Category Archives: Blacks

Lead Astray: New Evidence Links Children with Higher Lead Exposure to School Suspensions and Juvenile Detention

When people are in pain or suffering from illness, they are more likely to act in destructive ways that carry negative consequences for both themselves and others. Children are particularly susceptible as they act out when agitated or unhealthy, a plight exacerbated by their common inability to articulate their feelings in a more constructive way.

A recent report authored by economists Anna Aizer and Janet Currie and published in the National Bureau of Economic Research confirms this link between illness and negative outcomes for school children. The working paper, titled “Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records,” covers new ground by tracking individual children over time to assess the relationship between lead exposure and juvenile behavior. Using relevant data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, the study found strong evidence linking those with higher exposures to lead with a substantially increased probability of school suspensions and juvenile detention.

Given school discipline is commonly administered in a racially disparate manner— and poor and African-American children are more likely to reside in old houses with chipped lead-based paint and neighborhoods with compromised soil— the implications of the study are troubling.

“A huge percentage of the problem resides in populations that oftentimes are invisible,” says Dr. Robert Bullard, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University. A prolific author commonly recognized as “the father of environmental justice,” Bullard says this lack of visibility represents how “the vast majority of this country really doesn’t have to deal with lead or address it on a daily basis” so it “tends to be minimized. But this does not detract from the fact that it’s real and very deadly for lots of children in this country.”

To drive home the racially skewed nature of the lead issue, Bullard draws an analogy with drugs in America. “For many years, drugs were in the African-American community and it was treated as a crime,” he says. “But as soon as white folks start overdosing and getting hooked on opioids, it then becomes a health problem. Lead is the same way.”

For those paying attention, what’s clear is the damage lead exposure causes in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “There is no known identified safe blood lead level.” Even at lower levels, the toxic metal can cause “damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems (e.g., reduced IQ, ADHD, juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior) and hearing and speech problems.”

Though some still believe lead poisoning is an issue that ended with the 20th century, Bullard notes how the Flint water crisis prompted “the rediscovery of this problem. And when they started reexamining what was happening not just in Flint, but across this country, it was revealed that Flint was not the only place that had problems.”

Bullard clarifies how such problems spawn others. Lead is not just an environmental and health problem, he contends, “It is also a societal problem in that it creates this challenge for children and young people to conform to the rules of our society. Anytime you have children of color that are disproportionately impacted by lead, and anytime you have behavior problems within these children, they are definitely going to be targeted for suspension and for the criminal justice system.”

Still, while such linkages between lead and poor behavior in children had been suspected for years, getting the actual data to nudge this strong hypothesis toward the realm of science was far from easy. The federal government banned lead-based paint in 1978 and phased out leaded gasoline soon after, so the vast majority of states, 40 altogether, don’t currently require blood-lead tests for children. For the ones that do, identification and compliance is an issue given most children exposed to lead reside in disadvantaged environments with poor services. And even when a child is tested, if the blood is not drawn at the right time or in the right manner, this can further compromise the process.”

Nonetheless, researchers Aizer and Currie not only documented the link between lead and school suspensions, they found the suspended children were also 10 times more likely to end up in juvenile detention. The implications are dire given recent studies reveal over 3000 water systems across the country with documented lead problems.

“At the same time, the EPA, with the current Trump budget, is cutting the lead prevention program’s budget by over $17 million,” laments Bullard. “It’s almost like the EPA is saying ‘We don’t have a problem, so we can cut that.’ That’s the kind of mentality that really makes it difficult to develop proactive policies to prevent children from being poisoned.”

The current administration’s stance becomes even more tragic upon considering, of all of the intractable and seemingly incurable problems facing government here in the 21st century, the lead problem is actually winnable.

“Lead poisoning is still the No. 1 environmental threat to children and it is preventable,” says Bullard, stressing “this is not something that has to happen.”

“So, it makes a whole lot of sense if we invest in prevention,” he continues, noting it will pay off “when it comes to kids succeeding in our educational systems and not being pushed into our criminal justice system, which is much more expensive and damaging to our society.”

By D. Amari Jackson/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

James Baldwin FBI Files: How the Author’s Fearlessness Led to a Decade Long Witch-hunt

One of the many paradoxes of American society is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has become both destroyer and archivists of 20th-century American radicalism. It has consistently provided to the public the intellectually sexiest of all public government documents — an FBI file on the life of an American radical. The bureau’s counter-intelligence program (COINTEL-PRO), a division of the FBI that spied on and attempted to disrupt and destroy American radical movements from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, produced tons of paper that scholars and others have asked for, read and studied for the past 40 years.

Enter William Maxwell, a major scholar of the FBI and Black literature. In his new book, he shows that from the 1960s through the mid-1970s, the bureau treated James Baldwin, the Negro writer, as a “civil rights VIP” because the author and activist was at the crossroads of every shade of Black American activism of that period — Martin Luther King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the radical Black leftist Robert Williams, the Nation of Islam under Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, and the Black Panther Party. Because he kept this level of company and integrity, the FBI put Baldwin in its “Independent Black Nationalist Extremist” category.

