There will be no seventh trial for Curtis Flowers. If the Supreme Court of the United States doesn’t vacate the 2010 conviction in the Flowers case, jaws across America will hit the floor. Mine will be one of them. Curtis is almost sure to get … Continue reading Why there will be no trial seven for Curtis Flowers
Category: Race and the Law
In the Dark: Peabody winning podcast takes deep dive into the Flowers case
The In the Dark crew spent a full year on the ground in central Mississippi and they talked, at length and in depth, to everyone associated with the story. And there are dozens and dozens of people to talk to, each one more captivating (and disturbing) than the last.
Probing the subtleties of white racial bias
By Alan Bean
I came across two columns this morning making the case that white people can be riddled with racial bias without feeling any particular ill will toward racial minorities.
In a guest column in the New York Times, Ta-Nehisi Coates uses a grotesque incident of racial profiling involving academy award-winning actor Forest Whitaker as his jumping off point. The deli employee who accused Whitaker of shop lifting, and frisked him on the spot, claims to be a “good person” without a single racist bone in his body. Coates doesn’t argue with this self-assessment, but disputes the assumption that racism necessarily involves a conscious dislike of a particular racial group.
In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist. In 1957, neighbors in Levittown, Pa., uniting under the flag of segregation, wrote: “As moral, religious and law-abiding citizens, we feel that we are unprejudiced and undiscriminating in our wish to keep our community a closed community.” (more…)
The Lion and the Hyena
By Alan Bean
I received this graphic from a Facebook friend. I clicked on “like”. My friend probably wondered why. I’m not sure. Something about the image appeals to me. The “conservative” is literally lionized, an invisible force for good. The “liberal” is a scavenger, an impostor, a hyena attempting, in this case unsuccessfully, to feast on the carcass when he didn’t make the kill.
I have often felt like the hyena in the picture, a hapless liberal do-gooder confronting the conservative juggernaut. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to mouth off several sentences too many.
Some conservatives would reverse the image. They see themselves as a lion surrounded by a pack of liberal hyenas.
These savanna fantasies obscure more than they illuminate. “Liberal” and “conservative”, two grand words with a goodly heritage, are now debased currency. When liberalism is associated with superficiality, debauchery, and profligate sentimentality, who wants to be a liberal? When conservatism becomes a code word for racial bigotry, intolerance and privilege, who wants to be a conservative? (more…)
American slavery persisted until the Second World War
By Alan Bean
You need to read Douglas A. Blackmon’s article on 20th Century slavery in the American South. The evidence, contained in thousands of letters preserved by the National Archive and the NAACP, is irrefutable. But Blackmon says that’s just the beginning.
Dwarfing everything at those repositories are the still largely unexamined collections of local records in courthouses across the South. In dank basements, abandoned buildings, and local archives, seemingly endless numbers of files contain hundreds of thousands of handwritten entries documenting in monotonous granularity the details of an immense, metastasizing horror that stretched well into the twentieth century.
We will never know how many African Americans were forced into lifetimes of unpaid servitude under appalling conditions, but Blackmon, who has researched and written a book on the subject, says the numbers are staggering. (more…)
Guns don’t kill people . . .
By Alan Bean
“Guns don’t kill people,” David Cole says, “indifference to poverty kills people.”
So long as the consequences of gun violence are born by poor black males, Cole believes, the nation will not pass meaningful gun regulation laws.
There are two obvious responses to Cole’s argument. It has frequently been noted that most of the cities with high rates of gun-related homicide already have strict gun control laws. But this only underscores the need for national legislation that discourages people from importing guns into urban neighborhoods.
The second quibble is even more obvious: if poor black males are using guns to kill one another that’s on them. The only solution, this argument goes, is for young black males to use firearms more responsibly. (more…)
Winkler: The Secret History of Guns
Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA law school, wrote this piece for the Atlantic in September of 2011. The National Rifle Association has been roundly vilified in recent days. In the wake of the Sandy Hook slaughter of the innocents, an organization that opposes even the mildest attempt to regulate the sale, ownership and use of firearms comes off as insensitive and out of touch.
But why is the NRA so adamant on this issue? And has it always been so?
Winkler argues that until the late 1970s, the NRA gave a grudging blessing to gun control legislation, especially in the wake of the wave of political assassinations in the 1960s. Historically, he says, gun control enthusiasts have been primarily motivated by a desire to keep guns out of the hands of black people and that was especially true when leaders of the Black Panther Party made the most of their right to tote weapons in public.
But by the late 1970s things had changed. Ronald Reagan, once a proponent of legislation designed to limit the right of the Black Panthers to carry guns in public, had changed his tune. His new position was remarkably similar to the current policy of the NRA.
What accounts for this dramatic shift? And why have proponents of gun rights, black and white, taken a dim view of government and law enforcement? It has frequently been argued that the NRA is a racist hate group, and it is certainly true that the organization’s membership is overwhelmingly white and rural. But listen closely to the rhetoric of many gun rights people and you will hear a distinctly anti-government message. These people fear their government and insist on the right to arm themselves against it.
