Racial Profiling: Clear As Black And White

It’s time to Break It Down!

The data are clear, persistent, and as revealing as critics of the practice thought it would be, maybe even more so. After over twenty million traffic stops in my home state of North Carolina, researchers discovered a protracted pattern of racial disparities that do not disappear when taking into account legally relevant factors such as being pulled over for drunk driving or when researchers considered legally irrelevant differences such as age or gender. All things considered, racially disparate search rates appear to happen because police tend to hold unwarranted suspicions about young men of color.

Frank R. Baumgartner, Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina, Derek Andrew Epp, Assistant Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, and Kelsey Shoub, a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of North Carolina, have written a book published this year, entitled, “Suspect Citizens What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us About Race.” In summary, the book provides the most in-depth look to date at the most frequently occurring form of police-citizen interactions, the routine traffic stop. Since the inception of the war on crime, police departments have employed traffic stops as a means to search drivers suspected of transporting contraband.

From the outset, police agencies made it clear that large numbers of stops would have to be made before scoring a significant drug bust. What was not stated up front was the calculation that many Americans would be subjected to police investigations so that a small number of high-level offenders might be caught. However, the principal element of the strategy that was denied sunlight was the fact that middle-class white Americans were largely exempt from its consequences. “Suspect Citizens” documents the extreme rarity of drug busts, while simultaneously revealing the sustained and troubling disparities in how racial groups are treated.

The book’s work focuses on every traffic stop in the state of North Carolina from 2002 to 2016. This deep dive provides unassailable evidence of racial bias in police-citizen interactions. Moreover, given the scholarly heft of the authors’ research, their work may generate practical policy reforms.

The genesis of the research associated with this book was intended to discern the viability of whether Driving While Black (DWB) is a thing. Most African Americans know that it is, and many, black males in particular, often can offer a litany of off-the-cuff examples. While the common traffic stop may be discounted as a mere brief inconvenience for whites, for blacks, they frequently lead to humiliation, violence, and even death. This has become increasingly clear in recent years, as videos have surfaced, hashtags have trended, and various reports have been released. As a result of these indisputably verified accounts, the black box of negative interactions between police and drivers of color have been unveiled for all to see. “Suspect Citizens” sets out to move beyond un-researched episodes to systematically exploring every traffic stop in North Carolina for more than a decade. Here is the operational framework that serves as the foundation for the book:

Who Gets Stopped, Who Gets Searched?

  • 1999 NC law mandated confirmation or refutation of the “DWB” allegation. It can clearly be confirmed. The state has never done so.
  • Data: 20 million stops (all of them) from 2002 to present.
  • Stops: Blacks 63 percent more likely than whites, by population.
  • But blacks drive 16 percent less. So about 95 percent more likely, by driving habits
  • Searches: Among those stopped, blacks are 115 percent more likely to be searched (2.35 % for whites, 5.05% for blacks)
  • So: a double whammy: 95 percent more risk of stop, 115 percent more risk of search, given a stop. Double, and then double again. Search rates per stop about 2x, search rates per population: 4x.

So what are the outcomes of these kinds of searches? At first glance, the answer may seem surprising, if not flatly counterintuitive. White, middle-class drivers are more likely to get a ticket. That may sound inconsistent with preceding assertion. But the reality is it’s not. Why? Because if you are objectively breaking the law—say you’re speeding, or you run a light—you deserve to get a ticket. That is to say, in their cases, they were only pulled over after having been observed violating the traffic code in a serious way. They were violating traffic laws, and they got a ticket for their troubles.

Conversely, black drivers are more likely to get a warning. Again, that seems counterintuitive, until you think about it in broader terms. On the surface, that may sound like a good outcome. That is unless, or until you ask the why question. As in, why was that person stopped in the first place? Often, the reason was just that the officer had a vague suspicion and a desire to investigate. So they stopped the person based upon a pretext, they investigated by starting a conversation with the driver, and…since nothing turned up, they said, “Well, thank you for your time. I pulled you over because you were speeding by five miles per hour. I just wanted to tell you to slow down and be more careful.

During the course of their research, the authors found the biggest predictor of low disparity in traffic stops and searches is having black representation on the city council. After looking closely at all municipalities within the state of North Carolina, black city council representation, which tends to correlate with having a large black share in the population and having a large share of black voting in the most recent election, was the most significant factor in blacks having a low disparity in receiving tickets. At its root, that indicates that government agencies, including police, respond to politics.

