A reminder: I'll be leading a community discussion from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 28 to deal with these kinds of issues in a way designed to open up plenty of minds and probe for solutions. "When race isn't racism - but still potentially dangerous" will be held at Christ Community Church in Conway. Spread the word near and far.
Read more about that here:
I’m taking a look into Myrtle Beach area policing practices to see what happens here, as far as allegations about police misconduct and how they are handled. That will be published once I get a good handle on the issue.
A few weeks ago, some people earnestly asked me what race had to do with the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. I think I gave them a reasonable answer then - and also explained why I thought race was involved in the Ferguson incident and the Travyon Martin case but why neither event, legally speaking, warranted federal civil rights charges.
But now that the Justice Department has released its report about Ferguson, it should be easier for people to understand the role race played, even if you ignore the long, fraught racial history in that area that led to these abuses.
Here's my caution for reading this, though:
No one should conclude that these things happened only because the department is primarily white. There are plenty of good white officers throughout the country (and in the Myrtle Beach area) who do a great job of policing all different kinds of people. And the answer to this isn't simply "diversity training," and it isn't simply "hire more black police officers."
The problems denoted in this report require much more nuance and serious thought than that - the kind of thinking we will be engaged in on March 28.
There are some things so ugly and blatant that they can easily fall under the “racism” heading:
Here are the seven emails the Justice Department uncovered, all of which come from current employees and were apparently sent during work hours:
A November 2008 email said President Barack Obama won't be president for long because "what black man holds a steady job for four years."
A March 2010 email mocked African Americans with horrible stereotypes about their families and how they speak. One line of the email read, "I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!"
An April 2011 email depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee.
A May 2011 email said, "An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, 'Crimestoppers.'"
A June 2011 email said a man wanted to obtain "welfare" for his dogs because they are "mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are."
An October 2011 email had a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, "Michelle Obama's High School Reunion."
A December 2011 email made jokes based off offensive stereotypes about Muslims.
The Justice Department found no evidence that any of the police and court officials who engaged in these emails were ever disciplined. The investigation also found no indication that any official asked the sender to stop sending such emails, or any proof that the emails were reported. "Instead, the emails were usually forwarded along to others," the report stated.
I still believe the bulk of the problems that result from race are not blatant racism and are not intentional, but ingrained in ways many of us don’t realize or don’t want to acknowledge. Dealing with overt racism is easy compared to coming to terms with that.