Institutions and Trump

I’ve seen pages of digital ink spilled about whether or not our institutions are strong enough to stop the worst of Trump, and just the other day had a conversation where I was told that he was President now, and that we had to trust the system.  Obviously, putting any trust in the “institutions” or “systems” that have already allowed Trump to take power is wrongheaded in the extreme.  But here’s the other thing that anyone who suggests that we calm down, stop over reacting, and trust in our institutions gets wrong.

Institutions are made of people.  They are not living, breathing, sentient beings in and of themselves.  Institutions are created by and sustained by people, and the decisions we make everyday.  Courts can’t stop Donald Trump without people freaking out and filing lawsuits, the free press doesn’t work without people aggressively seeking and reporting the truth, elected officials will too often take the easiest path and so Congress won’t hold anyone accountable without people protesting, marching, and attending townhalls.  Democracy does not just happen on its own through “institutions” chugging along.  Civil rights, extension of voting rights, exposure of corruption, the continuation of democracy, the all happen because people make the institutions work, force them to if necessary.

The protests you see are the institutions working.  Every massive social change and progress in the United States or elsewhere in the world that has been accomplished peacefully is because people trust the systems that are in place, but know that they must be prodded, shored up, protected, or forced to act.  Civil disobedience, protests, and lawsuits show trust in institutions, and that society will do the right thing.  Without that trust you get violent revolution or terrorism, depending on what side you support.  But trust doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility.  It means working through the institutions.  That’s what civil rights heroes, suffragettes, muckrakers, and early unions did.

As the saying goes, democracy is not a spectator sport.  And it should not just happen every four years.  If you don’t like what’s happening, but think things will work out because we’re America, you are wrong.  America works because Americans make it work-and because we are lucky enough to have the tools to make change.  Don’t just trust the institutions, use them.


One of Many Election Post-Mortems

I am in horror today, and like more than half of America I am grieving.  I had so much difficulty seeing my children this morning and wondering what kind of world I’m leaving them, so much trouble talking to the Muslim woman who watches my daughter, and her daughter, who had voted in her first election and been out organizing all week.  So much trouble just driving to work and seeing the news and listening to the radio and pretending that anything is okay.

And I am shocked.  Shocked because of how wrong all of the polls were, in ways no one saw, true.  But also shocked that anyone could have voted for Donald Trump.  Shocked that he could have made it this far.  And I am left wondering how this could happen.  Obviously we have a lot of outreach to do and a good long ways to grow.  But there’s a lot of blame to go around.

Last night I was watching CNN as the election returns came in.  And as it became clear what was happening, the anchors seemed in shock and as horrified as  those of us at home.  And of course they did, because they know what this means, and they know how dangerous Trump is.  But as I was watching, I was wondering, CNN, are you happy with the choices you’ve made?  Happy with the decision to hire people who are still on Trump’s payroll?  Happy with the decision to cover the story of State Department e-mail protocols as if it was the same as every single thing that Trump did?  Happy that you analyzed e-mail dumps from a hack by a foreign power–e-mail dumps that only showed us that Clinton was a politician involved in politics, but nevertheless “raised questions”?  Happy that you spent all of the primary and most of the general election airing Trump’s every utterance, giving him hundreds of hours of free airtime and providing him an unchallenged platform on your station?  Happy with continuing the long-standing practice of evaluating everything based on what it meant for the election rather than what it actually meant for policies and for people?  Because all of these decisions shaped this election and went into making last night’s result happen.

I don’t want to unduly pick on CNN here.  Yes, they made some of the most indefensible decisions, such as hiring Corey Lewandowski.  But I think Jake Tapper has done very good work in pushing Trump’s people, and we’ve all enjoyed Ana Navarro.  Their decisions, though, are similar to what other respected media giants such as NYT, Washington Post, MSNBC and others have made.  Unlimited coverage for Trump, only horse race coverage during the primary, pretending the e-mails are the same as anything else because of “balance” or hating Clinton or who even knows.  On Super Tuesday the major networks barely mentioned Clinton’s wins, and showed Trump’s entire acceptance speech for goodness sake.

During this election season we had at least 1000 articles on Trump’s supporters, and an equal number on Hillary Clinton’s enthusiasm problem.  Where were the articles on her supporters, on why so many people were supporting her, a chance for people to tell the story of why they were voting for Clinton?

