Category Archives: Politics

How racism has shaped welfare policy in America since 1935

A Halloween gathering in Los Angeles for children who live on the street, in shelters or in cars. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

By Alma Carten

A recent UNICEF report found that the U.S. ranked 34th on the list of 35 developed countries surveyed on the well-being of children. According to the Pew Institute, children under the age of 18 are the most impoverished age population of Americans, and African-American children are almost four times as likely as white children to be in poverty.

These findings are alarming, not least because they come on the 20th anniversary of President Clinton’s promise to “end welfare as we know it” with his signing into law, on Aug. 23, 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (P.L. 104-193).

It is true that the data show the number of families receiving cash assistance fell from 12.3 million in 1996 to current levels of 4.1 million as reported by The New York Times. But it is also true that child poverty rates for black children remain stubbornly high in the U.S.

My research indicates that this didn’t happen by chance. In a recent book, I examine social welfare policy developments in the U.S. over a 50-year period from the New Deal to the 1996 reforms. Findings reveal that U.S. welfare policies have, from their very inception, been discriminatory.

Blemished by a history of discrimination

It was the 1935 Social Security Act, introduced by the Franklin Roosevelt administration, that first committed the U.S. to the safety net philosophy.

From the beginning, the policy had two tiers that intended to protect families from loss of income.

On one level were the contributory social insurance programs that provided income support to the surviving dependents of workers in the event of their death or incapacitation and Social Security for retired older Americans.

The second tier was made up of means-tested public assistance programs that included what was originally called the “Aid to Dependent Children” program and was subsequently renamed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children in the 1962 Public Welfare Amendments to the SSA under the Kennedy administration.

The optimistic vision of the architects of the ADC program was that it would die “a natural death” with the rising quality of life in the country as a whole, resulting in more families becoming eligible for the work-related social insurance programs.

But this scenario was problematic for black Americans because of pervasive racial discrimination in employment in the decades of the 1930s and 1940s. During these decades, blacks typically worked in menial jobs. Not tied to the formal workforce, they were paid in cash and “off the books,” making them ineligible for social insurance programs that called for contributions through payroll taxes from both employers and employees.

Nor did blacks fare much better under ADC during these years.

The ADC was an extension of the state-operated mothers’ pension programs, where white widows were the primary beneficiaries. The criteria for eligibility and need were state-determined, so blacks continued to be barred from full participation because the country operated under the “separate but equal” doctrine adopted by the Supreme Court in 1896.

Jim Crow Laws and the separate but equal doctrine resulted in the creation of a two-track service delivery system in both law and custom, one for whites and one for blacks that were anything but equal.

A ‘colored’ drinking fountain – segregation applied to welfare benefits too. Russell Lee/Library of Congress

Developments in the 1950s and ‘60’s further disadvantaged black families.

This happened when states stepped up efforts to reduce ADC enrollment and costs. As I examined in my book, residency requirements were proposed so as to bar blacks migrating from the South to qualify for the program. New York City’s “man in the house rule” required welfare workers to make unannounced visits to determine if fathers were living in the home – if evidence of a male presence was found, cases were closed and welfare checks discontinued.

Always an unpopular program

Because of the strong American work ethic, and preference for a “hand up” versus a “hand-out,” the means-tested, cash assistance programs for poor families – and especially ADC renamed AFDC – have never been popular among Americans. As FDR himself said in his 1935 State of the Union address to Congress, “the government must and shall quit this business of relief."

As the quality of life did indeed improve for whites, the number of white widows and their children on the AFDC rolls declined. At the same time, the easing of racial discrimination widened eligibility to more blacks, increasing the number of never-married women of color and their children who were born out of wedlock.

One point, however, to note here is that there has always been a public misconception about race and welfare. It is true that over the years blacks became disproportionately represented. But given that whites constitute a majority of the population, numerically they have always been the largest users of the AFDC program.

Holes in the safety net

The retreat from the safety net philosophy can be dated to the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

On the one hand, politicians wanted to reduce the cost of welfare. Under Reagan policies of New Federalism, social welfare expenditures were capped and responsibility for programs for poor families given back to states.

On the other hand, the demographic shift in the welfare rolls exacerbated the politics around welfare and racialized the debate.

Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” narrative only reinforced existing white stereotypes about blacks. The term "welfare queen", a derogatory term used in the U.S. to refer to women who allegedly misuse or collect excessive welfare payments through fraud, child endangerment, or manipulation; originates from media reporting in 1974.

Since then, the phrase "welfare queen" has remained a stigmatizing label and is most often directed toward black, single mothers.

“There’s a woman in Chicago. She has 80 names, 30 addressees, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexistent deceased husbands. She’s got Medicaid, is getting food stamps and welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income alone is over $150,000.”

Reagan’s assertions that the homeless were living on the streets by choice played to conventional wisdom about the causes of poverty, blamed poor people for their own misfortune and helped disparage government programs to help the poor.

The 1990s gear change

By the late 1990s efforts of reforms targeting the AFDC program shifted to more nuanced forms of racism with claims that the program encouraged out-of-wedlock births, irresponsible fatherhood and intergenerational dependency.

