Are Trump Supporters Racists?

One is tempted to say yes, although one can imagine people supporting Trump because of a deadly mass psychosis different from racism/White Supremacy.  Something to do with xenophobia or misogyny, perhaps. Also, to parse the question with a bit more subtlety, one might argue that, in order to support Trump, people at least have to overlook or tolerate his racism, and especially at this stage of American history, toleration of racism is the same as racism because of the effects, which are both chronic and acute.

But how do we know Trump is racist?  Okay, I’ll play along.  Well, he and his father tried to bar African Americans from renting/buying their residential property in New York.  Also, Trump tried to de-legitimize candidate Obama by suggesting that Obama was born in Kenya, and of course this birtherism invited a range of other corrosive ideas: that a) Obama is Muslim, and b) that being Muslim is a bad thing; that Obama had various secret plans to . . . .take away Americans’ guns, use a syringe to inject “Sharia Law” into the Constitution, and so on. And now Trump is allowing his Attorney General to return to the excessive sentencing of African Americans for drug offenses, part of the “New Jim Crow” about which Michelle Alexander has written persuasively, piling up empirical evidence as she does so.

There is also the context of the GOP, which, after it absorbed the Dixiecrats, pursued (and continues to pursue) the racist Southern Strategy, used a variety of thin disguises to appeal White Supremacy (GOP operative Lee Atwater copped to this), supported the War on Drugs, which was and is a war on Black folks, and so on.  That is, we’re talking about systematic, deliberate, lethal racism–not a slip of the tongue, a gap in knowledge, or a half-conscious absorption of stereotyping.  Obviously these latter sorts of “racist moments,” although still wrong, deserve some slack. Some slack.   All White folks face a learning curve when it comes to race, as well as an unlearning-curve.  Learning and unlearning can take a lifetime.  In my case, it has taken a lifetime.

Also, to anticipate an objection, yes, of course, a supporter of Democrats can be racist; there are plenty of examples.  And not supporting Trump or the GOP doesn’t mean one has to support Democrats.

But the GOP has deliberately joined the line of history that goes from slavery to the post-Reconstruction nadir (a reign of terror in the South), Jim Crow (more terror), de facto segregation, racist financial and law-enforcement practices, the aforementioned Southern Strategy, the disrespecting of the first Black president in ways that go far beyond tough politics,  and so on.

Look, I get why smart people recoil at the suggestion that a Trump supporter is, by definition, racist.   For they have cultivated an internal detector that senses knee-jerk labeling. But in the case of Trump, and indeed of the GOP, it’s way past time to give people who support them a break with regard to racism.  The Confederate flag doesn’t stand for “heritage,” any more than Nazi regalia stands for achievements in beer-making and automotive design.  The Southern Strategy has roots in slavery.  So I don’t think it’s crude, unwarranted, or unfair to conclude that Trump supporters, at the very least, tolerate racism and White Supremacy–given American history, and American political history.  The burden of proof belongs to the supporters; they have to show they don’t help keep systematic racism potent.  There is no good reason to finesse this issue.

Link: Nell Irvin Painter on Whiteness in the Trump Era: Nell Irvin Painter

 

 

The Real Taboo Topics of American Politics

In many respects, Trump and the phenomena surrounding him represent a toxic residue of almost everything wrong, indeed evil, about the GOP and American society.  He and his followers are White Supremacists or tolerators thereof.  The same goes for misogyny, anti-intellectualism, and a brutishly indifference to environmental collapse.  Throw in reckless, often criminal foreign policy and the perpetual economic scam, “trickle-down economics” (which is, among other things, a method to loot economy), and you have most of the package.

One more key feature, however, is what I’ll call the real political correctness.  You will remember that one of Trump’s go-to, complacent excuses in the campaign for having said or done something grotesque was to label the critique a product of “political correctness” and move on, accompanied by the cheers of zombies.

I always thought the rise of the political correctness concept was complete bullshit.  Pardon my French. It was simply a lazy way to make an excuse for being too inflexible to change habits of thinking with regard to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and so on.  I’m so old, I remember when the idea of using non-sexist phrasing–for instance, not using “men” and related pronouns to stand for all people–was considered politically correct.  Have there been people who were over-zealous about marking resistance to change?  Of course.  So what?  There are a range of over-zealous people (recently they elected a depraved, barking mad president) in workplaces, professions, and at large.  Their presence doesn’t amount to a an excuse not to adapt one’s language and thinking.

