Category Archives: Crime

California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again

Nothing better illustrates the political bankruptcy of the Democratic Party—for all progressive intents and purposes—than California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s announcement on Friday afternoon that he was going to put a “hold” on the single-payer health care bill (SB 562) for the state, effectively killing its passage for at least the year.

The Democratic Party finds itself in a bind in California. They hold the governorship and a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, so they can pass any bill they want. SB 562 had passed the Senate 23-14.

There was enormous enthusiasm among California progressive activists, who, with organizations like Campaign for a Healthy California (CHC,) and  the National Nurses United (NNU,) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) were working tirelessly, and hopeful of success.  After all, Bernie’s people were taking over the California party from the bottom since the election. I recall a night of drinking last year with an old friend who has been spearheading that effort, as he rebuffed my skepticism, and insisted that this time there would be a really progressive takeover of the California party, and single-payer would prove it. After all, once enough progressive pressure was been put on the legislators, the bill would be going to super-progressive Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, who had made advocacy of single-payer a centerpiece of his run for President in 1992, saying: “We treat health care not as a commodity to be played with for profit but rather the right of every American citizen when they’re born.” Bernie foretold.

Unfortunately, today that Governor is, according to Paul Song, co-chair of the CHC, “doing everything he can to make sure this never gets on his desk.” And it won’t. Unfortunately, all the Democrats like Rendon, who “claims to be a personal supporter of single-payer,” will make sure that their most progressive governor is not put in the embarrassing position of having to reject what he’s been ostensibly arguing for for twenty-five years, of demonstrating so blatantly what a fraud his, and his party’s, progressive pretensions are.

Thus unfolds the typical Democratic strategy: Make all kinds of progressive noises and cast all kinds of progressive votes, while carefully managing the process so that the legislation the putatively progressives putatively support never gets enacted. Usually, they blame Republican obstructionism, and there certainly is enough of that, and where there is, it provides a convenient way for Democrat legislator to “support” legislation they know will be blocked and wouldn’t really enact themselves if they could.

In the California case, the dissembling is obvious. The Republicans can’t be blamed. The only thing standing in the way of single-payer in California is the Democratic Party. As it was on the national level in 2009, when Obama and the Democrats could have passed any healthcare bill they wanted, just as they passed the Republican-inspired, gift to the for-profit health insurance industry, the ACA—without a single Republican vote. It was true-believing capitalist Democrats like Max Baucus, led by Obama and his sidekick Rahm Emanuel (who called leftists “fucking retarded”) who arrested single-payer activists (including doctors) in order to prevent single-payer from even being considered. It was they who strong-armed reluctant Democratic legislators, who had signed an oath not to do so, into passing a bill that leaves 28 million Americans without health insurance, and forces the rest into plans whose premiums rise and networks of coverage shrink every year.

In fact, the perfectly reasonable discontent with that plan probably had more to do with helping Trump win than did any actions of bad-old (as opposed to good-new) James Comey. As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, in a analysis that’s contested but should certainly not be ignored, Hillary’s fatal slide in the polls began before Comey’s notorious letter of October 28th, and coincided with the announcement, four days before, of steep Obamacare premium increases. You decide whether you think Anthony Weiner’s sexting emails, part three, had more effect on voters than anger over being hit with stiff premium increases (22% average, 25% in 20 states, 60% in some) on increasingly crappy policies:

So the Democrats create the ground for Trump by passing a lousy healthcare law that’s sure to piss people off rather quickly, then use the even worse plan that the Republicans come up with to do nothing but trash Trump, while blocking real progressives’ attempts to get the only plan that would actually cover all Americans and save money. In Colorado last November, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper refused to support a single-payer referendum because he “didn’t want to disrupt” the “strides [made] under Obamacare.” The Democrats’ ACA marched the nation straight into the shoals of Trump and the Republicans’ ACHA, and now the Democrats are blocking the only plan that solves the problems of both.

As Deborah Burger, Co-President of the California Nurses Association put it, Assembly Speaker Rendon, “Acting in secret in the interests of the profiteering insurance companies late Friday afternoon abandons all those people already threatened by Congress and the Trump administration.”

