Archive for police
Self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio has made the news again for his treatment of undocumented immigrants in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. On December 15, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report that details unlawful and inhumane abuses carried out by Arpaio and his underlings against “illegals” between 2008 and the present. It details violations in community policing and in the County detention facilities. Below are some excerpts:
• Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.
• Our investigation uncovered a number of instances in which immigration-related crime suppression activities were initiated in the community after MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office] received complaints that described no criminal activity, put rather referred, for instance, to individuals with “dark skin” congregating in one area, or individuals speaking Spanish at a local business.
• Individual accounts regarding MCSO deputies stopping Latinos on the basis of their appearance corroborate the use of discriminatory policing practices.
• MCSO detention officers discriminatorily punish Latino LEP [Limited English Proficient] inmates who fail to understand commands given in English by, for example, locking down their pods (which increases the risk of inmate-on-inmate violence), or imposing disciplinary segregation (solitary confinement).
• MCSO detention officers refuse to accept forms completed by Latino LEP inmates in Spanish. Such forms include tank orders, which enable inmates to request basic daily services, and grievance forms, which enable inmates to identify and address alleged mistreatment. Even in instances when Spanish language requests are accepted, Latino LEP inmates face delays in services for not submitting requests and grievance forms in English.
Arpaio is popular among (mostly white) voters not only in Arizona but also in the rest of the nation, to such extent that several GOP presidential candidates sought his endorsement, which he eventually gave to Rick Perry.
At first blush, it is hard to believe that these injustices were perpetrated so unabashedly, but when one remembers how “illegals” are so very negatively viewed in the dominant White Racial Frame, it makes perfect sense.
Reuters had a very interesting set of comments on the racial and class riots in Britain, titled “Riots shake faith in UK austerity, stability.” The journalist quotes an establishment figure, Pepe Egger, an analyst of London’s consultancy called Exclusive Analysis:
I don’t think the implications of this have been fully thought through or accepted yet . . . . What we have here is the result of decades of growing divisions and marginalization, but austerity will almost certainly make it worse. Yes, the police can restore control with massive force but that is not sustainable either in the long term. You have to accept that this may happen again.
When even some in the elites can see that decades of great inequality can bring down Western political and economic systems, it really suggests to me just how far we are into the decline of Western nations and empires. The article then adds the views of the young people, most of them people of color presumably, in the streets. They add that the “division” involves real wealth inequality and racial prejudice:
Speaking to Reuters late on Tuesday, looters and other local people in east London pointed to the wealth gap as the underlying cause, also blaming what they saw as police prejudice and a host of recent scandals.
By scandals, they mean the massive financial scandals that have created near Depressions in Western countries. The article goes on to suggest for some British folks (maybe even Reuters journalists?) the scandals and crimes of the wealthy outshine what many see as the crimes in the streets from rioting. Fairly insightful for mainstream media? And very interesting that people in the streets are quite aware of the white collar crimes at the top of British society. Are folks in the US as savvy?
An article in the Grio by Lola Adesioye, a Black British writer, is titled “Riots were a long time coming for black Britons,” and helps to explain some of what is going on in the London and other urban rioting. She notes that
The riots have been ferocious. Buildings have been burned down, shopping centers looted, police and firemen attacked. People are afraid for their lives and their livelihoods.
And that many people there are calling even for the British army to come in and put down the rioting. We might note that the U.S. used military units to put down black revolts in the 1960s in several major cities, so this public and political orientation is not new.
Adesioye points out that the rioting started in the Tottenham area of North London, where conflict between the mostly white police and young black men has been at a high level for decades. Indeed there was another major riot in that area some 26 years back, involving earlier generations of white police and black Britons. The riot in 1985, as with these riots, started because of an apparent police malpractice incident. The Tottenham rioting reportedly started when a mostly white police unit called Trident shot and killed a black man, father of two, and nonviolent protests over that killing turned violent. The Trident unit had been started as a community-generated attempt to deal with black-on-black killings in the area, but she notes that many in that community now see it as “just another way in which the police can oppress young black men,” much like they do in the United States.
