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Justice

Language Matters: Reforming Policy in Durham

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“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”~ Mahatma Gandhi

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but we don’t like being called names either. Who does, and what does it say about the name-callers? As the year winds down, we look back at the work of the FADE Coalition. What we see is an ugly unfortunate and perhaps a predictable pattern of name calling by city officials to discredit our work.

It started with Durham Police Chief Lopez referring to FADE Coalition members as “detractors” at the second Human Relations Committee hearing (HRC) in October. Now, it continues with the announcement of an upcoming community forum for the Citizen’s Police Review Board (CPRB). Speaking to Jim Wise of the Durham News, Review Board member Cynthia Walls said “I have no problem with a public input session, but it’s important to make it clear we don’t want the same complaints the Human Relations Commission is hearing.” Board Member David Harris piled on, saying of the upcoming forum, “This is not a gripe session.”

The “complaints” and “gripes” they refer to involve data provided by the Durham NAACP revealing that between 2004-2009, 75% of civilian complaints filed with the Durham Police Department were dismissed by the Internal Affairs/Professional Standards Division. During that same period, the CPRB received only five appeals and held no hearings at all. Furthermore, between the years 2010 and 2012, DPD received nearly two hundred citizen complaints, though only 20% of these complaints were sustained. While a number of individuals filed timely appeals of their dismissals, the Board granted only one request for a formal appeal hearing during this period.

More generally, we weren’t aware that providing empirical data and personal narratives of racial profiling and police misconduct constituted “gripes.” Nor were we aware that the mothers, lawyers, researchers, organizers, pastors and community members of the FADE coalition could be reduced to the term “detractor”. Chief Lopez, in remarks made about FADE in the Police Department’s December report to HRC, questioned the legitimacy of the coalition as a voice of the community, attempting to minimize our status as long-time Durham residents and engaged community members. The report further states, “we submit…that any alleged broad community concern is being manufactured rather than growing.” More name-calling and just outright dismissal of our long-standing efforts in order to distract from the heart of the matter.

But in the spirit of Gandhi, we accept the name-calling with pride, with a sense that we are making an impact and with the confidence that we will prevail no matter what they call us.

We encourage you to review the document FADE Coalition Policy Recommendationsto the Durham Human Relations Commission.  It reflects an enormous amount of careful research, input, collaboration and thought. And we promise that you will find no gripes, complaints or detractions in it.

Meredith McMonigle is a macro social work intern with the Southern Coalition of Social Justice in Durham, NC. SCSJ partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the south to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing and communications.

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Environmental Justice

6 Reasons to Start Recycling Today

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Most scientific studies argue that the reduction of fossil fuel consumption is paramount to reduce the effects of climate change. We are no longer at the point where a single individual action can reduce the amount of pollution needed to make an impact. However, this should not diminish the importance of recycling, and if you don’t recycle, it’s time to start. Recycling is an easy way for people to feel like they are helping to save Mother Earth.

This is a good thing right? Well, maybe.

People use more plastic and paper when recycling was an option versus when they had to send it to the landfill. Researchers say people’s guilt for wasting is overridden by the good feelings for doing something good, but there is a reason reduce comes before recycle in the old “REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.”  Reducing is the most important and most effective way to save the Earth!

I’m not saying recycling is bad!  It’s great!  Many people think that people who care about recycling also care about reducing, reusing, and other methods of reducing their footprint. It turns out there are different motivators at play.  People commonly feel guilty for using more than they need, but they feel even more positive emotion from doing the “right thing” and recycling.  This means the net feeling is good when people waste but recycle the excess.

Some of the excess that goes in the recycling may end up incinerated or sent to the landfill anyway.  This is due to contamination in the recycling process.  This is why it’s important that people don’t try to recycle things they shouldn’t.

I am definitely not telling you to stop recycling, but do think about the things you use, reduce/reuse where you can and keep recycling!