The excuse, of course, from California Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown is that they don’t know how they are going to pay for it, especially on the state level. That would be the same Jerry Brown who explained in 1992 exactly how single-payer would cut costs:

You cut out all the private health insurance. You have one single payer either at the national level or through the 50 states. And that one single payer will be the one that negotiates with the doctors, the hospitals, and the other providers. And since you have only one source of income in the whole medical establishment, you can drive down the cost.

Leaving aside the indispensable point that healthcare, like education and clean water, should be considered a non-discretionary expense, one of the main advantages of single-payer is precisely that it’s the only plan that can cut costs significantly. Not having single-payer will not mean healthcare will cost less; it will cost more every year, for every person and in the aggregate. It just means the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies won’t care. The real problem with single-payer isn’t about costs to the people or to the state; it’s about profits for those companies.

Besides, an economy the size of California has immense power. We’re not talking about Utah. All the hospitals and doctors and pharmaceutical companies are not going to stop selling their goods and services in California. And once single-payer becomes a reality in California, it will catalyze a movement in every other state and on the national level. That—the fact that it will start a wildfire of imitation—and not the fact that it’s too expensive, is what the California Democratic Party is desperate to avoid, and what its donors and lobbyists are ordering it to block.

This is the Democratic Party. Lying losers who will do anything to avoid taking an effective stance for a healthcare policy that would immediately solve one of the worst horrors American families face every day, that would be immediately and concretely helpful to everyone, and, to top it all off, would be immensely popular. The dissembling Democrats are throwing away just about the most popular policy anyone could imagine—something people are literally dying for. As Charles Idelson, spokesman for the NNU, says: “There is broad support for single-payer not only in California, but nationally, even among registered Republicans and Republican and conservative business leaders.”

Passing single-payer in California and fighting for it everywhere else would guarantee the Democrats electoral victories. But they will not do it—they’ll say they will, but they will not—because they are fervent supporters of the capitalist market system in healthcare (and everything else), and they are corrupt agents of the health insurance and pharma industries.

Because it captures and cages the energies of so many well-meaning progressives, the Democratic Party is the most effective obstacle to, and enemy of, single-payer, and it has to be fought. People in wheelchairs and cancer patients and all their healthy friends should be sitting in and obstructing Democrat Rendon’s, as well as any Republican’s, office, until he lets the bill through. Then they should move on to the Democratic governor’s office. And thence to Pelosi’s and Schumer’s offices as well as Graham’s and Ryan’s. This is not a Trump problem, and not a Republican problem, it’s a bipartisan capitalist elite problem.

We have to engage in this kind of fight against all of these politicians. Anyone who thinks such a fight can be avoided in order to play the Democrats’ game of defending the for-profit insurance plan called Obamacare while obsessing about Trump being a Russian spy, is helping to perpetuate this rotten healthcare system. Twenty-eight million people are now without healthcare, and, if the Republicans’ edited version of Obamacare passes (which it probably won’t, because even many Republicans know they can’t get away with making things worse than they are), there’ll be twenty-four million more. There is no time for either of these contemptuous parties and their contemptuous bullshit.

by JIM KAVANAGH/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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

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

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

Sex Trafficking’s True Victims: Why Are Our Black Girls/Women So Vulnerable?

Mimi Crown’s story is like millions of others that have been and are being told across America. At age 21, she was abducted and forced into sexual solicitation.

“I had to ask permission to eat, to sleep, to buy myself feminine products or even to use my phone,” Crown said of her detention. “It felt like I was in a prison that I’d never get out of. I had no limits on what I should have been doing, however, sexually. I secretly did what I could to mentally deal with this at the time.”

Sexual trafficking represents a critical threat to the well-being of this nation’s girls. In 2016 alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 7,572 human trafficking cases, with 5,551 of these cases being sexual trafficking cases. One of the least acknowledged and under-appreciated facts about the statistic, however, is that the face of the typical victim is not that of Jaycee Duggard or Amy Smart, as media depictions of sexual trafficking suggest.

The typical face of sexual trafficking in America today matches the faces of the 501 juveniles that have gone missing in the D.C. area in just the first quarter of this year. According to the FBI, 40 percent of victims of sex trafficking are African-Americans, with that number being significantly larger in the major metropolitan areas. In Los Angeles County, the African-American victim rate reaches 92 percent. In overwhelming numbers, the persons most likely to be victimized are vulnerable Black girls and women.

