Category Archives: Race

Why the federal government isn’t prosecuting the officer who choked Eric Garner

Editorial note by Randall Hill: 

Systems, including the legal system, are created to protect the wealth, power, and self-interest of those who create them.

White slave owners created our legal and other systems still in use today. Eric Garner, Mike Brown and more were casualties of rigged systems.

Can you name a single system that does not fail black people in general? Education, banking, political, and just about every other system you can think of has extraordinary obstacles or traps targeted against us. We are de facto slaves because of our misguided trust in or lack of understanding about the systems that govern us. 

Unless we are prepared to make monumental sacrifices nothing will change. Tomorrow we will learn about another unarmed black person killed by police, get upset and frustrated, possibly march or protest but nothing will change. We will also hear about another black person being gunned down not by the police but by another black person. The police chief and mayor will talk about plans to reduce crime, community leaders will offer prayers and vigils, "We must stop killed each other" signs may go up, but nothing will change because the systems that caused the problems in the first place will not change. 

When we become successful, our success does not look like white success. For the most part, they own and we go to work for them. Two years ago, one in seven white families were millionaires and according to Credit Suisse, there are over 17 million millionaires in the U.S.

White people, for the most part, don't have entire systems designed to work against them, therefore as a group, they have better access to education, employment, housing, capital, and every other meaningful institution and system. Until we figure out a way to disrupt their systems the status quo will remain. What are you prepared to do? If the answer is nothing, nothing will change.

"Give me liberty or give me death"

Most Americans are familiar with the famous freedom quote articulated so eloquently by Patrick Henry, a man who owned 67 slaves at the time of his death. Many have never heard the full speech, a video reenactment is below.

As a slave owner, Patrick Henry knew he did not want to become a slave himself. He understood probably better than most that freedom isn't given, it must be taken. 


Article by Caren Morrison, Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University

The Justice Department won’t file federal charges against the New York City police officer who put Eric Garner into the chokehold that led to his death. With the statute of limitations having run out, the case, legally, is closed.

Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, says the federal government should have filed charges. 

The decision, announced almost exactly five years after Garner was pronounced dead following a confrontation with police officers in Staten Island on July 17, 2014, has sparked renewed objections from his relatives, activists and politicians.

Every officer involved has remained on the force, and no criminal charges have been filed. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer caught on video with his arm around Garner’s neck, was assigned to desk duty, but has stayed on the department’s payroll and even received an increase in his overtime pay.

Garner’s death was brutal, but as a former federal prosecutor and a criminal procedure professor who studies how prosecutors handle police violence cases, the lack of federal charges doesn’t surprise me.

According to criminal justice professor Philip Stinson, local prosecutors are often reluctant to prosecute the officers they work with to investigate cases. Reporting by the Marshall Project suggests they may not want to anger the police unions they often count on for political support. And existing law gives the police the benefit of the doubt in most situations. Based on my research, it seems that this is just how the justice system works.

New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo allegedly used a banned chokehold in the July 2014 death of Eric Garner.

Obstacles to prosecution

The case’s basic details are not contested. Pantaleo, who is white, was among a group of officers who approached Eric Garner, who was black, during a routine arrest for selling untaxed, loose cigarettes.

The encounter, which a bystander shot using his phone and the city’s medical examiner ruled a homicide, soon turned contentious. It culminated with Pantaleo taking Garner down to the pavement with his arm wrapped around his neck. Pantaleo is seen shortly afterward on the video pressing down on Garner’s head as other officers crowded around him.

A few months after Garner’s death, the Staten Island district attorney announced that he had presented the case to the grand jury, but did not obtain an indictment.

A public outcry ensued. Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry at #BlackLivesMatter protests.

But the fact is that it is extremely difficult to bring charges against on-duty cops for excessive force.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that in police use-of-force cases, allowance must be made “for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”

Ever since, few juries have found police officers guilty of using excessive force. Since 2005, only 35 officers have been found guilty of charges related to killing civilians.

A sign and plaque near where Eric Garner had a deadly encounter with the police in the Staten Island borough of New York City.

Federal civil rights

Because of the Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy, which prevents anyone from being charged twice for the same crime, people aren’t usually prosecuted more than once for a single incident. But because U.S. law considers the states and the federal government to be legally independent jurisdictions, the Justice Department can indict an officer who has previously been charged under state law, even if he was acquitted.

When excessive force prosecutions against police officers don’t result in a conviction at the state level, the local U.S. attorney’s office may indict the officers for violating a person’s civil rights. This happened most notably in 1991 in the case of Rodney King, the black motorist who was beaten by Los Angeles police officers, and recently after the South Carolina mistrial of police officer Michael Slager, for shooting Walter Scott, another unarmed black man, in the back.

But the type of proof needed to bring a federal civil rights case is much more demanding than for a state criminal case. While there are numerous state charges that might be brought against an officer who causes the death of a civilian, from murder to manslaughter to reckless endangerment to assault, there is only one route for a civil rights case.

In those cases, prosecutors must prove that officers used excessive force against a person, generally defined as force that was clearly unreasonable in the circumstances. In addition, they have to prove that the officer’s actions were “willful.”

And willfulness is “the highest standard of intent imposed by law,” as the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, Richard P. Donoghue, said in his public statement about Pantaleo. “An officer’s mistake, fear, misperception or even poor judgment does not constitute willful conduct under federal criminal civil rights law.”

A narrow path

Many news outlets reported that the decision to close the Garner case happened once U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the case dropped, overruling the Civil Rights Division in his own department.

Activists have questioned Barr’s civil rights record, noting that while serving as President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general, Barr released a report titled “The Case for More Incarceration.” Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions, quashed the Justice Department’s attempts to reform policing.

Still, I’m not sure the outcome would have been different with someone else in the White House.

In fact, disagreements on whether the case could be successfully prosecuted in federal court also snarled proceedings during the Obama administration. And there was only ever a narrow path to prosecution.

When Donoghue gave a detailed explanation for his decision, he took an unusual step. Most of the time, when officers don’t get charged, the reasons are shrouded in secrecy. Instead, Donoghue gave a painstaking explanation of the ambiguities in the video, the conflicting medical expert reports, and the reasons he believed the high standard of intent could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

I once served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which Donoghue now runs. I hate the fact that many people will never feel that justice was done in Eric Garner’s tragic and avoidable death.

Yet I’m not sure that I could have reached a different conclusion myself.The Conversation


How Eric Garner's Death Changed New York And The NYPD

The sad reality is, that unless your oppression negatively impacts your oppressor, they have no incentive to change.  Even New York Police Commissioner, James P. O'Neill, whose comments begin at 2:26 in the timeline, acknowledges how the protest over no indictments being issued in Eric Garner's death, culminated in the death of two police officers, which was the moment the police department realized they needed to make a change.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation. The editorial note preceding the article and the video and comments at the end were not part of the original.

How Black Pharmacists Are Closing The Cultural Gap In Health Care

SHILOH, Ill. — After a health insurance change forced Bernard Macon to cut ties with his black doctor, he struggled to find another African American physician online. Then, he realized two health advocates were hiding in plain sight.

At a nearby drugstore here in the suburbs outside of St. Louis, a pair of pharmacists became the unexpected allies of Macon and his wife, Brandy. Much like the Macons, the pharmacists were energetic young parents who were married — and unapologetically black.

Vincent and Lekeisha Williams, owners of LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy, didn’t hesitate to help when Brandy had a hard time getting the medicine she needed before and after sinus surgery last year. The Williamses made calls when Brandy, a physician assistant who has worked in the medical field for 15 years, didn’t feel heard by her doctor’s office.

“They completely went above and beyond,” said Bernard Macon, 36, a computer programmer and father of two. “They turned what could have been a bad experience into a good experience.”

Now more than ever, the Macons are betting on black medical professionals to give their family better care. The Macon children see a black pediatrician. A black dentist takes care of their teeth. Brandy Macon relies on a black gynecologist. And now the two black pharmacists fill the gap for Bernard Macon while he searches for a primary care doctor in his network, giving him trusted confidants that chain pharmacies likely wouldn’t.

Black Americans continue to face persistent health care disparities. Compared with their white counterparts, black men and women are more likely to die of heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes and AIDS, according to the Office of Minority Health.

But medical providers who give patients culturally competent care — the act of acknowledging a patient’s heritage, beliefs and values during treatment — often see improved patient outcomes, according to multiple studies. Part of it is trust and understanding, and part of it can be more nuanced knowledge of the medical conditions that may be more prevalent in those populations.

For patients, finding a way to identify with their pharmacist can pay off big time. Cutting pills in half, skipping doses or not taking medication altogether can be damaging to one’s health — even deadly. And many patients see their pharmacists monthly, far more often than annual visits to their medical doctors, creating more opportunities for supportive care.

That’s why some black pharmacists are finding ways to connect with customers in and outside of their stores. Inspirational music, counseling, accessibility and transparency have turned some minority-owned pharmacies into hubs for culturally competent care.

“We understand the community because we are a part of the community,” Lekeisha Williams said. “We are visible in our area doing outreach, attending events and promoting health and wellness.”

To be sure, such care is not just relevant to African Americans. But mistrust of the medical profession is especially a hurdle to overcome when treating black Americans.

Many are still shaken by the history of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used in research worldwide without her family’s knowledge; the Tuskegee Project, which failed to treat black men with syphilis; and other projects that used African Americans unethically for research.

“They completely went above and beyond,” says Macon (center) of Vincent and Lekeisha Williams, owners of LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy.

Filling More Than Prescriptions

At black-owned Premier Pharmacy and Wellness Center near Grier Heights, a historically black neighborhood in Charlotte, N.C., the playlist is almost as important as the acute care clinic attached to the drugstore. Owner Martez Prince watches his customers shimmy down the aisles as they make their way through the store listening to Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kirk Franklin, Whitney Houston and other black artists. Prince said the music helps him in his goal of making health care more accessible and providing medical advice patients can trust.

In rural Georgia, Teresa Mitchell, a black woman with 25 years of pharmacy experience, connects her customers with home health aides, shows them how to access insurance services online and even makes house calls. Her Total Care Pharmacy is the only health care provider in Baconton, where roughly half the town’s 900 residents are black.

“We do more than just dispense,” Mitchell said.

Iradean Bradley, 72, became a customer soon after Total Care Pharmacy opened in 2016. She struggled to pick up prescriptions before Mitchell came to town.

“It was so hectic because I didn’t have transportation of my own,” Bradley said. “It’s so convenient for us older people, who have to pay someone to go out of town and get our medicine.”

Lakesha M. Butler, president of the National Pharmaceutical Association, advocates for such culturally competent care through the professional organization representing minorities in the pharmacy industry and studies it in her academic work at the Edwardsville campus of Southern Illinois University. She also feels its impact directly, she said, when she sees patients at clinics two days a week in St. Charles, Mo., and East St. Louis, Ill.

“It’s just amazing to me when I’m practicing in a clinic setting and an African American patient sees me,” Butler said. “It’s a pure joy that comes over their face, a sigh of relief. It’s like ‘OK, I’m glad that you’re here because I can be honest with you and I know you will be honest with me.’”

