violations and is home to Ferguson. The bill also bans courts from throwing individuals in jail over minor traffic offenses.

Curated from Dozens of Ferguson-related reforms were proposed in Missouri. Just one passed – The Washington Post

Willie Horton Revisited | The Marshall Project

We talk to the man who became our national nightmare. Thirty years later, does he still matter?


Willie Horton. The name is enough to make a politician blanch. Ever since 1988, when the George H. W. Bush presidential campaign machine wielded the Horton horror story against his Democratic rival, the threat of being “Willie Horton’ed” has shaped the politics of crime and punishment. “The ghost of Willie Horton has loomed over any conversation about sentencing reform for over 30 years,” says Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., co-sponsor of one such proposal.

Now, with crime down and the excesses of the criminal justice system under bipartisan attack, some believe the ghost has been expelled. Upcoming election seasons will put that theory to the test.

How did a single sadistic home invasion — one of many senseless crimes in the violent 1980’s — reshape the politics of criminal justice for a generation? It began with a 30-second television ad.

Curated from Willie Horton Revisited | The Marshall Project

President Obama on Color-Blind Policy and Color-Conscious Morality – The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates | MAY 13, 2015
On Tuesday, Georgetown University hosted President Barack Obama, the columnist E.J. Dionne, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, and the political scientist Robert Putnam for a conversation on poverty in America. I found myself most attracted to Obama’s understanding of public policy and personal morality. Specifically, Dionne asked the president to addresscriticism of his Morehouse speech, as well as his general belief in the alloy of progressive policy and moral uplift.

Here is Dionne’s question:

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote something back in 2013 about your talk about what needs to happen inside the African American community—I know you remember this: “Taking full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people and particularly black youth, and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the President telling the women of Barnard that ‘there’s no longer room for any excuses’—as though they were in the business of making them.”

I’d love you to address sort of the particular question about—maybe it is primarily about economics because we can’t do much about the other things through government policy, and also answer Ta-Nehisi’s critique, because I know you hear that a lot.

Here is the president’s response:

It’s true that if I’m giving a commencement at Morehouse that I will have a conversation with young black men about taking responsibility as fathers that I probably will not have with the women of Barnard. And I make no apologies for that. And the reason is, is because I am a black man who grew up without a father and I know the cost that I paid for that. And I also know that I have the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence, I think my daughters are better off. (Applause.)

And that is not something that—for me to have that conversation does not negate my conversation about the need for early childhood education, or the need for job training, or the need for greater investment in infrastructure, or jobs in low-income communities.

Later the president refers to this as the “both/and” approach—discussing bothimmorality in the black community and possible policy solutions to its dire straits.

It’s worth considering how the president addresses both of these spheres. When talking morality in the black community, Obama has always been very clear. Obama has argued that black kids, specifically, have a mentalitywhich reflects shame in educational achievement. (“I don’t know who taught them that reading and writing and conjugating your verbs was something white.”) He believes that black men, specifically, tend to be more apt to abandon “their responsibilities” and act “like boys instead of men.”

How Alabama taught its children to be racists — and what will it do with science? |

John Archibald | May 15, 2015

The men and women of Alabama – from the Greatest Generation to Baby Boomers like me – learned Alabama history from the famous old textbook “Know Alabama.”

It should be called “No Wonder, Alabama.” It explains a lot.

Fourth graders until the ’70s learned how living on a plantation was “one of the happiest ways of life.” Just imagine yourself, the 1957 edition says, on your family plantation:

“How’s it coming Sam,” your father asks one of the old Negroes.

“‘Fine, Marse Tom, ‘jes fine. We got ‘most more cotton than we can pick.’ Then Sam chuckles to himself and goes back to picking as fast as he can.

“One of the little Negro boys is called ‘Jig’ He got that name because he dances so well when the Negroes play their banjos.

“Jig comes up and says ‘Let me play.'”

“And you say “All right, but you be the captive Indian.”

“That will be fun,” Jig says, and he goes off gladly to be the Indian, to hide and the get himself captured.”

Wait a minute. Whaaat? That was a real textbook.

One version of the book does at least acknowledge that life is not always perfect on a plantation. For the master, anyway:

“No plantation had a model group of slaves, for planters had to buy whatever slaves they could get. Some slaves were good workers and very obedient. Many took pride in what they did, and loved their cabins and the plantation as much as if they actually owned them. Others were lazy, disobedient, and sometimes vicious.”

And then there was that unfortunate War Between the States.

“The Southerners had a right under the law to own slaves, and the Southern states had a right under the law to leave the United States. Many Southerners did not want to leave the Union. But when Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the South felt that they had to leave the Union to keep their rights.”

And this is what Alabama taught its children about the Ku Klux Klan:

“The loyal white men of Alabama saw they could not depend on the laws or the state government to protect their families. They knew they had to do something to bring back law and order, to get the government back in the hands of honest men who knew how to run it.

“They (the Klan) held their courts in the dark forests at night; they passed sentence on the criminals and they carried out the sentence. Sometimes the sentence would be to leave the state.

“After a while the Klan struck fear in the hearts of the “carpetbaggers” and other lawless men who had taken control of the state…. The Negroes who had been fooled by the false promises of the “carpetbaggers” decided to get themselves jobs and settle down to make an honest living.

“Many of the Negroes in the South remained loyal to the white Southerners. Even though they had lately been freed from slavery, even though they had no education, they knew who their friends were.”

This is what Alabama taught, until after Martin Luther King Jr. (he got one mention in the 1970 book) was killed. This is what was taught to Legislators who now want to dabble in education, to encourage teachers to ignore accepted science and teach whatever they happen to believe about evolution, or climate change, or presumably alien abduction.

Curated from How Alabama taught its children to be racists — and what will it do with science? |


Black Lives Matter’: 1 Million African American Voters Are ‘Missing’ Due to Racial Disparities in Mortality Rate

A new study estimates that higher mortality rates have significantly reduced the African American voting population.
David A. Graham | MAY 12, 2015

Quick, what are the most racially charged elements of voting? There is a familiar roster of complaints: felon disenfranchisement, which, given the racial disparities in the justice system, disproportionately affects minorities. Voter-ID laws and other restrictions on voting hours. Gerrymandering, which concentrates minority voters into districts.

But what about mortality rates? It’s not something that enters the political discussion much, but a new paper, “Black lives matter: Differential mortality and the racial composition of the U.S. electorate, 1970-2004,” argues that the racial gap in mortality rates could have a major impact on national politics.

The premise of the paper, by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, the University of Michigan, Stanford, and Oxford, is simple: Unless you live in Chicago, you can’t vote when you’re dead. Since overall black health outcomes are worse than white ones, and life expectancies are lower for black Americans, that must have an effect on the results of elections. The team crunched the numbers from 1970 to 2004 and calculated “excess deaths” among African Americans:

The total number of black deaths would have been reduced from 8.5 million to 5.8 million if blacks faced the same mortality schedules as whites. Thus, 1 out of every 3 black deaths occurring within this time period was an excess death.

Of the 2.7 million black excess deaths, we project a total of 1.87 million hypothetical survivors to 2004, 1.74 million of voting age, about 1 million of whom would have been voters.

For comparison’s sake, and to see how significant that is, 1 million is also the number of African Americans who have served time but remain disenfranchised, according to a 2010 analysis.

What effect would that have on elections? […]

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