When it came to free media of rallies and the like, there was no semblance of balance.  And yet for scandals, the media felt compelled to pretend that the candidates were alike.  For every horrible thing Trump did, the media covered the e-mails.  The articles always summarized the “scandal” by pointing nothing was actually wrong–but there were clouds.  And questions.  And shadows.  Leaving every voter with the impression that there was something wrong when there wasn’t.  Yes, there were articles on Trump’s Foundation, well researched articles on his taxes, but all the scandals together probably got as much focus as e-mails where, well, nothing was wrong, per se, but surely there were questions.

And in the meantime we had to treat everything Trump said as worthy of respect, and pretend that this was a normal race.  Remember when Clinton gave an incredibly well researched speech with loads of obvious examples about how Trump was getting support from the new racist and white supremacist movements?  And then Trump tweeted that Clinton was the real racist?  And then the media the next day played it off as Trump and Clinton were trading barbs?

Many journalists undoubtedly think that they did what they were supposed to do, researching Clinton and researching Trump.  But the truth is that they built up stories about nothing for Clinton into stories of potential scandal, and to voters created the impression that these candidates were equally corrupt and untrustworthy, when there was never a competition.  The pretended that calling Trump racist was just candidates trading barbs.  Pretended that calling the KKK deplorable was a gaffe, rather than digging in to the racism.

And at the tail end of the election, the media published and poured over private e-mails from a hacked server that had almost definitely been procured by a hostile foreign power, and decided to publish a Republican press release rather than waiting a half hour for clarification.

There are ten thousand things that went wrong here, and so many problems in our country that this election has shown.  But I certainly hope that the mainstream media, who, for all the discussion of new media still have a large part to play, are considering the criticism they received throughout a lot more seriously.  Because it is largely due to them that we will now see President Trump.

9 Times the Republican Platform Forgot Donald Trump Is Their Nominee

  1. This platform is optimistic because the American people are optimistic.” (Preamble)
  2. People living paycheck to paycheck are struggling, sacrificing and suffering.” (Preamble)
  3. “Our most urgent task as a Party is to restore the American people’s faith in their government by electing a president who will enforce duly enacted laws, honor constitutional limits on executive authority, and return credibility to the Oval Office.” (Pg. 10)
  4. We pledge to protect the voting rights of every citizen.” (Pg. 16)
  5. [T]he next president must not sow the seeds of division and distrust…” (Pg. 39)
  6. The oppressed have no greater ally than a confident and determined United States, backed by the strongest military on the planet.” (Pg. 41)
  7. As a nation, we honor the sacrifice of our fallen service members….As a party, we seek to honor their sacrifice and comfort their families.” (Pg. 45)
  8. We affirm our party’s tradition of world leadership established by President Eisenhower….It embraces American exceptionalism and rejects the false prophets of decline and diminution.” (Pg. 46)
  9. A Republican administration will restore our nation’s credibility.” (Pg. 46)

Faith Rooted Organizing

faith-rooted organizingFaith Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World, Rev. Alexia Salviterria and Peter Heltzel
Up until about 6 months ago, my entire professional life has been working in a faith-based context, either directly at a congregation or working on faith outreach for an advocacy organization.  So I’ve read a lot on the topic and attended a lot of trainings.  And this is, I think, the best book on congregation based organizing I’ve read.  It’s certainly my favorite, at least.

Congregation based/community organizing is actually a pretty basic concept.  It’s the idea of bringing people together to advocate for change.  Usually political, trying to get more money for a homeless shelter or bus routes that better reflect the trips of the people who really need them, but they an also be to stand with people who aren’t usually listened to to get badly needed changes in their lives.  So, for instance, one of the “actions” taken by a community organizing group my church is a part of was to have other community members-including white, middle class folks-join residents of a broken down, low-income rental building in confronting their landlord about needed changes, or even joining them for the walk through with maintenance.  Other organizations have banded together to challenge banks about their lending to minorities.  The idea is that congregations are called to do more than just serve others through a food pantry, and to also advocate for change in the world.

