Category: racial profiling

How many Black parents must straighten up?

By Alan Bean

Richard Land President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Richard Land, speaks on NBC's 'Meet the Press' November 28, 2004 during a taping at the NBC studio in Washington, DC. Land talked about the religion, politics and moral values that were affecting the 2004 U.S. presidential election.
Richard Land

Richard Land, the voice of the Southern Baptist Convention, is in hot water over a recent rant against the Black pastors in connection with the Trayvon Martin story.  Land’s comments have angered Baptists like Arlington’s William Dwight McKissic as much for what they implied as for what was clearly stated.

The following quote from Gerald Schumacher appears in the comments section of Pastor McKissic’s website.  I have corrected the spelling, but otherwise this verbatim:

I am not a great fan of Richard Land, but If Mr. McKissic thinks what Richard Land said was racist then this is going to knock his socks off.

Richard Land spoke the truth originally although he has back peddled because of pressure. For that I do fault him. The truth is that if the black community would start training their children to live a productive moral godly lives instead of what a large percentage become and stop living in the past using the race cards this nation could heal a lot faster. Blacks make up about 13.6 percent of the population but about 40.2 percent of those in prison are black. The problem is with the black community not racism and it is way past time for the black pastors to start dealing with it in their congregation as well as communities instead of pointing fingers.

How many Black parents would have to quit their lowdown ways before Black pastors get the right to address racial injustice?  If, say, the teen birth rate dropped by 15 percentage points, would that do it?  Or are Black pastors relegated to the social sidelines until Black and White incarceration rates are the same?

This argument is of ancient origin.  Slaves shouldn’t be freed because most of them can’t read and write and lack experience handling money.  Jim Crow laws should remain in force because crime rates in the Ghetto are higher than the national average.

Now the mass incarceration of young Black males precludes Black Southern Baptists from questioning their White betters. 

This was the kind of logic that put Tulia, Texas on the map.  It didn’t really matter whether undercover agent Tom Coleman was telling the truth, if his targets had kids outside of marriage they forfeited their civil rights. 

Tragically, this Alice in Wonderland logic drives the criminal justice system.  It is also one of the big reasons why the Black incarceration numbers are so skewed and why so many of the men and women exonerated by DNA evidence are African-American. 

Anthony Graves

This morning I had coffee with Anthony Graves, a Texan who spent 18 years in prison, twelve on death row, for a crime he didn’t commit.  The indignities didn’t end when Graves stepped back into the free world.  The following is from a Houston Chronicle article published a year ago:

After he was freed in October, the Texas comptroller’s office refused the compensation provided by law for those who are unjustly convicted.

Then the Texas Attorney General’s Office began garnisheeing his wages for child support that a judge decided Graves owed even though he was on death row at the time. But when they blocked payment of the $250 fee he earned for a presentation to students at Prairie View A&M University, it was too much.

Graves’ attorney accused Texas AG Greg Abbott of being a vindictive monster.  Maybe so.  But Abbott had little reason to fear a public backlash.  Most influential Texans think a lot like Gerald Schumacher, the guy who thinks Dwight McKissic should go mute on racial justice until every Black parent has his or her act together. 

Fortunately, the Schumacher doctrine doesn’t always win out.  Anthony Graves finally received restitution money for his near-death experience, the Tulia drug bust was overturned, and, massive White support notwithstanding, Richard Land still has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Richard Land’s Trayvon problem deepens

By Alan Bean

Update: Richard Land has issued an apology for the remarks referenced in this post.

Southern Baptist leader Richard Land says he is the victim of a media mugging.  First the Nashville Tennessean characterized Land’s incendiary comments on his own radio show as a “rant”.  Now a Baylor-based blogger claims that the Baptist ethicist’s rant was plagiarized.

Many of the words that he uttered during his radio show were taken VERBATIM – yes, WORD-FOR-WORD – from a Washington Times column penned by conservative commentator Jeffrey Kuhner. Kuhner’s column titled “Obama foments racial division” was published on March 29.

Land has apologized for failing to give proper attribution, but continues to lash out at the liberal media.  This brief excerpt from an article in the Nashville Tennessean will tell you what the Southern Baptist spokesman is so upset about.

Some consider statements made Saturday by the convention’s top policy representative on his national radio show a setback. On Richard Land Live!,Land accused black religious leaders — whom he called “race hustlers” — and President Barack Obama of using the shooting death of an African-American teen in Florida for election-year gains.

“This will be vetted in court, not in a mob mentality that’s been juiced up by Al Sharpton, who is a provocateur and a racial ambulance chaser of the first order, and aided and abetted by Jesse Jackson,” Land said on the show.