Meanwhile, down the decades, the real bedrock political correctness belongs almost exclusively to the White right wing.  Here are some examples of topics that, systemically, American treats as taboo topics:

The military-industrial complex about which Eisenhower (not a “liberal”) warned us.  In media, politics, and society at large, one almost never sees or hears a serious discussion of economic and political engine, which drives everything from formulations of budgets to foreign policy.

White Supremacy and, specifically, the White Supremacy of the GOP.  The “Southern Strategy” is plainly racist and White Supremacist, rooted in a Southern and Midwest tradition of Jim Crow, terror, de facto segregation, jerrymandering, and “voter suppression”: Jim Crow.

Anti-labor thuggery.  The White Right has basically neutered labor movements; recall that one of Reagan’s first moves was to fire unionized air-traffic controllers.  Then came the “right to work” laws (great Orwellian phrasing) used to gut unionization.

The abject horrors of American justice.  The sheer number of people we imprison and how we imprison them are evil, and that’s before we raise the subjects of race, poverty,  militarized, unaccountable police forces, the war on Black people [“drugs”], and the school-prison pipeline.  Emblematic of this nightmare: Walter Sullivan, a middle-aged Black man, unarmed, running away from a policeman, shot in the back and killed.  The policeman then plants a gun next to the body.  The trial of the policemen results in no verdict, in spite of videotaped evidence.  Tamir Rice: slaughtered.  Freddie Gray: neck broken during an arrest.  Michael Brown: shot and killed, his body left uncovered in the street for hours as a trophy of White Supremacist policing.

Almost all Whites, including Bernie Sanders, get to be indifferent to such topics.  They get to drool such phrases as “well, ‘they’ shouldn’t commit crimes,” “I’m tired of talking about race,” “my family worked for everything it has” [thanks for the non sequitur].  The State of Michigan and the U.S. government get to react sluggishly, or not at all, to lead poisoning.  The new EPA director gets to dismiss global warming, the settled science behind the idea, and the consequences.  The White Chief Trump gets to brag about sexual assault on video/audio and get elected President.

Meanwhile, the media get to treat both parties as if they are morally the same, when mountains of evidence suggest the GOP is at base evil, not just a typically slippery, corrupt political party like the Democrats.  They get to treat “the Southern Strategy” as if it were some kind of cute chess-move and not a continuation of the Civil War.  They cheerfully go along with “the war on terror,” the war crimes that came along with it, and the ancillary rampant xenophobia that Trump promotes.

The real political correctness is the kind that normalizes the evils the GOP.  Trump is a direct consequence of this political correctness, which sneers at the slightest hint of critique or objection, and which informs the Goebbels-like propaganda of Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, the president’s press secretary, and so on.

I recall viewing a Trump campaign rally at which, after Trump had said something ugly about Senator Clinton, a supporter yelled, “String her up.”  The crowd cheered.  Trump enjoyed the moment.  White Supremacy, in the form of lynch-talk, and vicious misogyny. Completely acceptable in our society.

Uncomfortable Questions About the Next U.S. President

As noted in a recent post, I frequently asked myself and others over the past year or so why Trump wouldn’t be elected, and although occasionally I allowed myself to think he would not, I never really believed that a significant percentage of White voters wouldn’t vote for him–or do something with their vote equally as stupid.  My realism or pessimism was based on two assumptions: the U.S. remains a deeply, perhaps fatally, White Supremacist nation (empire), and its misogyny is also difficult to over-estimate, even among women.

Now that Trump is President, I find myself asking questions that are, in their specifics, perhaps more alarming than “Why wouldn’t they -White Americans – elect a White Supremacist, sexually predatory, misogynistic, politically irrational man?”

Such as . . .