  1. CUT WASTE:  You can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and combustion facilities.  This allows for that area to be used for other reasons, ideally to be left in its natural state.  In 2013, recycling and composting kept 87.2 million tons of trash from landfills and incinerators in the United States.
  2. CONSERVE:  Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.  Now you are reducing the demand for new goods to be made from new material!
  3. PREVENT AIR POLLUTION:  Due to this decreased demand for new materials, there are more trees and plants able to reduce carbon dioxide and it will take less energy to recycle materials as opposed to create new products. This reduces greenhouse gases emissions.
  4. AND WATER POLLUTION:  With reduced manufacturing from raw material to consumer goods, there will be less waste going from the factories and into the watershed.  Recycling also prevents trash from going into bodies of water.
  5. PROTECT ANIMALS:  A world with more natural habitats and less pollution, native plants and animals will flourish!  You will also be preventing animals from eating recyclable materials that end up in their habitat.
  6. SAVE AND CREATE JOBS:  Your recycling efforts can create and sustain jobs in your community.  On a per ton basis, sorting and processing recyclable materials sustains more jobs than incineration or landfills.

If you’re not sure where to recycle in your area, check here.  This will tell you places in your area that take anything from paper to cell phones, hazardous materials to plastic!

If your school or workplace isn’t recycling, ask why!  And try to change it!  It is not too difficult to recycle and it’s definitely worth it.  Let me know if you have any questions and go recycle!!!

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Justice

Dark-Skinned Whites Arrested More Than Those with Lighter Skin

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A Cornell University study found that black men, no matter how dark or light their skin, get arrested at the same rate, but darker-skinned white men are more likely to be arrested than those with lighter skin.

The study draws on a persistent stereotyping phenomenon – which social psychologists have known for more than a century: People perceive more physical variation in individuals who belong to their own social groups than they do in people who belong to other social groups. It’s the idea that “They all look alike, but we don’t.”

The phenomenon kicks in especially during brief interactions where there’s not much opportunity to learn about another person – potentially including when a police officer is making an arrest.

The finding aligns with larger concerns that white police officers may perceive black individuals as more physically homogenous, says Amelia Branigan, a former postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Population Center.

“We rely on police officers to consider information about a potential arrestee that may be available only by looking at that person’s body, such as age or body size,” said Branigan, who is currently a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“If police officers are less able to accurately read physical differences among people of a different race when making an arrest decision, that would constitute a critical information gap.”

Branigan’s co-authors include Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell.

Branigan and Wilderman emphasize other research has overwhelmingly established that, overall, African-American men are arrested at a far higher rate than white men – even white men with darker skin.

The study breaks new ground for the field of sociology, the authors said. Historically the field has assumed that differences in skin color between whites are not socially meaningful, said Wildeman. “What we show is interesting, in large part, because it suggests physical features, including skin color, matter not just for underrepresented minority groups, which is where most of the emphasis has been, but also for non-Hispanic white males.”

Considering both whites and minorities in studies of skin color is important because certain patterns of bias may only be clear by comparison, the authors said.

“Finding no relationship between skin color and arrests among black men is a good thing on one hand. But when that finding holds only among black men, it fits with popular concern that white police may perceive black men as ‘all looking the same’ during split-second arrest decisions,” Branigan said. “Discrimination by skin color is inequitable for anyone, of any race, but we do want police officers to use accurate visual cues to make decisions about the people they encounter on the job.”

The researchers analyzed data from 888 white men and 703 black men who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study in the late 1980s. The data included a measurement of the reflectivity of the study participants’ skin – the darker the skin, the less light it reflects – and the participants’ arrest records. Three-fourths of the participants lived in cities – Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; and Minneapolis, Minnesota – where more than 95 percent of the police force was white. The other quarter lived in Oakland, California, where 75 percent of the police force was white.

One way to chip away at the disparities found in the study could be policies that change how close police feel to the people they are policing. These could include requiring officers live in the communities where they work, the researchers said.

In many racially diverse communities where police are disproportionately white, most officers live outside the town or city in which they’re employed, Branigan said. “These white officers may be most frequently encountering minorities in the context of crimes committed, which just reaffirms the sense that someone who is nonwhite is inherently ‘someone not like me.’”