Adesioye summarizes her view of the causes of the riots by black Britons this way:
This violence is as a result of . . . unexamined racial issues, a crumbling sense of community among black people with no real leadership, unresolved class issues, social exclusion coupled with a lack of opportunities, a deep recession in addition to an extremely high cost of living, a new government who has been cutting back on services for youth, disenfranchised young people, and a dependency culture. . . . Black people are underrepresented in all areas of public British life from politics, to economics. . . . and we are overrepresented in crime and incarceration.
She further notes that the rioting has spread to other areas and involved nonblack young people, especially working class white youth, who also face major economic and social class barriers, especially under the new austerity policies of the new conservative British government.
What is entirely missing in Adesioye’s article, however, as in almost all research on U.S. rioting in the 1960s-1970s (and most research on racism and racial inequalities today), is a clear focus on the white, mostly male elite decisionmakers who are immediately or ultimately responsible for most of the underlying conditions of these British riots. These “racial issues” seems a very tame and deflecting way of saying “white racial oppression.” The white elite’s drive to keep British (and U.S.) society highly unequal lies behind most items in her list, yet even she does not call out these powerful whites. The beginning of wisdom on these matters is the what Michael Parenti calls the “reality principle,” that is the necessity of calling out and making transparent the underlying oppressive reality and the main agents in that reality. Race riots are always about oppressive underlying conditions, and often triggered by precipitating incidents caused by the police.
And do look at the individual comments made by people after the end of her article. Numerous whites make extraordinarily racist comments. And there are several comments about the possibility of racial riots in the United States. Of course, we as a country hold the record for the number of race riots over a few years in the 1960s and early 1970s—more than 500, with many lives lost and many people injured.
Given the extreme and growing economic inequality in this country between white and black Americans, and indeed between rich and working class whites, how long will it be before we see similar urban rioting in the United States?
The New York Times has an interesting overview of the many African Americans moving back to the South:
The economic downturn has propelled a striking demographic shift: black New Yorkers, including many who are young and college educated, are heading south. About 17 percent of the African-Americans who moved to the South from other states in the past decade came from New York, far more than from any other state… Of the 44,474 who left New York State in 2009, more than half, or 22,508, went to the South….
The article strongly accents economic reasons, but is there more here? One professor quoted in the article cites many African Americans’ spiritual and emotional (family) ties to the South as reasons for the reverse migration.
Recounting police abuse of her in New York, one black resident who has left suggests that the white racism now in New York is often as bad the old South:
“My grandmother’s generation left the South and came to the North to escape segregation and racism,” she said. “Now, I am going back because New York has become like the old South in its racial attitudes.”
She is likely right. Social science research shows that whites’ everyday racism does not really know geographical boundaries. Is it the case that the white majority in the South did not so much as catch up with the rest of the “liberal” country on racial matters, but rather that much of the rest of white America seems to be acting more like the racial ways that too many in the white South have long been famous for?
What do you make of the reasons given for the large African American migration back to the South?
(Note: Isabel Wilkerson, pulitzer prize winning NY Times journalist and now professor, has a major and fairly new book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration that I have just started looking at, and it may be of interest on the migrations north and south.)
The BBC has a news reports on organized French human rights protests against French government expulsions and other negative treatment of French Roma people (so-called “gypsies’):
Thousands of people have been attending rallies in Paris and 130 other French towns to protest at the government’s policy of deporting Roma people.
A majority of French respondents in polls support the government expulsions and other apparent “cleansing” of these mostly working class residents of France:
About 1,000 Roma (Gypsies) returned to Romania and Bulgaria from France last month, while official figures record that 11,000 Roma were expelled from France last year. The League of Human Rights, which called for the demonstrations, said it wanted to counteract government “xenophobia” and what it described as the systematic abuse of Roma in France.
French President Sarkozy has apparently expanded these high-profile campaigns for political reasons, even against opposition in his presidential cabinet:
Prime Minister Francois Fillon hinted that he disliked the crude links being made between foreigners and crime, while Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he considered resigning over the issue.
There have been violent encounters between the Roma and non-Roma police in some cities:
In mid-July, riots erupted in Grenoble after police shot an alleged armed robber during a shootout. The next day, dozens of French Roma attacked a police station in the small Loire Valley town of Saint Aignan, after police shot dead a French Roma man who had allegedly not stopped at a police checkpoint.
French politicians’ expulsion and other policing actions have seen dissent and criticism from international sources like the Vatican and the United Nations, even the European Commission.