  1. Why wouldn’t Trump deploy nuclear weapons?  What is to stop him?  Not the military structure, and not the governmental structure, not the advisers he is appointing, and not his capacity to make sober judgments or think about consequences.  He embodies  nihilistic impulsiveness.
  2. Why wouldn’t Trump’s presidency approve of/instigate even more violence against Blacks, LGBQT persons, Latinos, the press, and anyone perceived to be Left of Himmler? We already know his administration will be White Supremacist and misogynist, and we already know the sadistic nature of his campaign and his rallies.  And we can see how racist police personnel and White nationalists are emboldened, further licensed to spread misery and lethal harm.  (The FBI warned in 2006 of significant infiltration by White Supremacists in American police departments.)  Trump’s apparent pick for Attorney General is the Segregationist  Jeff Sessions, who regards the NAACP and the ACLU as un-American and “Communist.”  For what this appointment might mean, see this article: Jeff Sessions
  3. Why wouldn’t Trump wreck the national and global economy?  His own business-management “style” seems to be reckless and sometimes hopelessly inept.  His main skills are bullying, cheating, and declaring bankruptcy. His personality is such that he focuses mainly on looting, and now he may loot the largest economy in the world. We also know how vacuous he is with regard to history, economics, law, and–well, anything involving complexity. You might even say his campaign was the anti-knowledge, anti-complexity campaign.  The debates made that plain.  One participant was informed and rational (Clinton); the other, not.

People recoil from such questions, and why wouldn’t/shouldn’t they?  They want everything to seem all right, and they just want to get through their day.   Plus a significant majority of White people expect great (positive) things from Trump, not great disasters, in spite of mountains of evidence pointing (along the Bayesian spectrum of probability) to the contrary.  They view is having been elected with relief and joy, ecstasy.

Few people find comfort in acknowledging the likelihood of enormous disasters because, well, such acknowledgement requires discomfort and discourages the normalization or minimization of evil.  I can’t seem to put away these and other questions only because they seem logical to me, but that’s probably not a good enough reason to keep bothering people with them (this blog post notwithstanding).

A final question, one that is, I hope, less dour, alarmist, and cautiously pessimistic–and more academic: Is there a future for rhetoric, for public discourse that is in some fashion tethered to reason, logic, and some evidence?  It now seems an eon ago that a lot of us were concerned about “truthiness,” that slurring/blurring  of accuracy, agreed upon facts, and well defined terms.  Now the greater problem seems to be a complete rejection even of discourse that pretends to be rational.  For one main rhetorical message of the Trump campaign was anti-rhetorical.  It was “Shut up if you don’t agree with me.” Secretary Clinton’s knowledge of and experience with policy and her debate-preparation meant almost nothing when pitted against the beastly irrationality of Trump’s movement. And  I lost count of the Trump supporters who proclaimed, “I don’t care what he says–I support him.”  That seems like a post-rhetoric, post-propaganda stance.  Cultish. Will rhetoric be relegated to a hobby played by people who seek escape from the futility of trying to stop what Trump and his gangs will do?

 

 

 

Why Did Trump Get Elected President: Coda

Statistics on the White vote vis a vis Trump:

Working class White voters 72 to 23 per cent in Trump’s favor.

White non-college-educated women: 62 to 34 per cent in Trump’s favor.

White college-educated men: 54 to 39 per cent in Trump’s favor.

White college-educated women: 51-45 per cent in Clinton’s favor (barely, obviously).

There seems to be no evidence, according to CBS news’s polling,  that level of income among White voters significantly affected White support for Trump.  Tentatively, we can entertain the hypothesis that the vaunted “rage” of White voters was focused on something besides economics.

Source: White Voters

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-exit-polls-how-donald-trump-won-the-us-presidency/

 

Why Did Trump Get Elected President?

He and Pence won more electoral votes.  Reason one.

Other reasons I have listened to: The White working class was angry about its economic position, post-recovery.  This seems to be a favorite of both the gleeful Trumpers and the Bernie-Left.  I’ll accept it for a moment.  But then, of course, the obvious question is “Why did they channel the anger into support for a White nationalist, self-admitted serial sexual assaulter?”  Answer: something else about Trump besides his economic stance (which is at best nonsensical and at worst anti-working class) appealed to these voters.  You don’t have to be a political scientist to know this.  It was probably the White nationalism, although it could have been the sexual assaults.  Or both. Also, please note that if Black people express frustration or outrage, the most prevalent White responses are, “I’m tired of hearing about race.  My relatives were Irish [or whatever] and had a tough time. Why are they so angry? What about Black on Black violence? Blah, blah, blahgitty blah.”  (What about White on White White Supremacy?)  When White men  get angry, we are conditioned to genuflect. ” They were angry, so they voted for Trump.”  (Please nod in agreement; it’s the rules.)  Sorry, Bernie or Bill O’Reilly enthusiasts.  Your logic doesn’t pass.