She often finds herself educating her black patients about diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other common conditions.

“Unfortunately, there’s still a lack of knowledge in those areas,” Butler said. “That’s why those conditions can be so prevalent.”

Independent black-owned pharmacies fill a void for African American patients looking for care that’s sensitive to their heritage, beliefs and values. For Macon, LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy provides some of that vital support.

Avoiding Medical Microaggressions

For Macon, his experiences with medical professionals of backgrounds different from his own left him repeatedly disappointed and hesitant to open up.

After his wife had a miscarriage, Macon said, the couple didn’t receive the compassion they longed for while grieving the loss. A few years later, a bad experience with their children’s pediatrician when their oldest child had a painful ear infection sparked a move to a different provider.

“My daughter needed attention right away, but we couldn’t get through to anybody,” Macon recalled. “That’s when my wife said, ‘We aren’t doing this anymore!’”

Today, Macon’s idea of good health care isn’t colorblind. If a doctor can’t provide empathetic and expert treatment, he’s ready to move, even if a replacement is hard to find.

Kimberly Wilson, 31, will soon launch an app for consumers like Macon who are seeking culturally competent care. Therapists, doulas, dentists, specialists and even pharmacists of color will be invited to list their services on HUED. Beta testing is expected to start this summer in New York City and Washington, D.C., and the app will be free for consumers.

“Black Americans are more conscious of their health from a lot of different perspectives,” Wilson said. “We’ve begun to put ourselves forward.”

But even after the introduction of HUED, such health care could be hard to find. While about 13% of the U.S. population is black, only about 6% of the country’s doctors and surgeons are black, according to Data USA. Black pharmacists make up about 7% of the professionals in their field, and, though the demand is high, black students accounted for about 9% of all students enrolled in pharmacy school in 2018.

For Macon, though, the Williamses’ LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy in Shiloh provides some of the support he has been seeking.

“I still remember the very first day I went there. It was almost like a barbershop feel,” Macon said, likening it to the community hubs where customers can chitchat about sports, family and faith while getting their hair cut. “I could relate to who was behind the counter.”


Republished with permission from Kaiser Health News.

How a Top Chicken Company Cut Off Black Farmers, One by One

The Trump administration has weakened legal protections for farmers and eased off enforcing rules on powerful meat companies.

by Isaac Arnsdorf

After years of working as a sheriff’s deputy and a car dealership manager, John Ingrum used his savings to buy a farm some 50 miles east of Jackson, Mississippi. He planned to raise horses on the land and leave the property to his son.

John Ingrum lost his farm after chicken processor Koch Foods stopped delivering flocks for him to grow. “They put me slap out of business,” he said.

The farm, named Lovin’ Acres, came with a few chicken houses, which didn’t really interest Ingrum. But then a man showed up from Koch Foods, the country’s fifth-largest poultry processor and one of the main chicken companies in Mississippi. Koch Foods would deliver flocks and feed — all Ingrum would have to do is house the chicks for a few weeks while they grew big enough to slaughter. The company representative wowed Ingrum with projections for the stream of income he could earn, Ingrum recalled in an interview.

What Ingrum didn’t know was that those financial projections overlooked many realities of modern farming in the U.S., where much of the country’s agricultural output is controlled by a handful of giant companies. The numbers didn’t reflect the debt he might have to incur to configure his chicken houses to the company’s specifications. Nor did they reflect the risk that the chicks could show up sick or dead, or that the company could simply stop delivering flocks.

And that growing concentration of corporate power in agriculture would only add to the long odds Ingrum, as a black farmer, faced in the United States, where just 1.3% of the country’s farmers are black.

The shadow of slavery, sharecropping, and Jim Crow has left black farmers in an especially precarious position. Their farms tend to be smaller and their sales lower than the national average, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While white farmers benefited from government assistance such as the Homestead Act and land-grant universities, black farmers were largely excluded from owning land and accumulating wealth. In recent decades, black farmers accused the USDA of discriminating against them by denying them loans or forcing them to wait longer, resulting in a class-action lawsuit that settled for more than $1 billion.

Along with these historical disadvantages, black farmers say they have also encountered bias in dealing with some of the corporate giants that control their livelihood. In complaints filed with the USDA between 2010 and 2015, Ingrum and another black farmer in Mississippi said Koch Foods discriminated against them and used its market control to drive them out of business.

After the complaints by the farmers, an investigator for the USDA, which is responsible for regulating the industry, looked into Koch Foods’ dealings with those farmers and found “evidence of unjust discrimination,” according to a 700-page case file obtained by ProPublica. The investigator concluded that Koch Foods violated a law governing meat companies’ business practices.

The Trump administration has cut back on enforcing this law, with the USDA now conducting fewer investigations and imposing fewer fines, as ProPublica has reported. Koch Foods hasn’t faced any penalty.

Koch Foods declined to provide an interview with any of its executives or to answer detailed questions about its dealings with black farmers in Mississippi. A lawyer for the company said it denies wrongdoing.

The five largest chicken companies now make up 61% of the market, compared with 34% in the hands of the top four firms in 1986. As the biggest companies expanded their control, they raised farmers’ average pay by a mere 2.5 cents a pound from 1988 to 2016, while the wholesale price of chicken rose by 17.4 cents a pound, according to data from the USDA and the National Chicken Council.

Mississippi is the country’s fifth-largest poultry-producing state. From 2009 to 2017, one of the main chicken companies, Koch Foods, went from having contracts with four black farmers in Mississippi to zero.

Mississippi is the fifth-largest poultry-producing state, with more than 1,300 chicken farms. In a state where the population is 38% black, only 96 of those farms were operated by African Americans in 2012, the most recent USDA data available. From 2009 to 2017, Koch Foods went from having contracts with four black farmers in Mississippi to zero.

Koch (pronounced “cook”) Foods is based outside Chicago and supplies chicken, often sold under other brands, to major restaurants and retailers such as Burger King, Kroger and Walmart. The company, which is privately held, is not part of the business empire of the conservative billionaires Charles Koch and David Koch. The owner of Koch Foods, Joseph Grendys, has a fortune that Forbes estimates at $3.1 billion.

After Ingrum signed his contract to grow chickens for Koch Foods, in 2002, different company representatives kept coming with lists of expensive modifications they wanted Ingrum to make, according to an affidavit he provided to the USDA investigator. After Ingrum met all the specifications, the next representative went back on what the previous one said and wanted things done a different way, Ingrum said in the affidavit.

Chicken companies usually say they update their specifications to improve animal welfare or respond to consumer preferences like avoiding antibiotics. But Ingrum couldn’t find much logic in the changes Koch Foods wanted him to make. One service technician directed Ingrum to install lights in one place, the next one someplace else. Another time, the company wanted Ingrum to move a power line, even though it was out of the way of the feed trucks and bins. That cost him $6,000.

Under Ingrum’s contract with Koch Foods, the company supplied the flocks and feed but penalized him if his birds were sick or underfed.

According to Ingrum’s affidavit, when he met with a manager about the shifting demands, the manager said, derisively, “I had a couple of y’all when I was at Sanderson,” another big chicken company. Ingrum asked the manager, who was white, what he meant by that. The manager didn’t answer Ingrum. Reached by ProPublica on his cellphone, the manager hung up.

Ingrum suspected that the truck drivers who delivered feed were shortchanging him, so he installed sensors to alert him when the drivers arrived. In 2007, according to his affidavit, Ingrum caught a driver failing to fill a whole feed bin. The company brushed it off as an honest mistake. But Ingrum had heard of drivers asking farmers for payoffs to get more feed, according to the affidavit.

In 2009, Ingrum spent $50,000 on renovations that Koch wanted. Then the company wanted Ingrum to rebuild his compost shed. That was another $5,000. Then Koch Foods said the shed had to be certified by a government inspector. Ingrum called the agency, which said the shed didn’t require approval and they only sent an inspector out once a year.

With Koch Foods delivering flocks to Ingrum’s farm less frequently than expected, he was making less money and falling behind on his loan payments. He looked into selling his farm. When a prospective buyer from Florida called Koch to inquire about a contract with them, a Koch employee scared him off by saying Ingrum’s farm needed $100,000 in repairs, according to Ingrum’s affidavit. The employee also swore at Ingrum’s real estate agent and spread a rumor that the bank had foreclosed, according to the affidavit. That wasn’t true, but it was becoming increasingly hard to avoid.

In 2010, Ingrum heard that the Obama administration was making a push to help farmers who were getting squeezed by consolidation in agriculture. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were going around the country to hear from farmers about the problems in their markets. When they came to neighboring Alabama to meet with chicken farmers, Ingrum went and spoke on a panel.

At the hearing, Ingrum recounted how the company would pay him less if the birds were sick or underfed, even though the company supplied the chicks and the feed. Ingrum said he’d received a tray of 100 chicks with 35 to 40 already dead. Another time, he ran out of feed for three days and the chickens started eating one another.

“There’s no way it could be fair,” he said at the hearing, according to the transcript. “I had no control over the feed that they brought me.”

Companies typically say they want their farmers’ chicken houses to meet certain specifications to improve animal welfare or respond to consumer preferences. But Ingrum couldn’t find much logic in the costly changes Koch Foods wanted him to make.

That night, when Ingrum returned home to Lovin’ Acres Farm, he found a note from Koch Foods saying his contract had expired.

The USDA investigator later inquired whether it was “solely a coincidence” that Koch Foods left the note at Ingrum’s farm on the same day he attended the hearing 300 miles away. A company supervisor said he “could not say.”

“I never got another chicken after going to that meeting over there in Alabama,” Ingrum, 55, said in an interview. “They put me slap out of business.”

As Ingrum ran out of money, the power company cut his electricity, but he refused to leave for three months. His former colleagues at the sheriff’s office had to come remove him. For the next five years, he stayed with relatives until he scraped together enough money from working at a car dealership to get back on his feet.

“Twenty years, everything I worked for, I lost it in one summer,” Ingrum said. “It just ruined me.”

Around the same time, two other black farmers in the area also stopped growing chickens for Koch Foods. Out of 173 chicken farmers under contract with Koch Foods in Mississippi, there was only one African American left. His name was Carlton Sanders.

Ingrum said he warned Sanders: “They’re coming after you, Carlton. You next.”

Sanders’ farm was in a nearby town called Lena. He had been in the business since 1992. Back then, he worked with a local family business called BC Rogers, which he said always treated him professionally. He used the chicken manure to fertilize his vegetable garden, and he took pride in his trees growing figs, pears and apricots. “I just had everything set,” Sanders said.

When Koch Foods bought BC Rogers in 2001, everything changed, Sanders said. Sanders’ performance was above average, according to the ranking system that the company used to pay farmers. But he felt singled out for disadvantages.

“I’ve never been treated like that by anybody,” Sanders, 63, said. “It was just like I was in hell with them.”

Carlton Sanders on his front porch before church. Sanders was the last black farmer under contract with Koch Foods in Mississippi, until the company gave him a list of expensive renovations that no other farmer received.