The political context for the 1996 reforms, then, was fueled by racist undertones that played into public angst about rising taxes and the national debt that were attributed to the high payout of welfare checks to people who were not carrying their own weight.

This emotionally charged environment distorted the poverty debate, and paved the way for a reform bill that many saw as excessively punitive in its harsh treatment of poor families.

Although credited to the Clinton administration, the blueprint for the 1996 welfare reform bill was crafted by a caucus of conservative Republicans led by Newt Gingrich as part of the Contract with America during the 1994 congressional election campaign.

Twice President Clinton vetoed the welfare reform bill sent to him by the GOP-dominated Congress. The third time he signed, creating much controversy, including the resignation of his own adviser on welfare reform, the leading scholar on poverty David Ellwood.

The new bill replaced the AFDC program with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Stricter work requirements required single mothers to find work within two years of receiving benefits. A five-year lifetime limit was imposed for receiving benefits. To reinforce traditional family values, a core principle of the Republican Party, teenage mothers were to be prohibited benefits, and fathers who were delinquent in child support payments were threatened with imprisonment. States were banned from using federally funded TANF for certain groups of immigrants and restrictions were placed on their eligibility to Medicaid, food stamps and Supplementary Social Security Income (SSI).

The impact

Despite many bleak predictions, favorable outcomes were reported on the 10th anniversary of the bill’s signing. Welfare rolls had declined. Mothers had moved from welfare to work and children had benefited psychologically from having an employed parent.

However, the volume of research generated at the 10-year benchmark has not been matched, in my observation, by that produced in years leading up to the 20-year anniversary.

More research in particular is needed to understand what is happening with families who have left welfare rolls because of passing the five-year lifetime limit for receiving benefits but have not sustained a foothold in an ever-increasing specialized workforce.

Disentangling intertwined effects of racism and poverty

U.S. welfare policy is, arguably, as much a reflection of its economic policies as it is of the nation’s troublesome history of racism.

In the words of President Obama, racism is a part of America’s DNA and history. 

Similarly, the notion that anyone who is willing to work hard can be rich is just as much a part of that DNA. Both have played an equal role in constraining adequate policy development for poor families and have been especially harmful to poor black families.

Racism has left an indelible mark on American institutions. In particular, it influences how we understand the causes of poverty and how we develop solutions for ending it.

Indeed, with the continual unraveling of the safety net, the 20th anniversary of welfare reforms can be an impetus for taking a closer look at how racism has shaped welfare policy in the U.S. and to what extent it accounts for the persistently high poverty rates for black children.


Republished with permission under license by The Conversation


Alma Carten is an Associate Professor of Social Work; McSilver Faculty Fellow, New York University

Dr. Alma J. Carten earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University, her Master of Social Work degree from the Whitney M. Young Jr. School of Social Work, and her Doctorate in Social Welfare from Hunter College School of Social Work of the City University of New York. At NYU, Dr. Carten is former chair of the social welfare programs and policies area, and teaches in the social welfare policies and human behavior curricula sequences in the MSW program and social policy analysis in the doctoral program. Dr. Carten is also a consultant reviewer for the US Department of Juvenile Justice, Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families, helping to shape the national standards for child welfare outcomes. She has held a number of faculty appointments, including director and chair of the Westchester Social Work Education Consortium, and has taught at Hunter College School of Social Work and and the Behavioral Science Department at the New York City Policy Academy. Additionally, she was a member of the Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner’s Task Force on Minority Agencies. She served as president of the New York City Chapter of the National Association for Social Workers from 2000-2002.

Dr. Carten has professional experience in the private and public sectors. She served on the United Way of New York City agency membership Review Panel, and is a board member and consultant for a number of New York City voluntary social welfare agencies, the Administration for Children and Families, and the Children's Bureau at the federal level. Her work in government includes director of the Office of Adolescent Services for the New York City Human Resources Administration with responsibility for policy development and the design and implementation of citywide services for pregnant and parenting teens, interim commissioner of the Child Welfare Administration, special advisor to the HRA commissioner/administrator during the Dinkins administration, and appointed member of the Mayor's Commission on the Foster Care of Children. She has conducted research and published on family preservation programs, maternal substance abuse, child survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, independent living services for adolescents, dimensions of abuse and neglect among Caribbean families, and neighborhood-based services and mental health services and the African American community.

Dr. Carten’s professional interests focus on child welfare, and the delivery of culturally competent services to children and families.  She has conducted extensive research studying the Caribbean and African immigrant communities in the New York metropolitan area.

She co-edited with Dr. James R. Dumpson, entitled Removing Risk from Children: Shifting the Paradigm, and a chapter titled "Family Preservation, Neighborhood Based Services," in Child Welfare Services: An Africentric Perspective, Everett & Leashore, co-editors. Her most recent publication “Reflections on the American Social Welfare State: The Collected Papers of James R. Dumpson,” is published by NASW Press, and she is primary editor of "Anti-Racist Strategies for Transforming Health and Human Service" in press with Oxford University Press.