And, on Obama’s statement that, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old victim, Land said: “The president’s aides claim he was showing compassion for the victim’s family. In reality, he poured gasoline on the racialist fires.”

The Rev. Maxie Miller, a Florida Baptist Convention expert in African-American church planting, was incredulous when he heard about the comments.

“At no time have I been embarrassed of being a Southern Baptist or a black Southern Baptist,” Miller said. “But I’m embarrassed because of the words that man has stated.”

Richard Land claims he should be immune from charges of racial insensitivity because he had a large hand in drafting the SBC’s official apology for slavery and Jim Crow.  According to the Associated Baptist Press, the 1995 statement read in part: (more…)

Baptist leader defends racial profiling

Richard Land

By Alan Bean

Media narratives are conversation starters; they energize American opinion leaders to reveal their true colors.  And when those true colors come shining through, it ain’t always pretty.

Two Associated Press stories appeared side-by-side in the print edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this morning.  In the first, Richard Land, the semi-official mouthpiece of the Southern Baptist Convention, condemned black pastors like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for rallying to the defense of Trayvon Martin’s parents in a crude attempt to gin up the vote for a black president who is in “deep, deep, deep trouble.” 

According to the article, Land “defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening because a black man is ‘statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.'”

Asked to comment on Land’s remarks, the Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said Land’s rash comments have set back Southern Baptist attempts to bridge the racial divide.  McKissic is so incensed, he is threatening to introduce a resolution at the SBC’s June convention calling for the denomination to repudiate Land’s position.  “If they don’t, we’re back to where we were 50 years ago.”

In the second article,  Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, lashed out at the media for focusing obsessively on racially charged violence while ignoring the victims of routine violent crime.  Violent crime is a fact of life across America, LaPierre opined,  “but the media, they don’t care. Everyday victims aren’t celebrities. They don’t draw ratings, don’t draw sponsors. But sensational reporting from Florida does.”

The conflation of the NRA and the SBC suggests an appropriate response to Dr. Land: “Statistics don’t kill people; people kill people.”  The fact that George Zimmerman didn’t see a lot of young black men in his gated community did not give him the right to pack heat, stalk his victim, and spark a dangerous confrontation.  It matters not whether Trayvon Martin resorted to violence; Zimmerman was the sole author of the encounter and bears responsibility for Martin’s death.

Which brings me to Mr. LaPierre.  It is certainly true that the vast majority of American homicides leave little media footprint and that the victims of these crimes are left to grieve alone.  The Martin case wouldn’t have been newsworthy if George Zimmerman had been arrested.  In fact, until Trayvon’s parents decided to take their case to the nation, the media ignored the fact that Zimmerman walked away from what is now considered a second degree murder without consequence.

Dr. Land’s inability to empathize with his black Baptist colleagues becomes particularly striking when you try to imagine the SBC leader taking on the NRA.  The Trayvon Martin case isn’t just about racial profiling; it’s also about dangerous Stand Your Ground laws that have received bipartisan support in a number of state.  Can we imagine Dr. Land excoriating his Republican bed mates for supporting dangerous legislation that has allowed a number of gang members to walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist when their beefs get out of control and some mother’s son lies gasping in a pool of his own blood?

Land would never take on the NRA.  Sharpton and Jackson stand with president Obama, not because they agree with him on every issue (they don’t), but because the Republican Party has no tolerance for civil rights leaders.  You can be black and Republican, but only if you aren’t concerned about racial justice. 

It should also be said, that both Sharpton and Jackson have regularly been involved in public events designed to tackle the problem of gang violence and black-on-black violence.  If the media fails to give these initiatives the attention they deserve, the Reverends cannot be faulted.

The Trayvon Martin case didn’t create the lamentable cleavage between black and white Baptists, but mirror image reactions to the story have certainly exposed the racial divide in religious America.

Zimmerman prosecution shows the power of principled protest

 

By Alan Bean

“We prosecute cases based on the relevant facts of each case and on the law of the state of Florida.”  So says State Attorney Angela B. Corey, the special prosecutor assigned to the George Zimmerman case.  It is unlikely that Zimmerman would ever have been charged had it not been for the national outcry that has rivetted attention on this case. 

Law enforcement and district attorneys dislike the Stand Your Ground law because it frustrates their efforts to arrest, investigate and prosecute cases in which the shooter claims self-defense.  But law enforcement was obviously intimidated by Stand Your Ground.  Even though Zimmerman jumped to unwarranted conclusions about Trayvon Martin, even though he defied a police dispatcher’s demand that he remain in his vehicle, even though Zimmerman clearly followed and confronted Martin, the appeal to self-defense worked like magic. 