In 2014, Koch Foods wanted Sanders to make $105,000 worth of improvements, according to the USDA case file. Then Sanders borrowed an additional $93,000 to buy new curtains, insulation, cables and heaters. Suddenly, he owed a total of $295,000, but he made his payments on time, according to financial records reviewed by ProPublica.

The next year, Koch Foods informed its farmers of a new requirement for the ventilation in their chicken houses. Sanders went to his bank to see about another loan. The loan officer called the manager at Koch Foods and sent a follow-up email asking for “a listing of needed improvements that Koch Foods is requiring.”

The manager never responded directly to the banker. Instead, the company gave Sanders an “update list” with 23 items. Sanders gave the list to his banker, who understood it to be the company’s response to his inquiry. Sanders obtained work estimates for the 23 updates, amounting to $318,000, according to the case file.

The banker advised Sanders not to apply for another loan and to consider selling his farm instead. Meanwhile, Koch Foods stopped giving Sanders chickens to raise.

Sanders asked around and realized other farmers hadn’t gotten the same 23-item “update list.” So in December 2015, he filed a complaint with the USDA.

The complaint was assigned to a government attorney in Atlanta named Wayne Basford. Basford had also looked into Ingrum’s case, stretching back to 2010. Over the years, Basford had collected affidavits attesting to Koch employees’ calling black farmers “niggers” (the employees denied it), and he observed that the office staff was all white. He also noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was suing Koch Foods, alleging sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination against Hispanic employees in Mississippi. (The company later paid $3.75 million to settle the lawsuit, though it did not admit wrongdoing.)

In February 2016, Basford notified Koch Foods that he was investigating a new complaint he’d received, without mentioning Sanders. Koch Foods’ lawyer responded by criticizing the condition of Sanders’ farm and, at the same time, denying that the company asks farmers to make “upgrades.”

As Basford inquired about the 23-item “update list” that only Sanders received, Koch Foods said these were optional. The list used the word “must” six times and never said the updates were voluntary.

“I hate to say it, but they just don’t like black people,” Sanders said. “There are no black people in the office — they don’t even want black people cleaning up after them.”

Basford asked to schedule a meeting with Koch Foods’ executives to present his findings. The company’s lawyer, Scott Pedigo, of the firm Baker Donelson in Jackson, Mississippi, called Basford to suggest meeting with local managers instead, according to emails included in the case file. Basford insisted on speaking with the top executives “due to the potential gravity of the situation.”

In July 2017, Basford and two colleagues from the USDA met in Birmingham, Alabama, with Koch Foods’ chief operating officer, Mark Kaminsky, along with two other executives and Pedigo. Grendys, Koch Foods’ billionaire owner, did not attend, but Basford sent Grendys a copy of his slides.

In the presentation, Basford said Koch Foods’ actions toward Sanders, combined with its treatment of Ingrum and the other black farmers, was “evidence of unjust discrimination.” Chicken companies are prohibited from engaging in “unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive” business practices under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. The Obama administration tried to tighten enforcement of this law by proposing new regulations to spell out what those prohibited practices are. But the meat industry lobbied Congress to block the proposed rules by withholding funding from the USDA. When the Trump administration came in, it swiftly prevented the rules from taking effect.

So when Basford presented his findings to the Koch Foods executives in July 2017, he included all the evidence of discrimination, but he alleged a narrower violation: that Koch Foods failed to notify Sanders of why it stopped delivering chickens to his farm. In response, Pedigo argued that the notification nine months earlier about the new ventilation requirement was enough.

A chicken house on the farm that Sanders lost.

The notice requirement had been strengthened by the Obama administration, but Congress reversed the change in 2015. That made it harder for Basford’s case to stick.

Basford, who declined to comment for this article, submitted the case for the USDA’s lawyers to evaluate possible next steps, such as seeking a fine against Koch Foods. The agency hasn’t taken any action so far. A USDA spokesman said the investigation is “ongoing” and the agency is coordinating with the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, Basford tried to mediate between Koch Foods and Sanders. In the months following Basford’s presentation in 2017, he pushed Koch Foods to resume delivering chickens to Sanders’ farm so that Sanders could save it from foreclosure.

Pedigo responded with a list of 10 repairs that Sanders would have to make first. Seven were among the 23 fixes that the company had previously insisted were optional.

Basford wanted Koch Foods to assure Sanders that if he spent the money to make the latest repairs, the company would start bringing him chickens again. The company wouldn’t agree.

In the end, all Koch Foods agreed to was “reviewing its policies and programs.” Pedigo told Basford the company has a “commitment to treating all of its independent contract growers equally and with dignity and respect.”

In response to questions from ProPublica about Ingrum and Sanders, Pedigo declined to comment on the specific allegations in Basford’s investigation. In a statement, he said, “Koch Foods applies its standards and expectations to all growers uniformly without regard to race or any other protected status and has never discriminated against any grower on such basis.”

Kaminsky, the Koch Foods COO who attended Basford’s presentation, last October became chairman of the National Chicken Council, the industry’s trade group.

Koch Foods and other top chicken companies — Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms — are fighting multiple lawsuits from retailers, distributors and farmers accusing them of conspiring to fix prices. The companies have denied the allegations. In one of the cases, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division asked the judge on June 21 to freeze discovery in order to protect an ongoing criminal investigation.

The USDA is now doing fewer investigations like Basford’s. His office finished 1,873 investigations in 2017, the most recent data available, down from 2,588 in 2012. Penalties for violating the Packers and Stockyards Act dropped from $3.2 million in 2013 to as little as $243,850 in 2018, according to preliminary case data on the USDA’s website.

The enforcement office, known as the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, or GIPSA, was dissolved as part of a department-wide reorganization. The USDA shifted responsibility for enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act into another division whose primary purpose is helping companies boost sales. The staff in the Packers and Stockyards Division has decreased to 137 from 166 in 2010.

Sanders is living on food stamps and whatever he gets from hunting and fishing.

Sanders found himself in a downward spiral after the dispute with Koch Foods. He had a stroke and a heart attack. The bank foreclosed on his farm and he filed for bankruptcy. His wife left him. These days, he’s living on food stamps plus whatever he gets from hunting and fishing.

“I’ve been about as dead as somebody can go without being dead,” he said. “I’m trying to hold my head up, that’s all I can do.”

On Sundays, Sanders passes by his old farm on his way to church. The farm is just sitting there, still up for sale, lying fallow. Sometimes, he takes a long way around to avoid seeing it.


Republished with permission under license from ProPublica.

 

Police Report Deems Firing 55 Shots In 3.5 Seconds At A Sleeping Black Man “Reasonable”

Editorial note by Randall Hill

On February 9, 2019, six white police officers shot and killed, Willie McCoy, a black 20-year-old aspiring rapper who fell asleep in the drive-thru lane of a Taco Bell. Police body cam footage of the shooting is below.

These videos, unfortunately, are becoming so numerous, it's hard keeping up. Just days ago, Phoenix police threatened to kill a pregnant woman because her 4-year-old daughter walked out of a Family Dollar store with a 99 cent doll.  It's way past the point of misunderstandings and cops fearing for their lives. It's almost as a racist faction of police have declared warfare on the black community. I understand policing is a dangerous job, it ranks 18 out of the 25 most dangerous occupations in the U.S., however, having an encounter with police while being black is feeling pretty dangerous too!

Since today is Father's Day, I wasn't planning on posting anything, but then I learned about this situation which instantly reminded me of my youngest son. He is a twenty-year-old college student, aspiring singer/rapper and a former member of the group ProjecX, the first youth group to perform at Twilight Tuesdays. He released his first album earlier this year and will be releasing his first music video soon. 

I'm waiting to hear some sort of response from Taco Bell or Yum Brands which owns them. This young black man was killed while being a customer and if Taco Bell doesn't speak out against this senseless act, I'm done with them and possibly all the Yum brands. As we stated previously, only economic sanctions will change this. See: "Where Protest Fails, Violence Prevails" and "Protest Minus Disruption or Violence Equals Failure".

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Willie McCoy. As President Obama said about Trayvon Martin, "Willie McCoy" could have been my son.

Article by Abby Zimet

The choice by six crazed racist cops to pump 55 shots into Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old Bay Area rapper, for the crime of falling asleep in his car at a Taco Bell was "reasonable," argues a newly released report by a paid "expert" and former cop who called the gruesome killing "in line with contemporary training and police practices” – which is the damn problem, say many Americans weary of dead black bodies in the streets. The Vallejo police officers turned up last February for – bitter irony alert – "a wellness check" after a worried Taco Bell employee called to say there was an unresponsive man in his car in the drive-through lane. Police found McCoy asleep at the steering wheel with a gun in his lap. Inexplicably for officers of the law supposedly trained to serve and protect and think on their feet, it evidently didn't occur to them to do a normal human thing like try and wake McCoy by honking or shining lights at him, perhaps from a safe distance in case he was startled. Instead, they took the gun narrative, and ran with it: They reported "a confrontation with an armed man," said they "gave loud verbal commands" McCoy didn't follow, and were forced to fire out of “fear for their own safety” after McCoy reached for his gun.

In fact, body-camera footage released following pressure from the family and the community showed McCoy sound asleep for several minutes as officers frantically pointed guns at his head; it also revealed police remarking McCoy's gun didn't have a magazine in it, one cop bragging, “I’m going to pull him out and snatch his ass," and McCoy simply, slightly stirring in his sleep to scratch his arm before the explosion of gunfire – 55 shots in 3.5 seconds. He was reportedly hit about 25 times; his family said he was unrecognizable, his face, chest, throat, arms, and body riddled with bullets in an “execution by firing squad.” The family's attorney John Burris used the same term, adding, "This young man was shot to pieces." Another attorney: Police wanted “to ensure that this human being does not survive.” “They killed him in his sleep,” charged his cousin David Harrison after seeing the footage. “He scratched his arm…and they murdered him." As a black man in a town with a long ugly history of police brutality, racism, and misconduct, this was not Harrison's first rodeo: McCoy was the 16th person to die at the hands of Vallejo cops since 2011 – the highest rate of police killings per capita in Northern California, resulting in the second highest rate of civil rights lawsuit settlements. Says Harrison, "We're being slaughtered in the streets."

McCoy's murder for sleeping while black sparked yet more outrage in the community. There have been angry protests, city council meetings, hashtags – #JusticeForWillieMcCoy –  calls for Attorney General Xavier Becerra to step in, lobbying by the ACLU and other advocacy groups for passage of #AB392 to legally limit the use of deadly force, and plans by city officials to have federal mediators meet with residents to create a "community engagement plan" for police accountability – a vague genteel idea that left the community unimpressed and the work undone. Fumed McCoy family attorney Melissa Nold, "We don't have a PR problem – we have a violence problem." Meanwhile, despite the fiery declaration at one rally that, "The usual way of doing business is over," abuses by Vallejo cops are ongoing. One of the officers who killed McCoy was sued  in 2013 by the family of a (black) teenager after he threatened to kill the boy and directed his police dog to repeatedly maul him; another officer is being sued for shooting seven times and killing an unarmed (black) man after stopping him for having no light on his bike. And all six officers who gunned down McCoy – those two and four more – returned to duty three weeks after the shooting.

