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Dueling Memes on Black Murder

Conservatives, vested in racism, always want to start any discussion having to do with the black community on a standard set of racist memes..black-on-black crime, illegitimacy, poverty…

It is, after all, all The Great Society’s fault.

Such racial histrionics stymie any conversation, and derail any substantive effort to attack either the structural or micro-cultural issues at the base of the gun violence issue.

Quite frankly, I am hoping this election cycle ends up in a landslide for Democrats, destroying the Republican Party. Not that the timid-tabby Democrats, replete with their own Closet-Queen bigots, and Blue Mutts are any better. It is just that they are likely to GTF out of the way, instead of actively submarining and resisting community or local efforts.

What Black Americans Say About ‘Black-on-Black’ Gun Violence

We understand that police violence and gun crimes are two parts of the same systemic problem. If only news media saw that, too.

Over Memorial Day weekend, at least 69 people were shot in Chicago. If past trends continue, most of them are people of color. Mass shootings in places like Newtown, Aurora, and San Bernardino grab national attention, but gun violence is a regular part of life in many communities of color. Among boys and men ages 15-34, for example, African Americans are over 20 times more likely than whites to be victims of gun homicide.

While more attention to gun violence in communities of color is sorely needed, too often existing coverage focuses on “black-on-black” dysfunction rather than structural causes and potential solutions.

A recent New York Times story provides an example. “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, but America is Not Listening” chronicled the victims of 358 shootings with four or more deaths or injuries. Many stemmed from arguments over a petty grievance, an insult, or another sign of disrespect. The story emphasized the “black-on-black” nature of gun violence, and suggested black activists expend too much energy protesting police violence against African Americans and too little energy focused on “routine gun violence.” While the story’s narrative describing the death of an innocent bystander put a compelling face on statistics, the story did not offer meaningful solutions.

The problem of gun violence stems not just from petty grievances among impulsive youth of color, however, but from larger structural issues such as credibility of law enforcement, easy access to guns, and a lack of job skills and opportunities. Communities of color care about both gun violence and police violence. Further, communities of color are not simply sources of problems—they also provide important solutions.

Last month, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Urban Institute, and the Joyce Foundation released Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities. Our research debunked the notion that African Americans are less attentive to the problem of gun violence than police violence.

In compiling this report, we brought together and listened to residents of communities hard-hit by gun violence—faith leaders, formerly incarcerated individuals, law enforcement, elected officials, social service providers, community activists, and others. Most of the participants were black or Latino—people like Fathers & Families of San Joaquin Executive Director Sammy Nunez; Petersburg, Virginia, Police Chief John Dixon; and Wanda Montgomery of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Others were members of our steering committee and have devoted their careers to building safer communities—people like Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Rev. Michael McBride of PICO National Network; and Kayla Hicks of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. We then tested the ideas that emerged against a nationwide survey of 600 African Americans and 600 Latinos conducted by Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) and Ron Lester and Associates.

While about half of African Americans we surveyed nationally described police brutality (54 percent) and police misconduct (50 percent) in America as extremely serious problems, 80 percent of African Americans described gun violence in America as an extremely serious problem. Indeed, rather than discounting gun violence or seeing it in a silo isolated from police violence, many African Americans see the problems as interconnected. For example, 61 percent of African Americans agreed with the statement that “fewer guns on the streets would improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.”

Similarly, the communities with which we met thought improving police-community relationships was a key factor in reducing gun violence. Distrust that stems from arbitrary stops and discriminatory enforcement makes residents less willing to work with police, and makes communities less safe.

Solutions put forth by community members were supported by the survey research. Over 90 percent of African Americans and Latinos supported strengthening police accountability through civilian review boards, body-worn cameras, and racial bias assessment and training of police (including new recruits). Over 76 percent of both groups support prioritizing enforcement on higher-level gun violence offenders rather than lower-level “broken windows” offenders.

Community members also emphasized other solutions that address structural factors that underlie gun violence.

For example, community residents recommended limiting access to guns by the small group of people at high risk of engaging in violence—sometimes no more than 0.25 to 1 percent of a city’s population. Rather than looking to greater penalties for handgun possession that could increase mass incarceration, community members emphasized universal background checks, mandatory reporting for lost and stolen firearms, and increased oversight of licensed firearm dealers. Each proposal was supported by over 86 percent of African Americans and Latinos in the survey research. These restrictions are seen as reducing rather than fueling mass incarceration.  About three-quarters of both African Americans and Latinos agreed that “if we keep guns out of the wrong hands, we can also help decrease the number of people who are in prison.”

Community members also recognized that areas hardest hit by gun violence often have suffered disinvestment of resources by companies and the public sector, and that many of those at high risk to commit or to be victimized by gun violence face a lack of job skills and opportunities, addiction, and other challenges. Thus, our report recommends increased investment in social services targeted at high-risk populations and their families, such as drug treatment, mental health services, job training and placement, and conflict interrupters who mediate disputes and discourage retaliation. Over 92 percent of African Americans and over 88 percent of Latinos support solutions like job training, life skills support, and mental health counseling available to young people and people just released from jail or prison.