Like any high-profile narrative, the Trayvon Martin case has revealed a troubling divide in public perception.   On one side of the fault line, people identify with George Zimmerman’s suspicion of young black males wearing hoodies.  On the other side, folks identify with a victim of racial profiling and vigilante justice. 

Those who identify with neither Zimmerman nor Martin generally take a “let the system handle it approach.”  Now that Zimmerman has been arrested it may appear that the dispassionate bystanders who trust established judicial processes called it right.  The Washington Post editorial below suggests, albeit cautiously, that the system is working as it should.  Zimmerman will have his day in court.  Prosecutors will have a hard time working around the prejudicial impact of the Stand Your Ground law.  A plea bargain may settle this thing.  Zimmerman’s mental issues may also surface as a major issue (the man is clearly unstable). 

But none of this would be happening apart from massive national protest. (more…)

Boycotts of ‘Stand Your Ground’ group

by Melanie Wilmoth Navarro

(Note: This article was updated on 4/10/12.)

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing, groups are boycotting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC is the well-funded conservative organization behind the controversial “stand your ground” gun laws.  Organizations like Color of Change have pressured groups to stop funding ALEC, and NPR reports that major U.S. companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have recently dropped their ALEC memberships:

“Two of America’s best-known companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have dropped their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a low-profile conservative organization behind the national proliferation of “stand your ground” gun laws.

ALEC promotes business-friendly legislation in state capitols and drafts model bills for state legislatures to adopt. They range from little-noticed pro-business bills to more controversial measures, including voter-identification laws and stand your ground laws based on the Florida statute. About two-dozen states now have such laws.

Florida’s stand your ground law has been cited in the slaying of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on Feb. 26.”

In addition to stand your ground and voter ID laws, ALEC supports a number of disturbing initiatives, including prison privatization, anti-labor union bills, and Arizona-style immigration policies.  Other major companies that fund ALEC include Walmart, Kraft Foods, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, UPS, and ExxonMobil.

Let’s continue to put pressure on these organizations to divest from ALEC.  Hopefully, they will follow in the footsteps of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Co.

UPDATE (4/10/12):

Several more groups, including Kraft Foods, Intuit (the maker of Turbo Tax), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and McDonalds, have decided to withdraw support for ALEC.


Baptist Leader stands in solidarity with Trayvon Martin

Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins III

Thanks to Bob Allen with the Associated Baptist Press for bringing us this interview with Aidsand Wright-Riggins, Executive Director of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.  Dr. Wright-Riggins and I led a workshop on racial justice at the New Baptist Covenant conference in Atlanta in 2008 and he was very supportive of our work during the Jena 6 struggle.  As an ordained pastor with the American Baptist Churches, USA, it is an honor to be affiliated with a leader who is willing to share the painful aspects of his personal story.  If you are white, some of the details related in this interview may shock you.  All the more reason to keep reading.

American Baptist leader shows solidarity with Trayvon Martin

By Bob Allen

April 3, 2012

Wearing a hoodie in support of the 17-year-old Florida youth slain Feb. 26 while walking through a gated community to his father’s home carrying a can of tea and candy he had purchased at a convenience store, Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of home page of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said in a video on the ministry’s websitethat as a black man he has endured indignities like being stopped by a police officer while walking toward his own home.

Wright-Riggins said not much has changed since the day 30 years ago when as a youth minister he was called a racial epithet and ordered to raise his hands while visiting the home of a white member of his church. He described buying a used car so his son could drive himself to college and having the boy return home hours later saying he didn’t want the car because he was pulled over twice while trying to return to his dorm room.

“It’s dangerous being a young boy driving or walking while being black,” Wright-Riggins said. “So I’m just concerned in our county that we consider giving every person the dignity that is deserving of them.”

In addition to being heartbroken over the tragedy, Wright-Riggins said he is even more troubled by “how guns are so easily accessible and how they can be put into the hands of persons for whom there is absolutely no accountability when they use them.”

“I appeal to all of us, as we look at the millions of persons around us, and particularly those of color, and particularly black boys, that we don’t make an automatic assessment because they might be dressed differently or look differently or somehow feel that they are out of place in our society, that we relegate them to the margins or even worse that we assign them to the morgue,” he said. “So today in memory of Trayvon Martin and the millions of others who face such indignities, we lift our prayers for their families and we lift our prayers for our country. May God bless as we try to find a new and better way.”

Will Trayvon Martin’s death spark the movement to end mass incarceration?