 

Police criticize appearance of Mike Brown’s mother at DNC

Tuesday night, members of Mothers of the Movement, a group that includes Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis; Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre Hamilton; Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, the mother of Hadiya Pendleton; Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant; and Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, appeared on stage together at the Democratic National Convention. Watch the Mothers of the Movement video below.

John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia police union, said Hillary Clinton should be ashamed for allowing relatives of people killed by police to speak, but not give equal time to families of fallen officers. Others have expressed similar sentiments and some have criticized Lezley McSpadden presence because they believe Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown.

Obviously, some police officers still don't get it. Officers committing crimes and then policing each other resulting in no accountability is unacceptable. With the exception of Travon Martin's mother, each of those moms had their child killed by police or while in police custody. No police officer was held accountable for any of those deaths. 

If the people who kill police officers were routinely not being charged or not held accountable, I could understand why they might want equal time to complain about the injustice of having a loved one killed and the known killer being allowed to go free. However, in just about every case I can think of, the killers of police officers usually get killed themselves or go to prison. 

Freddie Gray

Marilyn Mosby the state's attorney who brought charges against six police officers but failed to secure any convictions in the death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of Baltimore police gave a fiery defense of her investigation and alleged police corruption. 

Ms. Mosby still believes those officers are responsible for Freddie Gray's death. She revealed what many already knew and what has become a theme during this year's election, "the system is rigged" in favor of the police. This is why it is important to video incidents of police encounters. Videos help remove reasonable doubt when police officers unreasonably invoke "I feared for my life". See, "Why White Cops Kill Black Men".

Updates From our News Page:

8-1-2016: Law professor goes after Maryland prosecutor for Freddie Gray case

An unarmed man was killed while in police custody, but instead of getting upset that no one was held accountable, a white law professor wants to bring ethic charges against the black prosecutor for seeking justice. This is clearly an intimidation tactic to remind uppity black prosecutors to stay in their place in regards to white police officers. This is why we need more black prosecutors.

7-28-2016: Freddie Gray officers suing prosecutor Marilyn Mosby

Prosecutors have prosecutorial discretion proving prosecuting attorneys with nearly absolute powers to determine whether or not to bring criminal charges, deciding the nature of charges, plea bargaining and sentence recommendation. Prosecutorial immunity is the absolute immunity that prosecutors in the United States have in initiating a prosecution and presenting the state's case. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 ruled that prosecutors cannot face civil lawsuits for prosecutorial abuses, no matter how severe." See, Imbler v. Pachtman 424 U.S. 409 (1976). However, I believe that is one of the major flaws in our judicial system. This was a very agressive move by the police officers, especially when they may still face Federal charges for the death of Freddie Gray.

Ferguson, MO

Since the killing of Michael Brown, there have been many instances where police officers, in situations just like Darren Wilson, have used self-defense as an excuse and then a video surfaced proving their statements to be lies. Unfortunately, no video of the actual shooting of Michael Brown has been made public. 

On September 5, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri police department to examine whether officers routinely engaged in racial profiling or showed a pattern of excessive force. The investigation was separate from the Department's other investigation of the shooting of Brown.

The 102 page Department of Justice "Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department Report" was released on March 4, 2015. The report concluded that police officers in Ferguson routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city's residents, by discriminating against African Americans and applying racial stereotypes, in a "pattern or practice of unlawful conduct".

That same day, March 4, 2015, the DOJ released a memorandum concerning the Investigation of the Michael Brown Shooting Death by Darren Wilson.

Darren Wilson didn't receive a not guilty verdict

Media reports and headlines such as the Washington Post article, "Officer Darren Wilson cleared by the Justice Department", gave the false impression that the allegations against Wilson were meritless and that he was totally exonerated.

On page 13 of the memorandum, the first paragraph states, "As Wilson drove past Brown, he saw cigarillos in Brown’s hand, which alerted him to a radio dispatch of a “stealing in progress” that he heard a few minutes prior while finishing his last call. Wilson then checked his rearview mirror, and realized that Witness 101 matched the description of the other subject on the radio dispatch."

Below is the video of a press conference where Ferguson Police Chief, Thomas Jackson, among other things, discusses the convenience store incident where Brown allegedly stole cigarillos. At around 6:05 in the video's timeline, Jackson states that Wilson had no knowledge of the robbery. 

Below is a compilation of witness interviews explaining what they saw when Michael Brown was shot. The witnesses are listed in order of their first appearance on the compilation along with their witness number and page number as listed on the DOJ memorandum. Watch the video and read the memorandum and decide for yourself the credibility of the witnesses.

  1. Michael Brady, Witness #115 – page 39
  2. Piaget Crenshaw, Witness #118  – page 56
  3. Tiffany Mitchell, Witness #127 – page 55
  4. Dorian Johnson, Witness #101 – page 44

Piaget Crenshaw (witness #118) who witnessed the entire incident actually shot video immediately after Michael Brown shooting while Darren Wilson was still looking over the body. Ms. Crenshaw was interviewed by CNN which is shown below.

Personally, I believe the witnesses. Their stories are very similar. Multiple people from various vantage points all claim the same basic facts. Michael Brown was unarmed, hand his hands up or at least exposed to show he was unarmed, Brown was shot at while running away and then turned around, he posed no threat when he was killed.