The 51-page, $8,000 garbage report released this week will do little – actually, nothing – to quell the fury. It was compiled by David Blake, an “expert” and retired BART police officer known to advocates – “He gets paid to defend police when they shoot people" – who also investigated the 2018 killing of Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old killed in his backyard when cops mistook his cellphone for a gun; Blake found no police culpability. This time, he essentially found the police kinda screwed up but you gotta excuse them because of "acute stress" from having this guy asleep in his car and “chaos caused by the sounds of gunfire, debris, and weapons mounted lights reflecting off the shattered windshield” and naturally these poor cops "experienced a significant hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response from proximal gunfire" and really they showed restraint by only firing 55 shots and not emptying their clips despite training to "fire until the threat has been neutralized,” which “indicates a level of self-control.” His conclusion: The killing was “in line with contemporary training and police practices associated with use of deadly force…I opine the 55 rounds fired by 6 officers in 3.5 seconds is reasonable based upon my training and experience as a range instructor as well as through applied human factors psychology.” “Each bullet has to be justified,” said attorney Melissa Nold, in order to buttress the belief that "officers should be able to act on their irrational fear and unlawfully kill people."


Republished with permission under license from Common Dreams.

Protecting your child, lessons from “When They See Us”

By Randall Hill

I recently finished, Ava DuVernay's "When They See Us" a four-part mini-series on Netflix that tells the story of the Central Park 5; five black and brown teenage boys who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman and spent between 6 to 14 years in prison. If you have not yet seen this movie, I highly recommend that you do. The trailer for "When They See Us" is below. 

The film drives homes what can happen when a person doesn't know their rights or how to exercise them. Ironically, the mother of Yusef Salaam understood her son's rights and took the right steps to protect him, however, lack of knowledge of the other parents resulted in Yusef going to jail with the others.

"When They See Us" provides lessons about our criminal justice system that all African-Americans need to be aware of. If you're a black parent, watch it with your kids or at least make sure they see the series as part of their education about the U.S. justice system. Ava DuVernay discussed the film and the criminal justice system with Trevor Noah in the video below:

Children in juvenile court proceedings do not enjoy the same constitutional rights as adults. Prior to the civil rights era in the 1960s, juveniles had few due process rights at all.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that there’s no jury-trial right in juvenile delinquency proceedings. (McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971).) However, minors tried in adult systems are entitled to juries.

A child’s statements to police can be used against them in court proceedings, however, only when the statements are voluntary and given freely. The government may not coerce confessions, as provided by the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the due-process prohibition against admitting involuntary confessions into court. However, forced confessions are not easy to prove. Parents need to teach their children not to say anything to police without a parent or attorney present.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police can use deception and are allowed to falsely claim that a friend or acquaintance has confessed or implicated someone when in fact he/she had not (Frazier v. Cupp, 1969). The police can claim to have found a suspect's fingerprints at a crime scene when there were none (Oregon v. Mathiason, 1977), determining such acts insufficient for rendering the defendant's confession inadmissible. State courts have permitted police to deceive suspects about a range of factual matters, including, for example, falsely stating that incriminating DNA evidence and satellite photography of the crime scene exist (State v. Nightingale, 2012).

Children need to be trained on how to respond when stopped or detained by police. Police officers must have probable cause to search and arrest a minor who is suspected of violating a criminal statute. Minors like adults have the right to remain silent and are not required to answer questions. There are exceptions 

  • In some states, you must provide your name to law enforcement officers if you are stopped and told to identify yourself. But even if you give your name, you are not required to answer other questions.
  • If you are driving and you are pulled over for a traffic violation, the officer can require you to show your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance (but you do not have to answer questions).
  • Even if you have already answered some questions, you can refuse to answer other questions until you have a lawyer.
  • Keep in mind that lying to a government official is a crime but remaining silent until you consult with a lawyer is not.

Reverse Miranda

When my sons were minors, I required them to keep a reverse Miranda card in their wallets that stated the following:

To: Any agent, law enforcement officer, or representative of the government 

My Name is: X Hill – I am a minor child, following my parent’s instructions.

If you have been presented with this, then you have detained me against my will. I wish to be released at once. If you believe you have a legal reason for still holding me, then it must be for one of two reasons: 

1. You believe I have information relevant to a case or investigation and need my assistance. I am happy to comply and will in no way obstruct justice. Simply type up your questions and contact my parent/s (R or C Hill 314-xxx-xxxx). Upon review by them and any attorney they so choose, I will answer any and all that they and their attorney advise me to. Please do not argue about this, or it will delay the investigation, and neither of us wants that. 

2. You believe that I have committed a crime. I want to speak with my parent/s and/or the attorney they provide me and do not wish to answer any questions or make any statement until I do. You may contact my parents at 314-xxx-xxxx, alternate contact, grandmother 314-xxx-xxxx

While doing those things, please see to it that I am given food, drink, and bathroom breaks frequently, as I will not ask. Please do not ask that I fill out, sign, initial, check off, or in any way mark anything for any reason. I have been forbidden to do this by my parent/s until they and/or their attorney, can review any such documents. 

Finally, please do not interpret my silence as rudeness, guilt, retardation or anything else but what it is – obedience to my parent/s and their attorney. 

Prison Industrial Complex

Locking up prisoners is big business. The three largest private prison corporations CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Geo Group, and MTC take in $5 billion in revenue a year. If you bank with Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, BNP, and U.S. Bancorp, you may have helped finance private prisons.

In addition to private prisons, there are corporations that contract cheap prison labor, construction companies, surveillance technology vendors, companies that operate prison food services and medical facilities, prison guard unions, phone companies, private probation companies, lawyers, and lobby groups that represent them. "The Prison Industrial Complex: Mapping Private Sector Players” exposes over 3,900 companies profiting off mass incarceration.

Private prison inmates earn as little as 17 cents per hour. Companies including: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more have profited from prison labor.

It Begins Early

School districts thru zero tolerance policies often trap disadvantaged kids in the school to prison pipeline that can unfairly introduce them into the criminal justice system. Black students, in particular, are more likely to be arrested in school for minor behavior issues. 

When my youngest son was in grade school, the principal shared some startling information, the number of prisons built are based on third-grade reading scores. This is supposed to be an urban myth, however, test scores are used to make some predictions. During my son's freshman year in high school, I had to appeal an excessive penalty for horseplay.  

You owe it to yourself and your children to use Court.rchp.com and other resources to educate yourself about the law and our legal system. As "When They See Us" demonstrated, we're only as strong as our weakest link.

The racist roots of American policing: From slave patrols to traffic stops

By Connie Hassett-Walker, Kean University

Outrage over racial profiling and the killing of African Americans by police officers and vigilantes in recent years helped give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

But tensions between the police and black communities are nothing new.

A new slogan for an old problem. Photo/Lynne Sladky

There are many precedents to the Ferguson, Missouri protests that ushered in the Black Lives Matter movement. Those protests erupted in 2014 after a police officer shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown; the officer was subsequently not indicted.

The precedents include the Los Angeles riots that broke out after the 1992 acquittal of police officers for beating Rodney King. Those riots happened nearly three decades after the 1965 Watts riots, which began with Marquette Frye, an African American, being pulled over for suspected drunk driving and roughed up by the police for resisting arrest.

I’m a criminal justice researcher who often focuses on issues of race, class and crime. Through my research and from teaching a course on diversity in criminal justice, I have come to see how the roots of racism in American policing – first planted centuries ago – have not yet been fully purged.

Slave patrols

There are two historical narratives about the origins of American law enforcement.

Policing in southern slave-holding states had roots in slave patrols, squadrons made up of white volunteers empowered to use vigilante tactics to enforce laws related to slavery. They located and returned enslaved people who had escaped, crushed uprisings led by enslaved people and punished enslaved workers found or believed to have violated plantation rules.

The first slave patrols arose in South Carolina in the early 1700s. As University of Georgia social work professor Michael A. Robinson has written, by the time John Adams became the second U.S. president, every state that had not yet abolished slavery had them.

Members of slave patrols could forcefully enter anyone’s home, regardless of their race or ethnicity, based on suspicions that they were sheltering people who had escaped bondage.

The more commonly known precursors to modern law enforcement were centralized municipal police departments that began to form in the early 19th century, beginning in Boston and soon cropping up in New York City, Albany, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

The first police forces were overwhelmingly white, male and more focused on responding to disorder than crime.

As Eastern Kentucky University criminologist Gary Potter explains, officers were expected to control a “dangerous underclass” that included African Americans, immigrants and the poor. Through the early 20th century, there were few standards for hiring or training officers.

Police corruption and violence – particularly against vulnerable people – were commonplace during the early 1900s. Additionally, the few African Americans who joined police forces were often assigned to black neighborhoods and faced discrimination on the job. In my opinion, these factors – controlling disorder, lack of adequate police training, lack of nonwhite officers and slave patrol origins – are among the forerunners of modern-day police brutality against African Americans.

Jim Crow laws

Slave patrols formally dissolved after the Civil War ended. But formerly enslaved people saw little relief from racist government policies as they promptly became subject to Black Codes.

For the next three years, these new laws specified how, when and where African Americans could work and how much they would be paid. They also restricted black voting rights, dictated how and where African Americans could travel and limited where they could live.

The ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868 quickly made the Black Codes illegal by giving formerly enslaved blacks equal protection of laws through the Constitution. But within two decades, Jim Crow laws aimed at subjugating African Americans and denying their civil rights were enacted across southern and some northern states, replacing the Black Codes.

For about 80 years, Jim Crow laws mandated separate public spaces for blacks and whites, such as schools, libraries, water fountains and restaurants – and enforcing them was part of the police’s job. Blacks who broke laws or violated social norms often endured police brutality.

Meanwhile, the authorities didn’t punish the perpetrators when African Americans were lynched. Nor did the judicial system hold the police accountable for failing to intervene when black people were being murdered by mobs.

Reverberating today

For the past five decades, the federal government has forbidden the use of racist regulations at the state and local level. Yet people of color are still more likely to be killed by the police than whites.

The Washington Post tracks the number of Americans killed by the police by race, gender and other characteristics. The newspaper’s database indicates that 229 out of 992 of those who died that way in 2018, 23% of the total, were black, even though only about 12% of the country is African American.

Policing’s institutional racism of decades and centuries ago still matters because policing culture has not changed as much as it could. For many African Americans, law enforcement represents a legacy of reinforced inequality in the justice system and resistance to advancement – even under pressure from the civil rights movement and its legacy.

In addition, the police disproportionately target black drivers.

When a Stanford University research team analyzed data collected between 2011 and 2017 from nearly 100 million traffic stops to look for evidence of systemic racial profiling, they found that black drivers were more likely to be pulled over and to have their cars searched than white drivers. They also found that the percentage of black drivers being stopped by police dropped after dark when a driver’s complexion is harder to see from outside the vehicle.

