06 April 2012

Cops draw guns on Torii Hunter; also, wtf America?

...because the LameStream Media [tm, although I'm not sure whose] sure as hell isn't writing insightful articles about important things, here are four articles from AlterNet that are pointing at the absurdity and rage-fueling injustice of everyday life in These United States...

Article 1: "10 Unbelievably Sh**ty Things America Does to Homeless People."

Of course, most of these aren't actually all that unbelievable if you've been paying attention - but this is a comprehensive and smart little article that points out some of the more egregious and stupid ways in which our governments are attempting to punish people who don't have a place to live. For example, the first paragraph of point 3:

3. Making it illegal to give people food. Two weeks ago, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter announced a citywide ban on giving food to the hungry in public parks. Amidst outcry by homelessness advocates and religious and charity groups, Nutter insisted the policy is meant to draw unhoused people to indoor facilities where they might benefit from medical care and mental health services. Critics pointed out that the policy -- rushed to go into effect in 29 days -- may have more to do with planned renovation of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the construction of a new museum, as Isaiah Thompson reported in the Philadelphia City Paper.

Article 2: "Protesters Beware: U.S. Supreme Court Expands Invasive Strip-Searches"

This one's a little calmer than the last, but it's enough to make me grind my teeth in rage (seems like there's a lot of things having that effect on me these days). Essentially: the Supreme Court's five conservative judges said that if you're arrested, no matter for what, then you're obviously a threat to police and need to be strip-searched.

It is notable that the attorney general's brief seeking to expand strip-searches—written by Michigan’s attorney general—argued to reverse the law limiting suspicionless searches in that state, which also was the case in Colorado. The other states that wanted more authority for strip-searches were Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Other jurisdictions seeking the expanded authority for the strip-searches were Maine, Texas, several New Jersey counties, the National Sheriffs Association, Cook County—or Chicago, where the NATO Summit will be held this May -- and the city of San Francisco.

Article 3: "Conservatives' Twisted, Racist Logic in the Trayvon Martin Case"

I know a lot of y'all are going to avoid this article just because of the title, but I'm going to urge you to anyway. It's important. The article starts out by saying, quite rightly, that the Trayvon Martin case is "a Rorschach test for American society." Can we all agree on that? Everybody's seeing what they expect to see?
Some folks imagine themselves, their children, and members of their communities as Trayvon Martin. To their eyes, Trayvon is a symbol of how American society all too often devalues the lives of people of color.

Other people imagine themselves as George Zimmerman. To them, he is a victim, a good man who only wanted to protect his neighborhood from crime and “suspicious” people. Moreover, the assertion that George Zimmerman acted out of racial bias in his hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin is personally offensive to them.

Because Zimmerman is “them,” and “they” are Zimmerman, he is quite simply a "law-abiding" citizen who is being made a victim of “reverse racism,” “race hustlers,” and the "liberal media.“

Does this sound familiar? These are the two major narratives that we're hearing? Good, because here's where the article starts getting interesting, where it becomes a challenge to any open-minded reader of the case by examining the assumptions that are going into the attacks on Trayvon Martin:

A surrender to a basic and fallacy laden argument that black people, and black young people in particular are uniquely and especially prone to violence, oversimplifies the nature of crime in America. As the old saying goes, “numbers lie and liars figure.” Or alternatively, the lazy recitation of statistics is a dumb person’s idea of how a smart person sounds.

That black people commit more crime is a fallacy of both process and outcomes. African Americans are subject to discrimination in the legal system at every level. As documented by the Sentencing Project, and detailed in such works as Race, Crime and the Law, and The New Jim Crow, African Americans are more likely to be stopped by police without cause, more likely to be aggressively questioned, receive longer and more severe charges for the same crimes as white defendants, and have fewer resources to defend themselves in court.

You catch that? It's a simple point: that more black people are in jail isn't because more black people commit crimes - it's because more black people are targeted by police. If you're deeply invested in believing that American cops are even-handed and honorable defenders of the innocent (I've put a lot of time into building a case against Seattle cops, but less into talking about the as-evident shortcomings of other departments), you may struggle with this, but there's data to back it up. From the link (to a New York Times piece from 2001) in the article:

In Maryland, for example, 73 percent of those stopped and searched on a section of Interstate 95 were black, yet state police reported that equal percentages of the whites and blacks who were searched, statewide, had drugs or other contraband. In New Jersey, where police have admitted to racial profiling, searches in 2000 conducted with the subjects' consent yielded contraband, mostly drugs, on 25 percent of whites, 13 percent of blacks and only 5 percent of Latinos.

A study of stop-and-frisk practices in New York City in 1998 and 1999 found that while police disproportionately stopped young black men, the hit rates were actually marginally higher for whites than for blacks or Latinos. And while 43 percent of those searched at airports by the Customs Service in 1998 were black or Latino, illegal materials were found on 6.7 percent of whites, 6.3 percent of blacks and 2.8 percent of Latinos.

Yeah. This is important stuff.

Anyways. Article 4: "Police Draw Guns in Black Baseball Player's Own Home"

This one's largely sourced from Torii Hunter's Twitter account, and it's only a few minutes old. Apparently, Hunter accidentally set off the alarm in his Newport, California home; cops then came to check on it, didn't believe he lived there, and walked him upstairs at gunpoint to get his ID.

Hunter's being amazingly chill and nice about the whole thing - going so far as to thank the cops for "protecting my home" - but one of his teammates, CJ Wilson, has been a touch more outspoken. From the article:

When Angels pitcher CJ Wilson said to Hunter, “That’s racist,” Hunter responded, “lol... Now u know I can’t say that.”

Meh. On the one hand, I'm tempted to say that Hunter is lucky he didn't get Kenneth Chamberlained - that any time there's any kind of encounter between a person of color and the police, it's a matter of luck whether that person is going to get out alive or unharmed - on the other, I'm hella impressed at how nice Hunter - who's been one of my favorite non-Braves and non-Rays players for a while now - is being about, you know, cops pointing guns at him in his own house for no reason at all.

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