Other reasons  I have rolled my eyes at: Hillary Clinton is corrupt.  Hillary Clinton kept her own server which had [actually, did not have]  classified material on it.  She is a nasty woman. She’s been in or near government a long time. She’s married to Bill Clinton.  Okay, whatever.  So thus it follows that a White nationalist serial sexual assaulter is preferable in this binary voters’ choice?  It makes no sense.  A child could see through the “reasoning.”

Another: “Both candidates were unappealing, so I a) didn’t vote b) voted for Johnson c)voted for Stein, or d) wrote in my cat’s name.  Terrific.  Both candidates were equally unappealing, so I decided to help elect a White nationalist serial sexual assaulter who is homophobic and xenophobic (etc.)  Note also that Trump deployed the “international [Jewish] banking conspiracy, too.  Remember who else used that?

The candidates were equally unappealing?  Sorry,  not credible.

When Trump announced his candidacy, I repeatedly told friends and acquaintances that they (White people) would elect him.  Yes, some non-Whites voted for him, but let’s get real: No Whites, no President Trump.  Anyway, I repeated my prediction for this reason and this reason alone: I wanted to hear an argument to persuade me otherwise.  Wanted desperately to hear one. Wanted to think the majority of Whites in this country had evolved, at least modestly.  I never heard an answer to my question that satisfied me, given what the USA is and always has been.  So I expected him to win, and when Florida started going for Trump, I concluded, “She’s toast.” (Sorry for the crass phrasing.)  Never have I hated being right than I did on election night.  My accuracy disgusted me.  I turned off the TV, vomited, and slept hardly at all.

A few observations to cut through the bullshit:

  1. After 2012, “Nearly half of counties [in the South and Midwest]that previously approved voting changes with the federal government have cut voting places [before the 2016 election].”  The number is 868.  The reasons are two-fold: 1) The Roberts Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, a White Supremacist decision. 2) White Supremacist, pseudo-Jim Crow governors, legislators, and/or secretaries of state said, “Thanks, Roberts Court!” and went about suppressing the vote in ethnic areas.  Several states passed Voter ID laws to further suppress the Black (for example) vote.  The GOP = White Supremacy = hatred for the Black president = Trump. This is called getting down to brass tacks, in my late mother’s lingo.  Did these White Supremacist actions get Trump elected?  I do not know.  It doesn’t matter.  We may know the GOP by its actions and its incapacity to denounce Trump.   We may know Trump by what he has said and done and bragged about. (The quotation is from  Ari Berman, THE NATION.)  See also Emma Roller’s “Willie Horton’s Heirs,” New York Times, Willie Horton’s Heirs and “No, David Brooks, Trump is the GOP and You Own Him,” by James Leo, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/4/1495734/-No-David-Brooks-Trump-is-the-GOP-and-you-own-him
  2. I hope you have cash in your wallet or purse.  If you do, take out a one dollar bill, a two dollar bill, and/or a ten dollar bill.  All bear likenesses of former slave-owners.  Washington inherited almost a dozen slaves when he was 11.  (Meditate on that for a moment.) By the time he died, he owned over 300.  Thus he presided over a concentration camp for decades.  Same for Jefferson: inherited slaves as a boy, ended up owning over 600, and presided over a concentration camp for decades.  He also had children with a slave woman. (No power differential there!) When biographer Fawn Brodie pointed this out decades ago, she was ritually attacked by White liberal historians (several of them on my campus).  Later, the DNA tests proved her right. (As if we needed the DNA test.)  Hamilton, beloved Federalist, White liberal hero:

“As the letter excerpted above reveals, Hamilton’s relationship with slavery is far from unblemished. It contains a bit of family business involving two of Hamilton’s sister-in-laws, Margarita Schuyler Van Rensselaer and Angelica Schuyler Church, and their desire to reacquire a slave named Ben who was, at the time, under lease to another political acquaintance. It is one of many such examples in Hamilton’s papers in which he acted as a financial agent for the sale, lease, or acquisition of slaves for his immediate family.” – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153639#sthash.KxD7migF.dpuf. From “Alexander Hamilton’s Exaggerated Abolitionism,” by

Now imagine a visitor from outer space who is given the currency, informed about the these slave-holding men, and then told that White Supremacist, serial sexual assaulter Trump has been elected president.  The visitor’s detached response: “Oh, okay. That makes sense. The country honors such men. Got it.”