The book shows not only how the novelist was monitored by the FBI, but how Baldwin, who often claimed in interviews and speeches that he knew that the bureau and the Central Intelligence Agency were stalking him, fought back by publicly claiming he was going to write about the bureau’s devilish acts. The intellectual’s public threat enraged FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who had become one of the most powerful men in 20th-century America by mastering the sinister art of spying and disruption. Baldwin referred to Hoover as “history’s most highly paid (and most utterly useless) voyeur.”

“James Baldwin: The FBI File” is exciting and humorous in all the right and wrong historical ways. The disturbing civil liberties and privacy issues aside, it is always historically entertaining to see how afraid and ignorant white authorities were of Black people, particularly Black activists. One burst-out-laughing moment was when one agent described Baldwin’s elegant, flamboyant diction as a French accent. “Both uncloseted homosexuality and open criticism of the FBI were capital offenses in Hoover’s extra-legal criminal code,” reminds Maxwell, “and Baldwin was especially suspect for combining them in one super-articulate package. … The more Baldwin spoke out against FBI failings, the more dangerous he was judged and the more starkly this tension was set: one of America’s greatest living writers was also one of America’s most wanted.”

Baldwin made statements in these pages that in 2017 would get him banned from sitting on an MSNBC live roundtable but would get detailed negative coverage from Fox News. In a summary report, the FBI took the writer/activist’s quotes from a 1963 Washington, D.C., newspaper account of him speaking at Howard: “I wonder how long we can endure — stand and not fight back. … Many … even members of my own family who would think nothing of picking up arms tomorrow.” He was not afraid to often say that it was revolution that the United States needed — and not the mostly symbolic, electoral one Bernie Sanders is talking about today. One of Baldwin’s softer statements, translated from French, states, “We represent around 10 percent of the American population. Without talking about starting a revolution, it is certainly enough to destroy society.”

The bureau, which also created internal reviews of Baldwin’s books, officially gave up harassing the writer in 1974. Wrote Maxwell: “The nearly 2,000-page Bureau biography of Baldwin that took off with his speech before the Liberation Committee for Africa in 1961 thus landed with a whimper, a delisting rather [than] an arrest, an escape or a hard-to-imagine conversion to Hooverism.”

Like his Black activist contemporaries, Baldwin’s FBI files remind the reader how powerful Black activism was before it was co-opted by desegregation, Corporate America, the Democratic Party, the expansion of local and national broadcasting and film (and now, social media), and white nonprofit grant givers. That time’s political and social improvisation, along with the audacity of optimistic public self-determination, well documented here, makes the spirit hum.

Not surprisingly, this story of FBI easedropping doesn’t hide the movement infighting. Reading about how Stanley Levinson, Dr. King’s (white) leftist aide and ghostwriter, used the homophobic card in attacking Baldwin for saying (white) liberals were partly responsible for the bombing of the four little girls in a Birmingham, Ala., Baptist church, was fascinating. (Hoover, who saw Baldwin as both militant Black terrorist and homosexual pervert, enjoyed that tidbit.) The reports remind us now in 2017 how angry and militant Black activists were after that bombing.

The book’s major disappointment, however, is that the publisher, literally photocopying the bureau’s file, didn’t take the time, spend the money or make the effort to digitally clear up the unnecessarily unreadable English-language articles and translate the French interviews included. Even if this scholarly book supposedly triples as a coffee-table text and an advertisement for the author’s historically significant website archiving the FBI files of major Black American writers, Arcade’s refusal to do the extra work makes the total product pointlessly annoying; the author should be slightly embarrassed. Showcasing the powerful, public resistance of this world-historical figure should involve the most effort possible, because his words, public associations and open-air acts were so brave, bold and inspiring. No idea, no statement, should be left undocumented, untranslated and unanalyzed. History demands better, and Maxwell and Arcade know that and should have done better.

Maxwell, who correctly describes the FBI’s COINTEL-PRO files as “strange documents of both literally criticism and secret police work,” is yet another intellectual who has taken the academic field of Baldwin Studies a significant public step toward the full biographies that will one day exist now that Baldwin’s family has finally released much of his papers to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “James Baldwin: The FBI File” includes a particularly powerful introduction by Maxwell comparing Baldwin’s public work and government harassment to the largely Facebooked and Tweeted, and therefore heavily monitored, Black Lives Matter movement: “Likely the single thing that Hoover’s bureau shares with Black Lives Matter, in fact, is the once-uncommon judgment that Baldwin was the ’60s’ most significant Black author.”

