One of the reasons Black Americans end up in the penal system more often than whites is because of our nation’s “non-existent” systemic racism — remember, the Right tells us that systemic racism does not exist.
These same people tell us that George Floyd was a criminal and had he not “resisted” arrest, then he’d be alive today. They also tell us that Ashli Babbit was a patriot and executed by the police. I am not making this up, this is what they believe. This requires some context.
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona painted the people who participated in the riot as victims, referring to them as “peaceful patriots” who are being harassed by the government, and said Ashli Babbitt, the woman who was killed by Capitol police during the attack, was “executed (Ashli Babbit Executed).”
And now let’s see what they are saying about George Floyd who allegedly was passing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill:
It feels all too familiar. This is the “well, he was no angel” narrative, obliquely blaming the victim for his fate. It’s a narrative all too often applied to Black men who die at the hands of police. Fox’s trial coverage got the same point across in slightly more subtle ways: “DARK PAST DETAILED” blared a headline after Floyd’s girlfriend described her struggles with opioid addiction as well as Floyd’s (Rightwing Smears George Floyd).
It is a tragedy that George Floyd died after giving himself up to the police. There are no excuses why he was murdered the way he was by a policeman, when he was completely and totally, reduced to groveling for his life, face down on the asphalt.
It is also a tragedy that Ashli Babbit died. She, however, was killed in the act of committing a crime. Nevertheless, it is still a tragedy and while I want to say that she knew what she was doing and so understood the possible consequences, I don’t really think she did. She was told by the president of the United States, and rightwing media, that protest was to be applauded. They, and all Republican lawmakers accepting the Big Lie, are complicit in her death.
The table has been set. While most of us are aware of how Black Americans are treated compared to whites when it comes to run-ins with the law, let’s take a step deeper into the quicksand of America’s systemically racist laws.
Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).
These disparities were observed “after controlling for a wide variety of sentencing factors,” including age, education, citizenship, weapon possession and prior criminal history. The United States currently houses the world’s largest prison population, with an incarceration rate of roughly 666 inmates per 100,000 people. Among whites, the rate is 450 inmates per 100,000 people. The incarceration rate for blacks is over five times higher, at 2,306 inmates per 100,000 people (Black Men Serve More Time).
My racist friends from childhood, Trump, Fox News and most of the white, Christian nationalists in the US will look at the number of incarcerated Blacks per 100,000 and say, “see, they are inherently more violent, more predisposed to criminality.” This is of course a sick, and ignorant, opinion.
If you live in a community where there are more cops, more laws being more aggressively enforced, then you will end up in trouble more often; add poverty to this mix and you get the number you do up above.
Take a white kid I knew from childhood. He was a good kid from a large Irish-Catholic family and he loved to fight; he loved to mess around in school. Mischief night for him each year was like Christmas morning as it meant he could go out and mess up people’s property in a “not so destructive way.” A few of the cops in the town thought he was a punk and so made it their objective to break him; and guess what, Mike was in trouble all the time.
The police sought him out even when there was no chance he could have been involved. They would wake his family up at night and interrogate him. The family eventually sued the town but he was a marked kid, and then man. So harassed, and feeling like he was such a troubled “punk,” he joined the Marines straight out of high school. It took him years to finally put that reputation behind him but he so hated the police than when his best friend became one — they never spoke again.
This is the reality in Black America for pretty much all Black Americans.
The Voter Suppression Laws of 2021
The bills passed into law so far in Georgia, Florida and Texas are designed not only to make it harder for minorities, Black citizens, to vote; but they are also come with a bunch of add-ons which actually criminalize the act of supporting the right to vote. In Georgia, for example:
In one particularly cruel provision, SB 202 criminalizes the act of giving snacks or water to voters waiting in line at polling places.
[A law in Iowa] risks flawed voter purges by moving voters to inactive status every time they miss a federal election, requiring Iowa to use U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data for list maintenance, and threatening county auditors with criminal prosecution for not abiding by voter roll purge practices (Voting Laws).
Other laws in some of the states that have either passed or are advancing “restrictive laws” threaten massive fine and prison time for sending out absent-tee ballots that have not been requested. The practice in many states used to be to send out to every registered voter, whether requested or not, an absentee ballot.
In addition, state election’s officials who resisted pressure from Republicans, and even President Trump, to change the results, will now be criminally charged if they refuse to listen to the party which is in power in the state! This is an amazing development which pretty much guarantees that American democracy is being strangled to death.
The season of restrictive election laws is just heating up. Even as I write these words, it is hard for me to believe that I am not writing satire. For nearly two decades, way back when online blogs and Facebook and other such new methods for interacting digitally with friends were just taking shape, I argued that everything George W. Bush stood for, and supported by Fox, would lead to now. I used to create these fantastic tales of impending doom for my rightwing friends and they would good-naturedly ridicule my “fables.”
We have arrived. I used to say that if America has a generation of Fox and the type of rightwingism that took shape in the wake of the stolen 2000 election, then America will become a fascist state. What is taken place in these states guarantees that some Americans, and most likely Black Americans, will be imprisoned for trying to vote in 2022.
We aren’t in Kansas anymore — well, actually, it seems all of America will soon be Kansas, one the most off-the-wall conservative states we have.
What can we do? Is it too late?