This persistent disparity in policing is disappointing because of progress in other regards.

There is greater understanding within the police that brutality, particularly lethal force, leads to public mistrust, and police forces are becoming more diverse.

What’s more, college students majoring in criminal justice who plan to become future law enforcement officers now frequently take “diversity in criminal justice” courses. This relatively new curriculum is designed to, among other things, make future police professionals more aware of their own biases and those of others. In my view, what these students learn in these classes will make them more attuned to the communities they serve once they enter the workforce.

In addition, law enforcement officers and leaders are being trained to recognize and minimize their own biases in New York City and other places where people of color are disproportionately stopped by the authorities and arrested.

But the persistence of racially biased policing means that unless American policing reckons with its racist roots, it is likely to keep repeating mistakes of the past. This will hinder police from fully protecting and serving the entire public.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

If it pleases the Prosecution

Every country with a functioning criminal justice system depends on prosecutors, the attorneys who charge defendants with crimes and build the case to convict. But the ones in the US are a breed apart. They are more than agents of the court: Top prosecutors in every US county typically have to run for the office, making them elected officials as well. No other nation in the world elects its prosecutors, and few give them so much power.

Prosecutors in the US have broad discretion over how and when to press their cases, which means they often control the fates of defendants, says Stanford Law School professor David Alan Sklansky. In a 2018 paper published in the Annual Review of Criminology, Sklansky notes that prosecutors are increasingly blamed for the problems that plague US criminal justice — its excessive severity, its lopsided targeting of racial minorities and its propensity for error. Part of the difficulty, he suggests, is the largely unchecked power of prosecutors.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any major nation. And the prison population looks far different from the country as a whole. More than 75 percent of the residents of the US identify as white and about 13 percent identify as black. But at the end of 2016, black inmates outnumbered white inmates by 487,000 to 440,000. One report found that black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at an average rate five times that of white Americans.

Black men also receive federal prison sentences that are on average almost 20 percent longer than those of white men who commit the same crime. When prosecutors offer a plea deal, white defendants are 25 percent more likely than black defendants to have their most serious initial charge dropped or reduced to a less severe charge. And there are a disturbing number of cases in which prosecutorial misconduct has led to convictions that later are overturned on appeal. In one famous case from 1987, prosecutors removed all four potential black members from a jury that later convicted a black man named Timothy Foster of murder. The prosecutors denied that they were motivated by race during jury selection. Years later, Foster’s lawyers obtained prosecutors’ notes and the Supreme Court declared, by a vote of 7-1, that the jury selection in his trial was unconstitutional.

In another case, Anthony Graves, a 26-year-old black man in Texas, was wrongfully convicted in 1994 of murdering a family of six. He ended up spending 18 years behind bars, including 12 years on death row. The real murderer, Robert Carter, eventually confessed that he had acted alone, and investigations showed that the prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, withheld testimony that would have cleared Graves.

A growing chorus of legal scholars and reform-minded prosecutors has called for a new approach that would restore fairness and justice to the prosecutorial process. But Sklansky says reform won’t come easy. Any meaningful change must start with disentangling prosecutors from conflicting roles that straddle the legal and political systems. In other words, he says, we must be clearer about what we want from prosecutors.

Sklansky spoke with Knowable about the rise of prosecutors and the need for reforms to restore fairness and justice. The discussion has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the biggest problem with prosecutors in the US?

It’s hard to say. There are actually several different problems with US prosecutors. One is that they have so much power to coerce guilty pleas, another is that they have almost unbridled discretion over how to use that power. A third is that prosecutors are often overzealous and break the rules, and a fourth is that they are sometime unimaginative about how to use their discretion more constructively.

Texas attorney Charles Sebesta, shown here in front of a county courthouse, was disbarred in 2015 after an investigation found he withheld crucial testimony that would have cleared a man of murder. Anthony Graves spent 18 years behind bars before being released.

But I think the most fundamental problem may be that we have complicated and often contradictory expectations for prosecutors. We want them to be impartial but also to be forceful advocates, to follow the law but also to exercise mercy, and to work closely with the police but also to stand apart from them.

The conflicting expectations for prosecutors, and the ambiguity regarding their role, can make it difficult to regulate them, and difficult for prosecutors themselves to know what it means to do their job well.

Are prosecutors really more powerful than judges?

In many cases, yes. That’s partly due to a surge in statutes calling for mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of crimes. Because judges have little ability to lower the sentences called for in these statutes, often the only way for defendants to avoid these penalties is to strike a deal with prosecutors — or take their chances at trial. Because prosecutors can threaten such draconian sentences, they have tremendous power to coerce guilty pleas.

Do current laws make it difficult for prosecutors to achieve fair verdicts and sentences?

I wouldn’t say that the laws make it hard for prosecutors to achieve fair results. But they do make it complicated. Some laws — especially many of the laws calling for harsh mandatory sentences — can be unjust when applied to particular cases. So doing justice will often mean being judicious about when these laws should be invoked.

And then there are procedural rules that require prosecutors to take off their advocate’s hat and be fair and impartial. Prosecutors are often called on to decide, for example, when evidence that could be helpful to the defense needs to be disclosed. That’s like asking basketball players to call their own fouls.

We won’t be able to eliminate the ambiguity of the prosecutor’s role, and we should continue to pressure prosecutors to be impartial. But we need to be relatively realistic about how well we can expect them to navigate these conflicting expectations.

Why don’t prosecutors use their powers more fairly?

Again, it’s important to stress that many prosecutors work hard to be impartial, and many do an admirable job of exercising their powers in a balanced, thoughtful way. But many prosecutors’ offices have a culture of competitiveness, and courtroom victories are the primary measure of their success. Prosecutors are attracted to the job partly because of the excitement of legal combat. Too often, convictions and long sentences get celebrated, even if they are undeserved.

It’s hard to shift prosecutors’ priorities from victory to justice. Prosecutors don’t get their names in the newspaper because they worked out a reasonable compromise. “So-and-so convicted on all counts” is an easy headline to write.

If prosecutors want to achieve true justice for defendants, they need to ask themselves some tough questions that go beyond convictions and acquittals — questions that can be very difficult to answer. Have they helped to resolve cases in ways that are equitable and humane? Have they helped move the community forward?

Why do we keep learning about cases where prosecutors have failed to disclose evidence that would help the defense?

Prosecutors have vastly more investigative resources at their disposal than defense attorneys, so they often have more access to information and evidence. Prosecutors are required to share evidence with the defense only if it could help the defendant in a significant way. But because they’re so motivated to win, it can be very hard for prosecutors to objectively decide whether the evidence they’ve uncovered is worth sharing. They have an incentive to convince themselves it isn’t.

Is there a lack of diversity among prosecutors, and does that contribute to unfair and discriminatory practices?

Prosecutors’ offices generally don’t disclose statistics on racial and gender demographics, so we don’t know much about prosecutor diversity. A few years ago, some of my students at Stanford Law School carried out research on the race and gender of prosecutors in California. As far as I know, this was the first time that comprehensive statistics of this kind were compiled for prosecutors in any state. And what the students found was that prosecutors in California are far whiter than the state as a whole.

That matters. There’s very good reason to believe that when prosecutors don’t reflect the diversity of the communities that they serve, it skews their decision-making. Diversity reduces systemic bias and makes it easier for prosecutors to take into account the perspectives of all parts of the community.

Racial diversity is never a panacea. Just as police departments aren’t magically transformed by employing more minority officers, we can’t fix prosecutors’ offices simply be electing or hiring people from different backgrounds. But when prosecutor offices are as diverse as the communities they serve, they bring different skills and perspectives and give fairer consideration to all the factors that should go into prosecutorial decision-making.

Other than increasing diversity, how else could the system be improved?

We need safeguards against prosecutorial power. Strengthening the resources of defense attorneys would be an important step. The vast majority of criminal defendants in the US are represented by appointed counsel, because they’re too poor to hire their own lawyers, and we’ve known for decades that we don’t pay enough to appointed defense attorneys or employ enough of them; they’re overworked and under-resourced. We need to invest more in defense if we want the system to operate properly.

Legislatures can help by rolling back mandatory sentences and by strengthening and clarifying the rules requiring prosecutors to share evidence with defense counsel.

More judicial oversight could also make a big difference. Judges could reclaim some of their power by tightening the rules that require prosecutors to share evidence with the defense. They could force prosecutors to explain and justify their charging decisions and their plea bargaining offers in court. In many courts, judges have the authority to dismiss cases in the interest of justice, such as when prosecutors pursue draconian sentences.

But in order for any of that happen, there would need to be something of a change of judicial mindset; judges would need to believe that prosecutors should be held more accountable, and to believe that it’s part of the business of the judiciary to make that happen.

Finally, there is much that prosecutors themselves can do — and in many places, are doing — to make the system fairer, less discriminatory and less damaging. They don’t need to wait for legislation mandating more disclosure of evidence; they can start doing that on their own. They can stop using unreasonably long mandatory minimum sentences to coerce guilty pleas. And they can work to change the cultures of their offices, so that fair outcomes are celebrated and not just courtroom victories.

Is reform on the horizon?

To some extent, yes. We’re in an unusual moment now because there is great attention to reforming prosecutors’ offices through the ballot box. Criminal justice crusaders have devoted more attention to elections over the last decade. As a result, we have a growing number of head prosecutors who’ve won elections based on a platform of pulling back on mass incarceration and seeking a more balanced approach to criminal justice. For the most part, though, this wave of reform isn’t doing anything to reduce the power of prosecutors’ offices.

How significant is the criminal justice reform bill that passed at the federal level in 2018?

It’s a step in the right direction, although it affects only federal prosecutors. The law modestly cuts back on mandatory minimum sentences and allows federal judges to hand down sentences lower than the statutory minimums without any motion from the prosecutor. That means that federal prosecutors, in some cases, won’t have quite as heavy a hammer to use in pressuring defendants to plead guilty. The new law is important symbolically, even for state prosecutors. It’s a signal of the growing consensus in the US that criminal justice has veered too far in the direction of severity, and that tougher isn’t always better.

What if wider reform doesn’t happen?

If there’s no reform, we’ll likely continue to face the dire problems of the criminal justice system: mass incarceration, excessively long sentences, wrongful convictions and racial bias. Prosecutors have helped to create all of these problems, and they have a critical role in solving them.

Read more about prosecutors

The Fast Track to a US Attorney’s Office — this Harvard Law School guide describes the prosecutor’s role and the paths to becoming one.

Stuck in the ’70s: The Demographics of California Prosecutors — a 2015 paper co-authored by David Alan Sklansky examines the gender and race of the state’s prosecutors.

Prosecution in America — covers the history and the unique aspects of US prosecutors.

The Origins of Public Prosecution at Common Law — the origins and development of prosecutorial roles through history.


Republished with permission under license from Knowable Magazine.