A witness who thought Mr. Brown may have been shot in the back before turning around is logical even if the bullet missed. Blood splatter from an arm on the front of a t-shirt could easily make someone believe that person was shot in the stomach or chest area.

Those statements are not inconsistent, they are simply observations during an intense moment. Some of the statements made especially those captured on video immediately after the shooting of Michael Brown were excited utterances.

Excited Utterance

An excited utterance, in the law of evidence, is a statement made by a person in response to a startling or shocking event or condition. It is an unplanned reaction to a "startling event". It is an exception to the hearsay rule. The statement must be spontaneously made by the person (the declarant) while still under the stress of excitement from the event or condition. The subject matter and content of the statement must "relate to" event or condition. The statement could be a description or explanation (as required for present sense impression), or an opinion or inference. Examples include: "Look out! We're going to crash!" or "I think he's crazy. He's shooting at us!" The basis for this hearsay exception is the belief that a statement made under the stress is likely to be trustworthy and unlikely to be premeditated falsehoods.

You must also keep in mind that the so-called justice system plays out more like a complicated chess game involving multiple strategies. History teaches us that propaganda and deception are great strategies.

Suppose for example multiple witnesses were instructed to provide false testimony so that their false testimony could be used to discredit truthful witnesses. Those types of strategies were used by the government's CointelPro campaign to discredit civil rights leaders.

Watch the November 25, 2014, clip of Lawrence O'Donnell from The Last Word where Lawrence provides a common sense analysis of Darren Wilson's testimony, witness number 10 and prosecutor Robert McCulloch.

Many people mistakenly believe the Department of Justice report relating to Darren Wilson shooting Micheal Brown was a declaration of Wilson's innocence, it wasn't. Basically, there was no video of the event, so there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction in court beyond a reasonable doubt. That doesn't mean that Darren Wilson was justified in his actions, only that no evidence exist that is strong enough to convict him. If a video surfaces sometime in the future, similar to what happened in the Jason Stockley fatal shooting Anthony Lamar Smith, Darren Wilson could still be charged with murder. There is no statute of limitations on murder.

Even the Baltimore prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, was shocked and surprised at the level of interference she encountered from police officers during her investigation into the murder of Freddie Gray.

If the prosecutor, one of the most powerful positions within the justice system is blocked by police interference, imagine the level of interference that may have happened during the Ferguson investigation. Considering the white prosecutor in charge, Robert McCulloch, has himself been accused of bias in favor police and racist behavior, it's easy to understand how a conspiracy to conceal the truth possibly occurred.

When Robert McCulloch was 12 years old, his father, Paul McCulloch, a St. Louis police officer, was shot and killed allegedly by Eddie Steve Glenn, a black man. McCulloch's father, brother, nephew and cousin all served with St. Louis police; his mother was a clerk there. Maybe that's why he allowed witness #40 to testify before the grand jury.

Witness #40

A grand jury witness, convicted felon Sandra McElroy, who claimed Michael Brown charged at Darren Wilson “like a football player” is a racist, mentally ill woman who likely wasn’t there when the unarmed black teen was killed, according to reports. McElroy previously lied to police and didn’t give authorities a statement about the August 9, 2014, killing until Sept. 11, well after several descriptions of the shooting had been detailed in the media.

Timeline in the Michael Brown Case

Why the Black Lives Matter Movement is Important

I have been a victim of crime and people that I know including my brother-in-law, nephew and a friend, who was a police officer, were all killed by criminals. Everyone hates crime and believe criminals should be punished including me. To some degree, people can be on the lookout and protect themselves from criminals.

When a police officer commits a crime against me, my options are limited. If I fight back, I will be beaten or killed and the officer will most likely suffer no consequences, even if a video exists. No one is supposed to be above the law, but it's foolish to believe that. Police officers get away with crimes that would send ordinary people to jail for years. The Black Lives Matter Movement has been purposefully misrepresented by white media and politicians to portray it as some sort of racist ideology.

Below is a video of Madison, Wisconsin police punching, kicking and tasing a defenseless 18 year old girl (woman) which is the latest example of why the Black Lives Matter Movement is important and why black people shouldn't be deceived into thinking just because black criminals are committing crimes, that somehow makes it unimportant that police treat black people horribly on a regular basis in this country. 

Had this simply been a common criminal, people would have certainly come to this girl's aid. However, because it was the police people felt powerless to do anything but to document and video what was going on. Had anyone shooting video gotten involved they would have most likely received even worse treatment and possibly killed. They wouldn't have been able to argue police brutality, self-defense or the protection of others because they would have been charged with "interfering with official police business".

Allegedly, this woman had a knife earlier, even if that was true, there is no excuse for what is shown on the video. This woman was obviously no danger to the two larger police officers manhandling her. This woman was basically tortured.

These type of incidents have to stop. I am sickened each time I see one of these videos and sickened, even more, when I hear that the officers involved were not arrested, charged or convicted of any crime. Imagine how many of these incidents are never captured on video, which is why police body cameras are needed.

Obviously, there are many innocent victims of crime and some of those innocent victims are killed. However, many of the killings happen because the victim was engaged in illegal or illicit activity and some are retaliation or revenge killings. Criminals, when caught, get arrested, charged with crimes, go a trial and to jail if convicted.