3. Folks, it’s a White Supremacist nation.  A majority of college educated Whites in the South and Midwest voted for Trump.  College-educated. So much for the vaunted liberal-elite universities.  I have observed nothing to dissuade me from assuming that sizeable percentages of the student body, staff, and faculty at my liberal arts college either voted for Trump or did something with their vote that helped Trump get elected.   The schaudenfreude on campus on Wednesday was as thick as fog.

As a candidate for a job in African American Studies at my campus recently opined, “The law says you can, but you can’t.”  The post-Civil War amendments gave Blacks the rights of citizens and the right to vote, etc. (Except they didn’t.) Then came the lynching and other horrors after 1877.  Then came Jim Crow. Then came the mid-1960s civil rights legislation, much of it ignored in the South and often in the North (restrictive housing covenants, for example.  Note that Trump and Dad refused housing to Blacks).  Fast forward to “Stand Your Ground” and open carry.   A Black woman in the South stood her ground when she was about to be beaten up again by her husband.  She killed him with a gun because she (legitimately) feared for her life.  She was convicted and sent to prison.  She eventually got out, but that’s beside the point. The law says you can, but you can’t. Black men or women openly carrying guns?  Likely to be shot dead by a white man or woman and/or a police person.  Fast forward to events that spurred the Black Lives Matter movement.  People who say “All lives matter” are either gleefully indifferent to Black misery or are unable to absorb rudimentary linguistic subtlety in the English language.

I heard a Trumper at a rally, in response to something ugly Trump said about Clinton, yell, “String her up!”  People cheered.  Trump heard the comment and obviously thought it was appropriate.   Lynching-talk topped off by lethal misogyny.

4. White people from far Left to Far Right, can we please cut through the bullshit?  White people have never done right and made it stick for Black people.  Or for Latinos and Muslims, gays, lesbians, and the transgendered.  How many White people either voted for Trump or somehow knowingly enabled him to be elected?  A sizeable majority.  It’s moral depravity, and it never stops, and that’s why Trump got elected.  The rest is window-dressing.  A large majority of White people (many on my campus) would/will recoil from these statements (to say the least), go into wounded/outraged White-victim mode, and switch on the rationalization machine (and take it up to level 10).  They simply don’t have the moral character or intellectual maturity to fess up.  They are useless.

The Normalization of Evil

My partner in political-language crime just sent me a link to a 2015 NYT article about fact-checking politicians:

The title is “All Politicians Lie–Some Lie More Than Others.”  (Obviously, the headline isn’t news, or shouldn’t be, to adults.)  The author goes on to list the “scores” of prominent politicians, with Ben Carson in the lead (at the time) with 85% of statements-checked turning out to be lies, or at least statements that are probably known by Carson to be a lie.  Trump was at about 75% at the time, President Obama at about 25%.

Should we care about such scores?  Of course we should.  Fact-checking is one way to cut through walls of bullshit the pseudocracy erects, even as those cuts seem to heal immediately, like a magic wall in a fantasy novel.

At the same time, one might reasonably ask of a candidate (for President of the United States) like Trump: Who cares if he’s lying?  He is a mentally ill White Supremacist suffering from megalomania and cut off from customary attention to consequences, common decency, and reality.  Why bother fact-checking when him he’s plainly unacceptable and makes the other candidate acceptable.  It, the election, presents us with  a binary choice between evil vs. ordinarily slippery.