 

Attempted Destruction of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy

By Randall Hill

There appears to be a concerted effort to destroy the reputations and images of Black men. Not even the dead are immune. Fifty-one years after his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the latest target; allegations of rape and participation in orgies have surfaced.  

FBI's History of Targeting Black Activism

From the 1910s to the 1970s, the FBI treated civil rights activists in general, and African American activists in particular, as either disloyal “subversives” or “dupes” of foreign agents. The FBI’s predecessor, the Bureau of Investigation, sought to “compel black loyalty” during World War I and investigate “negro radicalism” in the 1920s.

FBI records show between 1956 and 1971 a covert and at times illegal program, COINTELPRO, targeted black leaders and civil rights organizations with the stated purpose of surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting their activities. The FBI file on my uncle Dick Gregory contains over 3,700 pages.

Two days after Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington,  William Sullivan, the FBI’s director of intelligence, famously responded by writing, “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.” In late August 1963, FBI leaders met to discuss ways of “neutralizing King". 

COINTELPRO tactics are still used to this day, and have been alleged to include discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media; harassment; wrongful imprisonment; and illegal violence, including assassination.

The FBI sent a secret memo in August 2017 to alert 18,000 law enforcement agencies that people involved in the black lives matter and similar movements could be "black identity extremism” an inflammatory term for a group that doesn’t even exist to discredit and criminalize black people protesting against police brutality and killings by labeling them as terrorists.

Sexual Allegations 

In an 8,000-word article published in the British periodical Standpoint Magazine on May 30, David Garrow details the contents of FBI memos he discovered after spending weeks sifting through more than 54,000 documents located on the National Archive’s website. Initially sealed by court order until 2027, the documents ended up being made available in recent months through the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992

The memos claim that agents knew that King and a group including Baltimore Pastor Logan Kearse were going to be staying at the Willard Hotel in January 1964 days before he ever arrived. The most troubling memos describe King witnessing a rape in a hotel room. Instead of stopping it, handwritten notes in the file say he laughed and encouraged Kearse who died in 1991 to continue. The FBI allegedly listened in on King and at least 11 others who participated in what the FBI memos describe as “an orgy” on Jan. 6, 1964.

Many of these transcripts were based on audiotapes that are still sealed until 2027 under a court order. That’s when the FBI’s full audiotapes, photographs and film footage of King will be unsealed per a 1977 court order.

Questionable Motives

Some historians have questioned Garrow’s choice to publish the content of the memos and transcripts without listening to the recordings, and have pointed out that the FBI had spent years trying to undermine King. People will rightly debate the trustworthiness of FBI sources, and Garrow’s interpretation of them. No figure, no matter how revered, should be immune from scrutiny over their potential support for violence against women.

But those weighing the evidence and its legitimacy should not forget that the tapes being used to facilitate this discussion were created and preserved with the goal of destroying Martin Luther King’s reputation. The FBI’s intent was to demoralize and fragment the coalition of supporters King brought together in his life, the people who find common purpose by honoring his memory.

Media Propaganda

A large segment of the black community is too quick to buy into racist narratives created in the news media about black athletes, entertainers, politicians, and leaders.

As we've mentioned before 90 percent of mass media is controlled by a few white corporations. Negative perceptions of black people persist primarily because of racist propaganda. Most white television programming and movies depict even successful black people as former drug dealers, criminals or they have some major character flaw and can't be trusted. 

Bill Cosby's reputation was destroyed after a massive media propaganda campaign that accused him of sexually assaulting dozens of women. Cosby was eventually convicted of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison. The Cosby Show and A Different World helped spread a more positive image of African-Americans all around the world. The Cosby Show made possible a larger variety of shows with a predominantly African-American cast, such as In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and others.

The Cosby Show may not have been possible if Dr. King hadn't inspired millions of people through his actions and words. Although, there were others who were equally dedicated, such as Medgar Evers and Malcolm X who also gave their lives fighting for civil rights; none were more persuasive. Now Dr. King's legacy which inspired a national holiday is under assault.

The white media machine will viciously attack Dr. King's reputation and legacy. Hopefully, large segments of the black community will not be fooled into abandoning one of their most cherished champions. As a reminder of white media's power; in January of this year, the following black reputations were attacked:

  • Michael Jackson and R. Kelly were vilified in the documentaries "Leaving Neverland" and "Surviving R. Kelly". Both were previously found not guilty in prior sex abuse cases. New charges were bought against Kelly after Surviving R. Kelly aired.
  • Chris Brown was arrested on rape and drug charges in Paris, however, charges were later dropped but the investigation remains open.
  • Jussie Smollett after reporting being attacked became a suspect and was indicted on 16 felony counts and faced 64 years in prison. The police held an elaborate press conference which was essentially trial by public opinion. All charges were eventually dropped and the Black prosecutor was smeared. The Chicago police just recently released hundreds of pages of the Smollett case file

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others are celebrated by white people despite them being slave owners and rapist. Many in the white community still believe black people should stand to honor a song adopted as the national anthem that celebrated the deaths and defeat of slaves who were fighting for their freedom. 

Mentioning slaves fighting for freedom reminded me of the 2016 media attack on Nate Parker, director and star of "Birth of a Nation", a wonderful film about the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. Nate Parker and his roommate and wrestling teammate, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a white female student at Penn State. Parker was acquitted on all four counts brought against him. Celestin was convicted but it was later overturned.  False rape allegations are an effective tool of white supremacists; countless numbers of black men have been lynched, jailed and ruined.  "Birth of a Nation" was expected to be a huge success and Oscar contender until the media campaign smeared Parker's reputation prior to the release of the film. 

Dr. King cannot defend himself against these outrageous allegations, so we must. He gave his life fighting for freedoms and privileges we now take for granted. Destruction of Dr. King's reputation is paramount to an assassination of his dream and legacy.  

What Self Reparations Look Like

A few days ago, I examined the reasons why reparations were owed, however, I also stated that I didn't believe that debt would be paid. The reparations solutions included strengthening historically black colleges and universities and the case for self reparations argued.

Yesterday, black billionaire Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the student loans of the entire 2019 graduation class of Morehouse College. His pledge also included a challenge to Morehouse alumni to continue providing similar assistance to future classes and stated: "because we are enough to take care of our community, we are enough to ensure we have the opportunity of the American Dream".

Morehouse is an all-male, historically black college in Atlanta. The billionaire's gift is estimated to be worth about $40 million, based on the combined debt shouldered by the graduating class's nearly 400 students, making it the single largest individual donation to a historically black college or university.

Robert F. Smith is one of the world's 13 black billionaires. His generosity and example may help to create other black billionaires. Kudos to you and your family Mr. Smith, well done. His entire commencement address is below.

Why Reparations are Owed; What Reparations Could Look Like

By Randall Hill

Major Democratic presidential candidates are talking about considering or paying reparations to the descendants of African Americans who were enslaved. Many of the candidates may simply be engaging in political pandering. Most candidates simply express support for a discussion rather than actual support for reparations. I haven't heard any candidate actually talk about what reparations might look like.

The definition of reparation is making amends by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged. The spilling of blood during the Civil War and nearly 10 years of Radical Reconstruction could have been a good start if the federal government had not abandoned efforts to protect former slaves.

When the Declaration of Independence declared "that all men are created equal" in 1776, slaves were 20 percent of the population. Slavery existed in the former colonies and the United States for nearly 250 years, Jim Crow laws for another 90 years. Institutionalized and government-sanctioned discrimination including laws that led to unequal and substandard education, militaristic policing, unjust courts, mass incarceration, and other forms of oppression still exist. 

My great-grandmother was a slave, my father said how ashamed she was whenever slavery was mentioned. There were no amends made to her or any other slave for their suffering. Her situation directly affected my grandfather, which directly affected my father, which directly affected me, which directly affects my children.

During slavery men, women and children were raped by their straight, gay or pedophile owners. Medical schools used slaves for medical experiments and practiced surgical procedures on slaves. Families were torn apart. People were tortured, maimed, and killed. The worst atrocities imaginable today were legal because people were reduced to mere property.

After the abolition of slavery; convict leasing, peonage, and Jim Crow kept blacks in slave-like conditions. Black Americans lived in terror because the government refused to offer any meaningful protection from angry or jealous white men. Lynchings and other racially motivated killings were common and unpunished. Prosperous Black neighborhoods such as Tulsa, OK, and Rosewood, FL were looted, burned, bombed and land theft was common. 

The government engineered a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. Social Security was originally designed to prevent 80% of the black population from participating. Federal housing programs that helped create the white middle class, implemented a redlining system which prevented blacks from benefiting.

Government-sponsored experiments such as Tuskegee and Pruitt Igoe have been revealed. Blacks originally were systematically excluded from U.S. farm bills, unemployment compensation, the minimum wage, protection of the right of workers to join labor unions and the G.I. Bill. Law enforcement sabotaged the Civil Rights Movement, In 1972 and 1996 the CIA was linked to drug traffic in black neighborhoods.

The government through legislation, policy, and court decisions actively participated in black oppression. Government inaction encouraged treachery and terrorism so vast it was easy to "keep negroes in their place" effectively eliminating the creation of black opportunity and wealth. 

Slave Owner Reparations

In 1833, the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said at the National Anti-Slavery Convention in Philadelphia: “If compensation is to be given at all, it should be given to the outraged and guiltless slaves, and not to those who have plundered and abused them.” Garrison may have referenced the 1833 "Slavery Abolition Act"  when more than 46,000 British slave owners were compensated for freed slaves.

The District of Columbia Emancipation Act, which prohibited slavery in the District, was signed into law on April 16, 1862, by President Abraham Lincoln, forcing over 900 slaveholders to free their slaves.

The government paid to slave owners that were loyal to the Union up to $300 for every enslaved person freed. Slaveowners received payment, slaves received nothing. 

The Debt

When you purchase or inherit real estate and other property, you also assume or inherit the debt; mortgages, taxes, and liens attached to the property. For those who directly experienced slavery and Jim Crow who since died, a debt is owed to their estates; and their descendants are the beneficiaries. The government sanctioned slavery; individuals, churches, corporations, universities, and other institutions actively participated. Georgetown University exists today because of slavery.

The partial list of current corporations and institutions that benefited from slavery include:

AIG, Aetna, Bank of America, Brooks Brothers, Brown Brothers Harriman, Brown Unversity, Columbia, CSX, Fleet, Gannet, Georgetown, Havard, JP Morgan Chase, New York Life, Norfolk Southern, Princeton, Tiffany, University of Virginia, Wells Fargo, Yale, and the list goes one.

All White people passively benefited from the wealth and opportunity created by slavery and Jim Crow. White immigrants decreased the overall percentage of black people and diluted the effectiveness of the black vote. Immigrants benefited from opportunities in a country made prosperous off the backs of the enslaved and directly from professions and job denied to blacks. 

The political scientist Thomas Craemer calculated the hours worked by enslaved black workers between 1776 and the official end of slavery. He estimates this uncompensated labor totaled between $5.9 and $14.2 trillion in current dollars.

What reparations could look like?