The article largely ignores the large scale racialized discrimination that targets the Roma, something Jessie detailed here. I am not very familiar with these recent French events, or the background. Perhaps some of our viewers can add some savvy comments on the situation in France.
Cord Jefferson at TheRoot has a good piece on the 1965 Voting Rights Act now 45 years later. There are still many barriers to black voting, both as a result of disenfranchisement because of (often nonviolent) crimes and very direct discriminatory blocking of voters of color:
Currently, 10 states — including Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Kentucky — permanently disenfranchise at least some convicted felons, and 20 more require criminals to complete prison, parole and probation before being allowed to vote again. … An estimated 5.3 million Americans, 4 million of whom are out of prison, are denied the right to vote based on their felony convictions. About a third of them are black, including 13 percent of all African-American men.
Much of this disenfranchisement, as Michelle Alexander has shown in her fine book, The New Jim Crow, comes from being imprisoned for drug crimes that whites, who do much of the drug crime, rarely get imprisoned for.
There is also the issue the substantial discrimination against black voters and other voters of color that still is carried out by white conservative forces, including Republican operatives. As I pointed out recently in Racist America (second edition, 2010):
Researchers have identified an array of blocking strategies used by white officials to reduce black representation: gerrymandering political districts, changing elective offices into appointive offices, adding new qualifications for office, purging voter-registration rolls, suddenly changing the location of polling places, creating difficult registration procedures, and using numerous other strategies to dilute the black vote. One dilution strategy consists of intentionally setting up or continuing at-large electoral systems, instead of utilizing elections by smaller districts. The purpose is to enable white voters, who dominate the larger political unit, to determine who will be the political representatives in that unit. Research data on local and state elections indicate that, taken together, these strategies have significantly reduced black political power in many areas.
Jefferson also notes that legislators have been slow to do anything about these mostly white-generated anti-voter felonies:
For five years now, lawmakers have attempted to push through the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, to no avail. That means it’s still not a federal crime to knowingly lie to voters in order to keep them from the polls, even during a federal election. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin spoke to the Deceptive Practices Act’s importance in 2007, citing a false flyer that had been handed out in black communities in Milwaukee during the 2004 presidential election.
The flyer made phony, sometimes wild claims–such as that a traffic ticket disqualified you from voting. Still no protective law has been passed. Could it be that the U.S. is still far from being a real democracy?
The website, Project Economic Refugee, a project of the Progressive American Latino Community, has a spot-on article discussing the use of the “Nazi” and “neo-Nazi” terms for the private and government police-state-type actions taken against Latino immigrants and other Latinos, not only in Arizona (as Maria recently discussed), but in numerous other states, indeed now for more than a decade. The article begins:
It’s time to stop apologizing for calling out racism and for categorizing Arizona’s immigration law as what it truly is about. Now that Judge Susan Bolton (a conservative judge…) has struck down major portions of Arizona’s authoritarian police law…. Governor Brewer and her camp are looking more and more like nothing else but right-wing authoritarians that have embraced ideals that are in direct opposition to American values. … right-wing Arizonan politicians are forcing honest well-intentioned police officers to act as some sort of gestapo agents.
Recognizing that lots of mainstream folks, especially in the media, object to such “Nazi” and “Gestapo” comparisons, they lay out their reasons:
When you hear about how actual neo-Nazis are literally out hunting down immigrants, it’s hard not to call it “Nazi.” When you hear about how white supremacist nationalists are behind the legal defense fund in support of SB 1070, it’s hard not to call it “Nazi.” When you see cases where racial profiling has led to such barbaric acts such as the time when a pregnant woman was forced to give birth cuffed by the wrists and ankles, it’s hard not to use the word “Nazi” … when you find out that SB 1070 was written by and introduced to the Arizona legislature by people that are proud to identify themselves as “Nazis”, [see here it’s hard not to use the word “Nazi”.
The website piece has links to evidence for these assertions. They continue:
Congresswoman Linda Sanchez pointed out something that is very much the case: how some of the people behind the Arizona law actually ARE white supremacists. …. What most people are doing, is comparing Arizona’s law to the threat of racist authoritarian supremacist acts.