If my life is put in danger by a criminal, I have the option and right to defend myself including deadly force if necessary. But what about when the criminal is a police officer? You have not rights! Even when police officers abuse helpless black teenagers in bikinis at a pool party, there still is no justice. This needs to change now!

Byron Mischauex, the grandfather of Jirah Campbell, a teenager who was fatally shot in Pine Lawn, spoke with KMOV about the violence and Black Lives Matter. I agree with Mr. Mischauex that we as a community must fix our problems, but at the same time, we must realize that our issues are symptoms of much broader issues. However, that realization is of little comfort to the family of Jirah Campbell and all the other families that have experienced the death of a loved one from violence. Until we understand those racist institutions including policing, courts, banks, and even government plays a part of the black community's plight nationally, black people as a whole will continue to suffer. 

When a person is unfairly targeted by police the way Mr. Mischauex described, they can be thrust into a domino effect of misfortune. Innocent people get arrested, which often result in losing their job, losing a car, home, or other possessions. To add insult to injury, that arrest record makes it harder to find another job.  

Fortunately, Mr. Mischauex was a business owner and had the resources to get through. Many others are not as fortunate. Factor in decades of criminalizing drugs and other behaviors and predatory court practices it's easy to understand why black communities all across the country have suffered. Many people in the black community become distraught and black teens often feel hopeless and result to crime because the feel they have nothing to loss. Those currently with decent jobs don't  seem to understand that the next economic downturn could cause them to become targets and face similar issues. 

Record any incident of police misconduct that you see. If the police mistreat you in any way, report the officers involved so those offending police officers will accumulate complaints that are representative of their abuse. 

Tamir Rice’s Mother – No Candidate Endorsement

Why I Have Not Endorsed Any Candidate

Reflections from a Mom of the Movement
by Samaria Rice

Reprinted in Support of her fight for justice.

Over the past few weeks, I had been approached by many people all with the same question: Who will I endorse for President of the United States? I have heard this even more since the launch of the Justice For Tamir Speak Out Tour. I have watched as my fellow mothers that have lost children have chosen a candidate to invest their faith in and I support them in their pursuits of justice for their children, and the people want to know where I stand.

For over a year I have been fighting for justice for my son, Tamir , who was killed by Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. For over a year, I’ve waited to see if any candidate or official, including my state’s governor, would release a plan of action that addressed the failures and inhumane decisions responsible for my son’s death. While I’ve waited, I’ve been speaking out for true action, with changes that would help prevent another tragedy like Tamir’s murder, changes that truly hold these police accountable and give people power in the communities we live in.

As a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, my local and state governments have not only failed my family, they’ve caused us severe trauma. After shooting Tamir, Cleveland police neglected to call aid for my son and handcuffed my daughter, who was trying help her brother. Then the city of Cleveland later tried to charge me for the ambulance ride that was too late to save my son’s life. They said it was a mistake, and no one was held responsible for any of pain they caused my family.

After Tamir’s death, the county prosecutor, Timothy McGinty, an elected official, responsible for seeking justice for Tamir, instead blamed my 12 year old boy for his own death.


NOTE: Timothy McGinty, the Cleveland prosecutor who cleared cops in Tamir Rice’s death was defeated in primary


All of this happened under the administration of Ohio governor, John Kasich, a 2016 presidential nominee. Ohio’s state government has shown me repeatedly that the people elected to serve have no interest in justice. The loss of Tamir has made it clear to me that Cleveland is deeply invested in a system of injustice. No one has been held responsible for any part of this entire traumatic experience. No one has at least apologized for killing my son. Not a single politician has offered me some substantial support.

While I’ve continued to push my state’s officials towards real changes, several Presidential candidates have said my son’s name in their mouth, using his death as an example of what shouldn’t happen in America. Twelve year old children should never be murdered for playing in a park. But not a single politician: local, state or federal, has taken action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Instead of plans for justice and accountability, I have been shown several plans for criminal justice reform, none that address my experience of the entire system being guilty. Those plans don’t address the many ways elected officials become exempt to accountability and the legal flaws that allow them to extend that exemption to cops who kill. These plans do not get rid of the trauma of knowing that my tax dollars help pay the salaries of the police officers that killed my son.

As one of the Mothers of the Movement, I know the death of Tamir has shown many just how important police accountability is. I also know it must be a piece of a larger plan to address the deep corruptions that exist in America. The people should be the ones determining what accountability looks like, not prosecutors who work closely with police to deny the people justice. County Prosecutors whose job requires them to believe the police the majority of the time, should not be the same people prosecuting them. Police officers often lie about fearing for their life.

True community oversight of the police is one that evens the balance of power and allows the communities police serve to judge how well they are doing their job. My experience has let me know that the system is working just the way the people in power want it to. That is why I refuse to accept plans or support politicians that offer what they propose as solutions, not informed by us, the community. It’s why I won’t accept plans for more “community police” as positive solutions when it was the police that killed my son. I cannot settle for partial solutions and lip service. I know we need real action, and I refuse to endorse any candidate that offers less.