Almost every aspect of congregational organizing is based on the tenants laid out by Saul Alinsky when he started the Industrial Areas Foundation in the 1930s.  Anytime one studies up on congregational organizing, Alinsky, IAF, and other organizations that came from that model come up.  This isn’t too surprising, since they are amazingly successful and Alinsky may be the first person to really create a system of community organizing and lay out some rules.  Salviterria also originally comes from that model and has worked with the PICO National Network, one of the organizations, alongside Gamaliel Foundation and DART, that was built in the IAF model.  While they are successful, though, I’ve always been uncomfortable with aspects of these organizations, and Salviterria had a lot of the same criticisms.

The issue I have with the typical model is two-fold.  Firstly, while some organizations, such as Gamalial, try to be more tied to faith, for a lot of the traditional model they’re not really faith-based.  They work out of congregations out of practicality, because in some areas of the US and in some communities they’re still the only trusted institutions, and because in all parts of the US, despite the “rise of the nones“, there are tons of congregations.  I don’t really mind this, I can respect pragmatism and practicality and it’s not as if the organization tries to remove faith from what they do-everything I’ve been to that was hosted in a congregation still started with a prayer.  But for someone looking for a truly faith-based organization, this is not that.

The second, and larger, issue I have with them is that I have never enjoyed working with them.  Everything I’ve done with the IAF has seemed overly confrontational, and with a distinct lack of respect for the members, although I know others feel differently.  There is such as strict model that they stick with because of the past success, but they strongly discourage anyone from veering from it.  While they say over and over again that they’re built on relationships and power-sharing, I’ve always felt that they don’t share power, or rather, they’re only built on raising to power those who are willing to follow everything  that they say about what should be done.  And their relational meetings have felt rote to me, not really respectful or about building relationships.

I want to emphasize here that there are a lot of people I know who do not feel this way, and have really enjoyed being part of IAF or similar groups.  I think some of my criticisms, particularly about their resistance to change, are valid objective critiques, a lot of them are likely more of a mismatch between my personality and the organization.  They’re not for me, but that doesn’t mean they’re not for anyone.

Back to the book!  Faith-Rooted Organizing aims to keep a lot of the practical aspects of the usual models of congregation based organizing.  There was a lot in this book that was very familiar to me from a logistical standpoint.  But she also tries to adapt it to an explicit faith, not just congregation, context.  As one of my co-workers used to point out, if you want people to stay engaged at something at their church, you have to give them a reason to do it through the church, not just some other volunteer group.  After all, there’s a lot more competition for civic life these days.  I also found that she was a bit better on how to actually accomplish things logistically, and what she had done in the past, than some other organizing books which are heavy on the concepts and light on the applications.

Tied into this is that Salviterria evidently had some of the same problems with traditional organizing as I do.  The book emphasizes respecting one another, and argues for cooperation over “power.”  A lot of the differences are subtle, but I got the sense from her book that when she talks about authentic relationships, she means it.  IAF talks about the organizing coming from relationships, but it also talks about everything being about shared self-interest, and, again, in my experience, every relational being has been about how to get something out of it, not just getting to know someone.  And yes that’s part of any meeting when you want a volunteer, but when you’re conducting a relational meeting to check a box it’s always going to be a bit more rote and about how you can use someone.

I find myself struggling to explain the book better, because a lot of what I liked about it was the subtle differences between it and other organizing manuals, and it’s really getting into the weeds of a subject and a world that I’ve been heavily involved in for over a decade but that most people don’t even know exists.  I will sum up, though, that if you are interested in getting your congregation involved in advocacy, either with politics or just in the community helping some members stand up to a local slumlord, this is the book I’d recommend.  It’s comprehensive on both the how and the why.  And if you like the concept of congregation or community organizing but have been turned off by other organizations, give Faith-Rooted Organizing a try.  It just might appeal to you where others have left you cold.




The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immorta Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The most affecting part of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is towards the end of the book, from chapter 32.  Throughout the book we are shown the emotional effect of Lacks’ death, and the fame of her cells, on her family.  After Lacks’ death her husband remarried to a woman who abused the children, and in particular the youngest son, Zakariyya (pronounced Zuh-CAR-ee-ah) is portrayed as full of anger towards the world, and in particular white people, Johns Hopkins, scientists, and everyone who he sees as having stolen his mother’s cells.

The author, Rebecca Skloot, takes Zakariyaa and Lacks’ daughter, Deborah, to the Johns Hopkins medical center to meet with a research, Christoph Lengauer, who has offered to show them their mother’s cells and some of the research that’s been done.  Throughout the chapter they see all the parts of the research lab, watch the cells divide through a microscope, and ask questions.  Most importantly, though, for the first time they are able to talk with a researcher about what’s been done with their mother’s cells, and have their anger and conflicted feelings be validated by someone from the scientific and research community.  At the end of the chapter, Lengauer gives them both his cell phone number and tells them to call any time with questions about their mother’s cells.

As we walked towards the elevator, Zakariyya reached up and touched Christoph on the back and said thank you.  Outside, he did the same to me, then turned to catch the bus home.

Deborah and I stood in silence, watching him walk away.  Then she put her arm around me and said, ”Girl, you just witnessed a miracle.

I think most people at this point know the basic outline of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  It received an amazingly positive critical reception, was covered numerous times in the media, and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for about a year and a half.  Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman, died of cervical cancer in 1951.  She was treated at Johns Hopkins medical center, and some of her cancer cells were collected while she was there, and without her and her family’s informed consent.  These cells, called HeLa as they were identified by her first and last name, became the first, and still the most productive, immortal cell line.  Because they are cloning themselves and identical, they have been used in what seems like almost all medical research over the last fifty years.  Despite this, her family hadn’t ever been told, had no say over what would be done with the cells, and received no monetary compensation.

On the surface, this is what Henrietta Lacks is about.  The complicated, muddy world of medical ethics, or what “informed consent” actually does, the history of medical advancements being made based on biological donations or participation in trials by poor, primarily black, individuals, throughout our nation’s history.  The story of Henrietta Lacks is a wonderful lens through which to examine these questions.  This is because, unlike, say, the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments the taking of and experimenting on Lacks’ cells didn’t involve any blatant wrong doing or clearly unethical action.  A few conspiracy theories to the contrary, it becomes fairly clear through Skloot’s research and reporting that no one actually did anything “wrong”, per se, in the Lacks’ case, and she wasn’t harmed by the experiments on her cell line after she passed.  It’s even more clear that there’s nothing being done wrong by the scientists currently performing research, although several of us might take pause at the thought that we can buy a person’s cells online, or that a cell line can be patented.  And it’s this murky world of ethics that the end of the book focuses on as well, looking at what “informed consent” actually means, and looking briefly at a man who sued after finding out his doctor was profiting off of his own cells.  The court ruled that was fine since the man who produced the cells had agreed to get rid of them as so much medical waste, and it was the doctor that had patented and started selling them.

This is a valuable conversation, and one that we’re still not really having, despite the popularity of this book.  Count me as one of the people who is extremely troubled by the idea of patenting life of any sort.  It makes me squirm.  Even if there is some sort of equity between the person who donated the cells and the doctors and researchers who profit, I still find the whole thing rather sordid.  However, I think this book goes beyond just the thought of medical ethics, and focuses on the real issue: making sure that we see each other as human, that we recognize what comes from other humans, that we are all treated as whole people.

It’s evident in the book, and from the scene I quoted at the beginning, that what’s most important to the Lackses isn’t just the money—although almost all of them are living in poverty and would certainly appreciate it—it’s the lack of recognition they feel for their mother, the lack of respect they’ve had from the scientific community, the lack of consulting with the family about anything that happens with their mother’s cells.  They are pained that scientists celebrate the HeLa cell line, but forget that it’s so named for a real, flesh-and-blood person, Henrietta Lacks.  One gets the sense that they would have been just as hurt to have some money thrown at them grudgingly with an expectation that then they would disappear as they are now.  What was far more valuable was having someone from Johns Hopkins talk to them and recognize them.

This speaks to a larger issue throughout our society, our forgetting that images, names, stories, research cells, memes, political footballs, etc. are attached to real people and the effect that making them famous in any way could have on them.  We often forget to recognize the humanity in others, those we interact with every day, those who have changed lives, even those who just turn into an internet meme, or, even worse, find themselves at the center of an internet firestorm over nothing.  We ignore the humans and families behind political stories and grieving parents find themselves or their deceased children the targets of social media attacks if they have dared to speak up, or just end up in the news.

Recently, there have been rules passed around medical research requiring informed consent, and also that any identifying information be stripped from cells or other medical “waste” that is used for research to preserve confidentiality and avoid future books like this one.  And to avoid lawsuits from people who want to be compensated for their cells.  Informed consent and confidentiality are good, and I’m glad that this book has brought many issues of medical research to people’s attention.  But even more than that I hope this book teaches us to recognize every person we interact with as a human, with a family deserving of respect.  That there is nothing more important than recognizing and preserving the dignity of every human being.