A brief detour: I was listening to radio-coverage of the PGA golf tournament today as I was doing some home-maintenance outside.  A reporter interviewed Chris Christie and said, “How about Trump?! He was quite a golf stick.”  Citizens, this is the normalization of evil.  It springs from many sources.  In this case, the White privileged, right-wing nature of American golf, the notion that sports-commentary should never be “political” (and so you talk about a potential dictator’s golf-swing), the normalization of presidents with White Supremacist agendas: Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush.  Essentially, most media and most citizens have watched with insufficient alarm as the GOP moved toward this evil mess, dragging the Democrats rightward along the way.  Misogyny also got normalized along the way.

After I clicked on the link, I saw that among today’s headlines in the NTY were such things as why Hillary Clinton should fear a strategy that appeals to optimism and why the Democrats are gambling on “liberalism.”  First, since when is Hillary Clinton a “liberal”?  This is how out of wack our politics are.  She prefers universal healthcare, which all other capitalist, industrial nations have, she likes infrastructure bills, she thinks women should control their own bodies, etc.  She gives speeches to Wall Street.  How is any of this “liberal”?  Second, who gives a shit whether she’s liberal or not?  Or what campaign strategies the’s using?  She’s evidently sane, has normal adult restraint, and keeps up on current events.  Close enough. I really don’t care about her track-record at this point.  The people who voted for Trump put it out of consideration for me, and I hope it did for you, too.  That Trump is this close to the White House shows, among other things, the extent to which American White Supremacy and whatever Trump suffers from (besides White Supremacist birther insanity) is potently evil.

As Mr. Khan said in the interview that followed his rational speech about Trump, “Now is the time.”  The time to cast aside normal activities like support of Party, playing the game (as Ryan and McConnell are), fact-checking, poll-watching, golfing, etc.  First, stop the evil GOP candidate.  Then go back to normal programming.  Okay?”  Oy.

Racism, Police Reform, Protecting Police: “The Big Both/And”

Thesis: Both police reform and protection of the police must occur simultaneously and with the same urgency.

Two (of the most recent) executions of Black men by police, followed by five (of the most recent) killings of police offers.  Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas. The responses? Mostly either/or, especially from White folks.  That is, Black Lives Matter and other resistance-organizations have never even come close to advocating for or somehow approving of the killing of police.

For instance, a fellow posted a kind of advertisement on LinkedIn that asserted “Protect the Police,” all of the comments more or less said “just so,” and some comments said that if Black people want not to be killed by police, “they” should simply obey the law. A police detective from Tacoma communicated his heartbreak regarding Dallas and celebrated the bravery of police: entirely appropriate and understandable, and also it left much unsaid. But of course his purpose was to express grief and solidarity, not to cover all issues.

On Chris Hayes’s MSNBC show, Hayes, Jabari Asim (The New Yorker), and Eugene O’Donnell (former police officer, current faculty member at John Jay University) discussed President Obama’s speech in Dallas.  Hayes and Asim thought it was remarkable because it went beyond the usual safe political rhetoric. (Lawrence O’Donnell made the same point later, but emphasized that of all the 44 presidents, only President Obama could have made that rhetorical move–because of his background.)  That is, from their view, the President clearly and unambiguously acknowledged and supported the following points: racism affects policing, the police are asked to do way too much (especially in urban areas), the slaughter of police is as wrong as the slaughter of Black men and women and any men and women, police and other citizens need to empathize with the pain and outrage that protesters and others experience and express, and protesters need to acknowledge the pain and outrage experienced and expressed by the police.

Eugene O’Connell was having none of it.  While acknowledging that in that situation, the President was “damned if he did, damned if he didn’t,” he claimed that the President’s speech mainly offended the police nationwide. He went on to assert that the police are a para-military force that simply takes order from above, and if politicians and others want them to do or stop doing something, they just need to tell them. When Asim tried to mention something about police unions (and their resistance to reform), O’Donnell quickly shifted the terms of the argument and said that the whole discussion represented “elites” criticizing police and that “elites” simply don’t understand what police go through, especially in cities.  Oddly, he contradicted his early claim that the police will simply follow orders; not if the orders (the reform) is connected to the “elite,” it seems, and the elite seem to be anyone who is not police.

Hayes, I thought, responded appropriately to O’Donnell by simply saying that he (Hayes) had heard a different speech, and such widely different responses to the speech represented the problem the nation faces.