Lessons St. Louis needs to learn from losing the Rams

The City of St. Louis has been in decline and denial for quite some time. If we don't make some changes, we soon may no longer be considered a world class city.

Even if you don't consider St. Louis to be a world class city, with the exception of a subway, you must admit that St. Louis has many of the things that make cities world class.

  • Major league sports franchises
  • Tourism destination
  • World Class Zoo
  • Forest Park (75th on the list of City Parks)
  • World Class Museums and Libraries
  • Great Universities
  • Great architecture
  • World Class Hospitals
  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Nationally known monument (Arch)

World class cities are also known for their modern skylines, locations that cater to wealthy locals and affluent visitors and an absence of visible signs of poverty. St. Louis fails the visibility of poverty test.

City leaders pursue this “world-class” vision to attract investment, for integration into the global economy, and to improve the quality of living standards. Too often, however, those benefits accrue only to the wealthiest and most powerful residents.

St. Louis is a city that seems aggressive and inhospitable to some of it's minority and low income residents and many would flee if offered half a chance to relocate elsewhere. St. Louis is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country and even before the Ferguson Protest had a racist reputation.

Many people don't realize or have forgotten that Missouri typically is categorized as both a Midwestern and a southern state. The region was split on Union and Confederate issues during the Civil War. A small region of the state is called Little Dixie for the influx of southerners that settled there.

In 1847, a book titled, "The Narrative of William W. Brown, an American Slave", was published. Below is a quote from that book.

"Though slavery is thought, by some, to be mild in Missouri, when compared with the cotton, sugar and rice growing states, yet no part of our slave-holding country is more noted for the barbarity of its inhabitants than St. Louis."

During the decades after the Civil War, St. Louis grew to become the nation's fourth largest city, after New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It also experienced rapid infrastructure and transportation development and the growth of heavy industry.

The period culminated with the 1904 World's Fair and Summer Olympics, which were held concurrently in St. Louis. As of 2014, St. Louis has dropped to 60 on the U.S. Census largest cities list. New York is still number one, Chicago is the still number three and Philadelphia dropped only slightly to number five.

The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members. This is not a new concept, it has existed at least since biblical times; "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me" – Matthew 25:40.

The Ram's departure leaves a huge pile of unpaid debt on the old dome stadium. According to the the St. Louis Post, the city said it expected to lose about $4.2 million a year, at least in the “short run,” as tax revenue falls because of the team’s departure. The Riverfront Stadium Task Force has spent $16 million so far on planning for a new stadium.

While the City was actively offering welfare to a billionaire and spending millions in taxpayer money putting together a stadium plan for Stan Kroenke, the Ram's owner, who neither asked for it nor wanted it; they were vigorously fighting to close down a homeless shelter that actually provides services and cares for "the least of these."

I'm only fifty years old, but while I was growing up, it was common knowledge that you didn't go into certain neighborhoods. I was in high school between 1979 and 1983. During that time, there were not a lot of places that welcomed black kids. On the weekends, many of us hung out in Forest Park, but then the rules were changed and we were forced out. Another popular hangout was the St. Louis Riverfront, which then had the nation's only floating McDonald's; but again the rules were changed and eventually the McDonald's Boat located to another city.

I see that same pattern repeated again, mall and other areas now have special curfews and other restrictions that often seem to be enforced more rigorously against black kids.

Surprisingly with institutions such as St. Louis University, Washington University, UMSL, Harris-Stowe University, St. Louis Community Colleges, Rankin Technical College, Webster University, Fontbonne University, Missouri Baptist University, St. Louis area is home to many poorly performing public schools.

How is it possible, with the number of institutions of higher learning in and around St. Louis, that our schools are not among the best in the country? In a word, exclusion.

Whether there was a concerted efforts such as those proposed by the Team Four Plan or unconscious bias, educational, economic and employment opportunities have routinely been suppressed and restricted in certain areas. Around the neighborhood where I live, street lights and traffic lights including the intersections of MLK at Sarah and MLK at Euclid have been non-functioning for years. It is now common knowledge that even our court system has been guilty of predatory practices targeting people of color.

Decreased educational, economic and other opportunities lead to oppression and exacerbate inequality. Oppression and inequality leads to crime, which eventually visits the oppressor. The communities of both the oppressed and oppressor are negatively affected. Outsiders see this, often more clearly than we do.

Our airport is no longer a hub for any major airline, companies have specifically told us they won't locate to St. Louis because our schools are below par, we don't stack up against other cities, decades ago we lost our basketball team (The Hawks) to Atlanta and we have now lost two football teams. To add insult to injury,  the Rams are returning to the city they previously left to come to St. Louis.

For decades, the St. Louis region neglected or excluded certain groups of people and for a while, other groups benefited. However, as was noted in an earlier post, what you quietly allow to happen to others, will eventually find its way back to you.

When you allow the oppression of a group of people, it opens the door for oppression of additional groups. The education of blacks was neglected, now the education of all Americans lag behind compared to the rest of the world. Drug users were vilified and criminalized when they were mostly black or brown, but whites are now the largest growing group of drug addicts.