“Compared with other segments of the population, victimization rates for African American children and youths are even higher,” the National Center for Victims of Crime reports. “Evidence suggests that Black youths ages 12 to 19 are victims of violent crime at significantly higher rates than their white peers. Black youths are three times more likely to be victims of reported child abuse or neglect, three times more likely to be victims of robbery and five times more likely to be victims of homicide.”

Per the FBI, 59 percent of all juvenile prostitution arrests involve African-Americans. With law enforcement more likely to see a Black sex trafficking victim as a prostitute and not as someone needing help, trying to find solutions toward keeping our girls safe may require a radical examination of the core beliefs American society is currently based on.

“I actually did not know what ‘human trafficking’ was, until it happened to me,” Crown, who wrote the book “Stuck in Traffic” about her experiences, added. “I was reading an article, literally just last year about a young woman who was rescued from trafficking and, in the story, it gave details of what happened to her. I said, ‘Wow, that sounds just like what I went through.’

“I would tell [the politicians] to stop treating victims/survivors of human trafficking like criminals,” she said. “These women have gone through unimaginable ordeals and the last thing they need is to have the finger being pointed at them.

“Did she rob someone? Yes, but she would not have done it had her pimp not first held a gun to her head. So, stop judging and start helping.”

At the Intersection

Understanding why African-American girls are being targeted requires taking a critical look at those that are actually taking the girls.

Statistics show that African-American men are overwhelmingly the individuals that kidnap and traffic the majority of America’s sex trafficking victims. However, these traffickers are marketing and selling the services of their victims to a largely white, affluent base.

Due to this, prosecutions of offenders devolve into a question of credibility between a politically advantaged white offender and a vulnerable brown victim. Typically, the result of this is the victim being silenced and blamed for what was done to her.

“Most people who buy sex are those that have disposable income; they tend to be white men that are married that have an education,” Marian Hatcher, the senior project manager and human trafficking coordinator for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office of Public Policy, told Atlanta Black Star, quoting both national and internal research. “The people who are being bought are the people who needs are not being met, which typically are African-Americans. We are the ones that typically end up in the criminal justice system, so there are more of us that are involved in jail or juvenile detention.”

Hatcher, who as an adult was subjected to sexual trafficking herself, attributes this to the nation’s racial history. Drawing parallels to the United States’ Department of Homeland Security’s definition of human trafficking – which is “modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain.” – Hatcher argued that sex trafficking victims are typically treated as chattel property, similar to African-American enslaved in the antebellum South. The mindset of being able to “buy a person” is a notion that is deeply ingrained in the American psyche and that never really left, despite changes in the legal reality.

In 2010, the Urban Institute conducted research in attempting to estimate the size of the underground commercial sex market in the United States. In the report that was released in 2014, in eight major American cities – Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington – the 2007 economic worth of the market per city was approximately $40 million and $290 million, with pimps and traffickers that participated in the study reporting taking home between $5,000 and $32,833 per week. The study found that while street-level solicitation has declined, the proliferation of social media and websites such as backpage.com and craigslist.com (which has, since the publication of the report, removed its adult services section) have led to greater proliferation of the solicitation of those involved in the sex trade.

The logic of why someone would engage in sex trafficking is clear; unlike drug trafficking, which deals with the selling of a consumable product, a sex trafficked victim can be sold repeatedly and traded to other traffickers. For the offer of protection, adventure, a better life, or an escape from the hardship of their current lives, girls everyday are willingly or forcibly placed into the possession of those that would sell access to their bodies.

If one was to create a Venn diagram of the forces that influences sexual trafficking, one would see that four different phenomenon are intersecting: white privilege/white access, racism, gender identity/gender objectification, and poverty. In order to find a valid solution to the question of the disproportionate way sex trafficking affect the African-American community, each of these phenomena must be taken on.

“The problems lie in the fact that most Americans see the typical sex traffic victim as a white, blonde hair, blue eyed girl and the typical juvenile prostitution arrestee as a Black woman,” Hatcher added. “Most people don’t realize that the two are the same person.”