This collection of documents reminds Black America what real power looked like and could look like again. It should be experienced along with Raoul Peck’s superb Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” It must be purchased, read, passed around Black America and discussed in and out of the classroom immediately. Maxwell should be congratulated for allowing the reader, the recipient of Baldwin’s life and work, to read (into) the raw rage and fear of those faraway, somewhen days and nights filled with revolutionary fervor — that powerful time the pen and the sword threatened to merge.

By Todd Burroughs/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Taking on the Alt-Reich

Hitler’s American Model: the United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, by James Q. Whitman, brings into full view the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924’s place in the context of Nazi theory and practice, writes Scott McLemee.

Finding himself in prison following the beer-hall fiasco in Munich in 1923, Adolf Hitler had time to put his thoughts about politics and destiny into order, at least as much as that was possible. The United States was part of his grand vision, and not as someplace to conquer.

“The racially pure and still unmixed German has risen to become master of the American continent,” he wrote in Mein Kampf, “and he will remain the master, as long as he does not fall victim to racial pollution.” He was encouraged on the latter score by what he had learned of American immigration policy. With its stated preference for Northern Europeans, its restrictions on those from Southern and Eastern Europe, and its outright exclusion of everyone else, the Immigration Act of 1924 impressed Hitler as exemplary. It manifested, “at least in tentative first steps,” what he and his associates saw as “the characteristic völkisch conception of the state,” as defined in some detail by the Nazi Party Program of 1920.

Revulsion is an understandable response to this little traipse through the ideological sewer, but it is wholly inadequate for assessing the full measure of the facts or their implications. The admiration for American immigration policy expressed in Mein Kampf was not a passing thought on the day’s news (Hitler had been in prison for about two months when Calvin Coolidge signed the act into law) nor a one-off remark. Its place in the full context of Nazi theory and practice comes into view in Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton University Press) by James Q. Whitman, a professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School.

Many people will take the very title as an affront. But it’s the historical reality the book discloses that proves much harder to digest. The author does not seem prone to sensationalism. The argument is made in two succinct, cogent and copiously documented chapters, prefaced and followed with remarks that remain within the cooler temperatures of expressed opinion (e.g.: “American contract law, for example, is, in my opinion, exemplary in its innovativeness”).

Hitler’s American Model is scholarship and not an editorial traveling incognito. Its pages contain many really offensive statements about American history and its social legacy. But those statements are all from primary sources — statements about America, made by Nazis, usually in the form of compliments.

“The most important event in the history of the states of the Second Millennium — up until the [First World] War — was the founding of the United States of America,” wrote a Nazi historian in 1934. “The struggle of the Aryans for world domination thereby received its strongest prop.” Another German author developed the point two years later, saying that “a conscious unity of the white race would never have emerged” without American leadership on the global stage following the war.

Examples could be multiplied. The idea of the United States as a sort of alt-Reich was a Nazi commonplace, at least in the regime’s early years. But it was not just a matter of following Hitler’s lead. The white-supremacist and eugenicist writings of Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard — among the best-selling American authors of a 100 years ago — circulated in translation in the milieu that spawned Hitler. (I don’t recall Hannah Arendt mentioning Grant or Stoddard in Origins of Totalitarianism, oddly enough.) A popular Nazi magazine praised lynching as “the natural resistance of the Volk to an alien race that is attempting to gain the upper hand.” European visitors noted the similarity between the Ku Klux Klan and fascist paramilitary groups like the Brownshirts, and they compared the post-Reconstruction order in the South to the Nazi system.

But the journalistic analogies and propaganda talking points of the day, while blatant enough, don’t convey the depth of American influence on Nazi race law. The claim of influence runs against the current of much recent scholarship arguing that Nazi references to the Jim Crow system were “few and fleeting” and that American segregation laws had little or no impact on the Nuremberg Laws. (At the Nuremberg rally of 1935, the Nazis proclaimed citizenship limited to those “of German blood, or racially related blood” and outlawed marriage or sexual relations between Jews and German citizens.)

While the Nazis did call attention to segregation in the United States — so the argument goes — it was to deflect criticism of German policy. The error here, as Whitman sees it, comes from treating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson as the primary or quintessential legal component of racial oppression in the United States, and presumably the one Nazi jurists would have looked to in reshaping German policy. But, according to Whitman, “American race law” in the 19th and much of the 20th century:

sprawled over a wide range of technically distinct legal areas … [including] Indian law, anti-Chinese and -Japanese legislation, and disabilities in civil procedure and election law …. Anti-miscegenation laws on the state level featured especially prominently … [as] did immigration and naturalization law on the federal level ….

Even before the outbreak of World War I, German scholars were fascinated by this teeming mass of American racist law — with a particular interest in what one of them identified as a new category of “subjects without citizenship rights” (or second-class citizens, to put it another way) defined by race or country of ancestry. By the 1930s, the anti-miscegenation laws in most American states were another topic of great concern. While many countries regarded interracial marriage as undesirable, Nazi jurists “had a hard time uncovering non-American examples” of statutes prohibiting it.