After discussing how some Jewish American leaders have protested the use of Holocaust or Nazi comparisons as exaggerations for what is going on with anti-Mexican immigration efforts, the author adds this:
The Anti-Defamation League itself has also come out in staunch opposition to Arizona’s immigration law, going as far as filing an actual legal challenge to it. . . . the law was written and introduced by people that are proud to consider themselves supporters of actual neo-Nazis. …. All in all, I’m reminded of the words of Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel: “No Human Being is illegal.”
The treatment and arrest of Mexican-American civil rights leader Sal Reza, head of the group Puente and opponent of Arizona’s SB 1070 last Thursday by Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies reminds me of the 1960s treatment of civil rights protesters, especially the treatment of blacks. While not the same, Arizona is a modern police state similar to the police states of the south during the 1960s.
During the 1960s the controlling white population found it acceptable that the police could be used against people of color and Americans who spoke out against protests of all kinds such as the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, or the Women’s Movement. We have all read, seen on television, or heard the stories of the police attacking blacks and other civil rights protestors with night sticks, shot guns, and dogs. It was a shameful use of the police in our history and contributed to the current distrust between law enforcement and communities of color. This distrust has only grown as people of color have been singled out by law enforcement officers for years. As Eduardo Bonilla-Silva states in Racism Without Racists “blacks and dark-skinned Latinos are the targets of racial profiling by the policy that, combined with the highly racialized criminal court system, guarantees their overrepresentation among those arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, and if charged for a capital crime, executed.”
However, our law enforcement culture has changed in many ways since the 1960s. One of the important changes to note is that modern day police have much greater power to violate civil rights and civil liberties than ever before. While the police states of the south had brutalized black people for decades (centuries, really), the tools they had to conduct their terror were not as sophisticated as they are today—not that this made much difference to the victims of the police brutality—but the direction our police have gone since then impact the civil rights of all Americans, especially those who are “othered” in our society for whatever reason. Today the police have more tools of intimidation at their disposal and anyone who thinks our civil rights are important should be concerned.
Over the last 20 years of the American “tough on crime” ethic, we have developed a hyper-active law enforcement. Now we have police who are out with armored personnel carriers, high tech body armor, and automatic weapons. This results in a system that can easily abuse constitutional rights as what seems to have happened with Mr. Reza. The arrest of a known older civil rights protestor by a swat team is an example of political oppression. It appears that Mr. Reza was arrested because of his political views and his membership in an organization, not his involvement in any illegal activities. This is one example of the consequences of our modern militarized police machine.
Protection of our civil rights and civil liberties are key aspects of citizenship and critical for the success of democracy. We live in a police state that is exercising its power to repress political opposition, silence political views, and intimidate members of certain civil rights organizations. This is increasingly being used against Latinos and anti-racist white allies in Arizona who are participating in their constitutional rights to speak out against policies of the state. This is a sad commentary on American society, politics, and culture. Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies’ actions are contributing to our police state. And they call themselves Americans.
On 24 June 2010, encircled by a substantial police presence, 1,500 indigenous activists and their allies marched through downtown Toronto under the slogan “Canada can’t hide genocide,” openly contesting Canada’s authority in negotiating on the global stage. Shouting “No G20 on stolen native land!” the marchers carried placards, banners, Mohawk Nation flags, and an inverted Canadian flag. The group altered the Canadian national anthem’s opening lines “O Canada! Our home and native land!”, singing instead “O Canada! Our home on native land!” They hoped to bring international awareness to aboriginal issues via media coverage of the G8 and G20 summits. The demonstrators urged the Canadian government to investigate the disappearance of some 500 aboriginal women , demanded self-determination, complete political recognition of past treaties, and nation-to-nation negotiations with Canada on equal terms.
On 25 June 2010 ‘Shout Out for Global Justice,’ sponsored by the Council of Canadians, organized an incredible line-up of speakers to challenge the G20 and demand trade, water, and climate justice. The event was sold out. 2,700 people attended, as well as many others who watched the forum by web-cast in communities across Canada and at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. The line-up of speakers included Clayton Thomas-Müller of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba and tar sands campaigner with the U.S.-based organization Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN).
The five First Nations in the region of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, rely on traditional food sources, like moose, fish, beaver, and muskrat, all of which have become contaminated by mining pollution. A community of only 1,200 has seen more than 100 deaths in the last decade from rare cancers and autoimmune diseases. The tar sands leases also breach aboriginal treaty rights; they were sold by the provincial government without the prior informed consent of local communities.