Don’t be Fooled. Donald Trump is Actually the Worst.

There is not much that people of all sides of the aisle can agree on, but here is one: This Republican nomination process has been a bizarre, surreal train wreck. 17 candidates, many of whom I’ve already forgotten, a former front runner who thinks that the pyramids were built to store grain, and the current front runner and likely nominee a blowhard and reality television personality who has been a national joke for years.   No one took him seriously, and no one thought he could win, and yet, here we are. Trump has won three of the first four primaries/caucuses, and came in second in Iowa. It looks like he’s going to sweep most of today’s Super Tuesday states. It seems hard to believe, but what one also has to remember is that, looking at the original slate of 17 nominees, we were always faced with a conundrum: all of them had fatal flaws, and examined individually it was easy to say for each of them that they could never be the nominee. And yet one of them was going to be.

It looks increasingly like Trump will be the Republican nominee. And while I think/hope that he would get trounced in the general, the fact is that in our two party system, whoever wins the Republican nomination has a non-zero chance of becoming president. And the thought of President Trump is absolutely horrifying.

What has been most surprising to me, though, is that there are still many people who don’t seem to understand quite how dangerous and terrifying Donald Trump, and the fact that he is garnering such strong support, actually is. The Republican Establishment seems to have had a very difficult time deciding if they needed to stop Trump because while they don’t like him, they really hate Cruz.* The more intellectual wings, like National Review , have decided to go all-in after Trump, but through this they’ve inadvertently exposed how awful they really are. NR’s anti-Trump issue mostly ignored Trumps calls for Muslim registries and yearning for Operation Wetback to accuse Trump of not really being Republican and not really being all in for tax-breaks for the rich. At the last debate, where Cruz and Rubio finally seemed to realize they were running against Trump, they both apparently criticized Trump for not wanting people to die in the streets from lack of insurance.

Even more disturbing, though, is that some progressive folks seem to think that Trump winning the nomination would be better than alternatives. Their reasoning varies. Some think that Trump doesn’t have a chance in the general. And while I mostly agree, again, whoever is the Republican nominee could conceivably be elected. Some seem to think that Cruz is worse, or, just looking at policies, see some random points of agreement with Trump when he’s talking his populist talk and think at least there are more points of agreement. And others seem to take so much joy in watching the Republican party burn that they are ignoring that the rise of someone like Trump, even if it causes agita across the aisle, is terrible for our country.

Trump is a racist and a fascist, a word I am more than comfortable using with him. He doesn’t want to be a president, he wants to be a dictator. It sounds so meaningless to say things like that, since those words have been robbed of so much power in the past 20 years, but in this case it is absolutely true and needs to be confronted head on. His prominence is already stirring up the darkest elements of our country, and it needs to be stopped.

Consider on the one hand his support from and coziness with white nationalists. This weekend he refused to condemn a recent endorsement from David Duke and the KKK, saying that he didn’t know enough about them. He’s since said that it was due to a faulty earpiece, but no one believes that. His previous disavowel of white nationalists who were endorsing him was done in such a way to confirm everything that they were for, and was such a friendly “disavowel” that the organization said he did so “in the nicest possible way.” His statement that Mexico is only sending over rapists and murderers, wanting to have a Muslim registry, condemnation of Black Lives Matters and their protestors, all of these are giving an even greater voice to long-simmering racist and white nationalist part of our nation than they’ve had previously. It is not particularly surprising that Jean-Marie Le Pen recently endorsed him.

And while some people point to long-standing Republican anti-immigrant policies, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the southern strategy that’s tacitly encouraged the racist side of the party, saying that this is more of a change in style than of substance, at some point the style is different enough that it is a change of substance. And that is what we see in Donald Trump’s complete disregard of constitutional rights, and his outright support of racist violence.