During a discussion with one of my closest friends in response to his skepticism about any workable reparation solutions, I mentioned what I thought to be some simple ways to identify who should benefit and how to implement. 

Reparations should be a combination of social, institutional, and economic solutions that are specific to African American Descendants of Slaves (ADOS). No other group of people was legally brought to the United States by force. Congress should exempt reparations from discrimination or racial exclusion statutes or regulations since they are in effect debts owed and not benefits. However, some solutions, especially those related to a fairer criminal justice system, will, directly and indirectly, benefit other groups. White companies supplying building supplies and other durable goods will also directly benefit.

Although others, most notably Native Americans, perhaps are owed reparations, this discussion is limited to the debt owed to the Black ADOS. Other so-called solutions were never exclusive to Blacks.

Equal Opportunity

Equal opportunity solutions may have been well-intentioned, but in reality, were distorted myths. Affirmative Action, for example, benefited white women more than any other group. There was never any real equal opportunity for black people. If there are vast differences in education, access to credit, transportation, housing, medical care and just about everything else, how is anything equal? 

Some concepts are easier to construct and implement; those should be worked on first and others more complex solutions later. Solutions should also have incentives to maximize positive impact on the community.

United Nations Recommends Reparations

At the invitation of the U.S. Government, a group of experts from the United Nations visited the country in 2016 to study and make a recommendation concerning people of African Descent.

The Group urged in their report that the United States consider seriously applying a Ten-Point Action Plan on Reparations, which includes a formal apology, health initiatives, educational opportunities, an African knowledge program, psychological rehabilitation, technology transfer and financial support, and debt cancellation. The following statements were included within the report:

  • Despite these legal and constitutional developments (13th, 14th & 15 amendments), the prevalence of “Jim Crow” laws — laws at the state and local levels that enforced racial segregation and persecution, primarily in the southern states — perpetuated political disenfranchisement, social and economic exploitation, violence and the overall subjugation of people of African descent until the 1960s. Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality that the United States must address. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.
  • Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, a systemic ideology of racism ensuring the domination of one group over another continues to impact negatively on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today.
  • The Working Group is deeply concerned at the alarming levels of police brutality and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials, committed with impunity against people of African descent in the United States. 
  • The Working Group is deeply concerned about the low number of cases where police officers have been held accountable for these crimes, despite the evidence.
  • Killings of unarmed African Americans by the police is only the tip of the iceberg in what is a pervasive racial bias in the justice system.
  • The Working Group was informed that the “War on Drugs” had had a devastating impact on African Americans and that mass incarceration was considered a system of racial control that operated in a similar way to how Jim Crow laws once operated.
  • The complex organizational structure of the legal system, with the independence of federal, state and county jurisdictions, and the lack of direct applicability of international human rights law and policies, create gaps that impact deeply on the human rights of African Americans. 
  • There is a profound need to acknowledge that the transatlantic trade in Africans, enslavement, colonization, and colonialism were crimes against humanity and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, and related intolerance. Past injustices and crimes against African Americans need to be addressed with reparatory justice.  

Who should be Eligible for Reparations?

In the United States, any person known to have African ancestry was considered Black. This was often called the "one drop rule" and some courts referred to it as the "traceable amount rule". As historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham stated in regard to race, "most people believe that they know it when they see it but arrive at nothing short of confusion when pressed to define it." 

In 1860, ninety percent of the four million Black people in the U.S. were slaves. Of the ten percent of free Blacks, its safe to assume that virtually all of them were either former slaves or descendants. Even descendants of the handful of black indentured servants such as Anthony Johnson married slaves or former slaves resulting in every black person at that time having a slave in their ancestry. Most of the nation’s 40 million U.S.-born blacks trace their roots to this population.

Significant voluntary Black immigration to the U.S. did not begin until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the Refugee Act of 1980 and the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990 when immigration policy changed restrictions on foreign-born blacks. Black people that can trace their ancestry to 1960 should be assumed to be ADOS. For example, my 20-year-old son can prove thru birth records that I was born in 1965 and since my parents were born in the 1920s and 1930s; he satisfies the 1960 rule.

Having Black skin creates barriers which even White people understand because most white people would not want to be treated the way Black people are. Some Black ADOS people with fair skin passed as white and thereby obtained some degree of white privilege. However, even they had to endure being separated from their family, listening to derogatory comments, denying who they were and living in fear of being caught. White privilege is misunderstood, it simply means that white people enjoy the benefit of being treated as normal.   

Any Black person who is ADOS should be able to benefit from reparations. Regardless of personal achievement or those made by their ancestors; harm whether physically, emotionally, socially or financially was endured. However, the initial concentration of corrective solutions should be aimed at those who are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Those below the poverty line should be among the first to benefit.   

REPARATION SOLUTIONS

Nothing can ever be sufficient restitution for the spiritual, mental, cultural and physical damages inflicted by slavery, Jim Crow and racism. However, something must be done to repair the damage.

Apology

The first step should be an official government apology for slavery and its aftermath that acknowledges that harm was done not only to slaves but to their descendants. However, apologies are meaningless without change.

The video below shows the emotional response when a descendant of a former slave owner apologizes to descendants former slaves.

Reparations Commission

A reparations commission comprising a super majority of ADOS (2/3) should be created to study slavery, the aftermath, the value of uncompensated labor, lost opportunity and pain and suffering. The people who were victims should have the most say in determining what they suffered.

Psychological Rehabilitation

For nearly 250 years Africans and their descendants were denied recognition as members of the human family and were classified in law as non-human, chattel, property, and real estate. This history has inflicted massive psychological trauma upon African descendant populations. As Dr. Joy de Gruy Leary argues, African-Americans are suffering from post-traumatic slave syndrome. Only a reparatory justice approach to truth and educational exposure can begin the process of healing and repair. Part of the dehumanizing process of making a slave was to make Africans descendants hate themselves. Generations of psychological damaged need to be acknowledged and dealt with.

Broadcast Licenses

Broadcasting is the most influential industry in the United States. African-Americans were regularly given stereotypic roles that depicted them as lazy, ignorant, and generally derogatory by mass media. The Federal Radio Commission (FRC) and then the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) excluded Black people from ownership of the airways by denying licensing. When the U.S. government first started giving away free licenses in the 1930s, they were distributed exclusively to white, male owners. As technology developed from radio to television and then cable, the same, white-owned companies continued to lead the pack because they could adapt to the new technology fastest. As a result, horrible negative images of black people were transmitted all around the world. As a group, we had no means to counter these images or broadcast information to a national audience. Reparations should include free broadcast licenses. A corporation comprised of shareholders restricted to black churches, black organizations, black entertainers and individual black people should be formed to accept broadcast licenses from the FCC.  

Education

Education or should I say miseducation was used as a weapon against Black people during and after slavery. Because knowledge is power, slaves were denied the right to read or write. The slavemaster was able to easily deceive slaves with lies and half-truths. One of the most glaring examples was the "slave bible". A normal "King James" version has 1189 chapters, but the slave bible only contained 232 chapters.

Ironically, even the bible states that reparations for slavery should be provided:

And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.

                                                                                                              — deuteronomy 15: 12–15

After slavery, white-controlled, often racist school boards, rather than slave masters directed miseducation of black people. The 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown vs The Board of Education,  made it clear that black schools were so inferior that the quality of education was unconstitutional. Today, 65 years after Brown, the situation is even worse. The cure was worse than the disease. Busing was the primary solution. White schools received even more funding to accommodate black students. Those funds were used to upgrade facilities and programs, while black schools suffered and closed. Many of the most stable and brightest black students were removed along with their positive influence and impact. Some of the best teachers also left. When bussing programs were eliminated, black students were trapped in schools suffering from decades of decline.       

Public schools in the U.S. should teach the truth about the horrors of slavery and its aftermath instead of the sanitized whitewashed version usually taught. For example, "The Great Migration" is the general term used to describe how 6 million black people moved north from the south. The whitewashed narrative states better job opportunity was the motivation. In reality, those "migrants" were refugees fleeing terrorism, persecution, violence and were seeking asylum only to find a different form of oppression in the north.    

Public school funding should not be based on property taxes. Schools in predominantly black neighborhoods, because of lower property taxes, would remain substandard. These schools provide limited electives, advanced courses, are often in disrepair, have limited supplies, outdated textbooks or may not have books at all.  Enrichment and extracurricular programs that help motivate and keep students interested in attending a school such as art, band, choir, drama, sports, student government, debate, robotics, and others won't exist or will be eliminated due to lack of funding.

Free college tuition including books, room and board should be made available to all low-income ADOS students. A small monthly stipend to cover necessary costs such as toiletries, laundry, and personal care items could also be included. 

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are in the best position to help black students and should receive reparation grants for operating expenses, to improve, modernize and expand their programs and facilities. The improvements will allow HBCUs to attract additional instructors and students. Program expansion should include fields critically needed within the black communities and others where Blacks are underrepresented, for example:

  • Agricultural programs: that include some sort of land, equipment and operating grant to help create a new generation of black farmers to decrease urban food desserts. Government discrimination caused many Black farmers to lose their farms.
  • Business: As Black people were increasingly segregated and cut off from the larger white community, black entrepreneurs established flourishing businesses that catered to black customers. The period between 1900 and 1930 has been called the "golden age of black business". Due to jealousy, envy or greed, white Americans including city officials and members of law enforcement destroyed prosperous black businesses and entire communities. Punitive zoning laws, business license denials, and various other tactics were used to prevent black people from opening and operating a business. Grants for entrepreneurial training and business funding should be part of reparations. 
  • Trade education programs: the major trades which include carpentry, plumbing, electrical, heating & cooling and others systematically excluded black people from training and jobs. Quoting a New York Times article, "The building of houses, offices and factories, of bridges and dams and highways, is still largely white man's work in America." Reparation grants should include trade education. Improvement grants to black homeowners in neighborhoods suffering from decades of neglect should be issued. Grants should be restricted to employ the students and graduates of those program and qualified black-owned businesses.  
  • Teacher programs: We need more Black teachers in public schools. Cultural differences and lack of understanding cause white teachers to discipline excessively contributing to the school to prison pipeline. America’s public school population has been majority children of color since 2014. 50.4 million kids were in public schools; in the fall of 2016; 24.6 million (49%) were white and 25.9 million (51%) were kids of color.  Research shows that teachers of color help close achievement gaps for students of color and are highly rated by students of all races. About 80 percent of all public school teachers are White, 9 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, and 2 percent were Asian” during the 2015-16 school year. Certification rules and tests and racial bias in hiring are keeping would-be teachers of color out of America’s classrooms. Reparation incentives for black teachers and modifications to certification and hiring processes are needed.
  • Doctors. nurses and other medical professions: As a child, I vividly remember a large number of black nurses and doctors in St. Louis area hospitals. I'm certain this was due to Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which trained the largest number of black doctors and nurses in the world. Now, Forty years after the hospital's closing, black doctors and nurses are rare finds in hospitals; and when they are found they are often foreign-born.
  • Lawyers: Howard University's Law School under the leadership of Charles Hamilton Houston, contributed greatly to the most important civil right legal victories. While nearly 40 percent of incarcerated prisoners are African-American, only 4.8 percent of lawyers are African-American, 88 percent of lawyers are white. The American Bar Association (ABA) was formed in 1878, one year after the reconstruction ended. Prior to the ABA, most practicing lawyers never attended law school. The ABA caused blacks to be excluded from the legal profession by colluding with state governments and courts making it more difficult to become a lawyer.  Studies show that white attorneys might have biases that result in less favorable outcomes for their black clients; the same holds true for prosecutors and judges. 