There is no scarcity of examples of native resistance in recent Canadian history. In 1990, an historic armed standoff between Mohawks and the Canadian army near Oka, Québec lasted more than two months when the provincial government tried to convert a native burial ground into a golf course. Five years later, the Canadian government employed helicopters, armoured personnel carriers, improvised explosives, and more than 77,000 rounds of ammunition during a three-month standoff over land title at Gustafsen Lake in British Columbia. In 2007, the Mohawk community at Tyendinaga, 200 kilometres east of Toronto, blocked the trans-continental rail line, and Canada’s largest highway, in protest at the government’s failure to address land rights and basic issues of survival within First Nations – including safe drinking water, which the community lacked. Despite the exposure of such injustices, a foremost concern in 2007 appeared to be how to circumvent a roadblock. (See here and here.)
Aboriginal peoples living in Canada have lower life expectancy, less access to education, a much lower average income, and a much higher suicide rate than the rest of the country. The UN has stated that if Canada were “judged solely on the economic and social well-being of its First Nations” peoples, the country’s human development ranking would drop from 7th to 48th out of 174 countries. Organizations like Amnesty International have sharply criticized Canada’s treatment of aboriginals, calling the country’s reserves a third world problem in one of the world’s richest countries.
One final thought. Press coverage of issues related to aboriginals clears the way for government actions that “reproduce material and social inequality between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people” (including subtle sanitized ethno-genocide). This is a major cause of concern because it promotes an environment in which social injustice is tolerated and Canadians are less likely to be sympathetic to aboriginal resistance movements.
Tessa M. Blaikie, Nicole R. Gordon, and Natalia T. Ilyniak are sociology honours students at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. Kimberley A. Ducey is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.
We have all heard the story that America is a nation of active citizens and joiners (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1840) — resulting in a citizenry that joins together for the common good. However, according to Harvard professor Robert Putnam, social capital—which is about connections, reciprocity, and trust—is on the decline and consequently, American civil society is on the decline. Putnam lists many reasons for this decline in our modern lifestyles, but I believe that nothing decreases connections and trust among Americans more than racist public policies such as Arizona’s SB 1070 law.
We need to consider the costs that this policy will have on the overall American story of connectedness. Not surprisingly social capital among blacks and Latinos is already significantly lower than among whites (See link here.) However, it is important to consider that Latino citizens are a huge part of the population in Arizona. Pretending that Latino citizens aren’t a huge part of the population in Arizona and that these Latino citizens won’t incur gigantic costs in terms of civil liberties violations and sense of personal security is ridiculous. Despite Governor Brewer’s assurances that there will be no racial profiling against Latino citizens, anyone who reads the bill, which, “Requires officials and agencies to reasonably attempt to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful contact where reasonable suspicion exists regarding the immigration status of the person…,” knows that it is patently obvious that long-time Latino citizens are indistinguishable from undocumented Latinos. “Reasonable suspicion” amounts to being Latino in Arizona. My father, a Latino living in Tucson, now feels uncomfortable around his white friends because they disagree about SB 1070. This is beyond a political or ideological disagreement.
For a Latino, this is about acceptance, respect, equality, and yes, trust. So, there are more than civil liberties violations and personal security at stake—it is about the ending of relationships between Latinos and whites, it is about separating life-long friends, maybe for good.
The story of Latinos living in Arizona after SB 1070 now is sadness, and at best for those Latinos who are citizens an increased fear–and hiding at worst for those who aren’t documented. It is about decreased community connectedness along racial lines on all counts. I know if I was an undocumented Latina about to give birth I would risk giving birth at home rather than going to the hospital and possibly being deported. Why can’t whites see the social and personal costs of this policy? Perhaps it is because most whites are between four to ten generations removed from their immigrant parents; immigration for them is some distant thing. Maybe this is why they do not realize we are all in the same boat. Maybe that is why they don’t see the costs of this type of racism on America.
De Tocqueville had it wrong. We are not a nation of active citizens and joiners. We are a nation of exclusion by race. If strong social capital is an important component of our nation’s civic health, then America will pay a huge cost for generations to come if we keep targeting Latinos.