After parsing an enormous amount of data, the authors reached a number of conclusions. Here are a few:

Some Conclusions

  • Use of the vehicle code for criminal investigation is: • Extremely inefficient (leads to very few significant contraband hits, only 12 % arrested after search)
  • Racially biased
  • Generative of tremendous community mistrust, in those communities being targeted.
  • However, it is invisible and perhaps unbelievable in those communities not being targeted. Hence its political value.
  • Implicit bias as well as institutional procedures are at the core of these patterns. “High crime” areas have mostly law-abiders…
  • Simple institutional reforms can dramatically reduce disparities and the mistrust
  • Voice matters: suppress the vote, reduce voice, gerrymander the districts to restrict black power: disparities can be greater
  • Voice matters: vote; gain representation, equitable treatment follows

Police violence in minority communities has been frequently and persistently highlighted since the 2013 launch of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Problems of racially disparate policing, however, are long-standing. Yet, developing and implementing effective public policy responses have been slow, and are frequently undercut because of the tendency of middle-class white Americans to doubt allegations of systematic injustices. There is widespread admission that there may be a small number of rogue officers who are corrupt and/or racist. But most whites cannot (or will not allow themselves to) envisage that police interactions with minority citizens are regularly harsh.

Middle-class whites may find it incredible that police would behave in ways they themselves have never experienced. Alternately, young men of color grow up with different, negative expectations that naturally reduce their trust in government. Ergo, they become less likely to cooperate with police, to vote, or to participate constructively in public life. In the final analysis, crime control becomes more difficult to achieve because so many members of the public, particularly in high crime areas, have been bequeathed a legacy of legitimate reasons to be distrustful of police.

After their exhaustive analysis, the authors recommended a number of reforms. Some of them include:

Recommended Reforms

  • Focus on traffic safety, not investigatory stops, reduce disparities: • Arrest rate ratio, 1.68 overall, 1.29 for safety stops (24 percent less)
  • Search rate ratio, 2.15 overall, 1.76 for safety stops (18 percent less)
  • Written consent forms very effective

Baumgartner, Epp, and Shoub conducted an epic study and concluded that using the War on Crime, the traffic code and the vehicle code as mechanisms to investigate people more broadly has not only been ineffective, but doing so has had the unintended and previously undocumented consequence of making people feel as if they do not have full citizenship. They feel, instead, as though they are perpetual suspects. Racial Profiling: Clear As Black And White!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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The Guardians of TrumpWorld Are Busier Than Ever: Thanks Donald!

It’s time to Break It Down!

It is a near certainty that by now, everyone who even glances at this post, today, or at any other time, saw, has viewed clips, or has heard about, maybe even discussed Donald Trump’s visit to Helsinki, Finland for the Summit with Vladimir Putin. Unlike I often do, citing source material, and providing elements of a variety of other people’s commentary, I am simply going to delve into and share a few of my thoughts about the Summit, Mr. Trump, and Putin.

Before Monday’s Summit, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced 12 new indictments of Russians, Friday afternoon. That announcement, depending on one’s perspective, either gave Trump the cudgel he needed in order to smack Putin up side the head, figuratively of course, with the charge of Russian meddling, or…it provided a convenient prompt for reporters to query Trump about whether he believes the findings of the American Intelligence Community…in the event he opted not to use his cudgel.

As fate would have it…no check that. As events unfolded, it turns out, to virtually no one’s surprise, Trump chose not to use his very un-secret weapon. In fact, in a scripted performance not worthy of an episode of “The Apprentice,” Don, remaining fully in character, cozied up to Vlad, and when it was time to declare a side, in a very Charlottesville moment, the erstwhile Leader of the Free World missed a lay-up and said in effect, there were good people on both sides. He noted that Putin had strongly and powerfully denied Russian involvement, and then wondered, why would they be?

For his part, when a question was put to him about whether he preferred one of the two 2016 American Presidential candidates, Vladimir boldly and emphatically admitted he preferred that Trump win; adding that he pledged to foster better relations with Russia. Putin was a cool, confident operator. He very well could have been a KGB agent. Oh wait; He is a former KGB agent. At one point, he literally boasted that he knew how dossiers were put together.

Before the Summit, Trump had been asked whether he was ready. His response was pretty much he “was born ready.” He downplayed the ado that was made over Putin’s spy days. In retrospect, one has to concede, if there is one thing Trump does not lack (aside from a propensity to avoid truth-telling) it’s bravado. He knows how to manufacture bluster. However, if he was ready for the moment Monday, his display when the lights came up belied his preparation. By virtually all accounts, he earned an epic fail by even the most generous of evaluators.

Democrats, by and large, blew a collective gasket over a number of his responses. That was to be expected. What was less predictable, though understandable, was that a number of GOP politicians expressed a range of emotions that ran from disgust to shock and awe. But there was more. Even Fox News had several analysts diverge from the script and call Trump’s performance off key, or some variation thereof. Newt Gingrich called Trump’s apparent siding with Putin over his own Intelligence Community the biggest mistake of his tenure to date. He insisted that Trump must recant and fix it immediately. Senator McCain, Paul Ryan, and even Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, all weighed in, and not in a supportive manner.

Yesterday, after a barrage of negative publicity from myriad sources, Trump reluctantly conceded he accepts the U.S. Intelligence Committee reports of Russian meddling. However, no sooner than he read the words, emphasis on read, he added that it could have been any number of others. But first, he rationalized, I mean explained, his initial ridiculous position was a function of having misspoken. He explained that he said would when he meant wouldn’t, when he asked why would they (as in why would Russia meddle). According to his newly revised and highly scripted (he actually read it) version of events, it was just that simple. I would add that was the only thing he cleaned up regarding the entire episode. One word. Really?

Gingrich and others in the Trump/Fox orbit clearly got their point across. In response, Trump transformed one word into a conjunction, and for many, all was right again in TrumpWorld. But let’s be clear, while the political timber shivered, and even the media lights blinked, the real denizens of TrumpWorld, the MAGA hat wearing Trumpians, never waivered. They stood resolutely behind the Dear Leader of the People, firing Obama and Clinton zingers as if they have them on speed dial, which is actually a possibility. They are knitted closer to their commitment to defend Trump than Trump is to his defense of Putin. You must admit, that’s d… close.

One thing that always makes me smile is that for all of their robotically reflexive defenses of The Donald, few of them ever can get more than a few words out without receding into that seemingly inescapably cavernous pattern of referring to President Obama, or Hillary Clinton, and occasionally Bill. Of course, right after those tried and true scapegoating aphorisms come Democrats, liberals, fake news, the Main Stream Media, the deep state, and Bernie Sanders. Mostly, they seem to hate Obama and despise the Clintons way more than they admire and respect Donald Trump, which come to think of it, are almost oxymoronic constructs in the first place.

All things considered, it has been just another drama-filled week in the TrumpWorld universe. If I’ve learned anything about Trump over the past year and a half, it’s that there have been others before this one, and there will most assuredly be more to follow. Despite the thinnest of veneers, as far as explanations go, several of the folks who a mere 24 hours earlier were aghast at the words that came out of Donald Trump’s mouth, felt, or at least portrayed, an almost giddiness about Trump’s hardly deft effort at redirection. But, as many have concluded, the Republican Party has receded; the Trump Party has emerged. May God save all of us. “The Guardians of TrumpWorld Are Busier Than Ever: Thanks Donald!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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Hypocrite-in-Chief: And Another One

It’s time to Break It Down!

With apologies to Donald McKinley Glover, Jr., AKA, Childish Gambino, AKA, mcDJ, “This Is America” (https://youtu.be/VYOjWnS4cMY)! As we Americans find ourselves nearing a year and a half into the zone we casually, or at least generally, refer to as the Trump Presidency, so, so many precedents and unconventional occurrences have become the rule rather than the exception. Daily.

It this era of transconfiguration, more aptly devolution, America is a place in which our titular leader eschews norms with fierce intentionality. We have become a nation-state in which defaming long-time allies, and coddling historical adversaries is de rigueur, if not flat out expected. To be blunt, we live in a world, more precisely, in a country, where no matter how confounding, outrageous, or bizarre the news of the day happens to be, if it pertains to the President, I no longer have the capacity to be surprised.

In recent months, up until yesterday, Trump has granted seven clemencies: five pardons and two sentence commutations. Pardons forgive people who have committed crimes, and restore at least some of their rights. Commutations reduce prisoners’ sentences and most often free them immediately. Here are a few examples:

  • In April, Mr. Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, a former George W. Bush administration official convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2003.
  • In May, he posthumously pardoned Jack Johnson, who died in 1946, at least in part at the behest of Sylvester Stallone. Johnson was a Heavyweight Boxing Champion, convicted in 1913 of taking his white girlfriend across state lines.
  • In June, he granted commutation to Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother and great grandmother who was serving a life sentence in prison for nonviolent drug offenses. The sentence was rendered in 1996. Kim Kardashian West’s support buttressed Johnson’s case.
  • Trump also pardoned Dinesh D’Souza last month. Mr. D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to illegally using straw donors to donate to a Republican Senate candidate in New York.
  • Last August Trump gave his first-ever pardon to Joe Arpaio, the bombastic former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. The 85-year-old earned much of his legacy for illegally detaining Latinos, and keeping inmates in brutal jail conditions during his 24-year tenure as sheriff. His tactics led to a 2017 criminal conviction after he violated a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

Trump has floated the idea of pardoning Martha Stewart, whom a jury found guilty in 2004 of obstructing justice, and lying to investigators about the reasons she sold shares of stock. She served five months in prison. He also teased the notion of commuting the sentence of former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year sentence after being convicted of corruption ensuing from a scheme to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, who had been elected President in 2008. Both those things …could…happen, but they will have to get in the queue.

Yesterday, Trump signed full pardons for Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond, Jr., and his son Steve Hammond. The Hammonds were convicted in 2012 of setting fires that spread on government-managed land near their ranch. Dwight was initially sentenced to three months in prison, while his son Steve was ordered to serve a year and a day. Prosecutors appealed because those sentences fell short of the five-year minimum for arson committed against federal property. First, just ponder that for a moment. An apparently activist judge (which Republican reputedly disdain) decided that the minimum sentence was too harsh for these fine, upstanding citizens…who had merely took over, and set fire to public lands. No biggie, right? Right!!! Spoiler alert: Prosecutors won their appeal and the Hammonds were ordered to serve the entire five years; hence, yesterday’s pardon.

Seriously, to characterize, these pardoning the Hammonds as anything short of Trumpian-level hypocrisy would be an abomination. Never mind the arson though;  the Hammonds’ debacle led to the Ammond Bundy incident, which included armed conflict resulting in the loss of life. Privilege!

This pardon sequence showcases the double standard of justice still prevalent in America. Yes, it’s a race thing. Period, full stop. To call it anything else is to dissemble, deflect, deny…oh, just call it what it is…lie!

Whites cloak themselves in the flag, call themselves survivalists, invoke the anthem, and spread insurrection. They are deemed overzealous patriots whose love of country and hatred of taxes got the best of them and prompted them to misbehave. Where’s my violin?

To be black and challenge authority on almost any level in this country is apt to garner an invitation to go back to Africa, or to incite the N-word, or to risk police brutality…or worse. Kneeling football players are SOB’s who should be fired, while Maxine Waters is low IQ, and of course, President Obama was a Kenyan-Socialist-Muslim, because he had the temerity to win the Presidency. Twice! And don’t even mention real pushback. The mere existence of the Black Panthers prompted local, state and federal authorities to enact new laws, including gun control in California, expressly to curtail their impact, and to make it easier to arrest and prosecute them.

Trump’s pardon of the Hammonds is just the latest episode of rapprochement with his overwhelmingly white and frequently intolerant base. Meanwhile, recollections of the Central Park stand in stark contrast.

A jogger was raped and beaten in Central Park in 1989. Four black and one Latino teenager were charged, convicted and jailed for the crime. However, the evidence was shaky, and confessions were allegedly forced. Trump ran full-page ads in several NYC newspapers calling for the resumption of the Death Penalty. A subsequent confession by a previously convicted murderer and rapist, along with associated DNA evidence and his admission that he acted alone resulted in the five being released, after serving as many as a dozen years in jail. Oh yeah, none of the Central Park 5 was ever found at the scene of the crime.

Not surprisingly, they sued the City. They were awarded a $41 million settlement. Meanwhile, for decades, Trump continued to call for them to receive the Death Penalty, and quite naturally criticized the City for reaching a settlement. Yes, “This Is America,” and he is the…”Hypocrite-In-Chief: And Another One!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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Independence Day: Free At Last Redux ’18!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Today’s post is a revised reprint of a blog I originally published July 9, 2008, and then subsequently in the July 4, 2012, and July 5, 2017 Editions of “Break It Down!” Since today is literally the 4th of July, this redux version is timely. I hope you are having a wonderful Independence Day, 2018, and that if you get around to reading it, that you will enjoy this week’s blog.

So as I approached this Fourth of July, as always, I did so with complicated panoply of thoughts, a few of which I will share here. Our great country, and yes, by many measures it is great, strives to be all it can be, at home and abroad. It’s appropriate to note we have been successful on many fronts. On others, we still have work to do. It’s fair to embrace our successes, and necessary to accept our challenges. Doing both is the only way we can reach our true potential.

As African Americans, we often find ourselves pulled in divergent directions over how to address this day; perhaps everyday. A hundred fifteen years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois framed it thusly in “The Souls of Black Folk:”

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.  One ever feels his twoness, –an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

I endorse Dr. Du Bois’ views on the subject.

But lest anyone rush to judge Du Bois, he is not alone; he is not even the first to cast a disparaging eye at the relationship between African Americans and the Fourth of July. On July 5, 1852, fifty-one years earlier, Frederick Douglass gave a speech at Corinth Hall, in Rochester, NY, his home. In a passage of that speech, Douglass said:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Suffice it to say neither Douglass, nor Du Bois was sold on the notion of the Fourth of July as a pure as the driven snow family friendly holiday. But that is not the sole point of this post.

No, history has given us the gift of some intriguing coincidences, as well as some compelling ironies. In observing both, there are times when, even though I hold him/her in great awe, and with the highest regard, I am convinced God is, if not a confirmed jokester, at the very least, the owner of a genuinely robust sense of humor.

During a number of past holidays, I have addressed ad nauseam, the “principle of incompatibility” that divides holidays from structured endeavors such as reading, studying, and heaven forbid, working. To that end I usually try to ratchet it down a notch or two, or several, during holidays. The fact that today is July 4thAmerica’s official Independence Daymakes that messaging exceedingly apropos.

Looking back at Independence Days past, 1826 probably held one of the more noteworthy coincidences.  July 4th, 1826, marked not only the 50th Anniversary of American Independence, but was also the day two of our nation’s Founding FathersJohn Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died. Yes, they died the same day in the same year. Such an occurrence today would almost certainly serve as a catalyst for rumors of a death pact.

Adams and Jefferson shared more than joint status as two of the fifty-six co-signers of the Declaration of Independence; they also went on to become the 2nd and 3rd Presidents of the United States, respectively. It is reported that Adams’ last words were, “Jefferson still survives.” However, unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson had died earlier that day.

Adams and Jefferson had quite a concurrent history.  Adams was the first to serve as America’s Vice President, he was the first President to live in the executive mansion (known today as the White House), and he was also the first President to be defeated in a re-election bid…by Jefferson, who had served as his Vice President.

Thomas Jefferson went on to become President after defeating Adams, but not without a bit of what we would think of today, as drama.  Aaron Burr tied Jefferson with 73 electoral votes.  As a result, the election was sent to the House of Representatives to determine the winner. After 36 ballots (that’s right 36), Jefferson prevailed. In later developments, Burr, who served for a time as Jefferson’s Vice President, killed Alexander Hamilton, who was also a Founding Father, in a duel. Not surprisingly, Burr’s career in politics took a precipitous decline afterward, although he was never convicted of a crime for his role in the incident.

Burr’s leaving the office meant Jefferson had to secure another Vice President for his second term as President. After 203 years, P-Funk fans still tip their hat to Jefferson, as he selected George Clinton to hold the second chair. (Funk-a-teers and P-Funk Mythology devotees will know what I mean…see George Clinton, musician, and his anthem Atomic Dog, as a point of reference).  I digress!

The virtually concurrent deaths of Adams and Jefferson marked an intriguing Independence Day coincidence of considerable magnitude. July 4, 2008, Independence Day again collaborated with the death of a prominent political figure, this time in what many consider a compellingly ironic twist. Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, popularly known as Senator No, a nickname he appeared to relish, died leaving a legacy that will be debated, by supporters and detractors for many years to come.

It is a fact that there are those who consider Helms a patriot. Others have cited his “courage” to stand against the forces of change, on issues ranging from gay rights to trade agreements, to foreign aid. Many of his most notable tirades focused on issues of civil rights and affirmative action, and funding for AIDS research. He was also a leading Senate opponent of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, and he authored and/or approved the infamous, in North Carolina anyway (but highly effective), “white hands” commercial, aired during the first of two Senate campaign battles against former Charlotte Mayor, Harvey Gantt (1990).  For that moment in time at least, Senator No drove the concept of negative campaign advertising to a new and ugly low.

The Honorable Senator No appeared to take great pride in his predictable opposition to progressive ideals, and often needled the media when he felt he had bested their desired interests. He earned the distinction of being North Carolina’s longest serving Senator. That is a noteworthy accomplishment, and cannot be diminished.

However, it must be noted that many of the tributes and editorials that began streaming forth FridayJuly 4, 2008, sanitized the bigotry and raw mean-spiritedness that marked so many of Helms’ political encounters; especially his triumphs. His was a divisive, zero-sum brand of politics that often targeted the historically disenfranchised for more abuse, insult, and exclusion. In that light, it is impossible to deny the essence of irony in the events of Independence Day, 2008. He was a bona fide Tea Party hero, before his time. One can almost envision the spirit of King, after having scaled the mountaintop, uttering that famous three-word phraseFree at Last!

In my solitary reference to him during this post, I cannot wind down this blog without stating the obvious. Helms and some of his tactics were eerily reminiscent of some of those employed by a certain contemporary politician who holds one of the most powerful positions in the world, and whose 5-letter name rhymes with grump. In an effort to embrace the liberating theme of Independence Day, I opted not to promote “name that rhymes with grump” fatigue, by making this post about him. Indeed, it’s “Independence Day: Free at Last Redux!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:


















Sarah Sanders Secures Secret Service Safeguarding: “This Is America!”

It’s time to Break It Down!

Many Americans lament the erosion of civil discourse, especially in the political arena. I have noted before, this is by no means a new thing. Aaron Burr, Vice President of the United States, and former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton met July 11, 1804, in a duel that led to Hamilton’s death. Hamilton shot first, and missed. Oops! Burr then fired a shot that mortally wounded Hamilton. He died the next day from the gunshot.

As political feuding goes, it’s hard to top Burr-Hamilton. Laying that horrific anomaly to the side (most political tiffs don’t result in homicide), we are in an increasingly bad space these days. I have previously referenced a number of ways in which Donald Trump has contributed to the current low-water mark of public interaction.

In the event you have missed my commentary, or perchance, have been locked in a cave, or engaged in a latter day version of the Rip Van Winkle Story, here are a few of the ways in which Donald J. Trump has personally contributed to the race to the bottom:

  • Referred to Mexicans who immigrate to the United States primarily as people who bring drugs and crime. They are rapists. To his credit, he did go on to say, “And some I assume are good people.”
  • Suggested that a black protester at one of his rallies be assaulted. The day after one of his rallies, he said Mercutio Southall, Jr. was so obnoxious at his rally, that maybe he should have been roughed up. Video showed Mr. Southall being pushed to the ground and surrounded by several white men who began kicking and punching him. In addition to saying that he should have been roughed up, Trump added that his supporters should throw him out. What was the catalyst for this attack? Southall had screamed, “Black lives matter.” (Black Lives Matter protester was punched and kicked)
  • The Trump-White Nationalist nexus – Not only do white nationalists love Trump; he loves them back. During the course of his campaign, he accepted donations from racist white people, including Michael Polignano and Peter Brimelow, both of whom manage racist publications. White nationalists gravitated to Trump for a number of reasons. High on the list were anti-immigrant policies, Islamophobia, anti-blackness, and sexism. Their doting admiration was a key factor in why it took his campaign so long to denounce receiving support from organizations such as the KKK, and their leading personalities, including David Duke.
  • Called for the complete shutdown of Muslims entering this country. Trump and his transition team raised the stakes on Islamophobia. From his campaign’s inception, he indicated that a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims was necessary for the country’s safety. He suggested that systems beyond databases should be used to track Muslims in America.
  • What the hell do you (black folks) have to lose? In TrumpWorld, virtually all black folks are undereducated, bullet-dodging, abortion seeking at nine months kinds of people. This racial trope seems to be black reality in Trump’s mind. At one of his rallies he intoned, “We have to help them.” The infamous “them,” was black people who are apparently misguided, violent, and hopeless.
  • “Why are we having all these people from s…hole countries come here? At a meeting in the Oval Office with politcos from both sides of the aisle, convened to discuss immigration policy, Trump was disturbed by the immigration of people from Haiti and African countries. In addition to taking offense to Haitians and Africans coming to America (about 398 years too late), he suggested we need more Norwegians.
  • You also had some very fine people on both sides.” After violence erupted in Charlottesville, VA, during protests of the Unite The Right rally, inspired and led by white nationalists, Trump made the aforementioned comment. The “both sides” included the protesters on one side, and white nationalists and Nazis on the other. Very fine people among white nationalists and Nazis…Really?
  • “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, `Get that son of a bitch off the field right now! Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!“ In the height of Trump’s efforts to stump for Roy Moore to become Alabama’s newest Senator, Trump took a rhetorical detour to expand upon his views on one of his favorite foils, NFL players who kneel to protest the violent deaths of black and brown folks killed by police officers. Trump, of course, has succeeded in conflating the issue so that he and his supporters argue vociferously about disrespecting “our great flag,” which has less than nothing to do with the issue.
  • “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” if you don’t stand for the anthem. When the NFL announced that it was enacting a policy that required players on the field to stand for the Anthem, Trump praised the League’s new stance, though he went on to pan the option for players who don’t choose to stand to remain in the locker room during the Anthem.
  • The Central Park 5 Billboard – One of the most abhorrent of Trump’s many acts of incivility was his purchasing billboards with several newspapers throughout NYC promoting the re-establishment of the death penalty, presumably to put 5 black and Latino New Yorkers to death for their alleged role in the beating and rape of a Central Park jogger. A subsequent confession, supplemented by DNA evidence proved conclusively that all 5 of the young men were innocent. The young men, who had spent up to 12 years in prison were released and sued the City. They were awarded a settlement totaling $41 million, a $million for each year they spent in jail. Trump was livid, and for many years refused to relent on his call for the death penalty. At least one report says he finally backed away from his insistence on the death penalty, but he still argues they are guilty. Talk about a science denier!

While I would never suggest this is The Donald’s Top 10 most heinous statements or actions, they all rank high, as far as I’m concerned. But that brings me full circle, and back to the title/theme for today’s post. News reports indicate that Sarah Sanders will get Secret Service protection, possibly as early as today. There have been conniptions, and gnashing of teeth by the Right due to the owner of an unaffiliated Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, VA, asking Sarah Sanders, Trump’s Press Secretary, to leave. Many tossed out the Left’s taking offense about cake-maker who refused to serve the gay couple as an example of hypocrisy, and of a double standard. They blame the escalation of incivility on the Left.

In my view, in a perfect world, the gay couple would have gotten their wedding cake, and Mrs. Sanders and her family would have gotten dinner. But, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in TrumpWorld. And in that sphere, Donald Trump has since long before he ran for president, to while he was running for the office, and since being elected, appeared to work tirelessly to obliterate any sense of civil discourse on matters that relate to politics, race, religion, law, just to name a few areas. He and his supporters and sycophants believe that his obnoxious behavior is a political winner for him, and for them.

At this juncture, they control the Oval Office, the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, and more state legislatures than I care to count. It’s hard to argue with them at the moment. Still, at then end of a race to the bottom, you are at the bottom. In my heart of hearts, I believe there must be more, and better. But that’s all about the future. For now, Sarah Sanders Secures Secret Service Safeguarding: “This Is America!” Apologies to Childish Gambino.

I’m done; holla back!

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Panning Allies and Our Own Leaders While Praising Dictators: The Art of the Trump!

It’s time to Break It Down!

The times they are a changing. When Barack Obama was initially a candidate for president, he responded to a question by saying he would talk to world leaders, including our enemies, not just our friends. That former listing included the dictator-leader of North Korea. At the time the collective energy of the GOP was assembled into a giant swift and consolidated rebuke of Mr. Obama.

From Fox News to Republican Congressmen to the man and woman in the street, conservatives wallowed apoplectically, in what could have been called, “The Audacity of Nope.” No way, no how was that an acceptable posture. Fast-forward to last week, and you have what a mea culpa without an actual apology looks like. The GOP, complete with a gaggle of Fox News personalities cheerleading, staged an extended virtual standing ovation for Trump’s Tuesday, June 12th Singapore agreement with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. An agreement I might add, that has little detail, and even less certainty of pending follow through and execution.

But there is more. While this so-called deal, upon which the potential denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula hinges was unfolding, it did so in the backdrop of Trump beating up on French President Emmanuel Macron, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leaders of two of the United States’ historic and traditional allies.

In an interview with Sean Hannity on the same day as the so-called Summit, Trump characterized Kim complimentarily, calling him a “strong guy,” and saying he is a “great negotiator.” He also said of him, “he’s got a very good personality, he’s very funny, very smart, and he’s a very strategic kind of a guy.”

Meanwhile, in his recent contentious bouts with Macron and Trudeau, he tweeted:

“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”

He also added, “Prime Minister Trudeau is being so indignant, bringing up the relationship that the U.S. and Canada had over the many years and all sorts of other things…but he doesn’t bring up the fact that they charge us up to 300% on dairy — hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture.”

(Never mind that Canada is the top market for U.S. agricultural exports.)

This topsy-turvy, upside-down world on its axis narrative is consistent with Trump’s persona and one of his long-standing patterns. He has favorably compared Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad to the President of his own country (Barack Obama). He referred to Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein as “effective.” And of course, perhaps most famously, he personally spearheaded the “Birther” Movement, falsely alleging that President Barack Obama, the 44thPresident of the United States, was not born in the United States.

In a statement last Friday, Trump may have removed all that remained of “the Emperor’s Clothes.” Speaking, in a Fox News interview, about the North Korean “strongman,’ Kim Jong Un, he said:

“Hey, he’s the head of a country. And I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

I could say more, but why bother. In his own words, Trump has not only underscored his adulation of dictators and foreign adversaries, he has, for all practical purposes, removed all doubt by sharing his motivation for doing so. Panning Allies and Our Own Leaders While Praising Dictators: The Art of the Trump!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Black Voters: Not A Trump Market

Black Voters: Not A Trump Market

Occasionally, someone says something regarding a topic on which I have an opinion, and they say everything I would like to have said…and they said it better, and more completely. Thank you Issac Bailey; you did that in your commentary on black voters and Donald Trump. In fact, I so endorse your writing on this subject that I submit your CNN Op Ed from yesterday as my post today.

Issac Bailey (a self-described conservative) is an interim member of The Charlotte Observer editorial board and the 2016 James K. Batten Professor of Public Policy at Davidson College. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman fellow and is the author of the book “My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Midst of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South” (Other Press). Follow him on Twitter: @ijbailey. The views expressed below are his.

Black voters are not going to follow Kim Kardashian and Kanye West into the arms of President Donald Trump.

Trump appears to be making a push these days to woo black voters. But they are not going to be fooled. Not by Trump’s nakedly political attempt to pardon or commute the sentences of a few, select black people — especially as he implements policies that continue hurting people of color, including a rollback of civil rights protections and accountability for law enforcement.

And they won’t be misled by Trump’s false claims that he’s the reason the black unemployment rate has dipped to its lowest level on record, 5.9%, given that it improved significantly more under President Barack Obama.

But, more importantly, black voters won’t embrace Trump because he (and his supporters) have yet to acknowledge the affront of his well-documented, bigoted remarks, his unfair criticism of Obama and his refusal to acknowledge Obama’s accomplishments while in office.

Besides that, white supremacists — and those who may be sympathetic toward them — keep reminding us that they are giddy about Trump and feel more comfortable in the Republican Party because Trump shares “some of the same ideals.”

Even those with less extreme, though still deeply problematic views, have found a home with the GOP. “In my view, the best way to bring diversity to the Republican Party is for Republicans to openly say that the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American,” said Seth Grossman, the GOP nominee for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Grossman has been endorsed by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

His comments were far from the dog whistle the black community has grown accustomed to. Instead they were a blunt and bizarre declaration that those who believe diversity is important, particularly because black people, women and others have too frequently been denied opportunity, are the real racists.

His disgusting remarks were uncovered by a progressive super PAC that monitors GOP candidates. But there’s nothing surprising about Grossman’s comments. They fit well within today’s Republican Party, which supported a candidate for President who rose to national prominence despite (or because of) his embrace of bigoted beliefs.

And he has not let go of these beliefs since assuming office. He has allegedly called African countries “shitholes,” (though he denies it), has said he wants more immigrants from overwhelmingly white Norway and has labeled peacefully protesting NFL players as “sons of bitches” who don’t belong in the country.

But it’s not just what Trump has done while he has been in office — it’s also what he hasn’t done: give Obama credit where credit is due. When Obama became president at the height of the recession, black unemployment was at nearly 17%. By the time he left, it had dropped to 7.8%. Similarly, black poverty had reached its lowest level at 19%. And the stock market had risen 234%.

Of course, Trump called those statistics phony; he said black people had nothing to lose by voting for him because they lived in a veritable “hellscape.” Notably, only 8% of black voters bought his logic then, helping to usher him into office.

Trump, though he has been in office for a much shorter time than Obama, has yet to achieve his predecessor’s economic accomplishments. Take GDP growth: In 2014, under Obama, the United States grew 4.6% and 5.2% in the second and third quarters, respectively. The highest quarterly increase under Trump so far has been a 3.2% rise during the third quarter of last year.

The American public also received massive tax cuts under Obama, tax cuts that were more tailored for the middle class than those Trump signed into law last year. While the bottom three-fifths of earners benefited most from Obama tax cuts, the biggest beneficiaries of the Trump tax cuts are projected to be families making between $308,000 and $703,000.

Meanwhile, economic and racial inequality remain entrenched and are expected to worsen under Trump. “The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned, rather than a right of citizenship,” Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur, has said.

Trump and his most ardent supporters, who spent years telling black voters the black guy in the White House had accomplished nothing of significance, now want to take credit for Trump’s underwhelming accomplishments. But black voters haven’t forgotten the Obama years. And they won’t.

“Black Voters: Not A Trump Market!” I’m done; Aloha!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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