In contrast, requiring police officers to live in the communities where they’re employed could redefine their sense of belonging, Branigan said.

“It may provide officers with a basis on which to affiliate with community members of another race, because they are neighbors, instead of viewing them strictly as ‘other.’”

The study “Complicating Colorism: Race, Skin Color, and the Likelihood of Arrest” was published August 29 in the journal Socius.

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Opinion

I Don’t Think I Am Racist

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Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential Campaign

I can’t be a racist.

Some of my best friends are African American. I work with African Americans every day. As a social worker, I fight for social justice, and that includes racial justice, so I’m not a racist.

I certainly don’t want you to think I’m a racist. My family never owned slaves—they were coal miners, which was practically slavery. I believe in diversity, inclusivity, cultural humility, and cultural proficiency and whatever PC term-of-the-week we use for this stuff.

I want to prove to you I’m not a racist. I attend rallies and carry signs.  I was there when they voted to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. I don’t vote for racist candidates and express my horror at racist comments, especially from our leaders.

I thought I wasn’t a racist. The truth is, I view the world through blue eyes. The world interacts with me as a person with very pale skin. I may not want to be privileged (maybe I do) but damned if I’m not. I’m often treated differently than people of color. If police pull me over, I don’t fear for my life, I fear for points on my license. If I walk down the street in a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, people say good morning and comment on the cold weather. They don’t look at me like I’m about to rob them.

When I see rage on the faces of African Americans, I sometimes think—quietly, of course—they may be overreacting. After all, we need to love each other and put the past behind us. We are a rich tapestry of different people and that’s what makes our nation great. This is 2017—time to move forward!

And then Charlottesville happened.

And then I heard the President defend the Nazis and racist, alt-right rally participants.

And then I saw this video and watched white supremacists spew hatred against blacks and Jews while someone was doing CPR on a victim hit by the car.

And I saw this man:

And I saw how his pain, his rage, his desperation reached depths that I have never experienced. He is emotionally bleeding for us all to see, because he has tried EVERYTHING and he is standing in the middle of a frickin’ race war. (I don’t want to say frickin’).

And I heard that right after Charlottesville, a FAMILY MEMBER who teaches about the Holocaust, had received a death threat from someone because they thought he was Jewish.

And then my writing sister who is black, said of her white colleagues, “don’t come to me with your fake tears and your prayers and your hugs. I can’t do it this week. This sh*t is not new. Charlottesville … is all of us. It’s killing us.”

She’s right. She’s right, and we don’t want to see it.

I remember feeling so proud when the Confederate flag came down, and one of my social work mentors (African-American) said, “I don’t care where they flag that ole rag. Taking it down don’t change nothing.”

Yeah, maybe I’m starting to get that now.

After the slaughter of the Emmanuel nine in Charleston, I participated in a workshop about combatting hate. I hoped it would help some of us heal. But when a HBCU professor projected a photograph of a Klan rally, it offended me. “We’re not all like that,” I wanted to scream, but that wasn’t her message. We’re not all like that, but the specter of those white pointed hats is there, is always there, and, like my wise friend said, it’s killing us.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, America has 276 armed militia groups, extremists like the gun-wielding pretend-soldiers in Charlottesville. 276. Let that number sink in.

I don’t want to be a racist, but I can never truly understand the black experience, no matter how hard I try to be an ally. And if I don’t want to be a part of the problem—via action or inaction—then I must confront and accept the ways I have been complicit in this mess. I don’t get to close my eyes to the ugliness that is around me.  I can vote for different leaders, march in rallies, carry signs, write blogs, and be a great social worker but none of that puts a dent in the crap storm we keep denying.

I’d love to end this with some hopeful message, something that makes you feel good about our potential (and about me).

But I got naddah.

So I’ll end with this. My eyes are open. I will fight to keep them open, even if what I see disturbs the hell out of me. And if you see me closing them, get in my face a remind me.

This is ALL OF US.

And we have to fix it.

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