A stenographic transcript from 1934 provides Whitman’s most impressive evidence of how closely Nazi lawyers and functionaries had studied American racial jurisprudence. A meeting of the Commission on Criminal Law Reform “involved repeated and detailed discussion of the American example, from its very opening moments,” Whitman writes, including debate between Nazi radicals and what we’d have to call, by default, Nazi moderates.

The moderates argued that legal tradition required consistency. Any new statute forbidding mixed-race marriages had to be constructed in accord with the one existing precedent for treating a marriage as criminal: the law against bigamy. This would have been a bit of a stretch, and the moderates preferred letting the propaganda experts discourage interracial romance rather than making it a police matter.

The radicals were working from a different conceptual tool kit. Juristic tradition counted for less than what Hitler had called the “völkisch conception of the state,” which demanded Aryan supremacy and racial purity. It made more sense to them to follow an example that had been tried and tested. One of the hard-core Nazis on the commission knew where to turn:

Now as far as the delineation of the race concept goes, it is interesting to take a look at the list of American states. Thirty of the states of the union have race legislation, which, it seems clear to me, is crafted from the point of view of race protection. … I believe that apart from the desire to exclude if possible a foreign political influence that is becoming too powerful, which I can imagine is the case with regard to the Japanese, this is all from the point of race protection.

The lawyers whom Whitman identifies as Nazi radicals seemed to appreciate how indifferent the American states were to German standards of rigor. True, the U.S. laws showed a lamentable indifference to Jews and Gentiles marrying. But otherwise they were as racist as anything the führer could want. “The image of America as seen through Nazi eyes in the early 1930s is not the image we cherish,” Whitman writes, “but it is hardly unrecognizable.”

By Scott McLemee/InsideHigherED

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Racial Bias, Perceptions of Law Enforcement, Legal Standards Make Police Convictions Nearly Impossible

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — In the three years since fatal police shootings of unarmed Black people launched the Black Lives Matter movement, few officers have been charged and none has been convicted by juries in those deaths.

Experts cite a confluence of factors, including racial bias, attitudes toward law enforcement and the challenge of showing precisely what an officer was thinking in a high-pressure situation. In the end, many jurors are simply reluctant to reject the accounts provided by police.

“They just don’t want to second-guess officers in those life-or-death decisions,” said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “They think, ‘What if that was me? What if that was my child who was the police officer?’”

A jury last week acquitted the Minnesota officer who fatally shot Philando Castile, whose girlfriend live streamed the moments after the shooting on Facebook. Then on Wednesday, jurors acquitted a Black police officer of first-degree reckless homicide in the killing of a Black Milwaukee man who threw away the gun he was carrying during a brief foot chase after a traffic stop.

Meanwhile, a jury in Cincinnati is scheduled to deliberate for a fourth day Thursday in the second trial of Ray Tensing, a white former University of Cincinnati officer charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. He shot Sam DuBose, an unarmed Black driver, during a 2015 traffic stop. The first trial in November ended with a hung jury.

A closer look at some factors that work against the prosecution or conviction of officers:

RACIAL BIAS

Studies have shown conscious and unconscious fear of African-American men plays out in numerous ways, including in exchanges between police and Blacks.

“People think that Black men are violent and dangerous,” said Georgetown University professor and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler. “What the law does is respond to that fear by trying to contain the threat. The issue is always, ‘Did the police act reasonably?’”

When the question is put before a jury, jurors must decide whether it was reasonable for an officer to think his or her life was in danger.

“That bias makes it much more reasonable to think that the Black man posed a threat,” Butler said.

PERCEPTIONS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

Race also plays a role in how people view the role of police. A recent Pew survey found that fewer than half of Blacks surveyed felt the police did an excellent or good job of protecting people from crime compared with nearly 80 percent of whites.

The same poll found that 75 percent of whites believed police used the right amount of force for each situation compared with 33 percent of Blacks, and that 70 percent of whites believed the law holds officers accountable when misconduct occurs compared with 31 percent of Blacks.

“Policing is structured in a way that favors the officer over the civilian,” said Sam Sinyangwe, co-founder of Campaign Zero, which seeks to reduce police killings. “In many ways, the laws and institutions that have been created in this country have been in the context of those beliefs. It’s not a coincidence that those two things align.”

A conviction on charges of homicide or murder often requires prosecutors to establish the suspect’s intent, which can be difficult in the split-second exchanges between police and civilians.

Many police shooting trials center on a self-defense strategy. Stinson found that almost 40 percent of cases in which officers were charged with murder or manslaughter since 2005 ended in mistrials or acquittals when officers testified they feared for their lives.

“It’s about your character, about what you meant to do,” said Phil Goff, president and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity. “These are not officers who got up that day looking to shoot Black people.”

