August 14, 2014

Where's President Obama on #Ferguson?

On the racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, while I agree in part with friend Perry that we need national-level white liberals, or "liberals," like Hillary Clinton, to speak up, we need more than that.

Having Anonymous in Ferguson is bad
enough; we sure don't need Adbusters
or other Black Bloc types
We need the leadership from "Dear Leader," too. (That said, I know Perry was speaking rhetorically, having long-ago gotten past the "Politics of Hope," in ignoring Obama.)

He could say "eff it" on angry black worries or whatever, and say:
"Dear Americans: While large parts of our population are largely past racial issues, I have been wrong in talking about a post-racial America."
On the other hand, issues of race overlap with, but only partially, with issues of socioeconomic class. And, Ferguson, Missouri, isn't his upper-income South Side Chicago enclave next to the University of Chicago.

So, yes, Obama could say that. Will he?

Like about all post-WWII presidents, not just the first black one, I am sure he likes playing in the sandbox of foreign policy more than addressing grubby domestic affairs.

So, he could say what I pointed out. But, he almost certainly won't. Instead, he'll stay confined to comments like "heartbreaking," or now, from blissful Martha's Vineyard, asking for "reflection."

Tying issues together, here we have him speaking about both Iraq and Ferguson:

Well, at least we know where he's at geographically.

At the same time, should he decide to speak further than this, I hope he waits until investigations are done. Probably neither the police nor people from the neighborhood are telling the complete, correct story. And, he noted that police brutality should not be an excuse for indiscriminate looting.

Nor should "Anonymous" use occasions like this for disseminating publicly available police scanner transcripts while claiming that it's hacked Ferguson and/or St. Louis County Police Department websites. We also don't need Anonymous claiming it's identified the police officer who is the alleged shooter when, at least for public consumption, those entities say said officer doesn't even work there.

We do not need such grandstanding. We do need Ferguson to make its best effort to honor state of Missouri sunshine laws, though. Or to face legal action if it does not. Recalcitrance merely fans flames.

Fortunately, along that line, President Obama "called out" Ferguson as a city that arrests media members in an attempt at "prior restraint" (pun intended) and intimidation. That said, Dear Leader is being a hypocrite on his stance on reporters, as CJR reminds us.

That said, between blogging about grand juries giving too much credence to police testimony, and recently writing about racial and socioeconomic bias by a policeman in my day job, I have a bit of familiarity with these issues.

On Ferguson? It's had a reputation, deserved, for problems like this, since I lived in St. Louis 20-30 years ago. The current events, with a white power structure pretending to be "open" but really not, is nothing new. Therefore, even if neither the police/city officials "side" nor the black residents' "side" has the full and complete story, the city of Ferguson is probably telling a lot less of the truth.

That said, if the city of Ferguson doesn't have single-member council districts, having a white council majority is in part the fault of black residents of the city, if they've not filed a Voting Rights Act suit.

That said, the council does have individual wards; I don't know if the wards are voted on by the full city or not, but it does have individual, geographically-based wards. And, in a suburb that's less than 25,000 and two-thirds black, it would be awfully hard to gerrymander three wards.

A Kossack has noted that municipal elections are in April. And?

Yes, minorities tend to turn out in lesser numbers for elections that aren't on the primary or general election cycle. They tend to turn out less on non-Presidential years, for that matter. Texas Hispanics are Example No. 1.

That said, there's nothing "racist" about holding municipal and school board elections on special dates. And, ultimately, it's the responsibility of minority activists, or whatever, to boost minority turnout. Yes, Missouri does not have regular early voting; however, either from the legislature or state initiative, voters may get to change that this fall, whether for a narrow six-day period or a longer six-week one.

Yes, per Slate, in places like Ferguson, black turnout may be lower because there, blacks are younger and more transient than whites. BUT, nationally, in presidential elections, black turnout has caught up to white.

So, while an entrenched white power structure is the primary problem, minority apathy is an issue too. And, even if the entrenched power structure has caused feelings of disempowerment that lead to more apathy, there's only one way to fight that. And that's by fighting that.

Also contra the Kossack, the demographic change rate is slower today than it was pre-2000. Of course, that gets back to what I said about 20-30 years ago.

As for Brown's shooting? One thing that cuts down on such incidents in general is cop-car video cameras. Police who are halfway rogue think twice about their actions if they know they're on Candid Camera.

Not directly related, but ... "race" is somewhat a fluid concept, at least for people talking to the Census Bureau.

As for Ferguson being armed with grenade launchers and other military hardware? I knew the answer before stories like this. It's ones of thousands of cities that attempts to justify the need for such paraphernalia based on the "War on Drugs." How do those cities pay for it? Asset seizures from people arrested, but not yet convicted, in the "War on Drugs," at least in the past, though now, Dear Leader's Department of Justice is giving them grant money.  And with the neoliberalization of our military, we're selling surplus shite like it's going out of style. Maybe we need a Brady Bill for police departments.

As part of that military fire sale plus Justice Department grants? No training from the feds on how to use this stuff, unless it's training from the Obama Administration for domestic police to act like the US military abroad toward the media:
Journalists have also been caught up by the police use of weapons. On Monday night, the police aimed directly at a group of photographers and a reporter as they covered the growing protest. One photographer was hit with a rubber bullet. A police officer on Wednesday tossed a tear-gas canister directly at a television crew for Al Jazeera.
Beyond the hardware, there's the issue of who's training U.S. police departments to use this stuff. Namely, the trainers are the same Israeli security forces kneecapping people in Gaza. The same Israeli security forces with whom Clinton and Obama, no less than Bush fils, has been in bed with.

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