In short, American conservative have moved from the law and order rhetoric of the 70s and 80s to a new form of anti-government paranoia. Is this largely a function of having a black man in the White House? Is it a legitimate response to the kind of authoritarian overreach represented by the Patriot Act? Or might it be an complex combination of a multitude of factors? Those wishing to pursue this question should read Mr. Winkler’s remarkably evenhanded essay and the book he has written on the subject.
The Secret History of Guns
The Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked to control guns. The Founding Fathers? They required gun ownership—and regulated it. And no group has more fiercely advocated the right to bear loaded weapons in public than the Black Panthers—the true pioneers of the modern pro-gun movement. In the battle over gun rights in America, both sides have distorted history and the law, and there’s no resolution in sight.
By Adam Winkler
THE EIGHTH-GRADE STUDENTS gathering on the west lawn of the state capitol in Sacramento were planning to lunch on fried chicken with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, and then tour the granite building constructed a century earlier to resemble the nation’s Capitol. But the festivities were interrupted by the arrival of 30 young black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols. (more…)
Can Republicans romance Latinos?
By Alan Bean
Like many of you, I switched to a different network on election night whenever a commercial came along (I hate commercials as much as I hate political ads). The talking heads on every station were sounding the same message: due to changing demographics, the Republican Party must reach out to minorities if it is serious about long-term survival.
Democrats won over 90% of the African American vote and close to three-quarters of the Hispanic vote (over 80% if non-Cuban Americans are excluded from the calculation). And this after President Obama largely ignored the criminal justice system (a major problem for black voters) while presiding over the unprecedented mass deportation of undocumented residents.
Obama wins the minority vote (including 62% of the Asian electorate) by sitting back and letting Republicans be Republicans. (more…)
Can I get a little sympathy for Joe Arpaio?
By Alan Bean
There is an Alice in Wonderland quality about the civil trial of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Racial profiling is illegal and Sheriff Joe insists that his boys would never target a resident of Maricopa County on the basis of national origin or skin color. On the other hand, it is widely considered to be okay to keep non-white Mexican nationals out of the United States because, well, they’re not like us and, if we let too many of them in, we won’t be like us for much longer.
The cries for help that Joe Arpaio’s office received from white residents clearly reflect “keep America white” sentiments, and “America’s toughest Sheriff” enthusiastically responded to these messages, but, he insists, without committing the dreaded sin of racial profiling.
It isn’t just the ALCU and MALDEF that have problems with Sheriff Joe; the Department of Justice is also concerned about his tactics.
Let’s get this straight. The federal government, represented by the Department of Homeland Security, entered into a 287(g) agreement according to which 160 deputies, working for a man widely deplored as an insufferable racist, were deputized as immigration agents with the authority to sweep into the heavily Latino sections of town and arrest people who looked like they might be undocumented.
Now the federal government, represented by the Department of Justice, is upset because Joe and his posse were overstepping their mandate. Please explain how deputized border cops (racist or otherwise) can locate people who are in the country illegally without resorting to the crudest kind of racial profiling?
We aren’t talking about routine traffic stops here; we’re talking about white people complaining about “wetbacks”; we’re talking about dozens of immigration agents (paid by the sheriff’s department) sweeping into a suspicious neighborhood and arresting everybody brown person in sight. The government says you can do this as long as you don’t resort to racially profiling.
I’m sorry, but I can understand why Sheriff Arpaio might get a little confused. One branch of the federal government is begging him to flush out the Mexicans while another posse of federales takes him to task for racial profiling.
When we say that America’s immigration policy is broken, this is precisely what we are talking about. Our Jekyll and Hyde government reflects the fractured contradictions within the national psyche. Heaven help the poor journalists and jurists charged with making sense of of this mess; it’s beyond my feeble powers.
Arpaio Takes the Stand in Racial Profiling Lawsuit
New America Media, News Report, Valeria Fernández
PHOENIX, Ariz. – Word spread like wildfire in the North Phoenix neighborhood: Sheriff Joe Arpaio was coming to do an immigration sweep. His agency had received a letter circulated by a member of an immigration restrictionist group that was signed by eight businesses complaining about day laborers in the area. (more…)
Denton County to Pay Over Half Million Dollars in Discrimination Suit
By Pierre R. Berastain
“I understand why people hung people from trees…[I] want to go home and put on my white pointy hat.” Those are the alleged words Denton County felony Prosecutor Cary Piel told his black co-worker Nadiya Williams-Boldware who sued in federal court and was awarded over half million dollars for the discriminatory incident.
After being called a troublemaker by a co-worker, dismissed by her boss—the supervisor happened to be Cary Piel’s wife— and turned away by the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division, Boldware took her complaints to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The story can be found here.
After the verdict—on Monday, June 22, 2012—Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson fired the four prosecutors who cost the county the hefty $510,000 penalty: Susan Peil, Cary Peil, John Renz, and Ryan Calvert. Calvert is Cary Peil’s brother-in-law, and Renza was Peil’s partner in court. Read more about the firings here.