Trump has proposed banning Muslims entirely from entering the United States via a travel ban. He has proposed a registry for Muslims. He has encouraged attendees at his rallies to beat up protesters on numerous occasions. Going further, he has said that he will pay the legal bills of anyone who beats up a protester at one of his rallies. When discussing foreign policy he wants to kill the families of terrorists. In a stance that, unfortunately, doesn’t set up that far apart from much of the Republican party, he’s unapologetically pro-torture and wants to bring back waterboarding and worse. When three men beat up a homeless Latino man in Boston, Trump said that they were just passionate about making America great again. As thin-skinned as any other dictator, Trump has said that one of the first things he’ll do as President is change the First Amendment so that he can more easily sue any newspaper that writes something bad about him. Yesterday, he had 30 black students removed from a speech he was giving at their college.^ There’s absolutely no reason to believe that his praise for Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin is anything other than sincere.

No matter how much I might dislike Cruz, no matter how destructive I think he is—after all, his actions during the debt limit increase and the government shutdown show that he’s pretty willing to burn it all to the ground, too—he at least isn’t out and out encouraging violence against anyone who disagrees with him, nor does he seem to be directly inspiring it. And while some progressives might take delight in seeing the consternation Trump is causing the Republican party and think that it’s okay for him to have the spotlight for now since he’ll get trounced in the general, that is a position that can only be taken by someone who knows that they won’t be affected no matter what. The hate crime in Boston, the number of crimes against Muslim immigrants in the past few months, and the rise in interest in white nationalist groups since Trump began his campaign, shows that giving a platform to this sort of hatefulness in the country is always dangerous.

I have no idea what a Trump presidency would actually look like. After all, I doubt Congress would eliminate the First Amendment just so that Trump could sue, and who knows, maybe imprison, the editors of the New York Daily News. Perhaps he’d quit in frustration after about 6 months. But I do know that no matter what, he has given voice to an ugly and dangerous strain in American politics, and that no one should be cheering for Trump to win anything. Fascism is not a joking matter.

*Please note, I don’t blame them for hating Cruz, who in any normal nominating contest would be The Worse. I just don’t think they should let their personal feelings blind them to how awful Trump is.

^And there has not been early enough criticism of Valdosta College or the Secret Service for going along with this, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s Never about Race, Right?

I saw this linked to on a friend’s facebook page last week:  “Don’t support laws you aren’t willing to kill to enforce.”  The gist of the article can be summed up here

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

The general point, one that I saw repeated by plenty of libertarian acquaintances after Eric Garner’s death, is that the real problem, the real reason that Eric Garner was killed, is that we have too many laws.  No one should have been killed over selling loose cigarettes, they agree, but that is just an inevitable consequence of having a law against selling loose cigarettes.  Follow things through to their logical conclusions.  Surprisingly, I saw this come up again after Freddie Gray’s death and the Baltimore protests, when a friend quoted Rand Paul* as saying that 80% of the problem was that we had too many laws on the books.

I’m rather amazed to see this getting this amount of play.  Firstly, it is obviously incorrect that we cannot support any law unless we would be okay if someone died for violating the law.  Off the top of my head, I support, and I expect most Americans do as well, laws against speeding, against petty theft, against breaking and entering, and running a red light, even though I wouldn’t be willing to kill to enforce any of those.  (Actually, since I’m anti-death penalty, and generally a supporter of nonviolence, I suppose I can’t support any laws?)

Secondly, though, the problem is not just that we have laws on the books.  The problem is which laws are enforced and which are not, and to whom the laws are applied.  When Eric Garner is dead and Cliven Bundy is still a free man it’s not about the laws.  When riding a bike while black is a crime in Tampa, and officers looking at “broken windows” barely even show up in white neighborhoods–where I guarantee many people still have broken taillights on their bikes and teenagers occasionally have drugs–the problem is not that there are certain laws on the books.

I will acknowledge and agree that we have some pretty terrible laws that we should eliminate and that it would help a great deal towards alleviating structural racism.  The War on Drugs comes to mind.  But really, we shouldn’t make this more complicated than it is.  We shouldn’t be looking for excuses.  I know that we don’t want this to be about race, since it’s Never About Race.  But in Ferguson the 67% African American population made up 93% of the arrests.    North Miami Beach cops used black mugshots for target practice.  And then there’s everything related to stop and frisk.

In most of these cases, cops have stopped people for little to no reason.  And in the tragic cases of Tamir Rice and John Crawford, the cops saw a black child or a black man with a pretend gun and assumed that he was dangerous, not because of a petty violation.   Maybe it’s time to start casting about for any other explanation, and admit that maybe it is About Race.

*I know, right?