The economy of blacks was artificially suppressed for decades, now manufacturing and other high paying mostly white jobs are being sent overseas. The Congress has already pass legislation that will reduce some union pension by more than half and the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to deal unions a major setback again effecting mostly white workers.

As mentioned in the post, first they came, if you want to improve your own conditions, don't let the rights and privileges of others get abused. Even President Obama mentioned this during his last State of the Union speech last night. Hopefully St. Louis will finally heed this message and begin to help those truly in need rather than those truly in greed.

St. Louis Flooding and Stadium Projects

Welfare for millionaires and billionaires look ridiculous when the St. Louis area is experiencing record-setting flooding and the need for assistance is great.

Thousands of people in and around the St. Louis area will be affected by flooding. Many will lose their possessions and homes, others will be out of work and some businesses may closed down completely unable to reopen.

Public dollars should be reserved for public need! This is when public tax dollars are most needed, in emergency and catastrophic situations. However, since so much public money is tied up in pledges to private projects of millionaires and billionaires, many of those truly in need will find scarce resources available to them.

Levees are in danger of failing and I suspect some of them have not received the attention and allocation of public money they should have received because we were more concerned about providing subsidies to the rich.

To add insult to injury, the proposed stadium would be located even closer to the river, adding to future flood damages that will have to be paid for by tax payers.

Flooding affected almost every major artery into St. Louis; highways 44, 55 and 70 have been partially closed because of flooding. Even before flooding, MoDot had already expressed they didn't have the necessary funding to do required maintenance and repairs. Major roadways and highways will certainly be damaged by flood water adding additional repairs to MoDot's strained budget. SeeList of area roads closed due to high water

As I've stated previously, paying hundreds of millions of dollars for private projects for the rich do not make sense. Some ordinary hard-working people will lose everything they own and unfortunately many of them will discover that there are no available public funds to assist them; because we have committed so much to make certain that wealthy sport franchise owners get their share of public money through a reverse Robin Hood tax scheme.

I wonder if the governor, legislators and aldermen who fought so hard for stadium financing will fight as hard to find public money to assist those the ordinary people, that elected them into office, who are affected by the flood.

I suspect that low-interest loans that must be paid back will be available, but many flood victims will not receive the same sort of non-repayable subsidies that is proposed to be given to the wealthy.

How Did Your Alderperson Vote on Stadium Financing?

Below is video of the  December 18, 2015 Board of Aldermen session that voted 17 to 10 to approve stadium financing. The actual vote process begins at 2:16:50 in the timeline. See how your alderperson voted.

The law making body of the City of St. Louis is the Board of Aldermen. There are twenty-eight aldermen, one from each ward in the City and a President. The Board of Aldermen meet every Friday except during summer recess and on holidays. At these sessions, the Aldermen present the First Readings of a resolutionor new board bill and discuss issues raised in these pending bills.

You can now view recordings of the Full Meetings and the Committee Meetings on YouTube.

St. Louis Stadium Corruption

On December 10th, in reaction to proposed stadium financing, St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green made the following statement:

“The deal cutting, bribery, and [corruption] at City Hall will never cease to amaze me", she later referred to the situation as “legalized bribery,” and stated, “And just because something is legal in MO doesn’t mean it’s ethical”.

See the article:  St. Louis alderman alleges 'bribery' and 'corruption' in stadium vote.

I was not very familiar with Megan Green, so I did some light research; including searching news reports about her, reading her personal website, Facebook,  Linkedin  and Twitter accounts. Some news articles about Ms. Green are listed below:

Below is a video of her explaining her background, last year, when she was a running for office.

Below is another video of Ms. Green responding last year to crime and the Ferguson protests.

My research didn't reveal any thing I could cite as negative. Megan Green appears to be intelligent, committed and open minded. So far, I like what I see and Ms. Green seems sincere and genuine.

Today the post dispatch reports, Lewis Reed considering reprimand of St. Louis alderman over stadium flap.

The Post article mentions that neither the St. Louis Police or FBI have substantiated the allegations. Unsubstantiated allegations do not mean that corruption did not occur. One of the primary reason for the existence of Court.rchp.com is St. Louis' Culture of Corruption.

Reed reportedly stated, "She clearly has lied about this," …. "Something needs to happen. The board, universally, is really upset about it". However, without proof that she lied, statements about her lying are equally unsubstantiated. The irony is that Lewis Reed endorsed Megan Green during her candidacy.

Is it really unreasonable to believe that corruption surrounds a billion dollar project? Unless this alderwoman has a history of lying; which I find no evidence of, I see no reason not to take her at her word.

I don't personally know Mr. Reed, he seems to have integrity and I have mostly liked what I have seen and heard about him publicly and I have voted for him in the past. Although, he may honestly believe everything is being done ethically and legally, I'm not ready to totally dismiss Ms. Green's statements.

Corruption may not always be obvious and can come in many forms including:

  • Outright monetary bribes
  • Campaign financial support
  • Employment opportunities
  • Travel or other perks
  • Book deals with large advances
  • Hugh public speaking fees
  • Appointment to higher office or corporate boards
  • The list could go on and on

Maybe I'm biased, I don't believe it is smart or in the public interest to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of public money on a private stadium, especially when a perfectly good stadium already exists. St. Louis has infrastructure in disrepair, crime, homelessness, and variety of other issues public money would be better be spent on.