In addition to these solutions, we heard a deep desire for community members to engage with law enforcement, elected officials, and other community leaders in developing and implementing solutions to gun violence.

While we should be honest and give much-needed attention to gun violence in communities of color, we need to consider all the facts. Focusing largely on shallow black-on-black spats makes gun violence a “black and brown” problem, masks deeper structural causes of gun violence, and obscures the responsibility of all Americans to help solve the problem.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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Cuba and Race

The diaspora after the Cuban Revolution actually did the country a huge favor in terms of race relations. Like other places in Latin America and the Islands who got jobs, ownership of import-export franchises, and business opportunities was largely driven by the racial strata of their chief customer (and sometimes occupier) the United States until late in the 60’s. And that meant the lighter and whiter the better.

As such the Cuban population of first generation refugees look nothing like the population on the Island.

Despite protestations to the contrary, including in the American Press – the Revolution did not entirely kill the Devil. It just drove it underground and made it a bit more nefarious.

One of the major issues of rapprochement, either by the US or European countries is who specifically will benefit from the emerging tourism and product marketplaces. And whether the “new invasion” of foreigners will apply or wittingly or unwittingly support the old color structure. I would guess there is some trepidation in welcoming the Cuban-American diaspora back.

The diaspora aren’t going to be real high on the list for either this, or the next Democrat President, because they, alone among Hispanic and Latino groups in the country have been a reliable voting block for Republicans.

Cuba Says It Has Solved Racism. Obama Isn’t So Sure.

President Obama spoke of his Kenyan heritage. He talked about how both the United States and Cuba were built on the backs of slaves from Africa. He mentioned that not very long ago, his parents’ marriage would have been illegal in America, and he urged Cubans to respect the power of protest to bring about equality.

“We want our engagement to help lift up Cubans who are of African descent,” he said, “who have proven there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.”

Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday, in an ornate Spanish colonial-style hall in Havana, was not only strikingly personal. It was also an unusually direct engagement with race, a critical and unresolved issue in Cuban society that the revolution was supposed to have erased.

For many Cubans, Mr. Obama’s comments were striking for their acknowledgment of racism in both countries. His remarks served as a reminder that their particular kinship with him — as reflected in dozens of conversations and responses to his history-making three-day visit this week — involves not just policy, but also identity.

“It’s a revolution,” said Alberto González, 44, a baker who was one of the few Afro-Cubans to attend a discussion with the president about entrepreneurship on Monday. “It’s a revolution for everyone with a background descended from Africa.”

Defensiveness has long hovered over the subject of race, in part because Fidel Castro said shortly after the revolution that racism had been solved, making the subject taboo.

The discomfort, in part, came from pride: Some of the revolution’s most visible achievements involved ending institutionalized segregation, at beach clubs, at schools and in neighborhoods where the homes of wealthy white Cubans who fled were often given to Cubans of color.

Socialized medicine and education also helped create a society more deeply shaped by interracial interactions and marriages than the United States.

And yet, Cuba is no more postracial than anywhere else. Many Afro-Cubans in Cuba and abroad have been quick to point out that the presence of Mr. Obama, the first black president of the United States, only highlights that the Cuban government does not reflect the demographics of their country.

On an island that is around two-thirds black and mixed race, according to a 2007 study by the Cuban economist Esteban Morales Domínguez, the civil and public leadership is about 70 percent white. He also found that most scientists, technicians and university professors, up to 80 percent in some fields, were white.

“The images of the meetings, the agreements, they’re all shameful for many black Cubans — I’m including myself in this — because it’s difficult to feel represented,” said Odette Casamayor-Cisneros, an associate professor of Latin American and Caribbean literatures and cultures at the University of Connecticut and a scholar at Harvard University.

She added that elements of Mr. Obama’s trip reflected some of the same dynamics: The Cuban-Americans traveling with the president were nearly all white, as were the Cuban officials who interacted with him on the island. Indeed, much of the audience for his speech on Tuesday was white.

In that context, the president — along with his wife, daughters and mother-in-law, who joined him on the trip — offers a clear contrast.

“What you see is confirmation of black empowerment, which has generally been denied in Cuban society,” Ms. Casamayor-Cisneros said. “For black Cubans, the mere existence of Obama is unusual and overwhelmingly symbolic.”

Some Afro-Cubans, like the hip-hop artist known as Soandry, linked the president to “what can be achieved in a capitalist system.”

Other Cubans brought up race more directly, without prompting, arguing that because Mr. Obama is African-American, he understands their country.

Mr. González, whose bakery counter is adorned with photographs of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, said it was not just the president whom people admire. “Look at that family,” he said, smiling broadly. “Can you imagine? Have you ever seen a more beautiful family?”

The challenge, Mr. González and other Cubans said, is turning that inspiration into something more substantial, starting with a more open conversation about race….Read The Rest Here

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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