As many have stated, if you commit a crime, any crime, summary execution, obviously, shouldn’t be the cost–unless, obviously, you are trying to kill someone (police or not). That a majority of White folks (apparently) can’t wrap their mind around this is depressing, to say the least.  If you’re a Black person, a rational response to the police is to fear them.  If you’re a Black parent, you must have the talk with your children about racist policing and how to try to behave (provided you have the chance) when stopped by the police.  Bill DeBlasio referred to this “talk,” and later at an outdoor speech, almost all the police turned their backs on him in protest–simply for stating the obvious.  If you’re a Black parent, not having the talk would be absolutely irresponsible and potentially lethal.  And yet the police in New York blithely turned their backs.  Is that the grotesque over-reaction that lends itself to police report?  Maybe not.

As many have stated, the police form a human barrier between communities that the nation, especially the White nation, have simply abandoned with regard to education, jobs, infrastructure, mental health, addiction, physical health, and common respect.  Thus in many instances, their job is impossible.

You would think connecting the two dots–reform of policing, including racist policing and the wrong use of lethal force (dot one) and support of police by investing in communities and addressing urban (and rural) problems (dot two)–would be the obvious move for the nation, the states, and the communities to make.  Let’s put it even more simply: if the killings in Louisiana and Minnesota didn’t happen (and there is no good reason for them to have happened), the five officers in Dallas would probably still be alive.

But things are rarely that simple in the U.S.   If you call for police reform, then you must hate the police.  If you call for addressing the problems mentioned above, you’re told to shut up, it’s all the fault of people of color, I don’t live there so why should I care, let the police handle it, and so on.  Some police, especially their union reps, seem determined to oppose any reform. Politicians, especially but not exclusively from the GOP, seem determined to oppose addressing social problems and to acknowledging the experience of Americans of color (except for Ben Carson’s).

What would police reform look like? In part, it would look like the recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. (You may google it.) It would look like more training in de-escalation.  The State of Washington requires only 8 hours of such training for police.  The City of Everett, Washington, has decided to increase that to 48 hours. It has also started a program whereby social workers ride along with police officers to help address problems of mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.  It would look like taking seriously the 2006 FBI report about the serious problem of White Supremacists infiltrating police departments:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/5/21/1384553/-2006-FBI-Report-on-White-Infiltration-of-Law-Enforcement-You-Will-Be-Assimilated.

It would look like asking police officers where they think politicians should invest money.  It would look like surveying citizens, especially citizens of color, about their experiences with police and publishing the results. It would look like banning assault rifles.  It would look like leadership bringing all major constituents together in communities to work out police reform and social reform.

The City of Tacoma has participated in events at which they listen to the community about its experiences with police and its recommendations.  They started to get officers out of their patrol cars and into the community more, and they’ve added training to address inherent bias and inherent cross-cultural misunderstanding/ignorance.  Of course, Tacoma was shocked into creating a citizens’ oversight committee when a former Police Chief murdered his wife and children and then committed suicide. It’s also true that at least a bare minimum of White citizens in Tacoma have put their shoulders to the wheel, helping to fund important groups that ameliorate poverty, homelessness, addiction, and racism, and opening their minds to what people have color have to say.  It’s a start, at least.

I’m trying to follow the President’s entreaty (in Dallas and elsewhere) not to give in to despair.  It’s hard. Imagine how hard it is for most Black folks, especially those whose friends and family have been choked, shot, or beaten to death when unarmed or already restrained and even when having committed no crime.  Imagine how hard it is for over-stressed police officers or the families of slain officers.

Police reform would help the police. Addressing social problems, head-on and with serious investment, would help everyone, including the police. Rational gun-control would help the police and the communities.

It’s 2016, and the nation won’t connect the dots. More of the burden of connecting the dots must fall to White citizens and to the GOP and those who support it,  and if you know history, if you know politics, if you know statistics, if you’ve seen Trump,  if you listened carefully to the President’s speech, if you’ve watched Fox News, etc., you know why.  This is not one of those fake “fair and balanced” issues, even though, obviously, Democratic politicians, business people, and citizens have much to answer for, too.  The GOP is a White Supremacist organization with Trump currently at the helm, and it’s not even a close call.

 

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