After news spread about the killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, many began comparing Martin’s case to the 1955 murder of 14-year old Emmett Till.  Although some are critical of the comparison, arguing that comparing Martin to Till suggests nothing has changed since the 1950s, Ibram Rogers argues that we must look at the context of their deaths and what their murders symbolized.  Till’s death was a symbol of racism in the Jim Crow South.  Martin’s death is a symbol of racial profiling and the criminalization of black men in 2012.  Just as the death of Emmett Till galvanized the civil rights movement, Ibram wonders: “Will the anger over Martin’s death spark the New Abolitionist Movement against mass incarceration?” MWN 

Probing the Comparison – Trayvon Martin/Mass Incarceration and Emmett Till/Segregation

by Dr. Ibram Rogers

Protests are blooming this spring. Black Americans are enraged and emboldened, shouting entreaties for justice, justice, justice.

Stoking even more rage—or rather placing the rage in historical context—has been the continuous comparisons made between the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, murdered recently by a neighborhood watchman of a majority White gated community in Florida who is claiming self-defense, and Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago native murdered by Mississippi segregationists in 1955 for speaking “inappropriately” to a White woman.

A blog in The New Yorker on the Martin tragedy was entitled “Emmett Till in Sanford.” Hundreds of protesters gathered at a park in Sanford, Fla., on March 22, and dozens of them sported t-shirts with Martin’s photo next to a Till photo. These Martin-Till shirts have become widely popular among activists around the nation.

Syracuse professor Boyce Watkins wrote that Martin “has become a modern day Emmett Till.” University of Maryland law professor Sherrilyn A. Ifill insightfully compared Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, to Mamie Mae Till, who courageously allowed an open casket funeral and circulated pictures of her son’s tattered face around the world. Mamie Till’s public fight to get justice for her son is one of the untold sparks of the Civil Rights Movement.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson dismissed the “facile comparison” as “a disservice to history—and the memory of both young men. It is ridiculous to imply that nothing has changed.”

Robinson is correct and incorrect. The link is a service and disserve to history. The widely touted comparison of Martin to Till is profound and “facile.”  (more…)

Juan Williams changes the subject

By Alan Bean

Some stories get too big to be ignored.  So imagine that you are an editor for the Wall Street Journal, the voice of sensible capitalism, the vast majority of your readers are white and conservative, in that classy, New York sort of way, and you are compelled to address the furor over the Trayvon Martin case?  You go to the bullpen and call Juan Williams to the mound.  Williams is the black guy that makes white guys feel good.  If a white editor opined that we should be giving less attention to Trayvon Martin while concentrating on black-on-black crime (the real problem) you might be facing a token backlash.  Your readers would applaud this sentiment, but a few outsiders might take exception.  But Mr. Williams is black, so he can’t be a racist.

Here’s the heart of William’s argument:

The race-baiters argue this case deserves special attention because it fits the mold of white-on-black violence that fills the history books. Some have drawn a comparison to the murder of Emmett Till, a black boy who was killed in 1955 by white racists for whistling at a white woman.

This is a magnificent misreading of the outrage.  When people compare Trayvon and Emmett, they aren’t saying the two cases are identical, or even that they are about the same kind of injustice.  The Till case sparked the civil rights movement.  Rosa Parks had Emmett Till on her mind when she refused to relinquish her seat to a white man.  Some are hoping the Trayvon Martin story sparks a similar revolution.  This time (contra Williams) the emphasis won’t be on white-on-black crime; the focus will be on racial profiling and the easy association between black skin and danger.

Hence the iconic emphasis on the hoodie. (more…)

Learning from messy narratives

By Alan Bean

The Trayvon Martin case is following a predictable trajectory.  Calls for the arrest of George Zimmerman centered on the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain’s unprovoked vigilante pursuit of an unarmed citizen.  Now comes the inevitable backlash as the Sanford, Florida police department leaks reports that Martin had been suspended from school after being connected to an empty marijuana baggie.  The unspoken message is that Trayvon Martin really was the flipped-out druggie Zimmerman initially reported in a 911 call.

In addition, Zimmerman’s attorney is suggesting that Martin initiated the physical altercation that lead to his own death.

A certain amount of speculation is unavoidable in this case.  We know that Zimmerman decided to leave his vehicle, against the advice of the 911 operator, with the clear intention of confronting Martin.   We know that Martin was aware that he was being followed because he was on the phone to his girlfriend at the time.  We know a physical altercation preceded the shooting because of the grass stains on the back of Zimmerman’s shirt and his bloody nose.  We know that Zimmerman used deadly force to resolve the situation.

Frankly, I was surprised that it took so long for the champions of the status quo to start spinning the story to their own advantage.  For two weeks, black civil rights groups and bloggers have had the mainstream media all to themselves.  That couldn’t last.  It never does. (more…)