“It is often when a women or child is exploited or prostituted, she may have to get services from agencies that are not culturally inclined,” Ne’Cole Daniels, founder of Survivors on the Move and founding co-chair of the anti-sex trafficking community World Without Exploitation, said to Atlanta Black Star. Daniels has shared that she was a victim of sex trafficking. “They are getting services from an agency that doesn’t understand our history, typically, a white social services agency.  They are facing racism in the criminal justice system, being forced to pay higher restitution fees, getting more jail time, dealing with biased family service officers, and facing care plans that are difficult or impossible to complete, leading to a return to the life and recidivism. “

On Being Vulnerable

For many, sex trafficking is a mostly invisible crime. The average American’s exposure to the crime has been national media reports of recovered victims such as Amy Smart and the movie series “Taken.” While the notion of a child or woman being grabbed from the streets or from their homes and the unlikeliness of this happening tend to drive the imagination of those that would dissent to the notion that sex trafficking is a serious concern, the reality reflects what it means to be vulnerable in America.

“From my experience, traffickers are more likely to target girls with questionable family networks, teenage runaways, homeless girls, girls in the foster system; girls that can be easily plied away,” Helen Taylor, the director of intervention and outreach for Exodus Cry, a Christian-based sex trafficking abolition program, told Atlanta Black Star. Taylor argues that when it comes to sex trafficking, America has a perception of the “good victim” – the white, typically blonde, typically blue-eyed girl that was taken from the street – that is blinding response efforts to the truth. This notion of the “good victim” has historically led law enforcement and first responders to interpret non-conforming victims to be not victims at all, but rather runaways or teenaged prostitutes.

These perceptions persisted despite most states having statutory rape laws that dictate that a minor cannot consent to sex.

“A lack of education, poverty, having a criminal record, or otherwise being prone to accept a large front-end enticement tend to make these girls vulnerable to traffickers,” Taylor continued. “The trafficker will go after the girls that would cause the minimal risk, who would slip through the net.”

“Racism and misogyny play their parts in the buying of sex from these victims.  These buyers are not the stereotypical ‘lonely guy’; they are married or have girlfriends, but they choose to buy these sex acts as an act of violence that dehumanize, humiliate, and hurt these girls.”

In her reflections of her life while being trafficked, Mimi Crown shared on her last day of captivity. “The sun was shining, but there was still a darkness that surrounded my window, making it impossible for me to glisten. I sat on my hotel bed, waiting for the next man to come in and use me like a rag doll, then there it was. A heavy knock at my door, and as I walked to open it, I told myself that he would be the very last man. Little did I know it wouldn’t happen at all. Upon opening the door, there stood a short, nicely built man with the biggest smile on his face. We greeted one another then I turned to him saying this, ‘I know what you came for. I know what I am supposed to do right now. Collect my money and lay on my back just to be able to eat tonight, but I no longer care about the food, or being able to pay for another night at this upscale hotel. What I want is to go home.”

Her would-be buyer took pity on her and paid for her return flight home. Most victims are not as lucky.

Hypersexualization and Kylie Jenner

To a certain extent, those that would purchase sex need neither rationalization nor justification to make sense of their acts. However, one must be cognizant of the risk factors modern day life is presenting to African-American girls.

A recent example occurred when social media darling Amber Rose “broke the Internet” by posting a bottomless full body pic of herself to Instagram. While Rose presented the pic as a feminist image in promotion of her upcoming SlutWalk, by the time most people heard of the image, the meaning has been stripped away from it. What was left of a self-affirming political message after it completed its media cycle was an overtly sexual one.

This proliferation of sexuality, arguably, has raised expectations for a certain class of men. Among these men, women and girls are increasingly being objectified as nothing more than sexual objects. This is best seen in the media coverage of Kylie Jenner. Jenner – at the age of 19 – is one of the most photographed and Instagrammed women in the world. The problem with this is that she started her career at the age of nine.

With Jenner admitting that she had body altering surgery, a key component of her brand is her sexuality. This has created a pitched public debate over if it is okay to sexualize a minor – even if that minor consented to being seen as a sex image.

With social media being driven by the use of sexual imagery to drive traffic and followers, this hypersexualization is “reprogramming” the perceptions of some men.