In Tensing’s trials, both sides called use-of-force experts and other witnesses to testify about police training. The prosecution said Tensing could have de-escalated the situation and did not need to shoot. Defense witnesses said officers are trained to “stop the threat” if they believe they are in danger.

Tensing, 27, testified in both trials, tearfully saying that he feared he could be dragged or run over as DuBose tried to drive away from what began as a stop for missing a front license plate.

“I meant to stop the threat,” he told jurors Friday. “I didn’t shoot to kill him. I didn’t shoot to wound him. I shot to stop his actions.”

A video-analysis expert hired by prosecutors said his frame-by-frame review of the former officer’s body camera video showed Tensing was not being dragged by the car.

In her closing argument Monday, prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid said Tensing repeatedly used “stop the threat” and “feared for my life” in his testimony as “buzzwords” he learned in training to justify the shooting.

Donyetta Bailey, president of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati, said she understands how jurors could have difficulty convicting in some cases. But in others, she added, juries seem to disregard the facts, such as in the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina as he was running away from officers, and in the Castile slaying.

“We don’t view police officers the same in our community,” she said Wednesday. “I think [white jurors] view them as not being capable of any wrong even when the facts … show the other side.”

Some activists and criminal justice reform advocates say there are legal and systemic factors that can predetermine the outcome.

“Law enforcement is one of the most protected groups in our country,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. “We don’t have a judicial system that is set up to hold them accountable.”

From Associated Press

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Lead and the Black Community: How The Flint Water Crises May Be Just the Beginning

Water is essential for life. Without it, the average person would die after four days.

In the aftermath of the Flint, Mich., water crisis, which saw 15 people die and more than 100,000 exposed to lead due to a forced switch of Flint’s water source from the Detroit Water Authority to the Flint River, questions about the health of the nation’s water infrastructure have filled political discussions. The Flint water crisis, which was caused in part due to aged, rusted delivery pipelines, exposed problems that many cities across the United States now have: a delivery infrastructure that has exceeded its utility age and a lack of funding and political will to effectively address the issues.

The long shadow inequality casts on policy making compounds this issue. “Black and Hispanic neighborhoods exhibited extraordinarily high rates of lead toxicity compared to white neighborhoods at the start of our study in 1995, in some cases with prevalence rates topping 90 percent of the child population,” Robert J. Sampson and Alix S. Winter wrote in their 2016 research paper “The Racial Ecology of Lead Poisoning: Toxic Inequality in Chicago Neighborhoods, 1995-2013.”

“Black disadvantage in particular is pronounced not only relative to whites but even relative to Hispanics in every year from 1995-2013. The profound heterogeneity in the racial ecology of what we call toxic inequality is partially attributable to socioeconomic factors, such as poverty and education, and to housing-related factors, such as unit age, vacancy and dilapidation. But controlling these factors, neighborhood prevalence rates of elevated BLL (Blood Lead Levels) remain closely linked to racial and ethnic segregation.”

In cities that have limited resources for infrastructure repairs, the picking of winners and losers has historically fallen upon racial biases, with minority neighborhoods and communities being overlooked in favor for more-affluent communities. As pointed out by the research paper, as white neighborhoods are more likely to gentrify and receive infrastructure repairs than nonwhite neighborhoods, there is a greater risk of lead exposure and prolonged health complications that comes with the water made available in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming that there is no safe identified level of lead for the blood, and with minuscule amounts of lead being shown to affect intelligence, attention span and academic achievement, the question of the safety of the nation’s water has never been so pertinent. With most of the nation’s water-delivery infrastructure compromised and in need of replacement, questions of how these repairs can be made in this current political climate and if these repairs will be equitably allocated remain concerns of both high importance and high complexity

“Racism in regards to water access was certainly a factor of our past. Just look at some places in the South, especially along the Mississippi Delta, where you have white communities side by side with Black communities but the white communities have adequate water infrastructure and the Black communities do not,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director of WE ACT. “That is not the result of the Black communities saying we don’t want water infrastructure, it is a legacy of racial discrimination. If you travel in indigenous land or heavily Latino communities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, you can also see the disparity in water infrastructure.”

Flint

To a certain extent, Flint is your prototypical Northern industrial city. It is the former home of many of General Motor’s facilities, including its headquarters and the majority of its manufacturing plants. Prior to the deindustrialization of the 1960s, Flint was a wealthy city within a stone’s toss of the wealthiest city in the United States during the early part of the 20th century, Detroit.

The downturn of the nation’s industrial base, along with “white flight” and the 1973 oil crisis — which saw a popular switching from American-made car to fuel-efficient Japanese cars — threw Flint into a debt spiral. The result of this was two state-declared financial emergencies.

It was under the second emergency that the water crisis, which has to date led to 17 criminal indictments, several lawsuits, the resignation of a litany of state officials and a federal state of emergency, happened. In an attempt to save money, the state-approved emergency financial manager for Flint approved the adoption of an emergency plan to draw water from the Flint River as the primary water delivery scheme for the city while Flint’s own pipeline to Lake Huron was being completed. Before this, Flint received its water from Detroit, which sourced it from the Detroit River and Lake Huron.

Unfortunately, no one took the time to consider if switching the water supply would change the delivered water’s composition. While the water was treated, it was found that the water was more corrosive than the water received from Detroit. This was the result of bacterial growth from fertilizer and pesticide runoffs and it caused exposed lead in the city’s pipes to bleed into the water.

It would take two years and a MSNBC investigation for the state to admit there was a problem.

While the governor himself has dodged criminal responsibility for now, the crisis gave the Republican administration a black eye. Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells are among those who have been arrested on charges that include involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in office, obstruction of justice and providing false testimony to a special agent.

“We’re getting it right,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said during a meeting with the Detroit Free Press editorial board. “There are voices out there who would like Flint to go away, that it might be inconvenient and Flint should be swept under the rug and there are voices that view Flint as as chessboard and want to see who can take advantage. Both of those voices are incredibly callous.”

Schuette pointed out that racism may have had a role in what happened in Flint. “I think about the Flint where I used to play sports when I’d come from Midland and it was basically all white,” he said. “I think about all those things and I think about my sister [who adopted two mixed-race children] and how it broadened my perspective. I think about all those things when I drive down the road and go into Flint and think about these charges and meet with these people and try to listen.”

Flint is a majority-Black city. The loss of manufacturing jobs led to a mass exodus of the city’s white residents, leaving behind a city that is 56.6-percent African American, 41.2-percent impoverished and with a median household income of $24,862, 50.1 percent of the state’s average of $49,576.

A Crumbling Infrastructure

The nation’s one million miles of drinking water pipes were laid during the first half of the 20thcentury, largely in massive public works projects. While the quality of the drinking water is regarded as being high, the pipe infrastructure carrying this water to the tap is in a state of disrepair, with most of the pipelines having reached the end of their expected lifespans. This results in an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in this country.

The difficulty in bringing the nation’s pipes up to date is typically a monetary one. For most communities, repairs to the water infrastructure is funded by the delivery rate the local community charges water users, along with state funding and federal loan programs such as the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Following the recent Great Recession, the states and local governments deemphasized infrastructure in order to deal with falling tax revenues. From 2009 to 2014, for example, capital spending for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure dropped 22 percent. While federal legislation in 2014 and 2016 has allocated up to $1 billion in credit assistance and $2 billion in water infrastructure investment, it is estimated it will take about $1 trillion over the next 25 years to bring the nation’s water infrastructure up to speed.

The condition of the national water system, as it stands today, is responsible for the average loss of over six billion gallons of drinking water from leakage per day.

Race and Picking Winners

The municipal delivery system, however, is only the public half of the national water delivery system. The other half is what happens after the water crosses the water meter. The responsibility of property owners, the conditions of these pipes — particularly in low-income or impoverished areas — can make a significant difference in the quality of the delivered water.

Prior to efforts in the 1970s to remove the substance, lead was a popular additive due to its molecular density. Lead regularly appeared in paints, plastics, piping, woodwork and other building supplies across the country. In older properties where these lead-based products have not been removed, such as inner-city low-income Black housing, young children may come in contact with this toxic substance daily.

“Right now, most middle-class white families feel relatively immune from the dangers of lead, although the gentrification of old neighborhoods and the renovation of old homes can still expose their children to dangerous levels of lead dust from the old paint on those walls,” David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz wrote for Mother Jones. “However, economically and politically vulnerable Black and Hispanic children, many of whom inhabit dilapidated older housing, still suffer disproportionately from the devastating effects of the toxin. This is the meaning of institutional racism in action today.”

While there is less “winner-picking” involved in the allocation of infrastructure funding today, more affluent or “gentrified” neighborhoods have been the neighborhoods least likely to be affected by lead poisoning. Not only were these communities more likely to receive updates to their infrastructure and receive more attention, such as regular lead testing, the increased demand to live in these areas compelled property owners to make critical improvements to their properties. Owners in non-gentrified properties typically can get away with ignoring these repairs and replacements by offering a cheaper rent.

The net effect of all of this adds up to health crisis for the Black and Hispanic communities. The CDC projects that 11.2 percent of all Black children and 4 percent of Mexican-American children have lead poisoning, compared to just 2.3 percent of white children. With more than half of the residents living within 1.86 miles of toxic waste facilities being Black and with Blacks being almost twice as likely as whites to live within the fence line zone of an industrial facility, African-Americans are uniquely challenged with the health consequences of unhealthy water.

Privatization and Other Options

Finding solutions to fix this may be difficult, primarily because there is not the political will to do it. In 2015, for example, Maryland’s Secretary of Housing, Community and Development Kenneth Holt told an audience at the Maryland Association of Counties that a mother could fake a lead poisoning test for her child by putting a lead fishing weight in the child’s mouth before the test. He made the statement, falsely suggesting that the potential positive test would make a landlord liable for providing the child with housing until the age of 18.

Maryland state law only makes the property owner liable for providing safe lodgings until the lead abatement concludes and Holt himself admitted that he was not speaking from evidence but from what a developer told him was possible.

Resolving the drinking water problem will be a costly, difficult proposition that will leave little for politicians to build political capital on. However, finding a viable solution is a life-or-death proposition.

“Water isn’t very sexy,” Nick Danby wrote for the Harvard Political Review. “Sure, it’s necessary for life, and sometimes threatens life, but there’s no political appeal. Unemployment, terrorism, unions, taxes — those are just a small smorgasbord of hot-button issues that make our partisan and politically charged brains tingle, while water’s controversies merely bore us. The problem, however, is that if our ignorance of water’s contentious situation continues, the four aforementioned political topics will become obsolete — and so will we.”

One suggested possibility is to make the water-delivery system private. In 2014, former President Barack Obama examined the possibility of partnerships between public agencies and private companies to improve the infrastructure problem. Privatization would take this one step farther by allowing municipalities to lease access to the water-delivery infrastructure to private entities, who would then be responsible for any needed upgrades or repairs. These entities would then collect water usage fees directly from the customer.

The challenge in this proposition is whether we are willing to put life-and-death matters into the hands of a business where the first priority is the bottom line.

Whatever solution is found to address this problem, it is important that it is discovered soon and applied quickly. Water is critical for life; only air is more important. The consequences of not being able to have ready access to clean water is one that must be considered and taken seriously in policy planning and in discussions over funding priorities.

For an entire subsection of Americans, the lack of access to safe water means a life subject to crippling physical and mental limitations, all because a politician did not want to spend money on what cannot be seen.

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Fans On Colin Kaepernick’s Statement That Modern Police Forces Derive from Slave Patrols: He’s Right!

Amid news that a Minnesota police officer was acquitted of manslaughter in the killing of Philando Castile, actor Michael B. Jordan and free-agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick have weighed in — and the latter has made a damning declaration.

Jordan posted on Instagram a list of several Black men and women who have been killed at the hands of police without a conviction.

“They want us to feel helpless & right now I feel it,” he wrote Saturday, June 17, before posting a list of questions wondering how to tackle the issue. “I know I’m going to be a part of the change, and not just today, every day until we see real change … I am Philando Castile.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVddgPNBosX/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=7&wp=640#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A1346.63%7D

Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath of Officer Jeronimo Yanez shooting the motorist after he reached to show Yanez his gun registration. Castile bled out in front of his girlfriend and her daughter and outrage poured in from around the nation.

Kaepernick looked at the historical implications of yet another police officer being acquitted over the killing of a Black person, comparing present-day cops to the slave patrols first developed in Carolina colony in 1704, according to Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D. professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Justice and Safety.

View image on Twitter

A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!

I think @Kaepernick7 has done a lot of good. Comparing cops to the slave patrol is where he loses me. No better than wearing the pig socks.

More from A Moore/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ex-Seattle Police Chief Condemns Systemic Police Racism Dating Back to Slave Patrols

On Wednesday, President Obama met at the White House with law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders. President Obama hosted the meeting one week after the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and the killing of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas. While the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile made national headlines, they were not isolated incidents. According to a count by The Guardian, at least 37 people have been killed by police in the United States so far this month. That’s more than the total number of people killed by police in Britain since the year 2000. Overall, police in the United States have killed a total of 585 people so far this year. We speak to former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, author of the new book “To Protect and to Serve: How to Fix America’s Police.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: On Wednesday, President Obama met at the White House with law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders. President Obama hosted the meeting one week after the police—fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and the killing of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The roots of the problems we saw this week date back not just decades, date back centuries. There are cultural issues, and there are issues of race in this country, and poverty and a whole range of problems that will not be solved overnight. But what we can do is to set up the kinds of respectful conversations that we’ve had here, not just in Washington, but around the country, so that we institutionalize a process of continually getting better.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: While the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile made national headlines, they were not isolated incidents. According to a count by The Guardian, at least 37 people have been killed by police in the United States so far this month. That’s more than the total number of people killed by police in Britain since the year 2000. Overall, police in the United States have killed a total of 585 people so far this year.

AMY GOODMAN: After Wednesday’s summit, President Obama said the nation is “not even close” to resolving issues between police and the communities they serve.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re going to have to do more work together in thinking about how we can build confidence that after police officers have used force, and particularly deadly force, that there is confidence in how the investigation takes place and that justice is done.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, our next guest writes, quote, “American policing is in crisis. … Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are two of the most recent casualties in what has become a deadly epidemic.” It may surprise you to learn who wrote those words—not a Black Lives Matter activist, but a former big city police chief. Norm Stamper is the former police chief of Seattle, Washington. He joins us now from Los Angeles, California. His new book, To Protect and to Serve: How to Fix America’s Police. He recently wrote an article for Time magazine called “Police Forces Belong to the People.” His previous book headlined Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.

Norm Stamper, welcome back to Democracy Now! As you look at what happened in the last week alone, not to mention what has happened in the years since you were the chief of police in Seattle, what are your comments about how police are trained to deal with communities of color?

NORM STAMPER: You know, the training of police officers is a very prominent theme in the conversation about police reform, and it’s, of course, very, very important. But there are much deeper and important issues, as far as I’m concerned, namely those associated with the institution itself, the structure of the organization, the culture that arises out of that structure. It’s paramilitary. It’s bureaucratic. It insulates and isolates police officers from the communities that they are here to serve.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So what would you say, Norm Stamper, are some of the systemic problems of police violence? And what do you think has led to—you referred to the paramilitary nature of the police forces now. What do you think accounts for that?

NORM STAMPER: I think what accounts for it—there are several factors, one of which is that in 1971 Richard Nixon famously proclaimed drugs public enemy number one—drug abuse—and declared all-out war on drugs, which was really a declaration of war against his own people. And overwhelmingly, young people, poor people, people of color suffered, and have continued to suffer over the decades as a result of a decision to put America’s front-line police officers on the front lines of the drug war as foot soldiers. And then we wonder why there’s such a strain in the relationship between police and community, and particularly those communities that are entrenched in poverty and other economic disadvantage, communities that historically have been neglected or abused or oppressed by their own police departments. So we really intensified and escalated the country’s war against poor people with that drug war. And we have spent $1.3 trillion prosecuting that war since the 1970s, incarcerated literally tens of millions. Please hear that figure: tens of millions of disproportionately young people and poor people and people of color. What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It’s time for us to end that drug war. That began the militarization of policing, without a doubt.

9/11 is another milestone, for obvious reasons. The federal government began throwing military surplus at local law enforcement agencies, such that, in terms of how they look, in terms of how they’re equipped, in terms of how they are weaponized, America’s police forces look more like the military than domestic peacekeepers.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to remarks made by the New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, who was speaking Sunday on Face the Nation.

COMMISSIONER BILL BRATTON: Police officers come from the community. We don’t bring them in from Mars; they come from the communities they police. And over the years, increasingly, we’ve had much more diversity in policing—Muslim officers, increasing numbers of African-American officers, Latino officers. And that’s a good thing, because the community wants to see that. And that’s part of the way we bridge the divide that currently exists between police and community, a divide that has been closing and a divide that we hope, over time—and certainly here in New York, I can speak for our efforts here the last several years, myself and Mayor de Blasio—to not only bridge the divide, but to close it.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Your response?

NORM STAMPER: Our police officers do, in fact, come from the community. As Bill Bratton said, they don’t come from Mars. They are of us. They live among us. They are motivated by a variety of different interests in becoming a police officer. It’s not that—that the candidates that we’re selecting, necessarily, are poor candidates. It is what happens to them when they get acculturated by this law enforcement structure that makes it clear to them that they are on the front lines of a war against their own people. And so you get police officers heading out to put in a shift who are feeling that the people are the enemy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to turn to Republican Senator Tim Scott, who spoke on the floor of the Senate Wednesday about being the victim of racial profiling. Scott is one of only two African Americans in the U.S. Senate.

SEN. TIM SCOTT: In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers—not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year—as an elected official. Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some other reason just as trivial.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Republican Senator Tim Scott speaking Wednesday. So, Norm Stamper, can you respond to what he said, and also whether you think the police is plagued with systemic racism?

NORM STAMPER: Well, let me start with that question. The short answer is yes. I can also cite another example closer to home for me. A former King County executive, Ron Sims, African-American man, man of the cloth, spoke to a reporter recently and said, “I have been stopped eight times by the police. And invariably the question seems to be ‘What are you doing here?'” Do white members of our community get that kind of treatment? In blunt terms, it is racist. It’s a racist action on the part of an officer, if he or she does not have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. That’s what the law says. And yet that law is systematically defied by police across this country in unlawful search-and-seizure, stop-and-frisk situations.

But there’s also systemic racism. It goes back as far as the institution. And I know President Obama made reference to the long history, the centuries-old history, of the relations between police and community, and particularly communities of color. Policing in this country has its origins in the slave patrols. And from decade to decade, generation to generation, there are still police officers in this country who act with superiority, who act in a very authoritarian, very dominant way. Part of that is their training, and only some of that, by the way, takes place in the academy. Most of it takes place in the locker room or in the front seat of a police car, when the senior officer tells the junior officer, “Forget what they taught you in the academy. You’re in the real world now.”

From DemocracyNow

Posted by The NON-Conformist