Dangerous Racist and Religious Propaganda

A husband and wife couple, who happened to be Muslim, killed 14 people and wound 22 during a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015, the deadliest such tragedy in three years.

Donald Trump has suggested banning Muslims from our country by spewing vicious propaganda in reaction to the shooting tragedy. Surprisingly 25% of surveyed Americans and 38% of GOP primary voters agree with him. Trump's rhetoric and ideology is reminiscent  of "slavery back in effect".

One of this country's founding principles is freedom of religion, which is enshrined in the first amendment. Even if you dismiss that principal, the logic of Trump's proposal and those that agree with him is flawed.

Are all white people the same? Are all black people the same? Are all Christians the same? Are all Muslims the same?

The answer to all of those questions is NO!

People are individuals with individual characteristics. Even my two sons who live within the same household, raised by the same parents are as different as night and day. One is religious, the other not so much, one is athletic, the other not so much, one is small the other large, one is very social and outgoing, the other more reserved and quiet, one is silly the other one more serious and the list could go on and on. Of course, as I have mentioned before, they also have many similar traits such as intelligence, kindness, likability,  being respectful, love of music, travel, family and friends and again the list could go on and on.

As of December 2nd, 353 mass shootings have killed 462 and wounded 1,317 people in 220 cities, according to the website shootingtracker.com. The majority of the shooters were Young White Christian Males rather than Muslim.

However, no one would dare suggest banning Christians or even profiling young White males. White privilege prevents most people from even considering the profiling of white males. But as soon as the perpetrator is someone other than White, the discussion changes and stereotypes and prejudices are introduced.

Whenever I hear a person make racist or derogatory statements against a whole group of people based on stereotypes, I realize that person probably expresses similar sentiments about the group I belong too. A person making generalized negative comments to me about one group is probably making negative comments about my group to others.

As expressed in an earlier post, "First They Came", once we allow the unreasonable exclusion or discrimination of one group, it makes it much more easier to discriminate against the next group. Eventually, the discrimination may reach you or one of your family members or friends. And if you don't speak up for others, you can't expect others to speak up for you.


For additional information; see the articles:

White Middle Class Fatigue

As I watched the August 6, 2015, episode of DonnyBrook, the phrase, "white middle-class fatigue" was mentioned at about 2:30 in the timeline. Evidently, many people are tired of hearing about injustices, discrimination, and oppression endured by people of color. A quote by Barbara Smith – "For those of you who are tired of hearing about racism, imagine how much more tired we are constantly experiencing it", which summarizes how I felt when I heard the then unfamiliar phrase, white middle-class fatigue. 

It's foolish to let your oppressor tell you that you should forget about the oppression that they inflicted upon you. I am not indicting people for the sins or acts of their ancestors, but many people today benefit from those sins. Land that was stolen and wealth that was accumulated was passed down and provided advantages to succeeding generations of European Americans; while decimating native, enslaved and oppressed populations. See The Unequal Opportunity Race.

 

I assume white middle-class fatigue is one of the contributing factors why comments from Donald Trump stating he doesn't have the time to be politically correct resonates with so many people. White privilege allows Trump to make statements such as, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.….They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”  Many of the Mexicans crossing the borders are actually crossing land that had previous been stolen by the U.S. during the Mexican Session of 1848. 

 

So when Trump calls Mexicans crossing the border are mostly criminals, he should take a closer look at U.S. history and consider one of history's greatest land thefts of First Nation Peoples. This country was built on the theft of human lives, resources, and land. The success that our country enjoys today is based upon that theft. Trump's statements reminded me of an ad campaign about discrimination of another people native to their land which was stolen by new settlers. The subject of the ad campaign was discrimination of Australia's indigenous population, however, the theme could just as easily be applied to any group that is discriminated against. 

Political correctness is a term used to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. When objectionable language is directed toward you, it is considered offensive, but when it's directed toward others, I guess that's when it's considered an issue of political correctness. 

Many people seem to think that the past has no effect upon the present or the future. The past is foundational and effects people and communities just as the quality of a building's foundation effects how well it endures over time. If a person's grandfather was relatively well off, not rich, but firmly part of the middle class, he most likely provided a decent education for his son and the son stood a good chance of going to college. That son would then most likely surpass his father in economic status and the grandchild would possibly get an even better education than both the parent and grandparent. In addition, when the grandparents and parents die, their accumulation of property passes down, enriching the grandson even more. Multiply this by 350 years of slavery, then by another 90 years of Jim Crow plus factor in the destruction of black wealth and discriminatory legislation and it's easy to see how white families are worth 20 times that of black families. A cartoon, "The Unequal Opportunity Race" does an excellent job of expressing this point.

 

Dr. Claud Anderson discusses the sentiments expressed by The Unequal Opportunity Race cartoon in his lecture, The Truth About Slavery.

It's unfortunate that when people who have been oppressed both socially and within statutory codes of law, that others feel fatigue by their efforts to secure better circumstances for themselves.