Criminal Justice

Ending mandatory prison sentences and mass incarceration practices which disproportionally affect people of color. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, incarceration costs an average of more than $31,000 per inmate, per year. There are nearly 2.2 million incarcerated adults, and more than 4.5 million under probation or parole supervision, which cost nearly $4,400 after the sentence is completed. The country would save $3.1 billion per year for every 100,000 people we prevent from being incarcerated and an additional $440 million in probation supervision cost. 

Allow felons to vote after finishing their sentences. Once a person has completed their prison sentence, their debt to society at least, in theory, is supposed to be paid. An estimated 6.1 million people in the United States (2.5% of the nation's voting age population, excluding DC) could not vote due to a felony conviction; 7.44% of African Americans in the United States could not vote due to a felony conviction in 2016.

Some of the funds saved by incarcerating fewer people could go towards reparations programs. It's ultimately more beneficial for society to pay for trade school or college than prison.

Housing

The federal government encouraged racial housing discrimination by redlining areas containing African-Americans and refusing to guarantee loans in those redlined zones. This lack of access to capital affected the ability of black people to buy, rent or maintain their homes. Redlining triggered white flight, caused neighborhoods to declined, discouraged business and investment in entire communities. Zero or low-interest loans should be made available as part of reparations to purchase homes.

Story of Contract Buyers

Following World War II, Chicago’s South Side had become increasingly overcrowded as African Americans moved from the South in the second wave of the Great Migration. Unable to attain decent and sanitary housing in white neighborhoods because of racially restrictive real estate covenants and mortgage redlining by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), African Americans were confined to the South Side ghetto.

In the 1950s-60s, real estate speculators exploited white homeowners’ fears on the West Side of plummeting real estate values because of neighborhoods that had ethnic change. Realtors went door-to-door to persuade white homeowners to sell because blacks were moving into the neighborhood. In neighborhoods they wished to exploit, “panic-peddling” speculators hired black men to drive beat-up cars with the music blaring and paid black women to push their babies in strollers. Speculators made enormous profits by convincing whites to sell their homes at well-below market value and then reselling to blacks at much higher than market value. Black homebuyers were subject to a “race tax,” as a property would typically be bought from a white homeowner for $10,000 and resold a week later to a black family for $25,000. This contributed to the neighborhood’s population changing from 87% white in 1950 to 91% black in 1960. Similar scenarios occurred in other cities across the county. The video below explains how victims in Chicago organized and fought back.

Direct Payments

Black people have been targets of predatory lending and their wealth stripped away because many were forced to pay higher interest rates even with good credit. Even the bankruptcy process became predatory for African-Americas. Direct payments could be made to eliminate or reduce debt.

Many African-Americans have prospered despite systemic racism and racialized barriers placed in their way. Maybe they had to be twice as good to get half as much as their white contemporaries. Regardless, they and their ancestor were wronged. The difference is that some successful black people and their children may have already obtained degrees, houses and the other trappings of success. Direct payments to pay off student loans,  mortgage or other debt may be a more practical solution. However, this sort of direct payment might disqualify them from participating in other reparation programs. 

Slavery Was A Long Time Ago

Many white people, live on or possess land passed down from generations ago, celebrate the 4th of July, re-enact Civil War battles, scream about monuments and confederate flags being taken down, but tell us to forget slavery because no one alive today was a slave or slave-owner.

African-Americans have been free in this country for less time than they were enslaved. Do the math: Blacks were enslaved nearly 250 years but have been free for 152 years, which means that most Americans are only two to three generations away from slavery. This is not that long ago.

"It's foolish to let your oppressor tell you that you should forget about the oppression that they inflicted upon you".

Black Divisions

When my uncle, Dick Gregory, walked away from millions of dollars in bookings, to actively participate in the civil rights movement, there were family members who had good jobs that didn't understand what the fuss was all about. 

Blacks among W.E.B. Dubose's so-called "talented tenth" who are among the best educated and best paid in the African-American community may not believe reparations are necessary, because they themselves are doing well. However, the irony is that even the "talented tenth" would be in better shape if the barriers of racism hadn't prevented even greater success than achieved.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson realized that the more educated black people became, the more they became indoctrinated into the thinking and ways of the white oppressor. "The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worth while, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples. The Negro thus educated is a hopeless liability of the race." The "Black Card" video below, featuring Candace Owens, demonstrates Dr. Woodson's premise.

In the above video, Ms. Owens acknowledges her grandfather, Robert Owens, endured Jim Crow, the KKK, was forced to work at the age of five on a tobacco plantation, cleaned homes and office buildings for a living eventually owning his own cleaning company.  Like many African-American, Robert Owens overcame extreme oppressive conditions, imagine how his life might have been better had he not experienced serious racism including the KKK shooting up his family's home as a child.

Black median household income of $40,232 is about two thirds that of other households. The median wealth of white household is $134,230 vs $11,030 for black households. These figures are direct results of racial oppression and the capacity to create and pass along generational wealth.

Racism created a number of divisions within the Black community, most notably light vs dark skinned, straight hair vs kinky hair, and house vs field slave. The Willie Lynch Letter best illustrates this phenomenon.

Meritorious manumission was a method of freeing or rewarding slaves for "good deeds" such as saving the life of a white person, creating an invention a slave master could profit from, or “snitching” on a slave planning to run away or organize a revolt. Some black people are still willing to sell out their community for financial gain. 

Conclusion

Pick any major indicator, education, housing, employment, credit, business ownership, skilled trade, technology, science, law, medicine or any other and blacks woefully lag behind whites. These situations did not randomly occur, they were designed and enforced through government legislation and policy

FDR once said, "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." After World War 2, the Marshall Plan rebuilt parts of Europe including Germany, the Supreme Command of Allied Powers (SCAP) revived Japan's economy, and the U.S. helped create Isreal, which became the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. As a country, we know how to stabilize and build economies. So one can assume that the present state of Black America was planned; simply by virtue that no serious efforts were made to stabilize let alone rebuilt economies within the black community. While the U.S. was providing former enemies with economic aid, black veterans who fought those enemies were denied G.I. and other benefits.

Although a vast debt is owed, I don't really expect any meaningful reparations to be paid. The descendants of slave owners and others who benefited economically have no incentive to pay.

Power is not given, it must be taken. How can you expect powerful people to give you the education, training, and resources to take their power away from them? 

African descendants of slaves have no means to force the payment of the debt. Usually, a creditor can take a debtor to court, obtain a judgment which is backed by the force of law. Even if reparations were provided, the voluntary payments would be a tiny fraction of the debt owed and couldn't cause any meaningful change. 

Slavery existed and racism exists because it is profitable! Being a slum lord is profitable, marketing sub-prime and payday loans is profitable, hiring desperate workers at low wages is profitable and having a population of 45 million black consumers who do not manufacture anything is profitable.

Even if reparations were paid, how long would it take for that money to end right back into the hands of white businesses? We don't manufacture building supplies, houses, furniture, appliances, electronics or even clothes. Everything we need to survive including food, water, electricity, gas, and other basics are supplied by others.

Self Reparations

Black churches, Kingdom Halls, Mosques, organizations, and businesses should create a commission and find workable solutions to at least some of the damage caused by centuries of racial oppression. Malcolm X in his "Ballot or the Bullet" speech recommended forgetting religious differences to concentrate on fighting a common enemy and working towards Black Nationalism to control the politics and economy in our own community.

The commission would need to partner to build distribution networks for black businesses and merchandise. There are probably congregation members who provide services or own businesses that their fellow members know nothing about. Imagine if black churches used some of their space to sell products such as soft drinks, baked goods, and other black manufactured goods. 

Black Convention Venue

My son, who is a youth minister at his church, for years has attended church conventions in various cities where tens of millions of dollars are spent by attendees. For example, in 2010, the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education's 55,000 attendees spent an estimated $76 million in Detroit. Right here in St. Louis where I live, between 2010 and 2016, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) through it's Holy Convocation injected more than $125 million into the St. Louis economy. Imagine if that money was spent within the black community instead of white-owned hotels, restaurants, and venues.

Black churches, professional organizations, and non-profit organizations could contribute funds for a non-profit corporation to create venues to accommodate member churches and organizations' large meetings and conventions. Black churches alone take in an estimated $12-13 billion per year. This organization could reach out to the African Union and others in the African Diaspora to build alliances, investors and partners.

If the organizational structure ends up being a standard corporation, shares can be made available to congregation and organization members, with members encouraged to support and recommend the venues for vacations and other travel. Discounts should be offered to members of participating organizations.

The average hotel with 115 room costs $22 million to build. The average daily rate (ADR) of hotels in the United States was 128.94 U.S. dollars as of February 2019. In 2018, the hotel occupancy rate was at 66.2 percent. Based on the ADR and occupancy rate, the average 115 room hotel earns $3.58 million in revenue per year, with gross operating profits of 38 percent, not factoring in religious or non-profit tax exemptions.  

To start, the most popular convention destinations should be researched and a single start city selected, preferably one with a large black population to help sustain the venues during the initial and growth stages. Land in predominantly black neighborhoods should be selected for development. Member organizations would need to commit to holding conventions and meetings in the start city for a number of years. A black transportation system, similar to Uber, could be organized with a network of black restaurants, entertainment, retailers and other places of interests as target destinations. After the initial start city becomes successful, a secondary city could be selected and the process repeated until about five or six of the most popular destination cities have been developed. African American travelers contributed about $63 billion to the U.S. travel and tourism economy in 2018. Imagine capturing just ten percent of that market.

This suggestion needs to be fine-tuned, would require sacrifice and might require member organizations to forgo conventions for a period of time. However, the long term benefits to the organizations and the black community would be monumental. 

Even if a national coalition of organizations is not currently feasible, certainly local coalitions could be built to find workable local solutions for community issues. The primary issues in our communities are economic. Until workable solutions are presented to help people, especially our youth get out of poverty, desperate people will continue to find violent solutions to their problems and no catchphrase or slogan will stop them.

I realized some time ago that black people have the greatest need for timely access to quality information, however, those with the information, usually will not share it with others. I've actually seen situations where one non-profit organization would not share with needy clients helpful information about other non-profit organizations. It is my sincere hope that my ideas will spark someone into action to help others.

Although I'm not an attorney, I created this site to distribute free legal information to help those with little or no money to hire an attorney. Multiple systems are rigged against all of us. "United we stand, divided we fall"; let us stand so we can help those who have fallen.