“We’ve seen three trends associated with these images,” Kenyon University sociologist Sarah Murnen said to the PBS NewsHour, “It’s now common to see more parts of the body exposed. There is more emphasis on the size of women’s breasts. And easy access to all these images has made it all more acceptable to us.”

Shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” are increasingly moving the bar on what is feasible to look at with a sexual perspective. This is creating a predator class for a population – tweens and teenagers – that was previously considered sacred.

“We as women should have the freedom to respect our bodies and celebrate our sexuality and womanhood. We are, however, responsible for the images we portray,” Ne’Cole Daniels added. “Situations like Amber Rose’s may be excusable to some because she is an entertainer, but this is who our children are looking up to as role models.”

“You can celebrate your liberation as a proud, beautiful woman, but this must be tempered by an effort to not allow yourself to be degraded to just being a sex object. What you may believe you are conveying is not always what is perceived.”

Where We Go From Here

In Chicago, there has been as ambitious effort underway to reverse the narrative on sex trafficking. Taking their cues from the fact that sex buyers are rarely punished in American jurisprudence, Chicago has embraced a version of the “Nordic Model.”

The “Nordic Model” is a theory in sex trafficking policymaking, saying that those that have been prostituted should not be punished. Instead, the buying of sexual acts is criminalized, with offenders facing stiff fines and possibly imprisonment in repeat or extreme cases.

One of the Swedish researchers that penned the protocol, Cecilie Høigård, shared why the model was drafted. “We spent several years doing fieldwork and we developed close relationships with the prostituted women,” Daisy Elizabeth Sjursø translated. “We heard about their experiences of past abuse, extreme poverty and violence. We were prepared for these stories, because of our previous studies on outcasts and marginalized people. But what the women told us of their concrete experiences of prostitution was unexpected and shocking.”

“They told us what it was like to use their bodies and vaginas as rental apartments for unknown men to invade, and how this made it necessary to separate their body from their self: ‘Me and my body are two separate parts. It is not me, my feelings or my soul he fucks. I am not for sale.””

With a minimum of 16,000 women and girls prostituted in the Chicago metropolitan area, according to Cook County Sheriff’s Office statistics, and with 61.7 percent of those prostituted first exchanging sex for money before they are 18 years old, Cook County has a significant sex trafficking problem. Host of the nation’s largest airport, the Chicagoland area has become one of the largest centers of sex trafficking and juvenile prostitution in this country, with 100 percent of all women prostituted reporting receiving violence in some form, including rape, beatings, physical assaults, and threats involving a weapon.

The Cook County approach differs from other law enforcement agencies in this country because the county commits to offering services to victims at the time of arrest. Upon being identified as a victim in need by the sheriff’s Vice Unit, the Human Trafficking Response Team is deployed to escort the victim through getting needed counseling and other services, having adequate court representation, and receiving the resources needed to leave “the lifestyle” and to successfully reenter the community. Cook County has also joined other law enforcement agencies nationwide to go after sex buyers; the National Johns Suppression Initiative – which ran from Jan. 18 through Feb. 5 – saw 101 alleged sex buyers arrested in Cook County, with 29 sex traffickers and 723 sex buyers arrested nationwide.

The narrative about sex trafficking, however, will not change until behaviors and perceptions change – including that of the “good victim.”

“As a prosecutor, I dealt with the issue of the ‘good victim’ and the ‘bad victim’ repeatedly,” Lauren Hersh, national director of World Without Exploitation, said to Atlanta Black Star. “There are definitely victims that are white with blonde hair and blue eyes, but most victims of the sex trade do not look that way. The idea of the ‘good victim’ patently flies in the face of anything that can help us combat this issue. If we are only talking about trafficking and we are not talking about racial inequality, and we are not talking about gender inequality, and we are not talking about income inequality, we cannot tackle this issue.”

“For years, the victims of these crimes were labeled ‘throwaway kids,’ people that didn’t matter too much to society. We are starting to come around on this, but there are still people out there that choose to look away because these kids may not look like their kids. We must continue to press this issue and make this issue relevant and heard. Adults and children who have been trafficked or sexually exploited should be treated as victims of a crime, not as criminals themselves.”

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist