Friday, December 05, 2014

It's Not Always About Race

Let me be clear here. I'm not saying there is no longer racial tension in this country. I'm not saying racial profiling doesn't exist or white privilege doesn't exist. However, there are actually two issues that are getting mixed up together in most people's minds: 1) ongoing police brutality and 2) black communities tend to have higher crime rates and lower income.

Let's take the first issue. We need to get a better system of checks and balances in place (which is what our country is built on). For example, in the Eric Garner situation, the internal police department has not fired or suspended this man despite clearly violating protocol. I'm not arguing that police officers shouldn't have the right to use force when arresting someone or that any specific laws were broken. But there is clear, visual evidence that an internal police protocol was broken, which contributed to a man's death. Arguably, the two other officers involved should have also stepped in to stop what was going on and they should face some type of fine, training, or administrative assignments.

However, I would like to present a few other cases to show that excessive force has been used across color lines. For instance, there's the case in Missouri of Jason and Laura Hagan, a homeschooling family who were being followed up with by CPS based on a previous complaint of a "messy house". When the Hagan's exercised their Fourth Amendment rights to refuse to let CPS in, the local Sheriff's office was called in. Without a warrant or justifiable cause, the parents and dog were pepper sprayed, tasered, and attacked in their own home (despite being on the phone with a lawyer at the time, so that was pretty dumb). A lawsuit has been filed, and the Sheriff has been fired.

Also, at least two Justice Department investigations have found systemic police brutality and use of excessive force (Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Cleveland, Ohio) without a specific finding of racial profiling or racism. In Albuquerque, for example, a homeless white man was shot (allegedly armed with a small pocketknife, but complying with police). I think the #blacklivesmatter should really be #livesmatter. If the local police are being excessive, it should not matter what color you are, they should be reprimanded and action should be taken internally. If that's not happening, then we need an external group to step in (whether that's the Justice Department, or some other entity). Cameras aren't going to help, and making it all about race is only going to cause more black lives to be lost.

Now, to fix the problem of inequality, you have to go a bit further. Why are most of the police brutality cases against black victims/suspects? Going back to a previous blog post, even the black President of the United States indicated a direct correlation between "some communities of color" and "high crime, low income neighborhoods". So, if you want to fix the underlying racial tension, that is the problem that needs to be fixed. I don't think that anyone is going to call our President racist, but isn't he indicating the same type of bias as the local police departments? If even the President assumes that some "communities of color" can be synonymous with high crime, low income areas, why would we be upset that police make the same assumptions?

So let's fix the high crime, low income areas. Obviously, the answer to that isn't easy. However, I think it's about fixing the education system, getting people off government assistance and into jobs, and providing support and resources for new parents in low income areas. The way the system works right now, we are encouraging young, low-income parents to have children (because they can't get most benefits otherwise) and then not giving them the support and education they need to raise their children. Then, we are encouraging them to work (because you can't get most government benefits without working) without giving them quality childcare, leaving tweens and teens wandering the streets without purpose. Our education system is failing, because it's expected to act as a substitute parent and child-care provider as well as educating our young people.

Here's one radical solution: Provide optional at-home preschool/parenting services for all low income families (with children ages 0-5) so parents can learn how to parent their own children. Increase the length of the public school day, while decreasing the number of "educational hours". The school day for elementary students should be 5 hours (required) with up to 4 hours of optional "childcare" provided at no cost after school. Class sizes should be 15:1 during "educational hours" with additional support for Kindergarten classrooms (10:1). "Childcare" coverage should include tutoring services, physical activity, and just letting kids play outside. School should also be "year-round" to prevent the "learning slide" and higher crime during summer.

In addition, we need to fix the Welfare system (again). Right now the system is set up to encourage single parents and renters and discourage homeowner's and stay-at-home parents. We should provide temporary, emergency support only, and instead of paying to rent low-income housing, we should provide low-interest loans to help get more families into stable housing and fix up areas of our cities with low-property values. Also, any man who wants should be able to get a job (similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps).

We should have a system in place to provide job related experience and training to anyone who is unemployed. If they've been incarcerated they need to be given a second chance through supervised training and experience. No more two years of unemployment for people who just don't want to work. Limit "unemployment" to 3 months, and if you haven't found a job by then, you'll be given one, which you have to work at to get paid. Also, stop paying for childcare. It makes no sense to me to employ the women of this country for $8 an hour and pay someone $10 an hour to provide childcare for them, And yes, I'm being gender specific, but that's because one of the main reasons for the high crime rate among black men, is that they aren't given any other roles. We've assigned them the roles of "dead-beat dad" or "at risk youth" and we've never given them a better place in society. Expect them to step up, and they will.

Let's look to our culture to make the changes and not the government. Support programs to educate low-income youth. Support Big Brother/Big Sister or Habitat For Humanity, or whatever local programs in your area help with education and job placement. Ask your Senator to make changes that help this country, but don't rely solely on their progress, start making your own. All lives matter, so let's fix the two separate issues: police brutality, and the "low income/high crime communities of color".
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